Podcasts:Students Speak Out


Several students opened up about their personal experiences with college. Some, such as Leo Li, had to give up dreams to go to an affordable college. Other students, such as Clarissa Towle, decided to pursue a dream college even with a risk of high debt.

Student account: Leo Li

I have dual citizenship, I’m both American and a New Zealander. My dream was to stay in the US, go to Parsons, become a fabulous diva with a team of chefs and bakers to fulfill my food fancies, and have breakfast on mirrors with my super model pals. Unfortunately, with a combination of issues, I could not fulfill that dream.

Parsons the New School for Design, is a prestigious design school in New York City. It gave birth to talents like Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Donna Karan. Its fashion department is like…John Hopkins medical department. Or something like that.

I was accepted, and I was given a mix of financial loans and scholarships that totaled 30K, essentially the cost of tuition. But let’s keep in mind the estimated cost is 28K for living and food, and several hundred dollars for art supplies, fabric and various other expenses.

With fashion being such a cut-throat industry, it is a huge financial risk to go to such an expensive design school if you’re not from a rich family. Even if you had an undeniable talent, that’s not even a guarantee that you’ll make enough money to pay back loans.

In the end, I had to give up that dream. I moved back to New Zealand, to take advantage of the cheap tuition. I currently study Architecture at Unitec Institute, where my tuition totals to 6,500 NZD per year. That’s about 5200 USD, give or take. Not only that, because of my financial position, I’m entitled to “Student Allowance”, which means the government gives me 207 NZD per week when I’m in school. I do not have to give it back, it is a benefit for students that need financial help.

-Leo Li, Central graduate ‘11

Student account: Jill Carman

Last year I applied to 7 schools and was accepted to 6 (including Rutgers, Drexel, Towson and Rider) (waitlisted at 1). So admissions wasn’t so much my problem as how I would pay for it. RU was my best option financially and even that doesn’t come cheap and there was no way commuting would be worth the $13,000 to live at home. My financial aid was 2 loans, and would still leave my family and I with about $20,000 to deal with every year if I were to live on campus…and we would’ve had even more loans.

But I also got the NJ STARS scholarship to go to any NJ community college for 2 years, tuition free. I wasn’t sure about going to Raritan Valley Community College because of the “community college stigma” considering I associated with some more of the higher-achieving students at Central. After talking to my future advisor at RV and thinking about all the money I’d be saving, I started to like the idea. Also RVCC just started the Honors College so I applied and was accepted into the inaugural class.

I just finished my first year and I regret nothing. Sure I’d love to be living on a campus and making more friends in dorms and whatnot, but the Honors College is made up of about 20 students and I’ve become close with almost all of them. Even other non-Honors classes at RV allowed me to meet more people. Also I’m on my way to an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts alread, I graduate next Spring. AND I have a better chance of getting to Ivy League or “ivy like” schools now that I’m a transfer student. And I was accepted into Phi Theta Kappa honor society for community colleges, another way for me to find scholarships to schools I apply to.

-Jill Carman, Hunterdon Central Graduate ‘11

Student account: Clarissa Towle

I’m going to MIT, and I’m paying in full (essentially no Financial Aid, except for $3000 my first year, with some federal work study and subsidized student loans).

It was a tough financial choice, because it’s absurdly expensive, and it does weigh quite a bit on my mind, especially considering I was offered a full ride at Clemson University and full tuition at a couple schools, like Northeastern University. So my family and I had to choose: cheap college, with good people and decent prospects after graduation, or extremely expensive college, with incredible people and unparallelled prospects after graduation.

It’s like everything is a superlative.I want to do chemical engineering, and MIT has been ranked #1 in the WORLD for the past 26 years for its ChemE department. Companies are scrambling to hire MIT engineers, and grad school acceptances are almost a given, provided I survive my undergraduate experience.

I was also accepted to Tufts University, which I liked a lot, but was about as expensive as MIT, and my parents told me straight up that they would ONLY help me pay for college if I went to MIT. As it is, I’ll personally be responsible for about $80,000 of my education, and my parents agreed to cover the rest, because they think it’s worth it. The hope is that I’ll be able to pay it back in the years shortly following graduation, also considering that Chemical Engineers have a 100% chance of going to grad school for free.

-Clarissa Towle, Central Graduate ‘12

About admin