by Jen Guberman
I don’t have the money for that, I thought. I can’t afford private school. Little did I know, private school turned out to be cheaper than most of my public school options.
I applied to seven universities, and was accepted to all seven of them—Gardner-Webb University, Western Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Regent University, Appalachian State University and University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Gardner-Webb and Regent were both private schools; originally I wasn’t planning on applying to either of them because of the initial prices I saw online. Then I met with my high school advisor, who herself had attended a private university. She explained to me that private universities, though more expensive at first glance, overall give out larger scholarships, and to more students.
When I received acceptance letters from all seven colleges, I also learned how much money they were willing to give me in financial aid. $1000 a year… $2000… $8000… $13000 a year? I sat down with all the letters one day, writing down the costs I found online for each school and then subtracting the money each was willing to give me. It came down to three schools, all of which were fairly similar in cost—UNCC, WCU, and GWU. At the time, Gardner-Webb was the most expensive of the three by just a little. UNCC was a less expensive option, but only because my parents live very near there so I would save money on housing and food by living at home. However, I didn’t want to miss out on the college experience gained by living on campus, and truthfully UNCC just didn’t feel like the right fit for me as a student. At WCU the prices were comparable to GWU, who was already offering me $13,000 a year for four years. Although WCU's sticker price was initially cheaper, they didn’t offer me nearly as much money in scholarships.
At this same time I also received a letter from Gardner-Webb inviting me to apply and interview for their University Fellow’s Scholarship (now called Ignite Excellence Scholarship). I submitted the necessary information for the scholarship and traveled to the GWU on interview day. While at the scholarship competition event I had the opportunity to meet a lot of students and faculty, many of whom were sweet, funny, and loving individuals. A few weeks later, I got a call that I did not win the scholarship. Bummer. But there was a silver lining—just for participating in the interviews, they were going to give me another $2,500 each year for all four years!
Also, make sure you remember to fill out your FAFSA application as you can get a Needs Based Scholarship to help aid in covering the cost. By doing this I qualified for an additional $5,500 a year for tuition at GWU. I sat down again calculating the costs between GWU and WCU one last time. In the end it was a couple hundred dollars cheaper per year for me to attend Gardner-Webb, with scholarships and financial aid the cost of tuition went down by more than half.
Of course, I had to consider other factors when deciding between the two schools—which one had a nicer campus, which had better programs, which felt more like home? After careful consideration and writing many pro/con lists, as well as talking to students from both universities, I came to the conclusion that not only was Gardner-Webb the best option financially, but it was where I was meant to be!
It may not look like it when you’re first applying, but Gardner-Webb is affordable. They are generous with scholarships offered—not just with me, but with many other students. Though the numbers may seem daunting at first, the sticker price IS NOT the final cost. Gardner-Webb became affordable for me, and the same thing can happen for you!
Jen Guberman: Sophomore, Public Relations major, Film and French minors. penny pincher, cat lover and aspiring author