Adam's parents, who had little experience with college, wanted him and his two younger sisters to go. However, money was a problem: Even though his father worked up to four jobs at a time and his mother worked part-time, they barely made enough to get by. Adam was worried that he wouldn’t have enough money for college.
His parents advised him to “stay out of debt as long as you can” and “find free money,” like scholarships and grants. Unfortunately, Adam, who describes himself as a procrastinator, put off applying to colleges until February of his senior year, which limited his options. “I had to jump right into finding scholarships and grants for the following fall term.”
Together, Adam and his parents searched online for financial aid; they also filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
As for scholarships, he found that in addition to grades, sponsors were interested in seeing “what set [him] apart from everybody else.” When applying, he made sure to emphasize his extracurricular activities. “I mentioned any leadership [experience I had], whether it was leading a practice session with my marching band section or leading my scout troop through a campout.”
Adam managed to win $6,000 in scholarships. He decided to attend an in-state four-year liberal arts school, where his total aid added up to a full ride.
After two years at the liberal arts college, Adam transferred to an engineering program at a prestigious technological university. He didn’t choose aerospace engineering as his major until he filled out the application. “I sat at my desk and read over the list of engineering majors, and there was only one that my eye kept coming back to. I remember as a kid enjoying anything that flew, as well as the space program.”
His engineering classes were more challenging than those he’d taken before, but he adjusted. “Having friends in my class was a huge help,” he says.
Adam’s goal is to work on rocket propulsion for space flight. After graduating, he plans to take a year off from school, using the time to work and earn money. Then he wants to return to his university for graduate school.
For Adam's family, seeing him go to college was “a big deal ... I set the bar for the rest of my family, including my little sisters, who have since gone off to college as well.”