Alex’s family moved to the United States when he was very young. “My parents came here for me and my brother because opportunities weren't as attractive in Uzbekistan,” he says. “It's always been on my mind to not let them down.”
Although his parents wanted him to go to college, they couldn’t afford to help him pay for it. “I would visit college websites and see how much tuition and dorms were, and it seemed sort of impossible,” Alex remembers. Some colleges had published prices that were as much as his family earned in a year.
In high school, Alex used his lunch breaks to research financial aid at his school’s counseling office. What he found surprised him.
“There are a lot of different [scholarships] based on heritage, culture, religion ... for things you would never imagine.” Alex found scholarships for students like him from low-income families.
Some scholarship applications require an essay. “That's what deters kids a lot of times — the essay,” Alex says. “But most are 500 words and under. If you're paid anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for an essay, I think that’s very easy work for that amount of money.”
For Alex, money was definitely a factor when it was time to pick a school. “Basically, my decision came down to the financial aid package I was offered and the cost of in-state versus out-of-state tuition.” Alex decided to take advantage of lower tuition at a public university in his home state.
A double major in finance and accounting, Alex has been developing his interests through college clubs, study abroad and an internship. As a member of the student Portfolio Management Team, Alex gets to practice making investment decisions with real money. And thanks to a scholarship-winning essay he wrote, he’ll be spending the summer studying in Greece.
Alex also spent three months in a paid internship at a major media company. He worked in the property tax department for large clients. “There is nothing that can compare to a hands-on experience,” he says. “In a textbook, the material is the same once you learn it and memorize it. However, in [my internship], new situations arose all the time ... I learned and learned daily.”