AdvancePoint Capitals Financial Literacy Scholarship 2019 Winner

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Sara Curley
Drew University
Award: $1,000
August 15, 2019

We are excited to announce Sara Curley from Drew Univerity as our 2019 Scholarship Winner. To apply for the scholarship, students were tasked with writing an essay regarding being financially literate as a student. Congratulations, Sara!

Sara’s Winning Essay

When I think of what it means to be financially literate, I remember my first experience with managing money—when I was growing up as a missionary kid, living in the Netherlands. Every week, my parents would give me a one-Euro allowance. Ten cents would go into my “charity jar,” and twenty cents would go into my “savings jar.” The rest went into my piggy bank and was mine to spend. This was my first experience with understanding how money works and learning to manage it.

Sure, it was only a Euro. But to me it was so much more. That’s because it gave me the independence to purchase things—albeit very inexpensive ones. And it taught me valuable lessons. For instance, I learned that money was not just for spending on myself but also about experiencing the joy of giving it away to help others. Plus, I learned how to patiently save—not only short-term (to buy a desired toy), but also long-term (for my college education). And I learned that when I spent all my money, it was gone. And then I couldn’t buy something else until I saved some more. Thanks to those early experiences, I understood from a very early age why being financially literate is critical.

Now that I’m getting ready for college this fall, understanding money and spending it wisely will be even more important. That’s because there’s a lot more at stake than when I was a child—especially since I am responsible for funding my own college education. As I enter college, my main financial goals are to graduate with as little college debt as possible and to stay out of any other kind of debt. Here are some of my strategies to accomplish those goals:

  1. Work my way through college through an on-campus work-study job–and at my bartender/waitressing job during breaks.
  2. Live without a car while at school. Although this will be inconvenient, walking, carpooling with friends, and an occasional Uber ride will cost me much less than buying, maintaining, and insuring my own car.
  3. Use a debit card instead of a credit card. This will force me to only spend what I actually have in the bank–thus, preventing me from getting into credit card debt.
  4. Cut costs in practical ways, such as using coupons, renting my textbooks, and finding free ways to have fun (such as on-campus activities)–rather than spending a lot of money on entertainment.
  5. Lastly, my secret weapon: my budget. This will be my spending plan to help me use my money intelligently over the next four years. By building a budget, I can figure out creative ways to live within my means so that I can buy what I need, cut costs wherever possible, and (hopefully) have some money left over for fun things.

Since many college students tend to grossly underestimate their potential expenses, I was glad to discover the Teen Financial Literacy Course—through my credit union’s website. After taking the pre-test and scoring 24 out of 25, I was feeling pretty confident about my financial literacy level. However, as I was hit with some real-life financial dilemmas in the Budgeting Game, I began to realize how tricky it can be to set up a realistic budget—and then live within it. Thankfully, the literacy course taught me budgeting strategies and tools to help me build my first budget in a two-step process.
First—my income: My on-campus work-study job will pay $1,000 per semester. Also, my parents will be giving me a $100 per month allowance my first year of college. That adds up to $500 each semester.
Second—my expenses: So far, I have six basic categories: Food (above and beyond the college meal plan), Entertainment (movie tickets, eating out, etc.), Books, Transportation (train tickets, Uber, etc.) and a Reserves category (which is mainly used for emergencies but can also be used as a cushion in case of overspending in another category). The last category is College Savings.
So, here’s my first draft of my new college budget:

Regarding college debt, I am trying to limit myself to only taking the loans which are subsidized in my financial aid package. This will prevent me from having to pay interest until I graduate. Just today, I figured out on a Student Loan Calculator that if I take a college loan of $18,000, I could pay it off in ten years–if I pay back about $200/month. This sounds manageable. And, of course, I will try very hard to pay it off as fast as possible.

I am passionate about getting a college education and determined to find a way to fund it. Paying for college is my biggest challenge at the moment. My dad receives a modest missionary salary through financial support from churches and individuals. In addition, my mom suffers from a chronic illness which prevents her from working. And the medical bills for our family have been a hardship.

At times, it seems hopeless and impossible; but I know better. With determination, persistence, and tenacity, I know I’ll be able to find a way. Receiving your scholarship would help me reach my dream of getting a college education and making a difference.

A college education would enable me to combine my passions—international relations and community service—to help make the world a better place. My passion for other cultures comes from my multicultural upbringing as an adopted Korean-American girl growing up in the Netherlands, Scotland, and the US. My dream is to use my international background—and bilingual ability—to work at the United Nations, working to end the exploitation of children trapped in the child labor industry.

The AdvancePoint Capital Scholarship would enable me to learn, grow, and make a difference in my community and in the world. You can be sure that if I benefit from your generosity, I will pay it forward.