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It's not too soon or too late to apply for scholarships

Growing up, I was never aware of my family's financial struggles. I can honestly say I was never in want, but then again my parent's never allowed us to be dissatisfied. We weren't allowed to complain about eating leftovers, hand-me-down clothes or opting for the generic brand over our "pricey" favorites. For me, every American family lived this way. This was normal.

Looking back, I don't think I grew up disadvantaged or poor, but rather blessed. I don't remember times being hard. What I do remember: both my parents working very hard to provide my family with not just life's necessities, but with a loving home.

Now that I'm a little older and wiser I can see just how far that love has gone and how much hard work my parents have done

Over the years, my parent's emphasized the importance of college. They wanted me to have a better life for myself and to pursue my dreams. I didn't work hard just to get into college, but to make my parent's proud.

One thing they don't teach you in high school is how expensive college is and as every year of college passes by, my amount of debt piles higher and higher.

According to the The Project On Student Debt, on average, 56 percent of Texas college graduates in 2010 had more that $21,000 in debt after graduation.

After my second year of college, I've already racked up just north of $10,000 in debt. 

What I wished I would have know then, is the importance of scholarships.

Generally speaking, a scholarship is money given from different organizations, companies, churches (and pretty much any other group or person) to students who are looking to go on to college after high school. 

I heard it thrown around a lot my senior year of high school. But truth be told, senioritis had set-in and I'd much rather live up my last few days in high school than write essays and ask for letters of recommendation. What I also didn't know was scholarships are like getting paid for being yourself.

There are scholarships for EVERYTHING. No, that is not an exaggeration. Whether you're an athlete or asthmatic or a musician or a math-wiz, there is a scholarship perfect for you. There are so many scholarships just for Latinos and the sad thing is many of us don't even know about them.

I'm sure some of y'all are reading this and thinking college is a long way off. Whether you're just starting middle school or about to finish your senior year, it is never too soon or too late to think about college. 

Just a few tips for those of you just starting out, keep track of everything you do. If you volunteer at your church over the summer or play club volleyball all of this can go on a scholarship resume.

If college is just around the corner, keep looking for scholarships. Collegeboard and Sallie Mae are just a few of my favorite scholarship search engines. 

Even now as I approach my 20th year of life, I am still applying for scholarships. College is expensive, but it is worth every penny. 

I want to make my parents proud, I want to change the future and I want to make something of myself. That all starts with going to college and consequently paying for it.

You can afford college. It just takes hard work and determination. As cheesy and cliché as it may sound, if you can dream you can achieve it. Don't let a price tag stop you from pursuing your dreams.

Joven y happy,

Mariah 

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