“My first question was: how am I going to pay for this?”

You’re going to worry.

Plan ahead.

Do everything as soon as you can.

It will be O.K.

Let me explain. When I first got accepted into the Brandcenter program I was admittedly more worried than excited. My first question was: how am I going to pay for this?

Being a first generation college student, I knew that my parents didn’t have the resources to pay for me to attend the VCU Brandcenter, but I didn’t want that to stop me. When I thought about the bigger picture, I knew that I was not just investing in this program for me, but also for my family.

Like many other students here, I am financing my Brandcenter education through financial aid, a little bit of part-time work, and scholarships.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to fill out the FAFSA early. If you have any inkling you’re going to apply, fill it out. It doesn’t cost you anything but time, and if you’re going back to school, you better get used to dedicating time. It is always better to have the funding waiting on you, and not the other way around.

The idea of loans can be a scary thing for our generation, but there were little things I did that helped ease some of this fear. The first year of the Brandcenter, I was able to work a part-time job and that extra income went to paying down the interest accruing on my loans. This was helpful because my payments went directly towards the principal amount. I also applied for and was awarded a scholarship through the Brandcenter, which helped finance some new software.

Think of loans as a hump. Once you get over the hump, you realize it’s o.k. Having funding through financial aid has forced me to pre-plan every month. For example, I pay my rent by semester (when my loans disburse, I pay in advance which makes it easier to budget for the month, factoring in one additional month in case of emergencies).

I know at the end of this program I’m not going to be handed anything, but also know that those who put in the time and effort do reap the benefits of their hard work. To me, that makes this investment worth it.

-Jenny Chau, experience designer track, class of 2018