“Where I come from, a lot of kids don’t go to college. It is rare that they graduate high school,” Camryn explains. “I thought I’d join the Marines or the Army.”
College wasn’t on Camryn’s mind, until his track coach sophomore year got him thinking.
“He asked me, ‘Are you going to run in college?’ He put that idea in my head. I started thinking more and more that maybe I could go to college.”
“By junior year, I was like, I’m going to college. I don’t want to do anything else. I want to be the first of my mom’s kids to graduate college.”
Camryn knew college wasn’t going to be easy. “My older sister went to college, but she dropped out after the first semester,” Camryn says.
“I think it was too hard. But she ran away when things got tough. That’s not going to be me. For me, when things get tough, I use that as motivation. God put me here for a reason. Just because something bad happens doesn’t mean that something good isn’t coming my way.”
“I don’t want to end up being a statistic,” he adds.
Thinking beyond athletic scholarships
Camryn knew he’d need help paying for college. He ran track and played football, so he thought maybe he could get an athletic scholarship.
“Then, somebody from College Now came to my class to talk about FAFSA. I was thinking, do I really need to fill this out? I remember they said, ‘What if you don’t get a full scholarship? Where will you be then?’”
“They had a good point,” Camryn says. “I only have one parent, so I thought my odds of getting some money from the government are good. Why not fill it out to see what I can get?”
Camryn decided to talk to his mom about it first. “I told her I needed her income information to fill out the FAFSA.”
“I said to her, ‘What if I don’t get an athletic scholarship? I don’t want you to take out thousands of dollars of loans to help me go to school when we can get free money from the government.’”
“She told me she’d get me the information I needed. She even said, ‘Fill it out ASAP so we can be ahead of the game.’ The FAFSA came out October 1 and we were ready by October 2.”
More support than he’d imagined
“I went into my College Now advisor’s office at my school and we filled out the FAFSA together. She explained where all the information went in the form.”
“Once we sat down, we didn’t stop except for a couple times. There was some more stuff we needed and we called my mom. She was at work, so we had to wait five or 10 minutes for her to call us back. In all, it took us maybe an hour and a half.”
“I was thinking, do I really need to fill the FAFSA out? They said, ‘What if you don’t get a full scholarship? Where will you be then?”
Camryn found out later that he’d received a Pell Grant. “I got about $3,500. Then, my college looked at my FAFSA and said my tuition would only be $4,000 a year. Normally tuition there is $50,000, so to only have to pay four is big.”
College Now helped Camryn figure out how to close the gap. “They helped me fill out applications for outside scholarships, and I got them. Now I don’t have to pay anything throughout college.”
“I feel like College Now really cares about kids. They didn’t have to help me apply for scholarships. They did not have to help me fill out my FAFSA as fast as we did, but they were true to their word.”
“They were there for me whenever I needed someone,” he adds. “They looked over my application essays, correcting things that needed to be corrected. When my grandma passed and I wasn’t myself, they noticed and helped me cope. It was a blessing, honestly.”
Camryn’s advice: See what you can get
“I know some kids who have two parents in the household and make a lot of money, but they still filled out the FAFSA to see what they can get. Sometimes it’s just a test to see if they can get some money.”
Camryn adds, “I believe kids should do it just to see. You’ll never know if you don’t apply for it. It’s free money. Everybody loves free money.”
“I also learned that it is okay to ask for help. You don’t have to do everything on your own. Turn to somebody for help. That’s what they’re there for.”
Camryn will be attending the College of Wooster and studying psychology. He has a spot on the football team and hopes to walk onto the track team. He plans to one day be an investigator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.