College Money Won’t Fall From the Sky, but You Can Still Make It Rain



There are multiple barriers of entry for young adults considering attending a university, but none are more so pressing for the average student than the cost of higher education. All the more costly for those seeking the 150 hours to put toward a certification like the CPA designation. The most common solution, for many, has been the accumulation of student loans with the promise of future repayment swinging overhead like a pendulum in the shape of Damocles’ inevitable sword.

Or…maybe it only seems inevitable because the alternatives are so obscured by the tradition of debt that they aren’t visible to the untrained eye. “We had to go after it,” MICPA member and recent graduate Angel Stallings, CPA, and now accounting coordinator for the Detroit Pistons says, referring to her experience as a first-generation college student who, like so many others, did not have a wad of cash at the ready to fund her college career. She and her coauthor, fellow accounting graduate Nia Hill, share their experiences with avoiding student loan debt in their recently published book, Graduate to Freedom: The How-To Guide of Graduating Debt Free From an HBCU and PWI.

“We’re not unicorns. We didn’t grow up with silver spoons in our mouths.” She adds, “We didn’t always get it perfect. We didn’t always get it right.” However, more than anything, Angel expresses her desire to share with others that getting it perfect and landing on your feet are not mutually exclusive. “I took out loans, in the beginning,” she confesses, describing it as a nontraditional route to graduating without debt. “I didn’t make time for scholarships as a freshman, hoping the money would just fall out of the air.”

When inaction failed to make it rain, Angel was quick to change strategies. “You have to make time. You have to be intentional about it if your end goal is to be debt free.” She adds, “You have to prioritize scholarship writing like it’s another job.”

As she progressed toward her fifth year of undergraduate study, however, she noticed that opportunities for second year seniors who weren’t in a graduate degree program were somewhat more difficult to find, which is when she discovered the Michigan Accountancy Foundation (MAF) scholarship. “The MAF acknowledged that a lot of second year seniors were there to get their 150 credits…so that was huge for me.”

Indeed, the MAF Scholarship is for full-time accounting students with the intention of becoming a Michigan CPA and have earned 120 credit hours by August of 2022. It awards between 8 – 10 students each year and is currently open for application until Jan. 31, 2022. Accounting majors in their senior year are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, and accounting students that aren’t quite in their senior year should at least start thinking about applying.

Angel offers some advice for those looking to bolster their chances. “Take the time for those little volunteer opportunities on campus.” Not only does volunteerism look good for scholarship applications, she explains, but it also looks good on a resume and helps build out a professional network. “I think those extra curriculars definitely helped [me].”

In the end, Angel hopes her book will serve as a roadmap and lesson so that others can bypass her mistakes and build on her successes. “It won’t be easy,” she says, but adds, “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

Visit the MAF online for more information on how you can apply for crucial funding to help you along on your journey to CPA. Plus, don’t miss Angel’s full profile in the upcoming Winter 2022 issue of MICPA Connections, available in print and digital formats in January!

Source: MICPA

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