Despite that 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, many high school students nationwide are changing their lives by gaining essential personal finance skills through financial literacy courses.(1) But how long would you guess that it takes a student to turn an education in personal finance into $10,000 in cash?
For some grads, it happens before they even get to college!
How’s that possible? By entering and winning the Ramsey Solutions Financial Literacy Challenge!
We want all high school students to get excited about Financial Literacy Month. So in April 2017, we invited them to test their personal-finance knowledge with a short personal-finance quiz. Thousands of students entered to prove their skills, and we awarded $10,000 scholarships to four lucky winners!
Fast forward to 2018. We caught back up with two of last year’s winners to see how college life is treating them. You’ll be happy to know they’re putting their winnings to great use!
No Debt, No Worries
Amanda Bender of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says winning the scholarship has had an enormous impact on her education.
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“My first year was free because of it,” she said. “So, I’m not in debt right now and not super worried about paying for school! The scholarship has given me an opportunity this year to save for the upcoming years.”
You would think that entering a challenge to win $10,000 would mean that the possibility of winning the scholarship would be at the forefront of your mind, but Amanda’s reaction to winning was one we see pretty often from students—sheer surprise!
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she said. “My mom texted me asking ‘Did you apply for the literacy challenge scholarship?’ That didn’t sound familiar, so I said, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ Then I was like, ‘Wait, what’s it called? Oh, Dave Ramsey!’ So from there, of course, I did remember applying.”
She quickly went from surprise to disbelief.
“When she told me I won, I said, ‘No way! This isn’t real,’” Amanda explained. “Then I went and told my favorite teacher and some friends. As I was telling them my news, I started tearing up. Everyone was just so happy.”
Today Amanda’s working hard at Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Her school’s law and society program allows her to explore career options in both psychology and art. She’s even thinking about going into detective work.
And it’s clear she has no trouble putting what she learns in school to practical use. For example, she took Ramsey Education’s Foundations in Personal Finance course as a senior in high school—and it shows.
“I thoroughly enjoyed that class, and I learned a lot about money,” Amanda said. “It affected my habits a lot. I don’t spend any money unless it’s necessary. I definitely try to get the most discounted price that I can, and I save my money religiously. I even saved up to buy myself a really nice car and doing that made me feel really good.”
With a paid-for car, one year of school paid by the scholarship, and a plan to pay the rest through her earnings, she’s well on her way to graduating from college debt-free. And her financial plans don’t stop there!
“One of the big things I wasn’t aware of before taking the Foundations class was how to make money off of my money through investments,” she said. “Right now I can’t do that, but after I graduate I plan to invest.”
Excited for the Future
Another 2017 Financial Literacy Challenge scholarship winner, Ne’Shemia White of Abilene, Texas, took her winnings to McMurry University where she’s now majoring in psychology. She says she has a hopeful view of her future, and those hopes got a big boost from winning the scholarship.
“It was great to win! When I heard the news I was super excited, especially because I owed a lot for the fall semester. It really helped me with college this year.”
Although Ne’Shemia’s freshman year has had its share of the usual stresses, she says she’s had a good overall experience in college so far. And she agrees with Amanda on the value of the Foundations curriculum.
“I had a great teacher,” she said. “When I get through with college, I think I’ll be able to apply what I learned from Foundations about budgeting and saving and be financially stable.”