Name: Nicole Bratcher-Bouyer
College: Howard University
Expected Major/Concentration: Media, Journalism, and Film Communications
Expected Degree: Bachelor of Arts
Expected Graduation Date: 2018
We’re thrilled to announce the latest recipient of the OppU Achievers Scholarship, Nicole Bratcher-Bouyer! She blew us away with an introspective, searingly honest essay that detailed her path to financial literacy.
In some ways, Nicole’s story is a familiar one—hard-learned lessons about the need for money management. However, in many ways, it’s not. When she was in the 10th grade, her mom suffered a debilitating stroke, and Nicole became her sole caregiver. She faced daunting financial and personal hardship, including periods of homelessness, but overcame it all to gain admission to one of the nation’s leading historically black colleges.
Now entering her senior year at Howard University (@HowardU), Nicole is a budding community advocate who co-founded an organization that helps her classmates pay down their student loan debt. She also led an initiative to deliver water to homeless persons during a late-summer heat wave, volunteered as a tutor for middle schoolers, travelled to New Orleans to alleviate a food desert in the 9th Ward, and ran a job training program for homeless persons that provided work clothes, resume workshops, hot meals, and access to personal records needed for applications. Whew!
And Nicole has big plans for the future. A communications major, she hopes to create a television network that promotes positive images of under-represented persons. Not stopping there, she wants to use her profits to fund homeless shelters, initiatives for children with disabled parents, and safe homes for orphaned kids.
The OppU Achievers Scholarship is awarded four times a year through OppU (@OppUniversity), our online financial literacy program. (If you ever wanted a little help creating a budget or figuring out ways to save, the interactive video lessons are a great way to get it. They’re free and available to all, so check them out!) Scholarship applicants submit an essay, and if they’re selected, they receive $2,500 for education costs.
We wish you the best, Nicole! With all of your hard work, tenacity, and heart, we know you’ll make your dreams come true!
You can read her winning essay below.
How Not to Ruin Your Credit In College: From A Bad Credit Expert
There are many things I was not prepared to do in “adulting,” and managing my money correctly is definitely number one on the list. When I applied for college, all I cared about was getting into my top-choice school. As teachers and counselors drilled us on the cost of tuition, loans, and interest, I daydreamed about my first days on the yard. It’s too late to go back and pay attention to those lessons now, so instead I’m starting a journey of financial literacy. Without financial literacy, college students are heading into adulthood at 100 miles an hour with a tank near “E” and no brake pedals. We’re just in for a disaster!
As a senior in college, I am coming to realize that I will be in the “real world” in less than a year. I will be expected to take full responsibility for my taxes, loan repayments, bills, and credit. Although all of the wonders of “Adultland” sound fun, I know it’s going to be tough if I don’t understand how all of these things work. I have had a repeated history of ignoring financial literacy tips—skating by with poor financial management learned from watching adults around me poorly manage their money too.
My freshman year of college, I received my first job within a week of being on campus. It was a canvassing gig making $50 a day and I was averaging six work days a week. So bi-weekly I was making $600, which isn’t bad for an 18-year-old. Guess how much of that money ever touched a savings account though? $0. I had no understanding of the importance of saving money at the time, and even though I knew that the job was only for election season, I just assumed the money would always be there because I was too financially illiterate and naive.
After Election Day in November, I began running out of money. Credit accounts that I started while I had the job were becoming too expensive and I began paying bills later and later until I eventually didn’t pay them at all. I made it down to my last dime and soon my account was empty. Bills kept coming in and with no money to pay, my account was in the negative and my credit was eventually destroyed. I had to constantly borrow money from family and friends which landed me in more debt. Too bad none of that taught me my lesson the first time. Stressing over wanting to get out of debt quick, I looked into getting loans to pay off my debt and my new tuition bill. Thankfully, my credit was so terrible that I wasn’t allowed to accumulate any more unnecessary debt.
Lacking financial literacy influenced me to make too many financial decisions out of ignorance and desperation. Feeling so unsure in my financial literacy I buried the burden of my financial debt to the bottom of my priority list for the past three years and continued my bad money management habits. However, with graduation coming in nine months, I’ve realized that it’s time for me to take full responsibility for my financial health.
I have been doing more research on how to pay off debt, how to save, and monthly budgeting. I drafted a long-term financial goals plan that has been broken into short-term weekly and monthly financial goals. As well, I have been purging credit and auto-pay accounts that no longer serve me personally or financially. Reducing my weekly spending has allowed me to take better control of my finances already. And sharing this knowledge with my friends has been even more enjoyable in my journey to financial freedom because I want them to be able to control their financial health as well.
Lack of financial literacy and the lack of interest in financial education is stifling to college students. We see life as something we can always get together “later.” However, showing college students the importance of sowing the seeds of financial freedom now so they may reap the harvest of healthy savings accounts and credit scores later should be a top priority in higher education.
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