Aspirational student tells story of debt-free college plan

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Young people heading off to college right now can tell you that it's so expensive.  But a South Fulton high school student has pushed back and won. She's going for free.

Let me give you this young lady's back story. Victoria Lamar is beginning her sophomore year at the University of San Francisco. She says it's about $68,000 a year. She tells me she wasn't the top of her class. She didn't do that well on her SATs either. But she is going to college for free.

Her plan to go to college for free began as a ninth grader at Westlake High School in the city of South Fulton. She decided to start by making herself stand out.

"I did research at Morehouse School of Medicine which led me to research at Emory University. I started my own non-profit, We are Pearls, which was a mentorship program. I did a lot of community service," the now college sophomore told me.

Four years of that and she definitely stood out. But you still have to pay for college, unless you don't.  When she started her senior year, she applied for scholarships. She treated it like homework, she said..

"I translated the same thing to scholarships knowing that this is a scholarship. It has a deadline. If I don't do it, I won't get to choose a college that I want to attend," she said.

Now before you say. 'Well, go-getters like her get scholarships. Not average kids.'  Well ya gotta hear her out. She says, she had a 96 average, but her SAT score was not great.

"If you're failing at one thing, everything else has to be up. So, although my test scores weren't good, at all, I knew that - extracurriculars...I did sports in high school. I did a lot of community service. I just knew that all of those activities I was a part of created a story."

She got on the internet and applied for every scholarship she could find and not just the big ones.

"People don't apply to the small scholarships the $500, $250."

But Victoria did, and she found cash in the strangest of places.

"Churches," she said. 

But like you I thought, well, church. Nope.

"Church's Chicken," she said. "I was just surprised. I got the scholarship. They sent me a backpack with toiletries in it with Church's Chicken Foundation. I was, like, wow."

Here's the big reveal. She estimates she has about $3 million in free scholarship money. Here's how she did it. She started her internet search with things unique to her: African-American, woman, single-parent household, STEM studies. She wrote essays. She sent them in. And she got rejected.

"I heard 'no' from August to January. I heard 'no'. I probably received 50 nos," she recalled.

But she kept at it. By February, the yeses were rolling in. She said her down-to-earth essays sold her.

"In these essays, this is the only thing they'll know about you. If I'm reading your essay and I can't tell who you are from the essay then you are most likely not going to get the scholarships."

Victoria Lamar now runs her own company - Securing Degrees Debt Free - teaching young people to do just what she did. Her business is so successful that she now offers modest, college scholarships herself to students. She teaches essay writing and how to make yourself stand out. But she also offers advice on avoiding scholarship scams:  if the scholarship has no past winners, odd contact information, or asks you to pay an entry fee then move on and find the ones that will pay you to go to school.

This entrepreneurial college student has a seminar coming up. She'd love to see you there: SEMINAR INFO.