Paying for College: Aboubacar Barrie

Aboubacar Barrie, a fourth-year student at Georgia Tech, has employed numerous practical methods to secure his degree in business administration without acquiring student loans. A self-starter with interests in both entrepreneurship and technology, Barrie set a goal in high school to finance his college career through several scholarships, grants, jobs, and paid internships.

Barrie’s academic accomplishments qualified him for the HOPE Scholarship, and he also uses a federal Pell Grant, which is awarded to undergraduate college students who demonstrate financial need.

While these two opportunities relieved some of the financial burden, Barrie sought out additional funds to cover the rest of his college expenses. Housing, a meal plan, and other day-to-day costs of attendance were some of the impending expenses Barrie knew he needed to cover to avoid taking out loans.

“I knew coming in that my parents could not take on paying for my college education, and they certainly couldn’t take on paying for any loans I took out for college,” said Barrie. “That, combined with advice I got from my teachers, made me very motivated to avoid loans, even if it was a more difficult path.”

Fortunately, Barrie had a plan: In his senior year of high school, he applied for numerous external scholarships, many of which he was awarded. He continued to use these scholarships and apply for new ones even as he went into his fourth year. These scholarships come from a myriad of places — from entities such as fraternities to large companies like Gucci.

As he wraps up his degree, Barrie is proud to say he has not taken out a single loan.

“I’ve been very fortunate, and my scholarships were more than sufficient,” Barrie recalled. “I even had to return extra funds at one point. It’s important to remember that there are options beyond the Financial Aid Office.”

For the more immediate costs that come with college, such as school supplies and living expenses, Barrie leaned on savings from past jobs and internships. The summer before college, Barrie spent his time working two jobs. For one, he baked cookies in a chain bakery. For the other, he delivered and assembled furniture for a store near his family’s home. Using money from those jobs, he bought a laptop, covered his dorm necessities, and got other school supplies for the year.

As he built knowledge and skills during his initial years at college, Barrie moved to paid internships at companies like UPS and AT&T. He used some of the money from his work at AT&T to cover his third year of college, and the rest stays in his rainy day fund for emergencies.

Barrie acknowledges that the task of paying for college is not an easy one. However, he is grateful to have found work opportunities and scholarships to support himself. He wants others to know that planning for college ahead of time, searching for scholarships relevant to a student’s situation, networking, and looking for paid work opportunities can help alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with a college education.

“I have a separate account for all my aid refunds and scholarships that come to me, and that money gets saved for those tough situations when I absolutely need it,” explained Barrie. “Good money management is essential. If you come from a situation like mine, you have to know how to save money.”

When it comes to scholarship essays and applications, his advice to others is to view the application and essay process as an investment in themselves. While it can be difficult to talk about one’s background or mission, Barrie likes to think about the process as an opportunity to share a part of himself and get others to empathize with his story.

“The application can take you 30 minutes, even an hour or more, across a couple of days, but to me it is worth it,” he said. “I feel comfortable sharing my story with the hope that someone will read it and say to themselves that I am worth the investment and understand that I need it.”

To learn more about financing an education at Tech, visit the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid or read more student stories.