How I’m Paying for College: Northeastern Student Wes Cannon

Featured Stories

Filter By Categories

Wes Cannon and his parents thought he had a plan for paying for school.


“Things didn't really work out the way they thought it would 10 years ago,” Wes said, giving a quick rundown of his family’s detour to Iowa, where his dad attended chiropractic school and his mom homeschooled Wes and a younger sister before the family returned east to settle in New Hampshire. He was a freshman at a small Massachusetts college when the plans for his parents to support his college career unraveled as they realized their funds weren’t going to be enough.


“It sort of caught everyone by surprise—it just didn't quite go how everyone thought it would,” he said. “Halfway through the first semester, it was like ‘Wes, we really can't help you out as much as we want.’”

He struggled briefly to pay for the school, which he described as “not known for their financial aid,” but the cost to pay his family’s expected contribution was simply too high.


“I don't know exactly what I was thinking—it just wasn't possible, even with working that summer and doing work-study at school, and having a part time job as well,” he said. “Second semester, I just couldn't do it and I had to drop room and board. I essentially ended up living out of my car, kind of hopping around dorm rooms, staying with some family friends for a period time, but was ultimately a couch surfer. I didn’t want to drop out of school outright, but also I couldn't afford to stay there much longer.”


As Wes applied to a second round of schools, hoping for a cheaper education, he paid far more attention to what the bottom line would be for him financially.


“I needed to find something that I could afford, and if it had a film program that's great,” said the current Media & Screen Studies/Religious Studies major.


“My mom was very helpful with the whole process, really figuring out what do I actually have to look at here.... what numbers actually matter. The sticker price isn't that important anymore.”


Instead, Wes looked at what percent of financial need schools met, and what that meant for the out-of-pocket cost for him. He created a set of spreadsheets to compare all the schools he got into, with some surprising results: “It was crazy: living at home commuting to UNH Manchester was more expensive than going to Northeastern.”


Wes said his GPA at his first school helped as well, as it made him a better candidate for merit scholarships than his SAT scores did. Now in his third semester, he has yet to take out any student loans for Northeastern.


“Most of them are going to be from [my freshman year],” he said of his loans.


As an RA, Wes’ Northeastern room and board is free, which makes a big difference in what he owes.

“If anything, that's the real hidden cost,” he said.


When asked about the image of Northeastern as an unusually expensive school, not an affordable one, Wes noted that the university recently made a substantial effort to increase the non-loan aid they provide.

“Recently they've really really stepped up their aid, what they're giving, not just merit aid but their financial income-based aid... they're definitely in that top tier of 90 or 100 percent [when it comes to] demonstrated need...."


And while it took Wes a while to find the right school for his budget, he said he doesn’t think his high school self would have been as thorough with a search--even if he had known all the particulars.


“It's been a really good exercise for really growing up,” he said. “On the one hand, it's been really hard paying for school myself, but after it's all said and done, I think I'm going to be really proud of what I was able to do and everything that I've learned through the experience.”



Edmit's advice helps you to be better off after graduation.

Merit and financial aid estimates based on your student profile

Earnings estimates and financial scores for your college and major

Recommendations to save thousands on college

I'm ready

Sign up for updates

Popular Tags

Financial Aid and Scholarships* Cost of College* paying for college financial aid FAFSA Student Loans* grants and scholarships Saving for College* federal student loans college tuition 529 plan cost of attendance expected family contribution Salary and Career* college financial planning financial aid award private student loans taxes college savings plan room and board on-campus housing merit scholarships budgeting for college college expenses federal financial aid merit-based financial aid private universities public universities edmit hidden gems college costs edmit team parent PLUS loan college applications living expenses CSS profile education expenses financial need income application fees financial aid appeal off-campus housing career choosing a college choosing a major college majors loan forgiveness affordable college degree programs loan repayment repayment plans student loan assistance student loan debt work-study application fee waivers college search coronavirus edmit scholarship institutional aid net price SAT college visits in-state tuition prepaid tuition plans private scholarships ACT budget free tuition international students internships need-based financial aid need-blind colleges qualified higher education expenses retirement savings southern colleges standardized testing tuition discount tuition guarantee tuition payment plans 401k UGMA UTMA applying to college college financial health college ranking systems college spending college transfers credit score discretionary income distance learning education savings accounts fees financial literacy full ride scholarship gap year grants health insurance options investment ivy league schools liberal arts degree meal plans midwestern colleges need-aware colleges out-of-state tuition saving school-based scholarships state aid tuition increases western colleges 568 presidents group Inversant MEFA asset protection allowance best price campus life college advisor college credits college deposit college viability community college concurrent enrollment cost by region cost by state crowdfunding dorms early decision educational expenses esports fee waivers financial wellness for-profit universities fraternities and sororities full tuition graduate school home equity loan income share agreements line of credit lists medical expenses medical school military benefits net price calculators new england colleges non-profit universities online learning online tuition out-of-state students percent need met private college consultant remote learning small business state schools student bank accounts student organizations subsidized loans title IV schools travel expenses tuition decreases tuition insurance tuition reciprocity undocumented students unsubsidized loans