When Jamaican-born New York entrepreneur Gabriella Carter received $2 million in scholarships and graduated from Princeton University debt-free, her experience was an exception to the rule. Rising student loan debt has reached a crisis level in the American educational system and has a disproportionate effect on Black students who are more likely to take out student loans and then struggle to pay them off because of education’s ever-rising costs. But now, Carter is teaching other students how to duplicate her achievements by effectively using scholarships and effective money management.
“Free Money” for Her Education
Carter was born in Jamaica and then moved to London prior to moving to Florida. Education, including financial literacy, was important in her family, and Carter worked to combine her academic interests with sports like track and softball. She wanted to attend college but found the costs were very high. Public in-state schools averaged about $25,000 per year and private universities averaged over $54,000 annually. She did not want to become overly burdened with debt, as she knew many students had, so she started to explore the realm of scholarships, researching them, and sending in applications. She said that once she realized there was “free money” available from people who believed in her and could help her fulfill her college dreams for free, “I jumped on it.” Carter applied for every scholarship opportunity she found.
She Perseveres in the Application Process
Carter noted that the application process was not always a smooth one, but she persisted and applied to more than 100 different programs. By this method, she gained experience in filling out and submitting applications, and eventually received a $20,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola. Throughout her high school and college years, she succeeded in obtaining 35 different scholarship awards, totaling more than $2 million. This was enough for her to graduate debt-free and also have more than $100,000 in savings.
Establishing a Business
Following her graduation, Carter decided to use her skill in researching scholarships into a business, and this led her to establish “Growing with Gabby.” The business, which started as an offline endeavor, ultimately utilized social media to reach a broader market, and eventually, she gained sufficient business to quit her day job and focus on her own enterprise. In her business, Carter focuses on being financially responsible and stresses saving and investing for the future. Her long-term plan includes real estate investing and an early retirement that will allow her to follow her interests.
Carter’s Definition of Abundance
Carter states that abundance does not mean having to be the richest person in the world, but it means that she does not have to wake up every day to work at a job or other activity that she does not enjoy just to have enough money to live. “Abundance is having financial freedom,” she added.
Photo – Gabrielle Carter’s Instagram