Financial Aid for College

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Financial Aid for College

Rebecca Tao, Student Life Editor

An estimated 50% of a college population is comprised of first-generation students. A first-generation student is someone whose immediate family or parents have not attended college. Many first-generation students come from families with a low income, and they often face challenges converting to a college atmosphere without parental guidance. The same applies for low-income students who encounter financial struggles during the college application process. However, there are many resources available that cater to both groups of students. These resources are important because providing education to those at a disadvantage disrupts the cycle, and allows for the student to pursue more opportunities. Higher education opens opportunities that would have otherwise not been available. 

Questbridge

Questbridge is a non-profit organization based on expanding a student’s networking. The program links students with potential colleges through their National College Match while providing additional college prep programs. Educators are able to refer a student, and teachers at AHS are sent emails regarding the program and are encouraged to refer juniors. Its list of college partners includes Ivy League and elite schools, such as Duke University, Columbia University, and Yale University. The prerequisites and requirements for applying include being in the top 5 to 10% of your graduating class, achieving straight A’s in challenging courses, and having a combined household income of less than $65,000 annually. 

Courage to Grow

Courage to Grow is a monthly essay-based application with a $500 scholarship. The essay is 250 words or less and is an explanation of why you deserve the scholarship. The best feature about this scholarship is that you are able to apply multiple times. 

I’m First!

Like its name, I’m First! supports first-generation students and gives them a community to be inspired by. Their site offers free Strive for College mentors and videos on tips and advice for college. 

FAFSA

FAFSA, or Federal Student Aid, is the best known financial aid for students. Completing a FAFSA form is free, but students have to do it every year in order to be granted eligibility. 

Counselor Ms. Amanda Fitts said, “We have several links available on the Naviance Student home page. At the very bottom of the page (left side), go to links, then “view all from my school.” Midway down the list, you will see several resources to help students and families with financial aid and scholarships (14 links in all). Questbridge is an excellent resource for juniors and seniors.

During the fall, I recommend that students and parents attend the financial aid meetings that we conduct at school. A financial aid expert presents information on the types of financial aid available as well as how to apply for the FAFSA. Every college’s financial aid website includes a net price calculator (see the University of Illinois example at https://secure.osfa.illinois.edu/NPC/NPC.asp). Families can look at any college website and obtain an estimate of the cost of attendance by entering some general financial information. It is important for students to understand that the tuition sticker price is often not the price that they will pay; with financial aid and scholarships, the amount might be significantly less. And, some private colleges may in fact cost less than public colleges once financial aid and scholarships are factored in.” Ms. Fitts recommended scholarship search sites, such as Fastweb,

Cappex, Raise.Me, and Big Future

Recently, colleges have been taking note of the influx of first-generation and low-income students. In fact, the University of Tennessee has opened its doors to low-income students for free. Other colleges, like Kenyon College, have summer programs that help new students be incorporated in college life. Slowly, colleges are catering to a greater variety of students, allowing for a flourishing campus and diverse stories. 

Graphic Courtesy of STUDENTLOANHERO.COM