January, 2010

Unlike this post, do not be super late with your FAFSA form

duylam-85I think the post title sums it all up, hah.

I am tempted to make a Vlog, like my fellow scholar, and perhaps I will ride his coat tails later on.

But that is the biggest tip I can tell you. You should definitely check out your schools’ deadlines just to make sure you’re on point. You can find out most dates on the FAFSA website, but you may have to go to your school’s website.

I just recently filled out my FAFSA. Not as daunting as it seems anymore. So don’t stress your first time around. Or maybe it’s just me. But the FAFSA is much easier now because they’ve added hints and the like, also read thoroughly. I was about to fill out this one section about my mom’s assets and I called Babson just to check if they need that part, and they didn’t. So just be patient with what you’re doing so you can save yourself time and a headache later.

Hah, not much I can say about the FAFSA I think. Government Aid is nice, but it doesn’t cover it all. And don’t think about school as an expense. It is an investment in your future.

Also here is a blog you should definitely check out – Cal Newport’s Study Hacks – just a little light reading for you now that your apps are done.

Quest for College… Financial Deal or No Deal?

lysa-85Hey Guys! I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve been on campus for the entire month of January. Williams has a winter study term during the month of January, where you take one course weekly for the entire month. Usually these courses are not as straining as the semester long academic courses, and they range from Baking classes to trips to the Bahamas to study sustainable agriculture. The best part is that it’s the one time you’re allowed to be off campus periodically besides studying abroad for a whole semester!

So this winter study, I took a course called Quest for College. It was an early college awareness program devised by one of the Deans of my college. We would travel to various high schools throughout the county surrounding Williams, and facilitate a game called Quest for College, about how to prepare for college, choose the right schools to apply to, test taking suggestions and financial aid awareness. It was a really great experience. I learned a lot from the students and about the college admissions process, because we visited surrounding colleges as well.

One of the most important things that I learned that I really want to share with all of you was about financial aid. So, let’s say you’ve applied to all your top choice schools and you’re starting to get acceptance letters in the mail this spring. So, you get your letter back from your first choice school: YOU GOT IN!…And then, you get a letter from your second choice school..YOU GOT IN!.. BUT, the second choice school is offering you a better financial aid package. Which school should you go to?

This question might seem a bit tricky. It might surprise you, but YOU DON’T JUST HAVE TO ATTEND your second choice school just because it costs less. This is because, FINANCIAL AID IS NOT A TAKE-IT OR -LEAVE IT PROPOSITION! Nothing is set in stone yet. You have the option to accept or decline certain aspects of your financial aid package. And if you really want to go to your first choice , all you have to do is call them and discuss relooking at your financial aid package. AFTERALL, THEY ALREADY ACCEPTED YOU…IF THEY WANT YOU TO GO TO SCHOOL THERE…then they are going to help you out as much as they can. I have had friends who have called schools and told them that another school was offering them more money and that they would have to go to that school, due to that reason. And you know what?? The other school increased their financial aid offering. So, the moral of this story, is that NEVER GIVE UP IF YOU TRULY WANT TO GO TO  A SCHOOL…..it’s better to call and find out if there is anything else they can do for you..even if they recommend some outside scholarships you could apply for or figure a work-study program into your package. The worst that can happen is they’ll say that there’s nothing more they can offer you. In that case the decision is up to you, but you still have other great schools to choose from! Don’t ever limit yourself! In the end it’s always worth a shot to ask. Financial aid offices should be dealt with in a similar way as your parents. If you want something from your parents what do you typically do? YOU DON’T JUST GIVE UP…. YOU ASK UNTIL YOU GET SOMETHING OUT OF THE SITUATION! Try doing the same with colleges. Be Optimistic!

First Day of School and Wise Summer

jesse-85I know I just posted a few days ago but I couldn’t resist! It’s the first day of school and it was pouring rain but it still went great! Watch the video to find out how it went and some tips on how to spend your summers.

Video blogging with Seanna

seanna-85Hey Everyone! I’m back at Pomona for my second semester. CSO’s Executive Director Matt Rubinoff stopped by campus to visit and pulled out his Flip Video. Here I reflect on my experience so far at Pomona and offer some advice for current high school students on choosing the best college for you.

Makin’ it rain with Financial Aid!!

jesse-85Finally back at school! Semester #2, Here we go! But how are you going to pay for college though?? Watch my first video blog to find out!

College on a Dollar-Menu Budget



My senior chemistry teacher belabored the fact that graduate and medical schools will look at grades in Organic Chemistry to weed out the strong from the weak.  She told us that OrgChem isn’t grotesquely hard, but instead, it highlights your ability (or lack of ability) to memorize and compartmentalize gigantic chunks of information into a comprehensive learning style.

In my mind, Organic Chemistry and graduate school admission is analogous to the FAFSA and undergraduate admission.  Separates the strong from the weak.  So you’ve chosen the schools you want to apply to, written the essays, gained acceptance, and narrowed it down…now it’s time to TALK MONEY.  And contrary to what the financial college pamphlets may lead you to believe from the smiling faces on happy high school students, this time can be just as stressful, if not more, than the actual admissions process.  Just depends on several factors.

A. Parental and Mentor Knowledge of FAFSA process

B. Your access to parental and mentor knowledge of FAFSA process

C. Parental Aptitude at Organizing Past Financial Records from Tax Season


D.   College’s Level of Helpfulness in Providing Financial Support

*Private or State public school?  Large or small endowment?  Need-blind admission?    No-Loan Policy?

E.    High school’s Knowledge of College Financial Process

F.    Personal Knowledge of College Financial Process

So, if you are lucky enough to have parents that have conquered this process a few times before and have great organizational skills (know where last year’s W-2 forms are at)…you’re on the right track.  If your high school has a great counselor program that is actively in touch and “in-the-know” about the financial aid process, you’re zipping right along.  And finally, if your college is miraculously helpful and easy to reach during this money-crazed period, you are IN THE END ZONE! BINGO! WAY TO GO!

But…in the off-chance that your parents aren’t exactly sure of what they’re doing, or perhaps…know next to nothing…

And your high school counselor vaguely knows the process…

And your college can only be reached during the hours that you are attending class…and do not return calls after many urgent voicemails, and cannot be contacted by email, Skype, Facebook, or text…

Then you are closer to my experience of FAFSA and the financial aid process.  I still get goose bumps thinking about some of it.  Personally, my family didn’t know that much…my high school counselors knew mainly about in-state assistance, and a few of my schools seemed impossible to get in contact with.  I sat down with my mom one night, and three hours later, we’d battled through FAFSA.  I still had to make three corrections later on, in fear that the IRS or some similar tax-service would consider my accidental errors an attempt to harbor money from the country.  However, after the FAFSA, it was time to sit around and wait until I received initial offers.

This next statement is not an attempt to sell my school…just an acknowledgment of the truth.  Pomona was AMAZINGLY helpful with financial assistance.  I was able to reach them during office hours (2-hour time change might have made a difference), and often, they knew what I was referring to before I did.  After receiving the first offer, I was able to repeal the amount after explaining that my family’s situation was not correctly represented on the FAFSA.  Cutting to the end of the story, I accepted an amount that alleviated all stress from my family’s end, allowing me to attend a school that would have been completely out of my league.

For high school students, I’d recommend that you talk to high school counselors and do your best to get in touch with the financial aid counselors at your top colleges.  Sit down with your parents in plenty of time to complete the FAFSA, and try to have all of the necessary materials beforehand.  Keep financial aid a top priority until after you receive an offer that works for you.  Try not to get discouraged…and keep your goals in mind.

It’s one of those—“Keep your eye on the prize”—sort of things.  It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and frustration of finding the money you need…but at the end of swimming upstream in search of it, you’ll find that it was well worth it!

Managing your time in college

khadijah-85Reflecting on my first semester in college, my biggest struggle was with time management. In this video, I share some advice for what to expect in college and how to manage your time so you succeed.

Asking for help

khadijah-85I’ve been back in Los Angeles for break, and Matt Rubinoff, CSO’s Executive Director, visited me this weekend. Of course he brought his Flip Video. Here’s some advice on asking for help and finding a mentor to help you get to college.

Don’t forget your roots…eat a burrito!

jesse-85I love being back home but also can’t wait to get back to school. Take a look at this video taken after dinner at an awesome local taco shop.