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February, 2010

“Free” Education- But You’ll have some ‘Splainin’ to do!

khadijah-85Can YOU afford a $200,000 education? You, whose parents are on TANF, who helps your parents by working a full-time job, in addition to school? You should probably go to your state school, it only costs $20,000, 1/10 the price of a fancy-smhancy private school, like Harvard, Williams, Stanford.  Or better yet, community college. What are you thinking applying to that private school?

Except, one thing-  I’m getting a $200,000 education.  For free.

Wait. What? Free? Gratis? My parents have a Trust Fund, that’s probably it.

Actually, nope.

In a remarkable twist of fate, for the first time in my life- being POOR was a good thing. You know why? Some colleges are beginning to recognize that intelligence doesn’t correlate with income and many are putting their money where their mouths are.

WHEW!

But don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. Get ready for weeks of explaining your financial situation to colleges. The FAFSA was created for the traditional college student  – traditional age, two parents and 2.5 kids, no extended family issues, etc. – not exactly room to put extenuating circumstances like ours. And a lot of times, your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) will be higher than your family can actually afford. That’s why you need to get in touch with your financial aid officer early, at whatever schools you are thinking of going to. Tell them your situation. Be COMPLETELY honest. I told them my mom had no income, and they kept asking for tax forms. It was extremely frustrating. They asked for my father’s information, and it took them a while to finally understand that I had NO contact with my father and so I could not provide that information. But keep it up, be persistent with financial aid, and it will pay off, literally!

It is important to understand the difference between price and cost. The price is what colleges charge absent any financial aid – that’s that big number on the website. For most private colleges, that number is daunting. But the other important number is cost – what it will cost you once your financial aid is factored in. Because many schools are heavily endowed, they can make the cost of attending an elite private school less than a less expensive public school. Seriously, (for the juniors and younger out there) apply to the private schools. They can often give better financial packages than your state school. UCLA, for example, is more expensive for me than Harvard! UCLA, keep in mind, costs ~$80,000 while Harvard costs 200,000+. Yet Harvard is cheaper for me because they can afford to give financial aid. Look for the term “need-blind.” That term means they will admit you regardless of your ability to pay. In fact, the admissions office does not consider your need at all in making the admission decision. The other term to look for is “full need.” That means that the school will meet your full financial need – but that’s a bit dicey because your need is determined by a pretty inflexible standard that does not respond well to non-traditional families. And how they meet that need can vary greatly with combinations of grants, loans and work-study. A number of schools state they offer both need-blind admissions and full-need for U.S. students. There is room for some professional judgment and flexibility so be sure to give your financial aid office all the information about you and your family.

Now, because of the economic recession, schools are a bit, shall we say, tighter with their wallets. But don’t lose hope! Schools know the value of highly qualified students from different backgrounds, and the right school for you will provide you with a financial package you and your family will be happy with.

And by the way, all this talk about a free education is a bit misleading. I can tell you that you will pay in blood, sweat and tears for every penny of your education!

THE Interview

ashley-85I didn’t have any in-person interviews.. all the schools I applied to were too far away. But I did have some over the phone interviews and here are a few tips:

Don’t Stress: I know how important an interview is, but if you start to get stressed and worried, not only will it show in your interview, but it will also have a negative effect on your interview.  So don’t worry- it will go fantastic. Just believe in yourself.

Be honest: No matter what you might think the interviewer wants to hear, be honest. You will gain respect for that. And truthfully the interviewer just wants you to be you.

Don’t try to figure out what the questions will be: When you start trying to figure it out you think of the hardest questions possible and that was never the case, at least for me. The questions will always be different and sometimes there will be questions that surprise you. There is no reason to be psyching yourself out.

No answer is a wrong answer: Normally in an interview they are trying to get a better sense of who you are, it is not a quiz of the knowledge you have.

When you send out your applications, whether it is in the mail or online you will feel relieved, but shortly after you will most likely start to get anxious. Some of your friends might get their response back before you do. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do but wait. A tip: send everything off as early as you can, that way you may get the response earlier. :]

Interviews go well when you’re you

jesse-85Interview time! Whether you already had them or still got some late ones, this is often the last step in the application process, aren’t you relieved?

Some tips though- I know you have heard this before, but be yourself! Of course, you want to get cleaned up and dress nice but don’t feel like you have to put up a front and be someone you’re not. You want the school to want you for you. I remember for my Harvard interview, I was crazy nervous. While I was waiting, all kinds of thoughts were going through my head. Thoughts like, “They’re not going to like me because of the way I talk or look or smell or..” No, just kidding, I wasn’t worried about that last one haha.

When the time finally came, I took a deep breath and had a regular conversation with the guy! He was really nice and we talked about my experiences in high school and why I wanted to go Harvard. I shared my experiences as a first-generation college student amongst other things and I think I was able to really connect with him. I did my best to show my true self because if you try to act fake, they’ll be able to tell.

Look, you made it this far! There is no need to worry- prepare what they ask you to prepare, comb your hair, smell nice, and do you.

Now that you’ve finished interviews, focus in school, don’t slack off, and try to keep your mind off the letters. I know it’s hard but at this point, the only thing you can do is wait. Go out and do something in your community! That’ll help keep your mind off things haha.

Also, Video Blog coming soon! Things have been way hectic with events and event planning but I think it’s about time for one with LOTS of updates.

Until next time!

SURVIVING YOUR COLLEGE INTERVIEW

lysa-85Let’s face it, the thought of sitting down and having a one-on-one conversation with an admissions officer or alumni of a college you have applied to can be very  intimidating, but it’s also one of your only chances to truly separate yourself from a whole pool of applicants applying to that very same school. An interview can often “make or break you” in the admissions process. AND YOU SHOULD NEVER REFUSE AN INTERVIEW IF ONE IS OFFERED TO YOU, BECAUSE IT CAN USUALLY MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “ON THE FENCE”  OR “OVER IT” WHEN IT COMES TIME TO DECIDE YOUR ADMISSION STATUS! THEY WILL NOTE WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAD AN INTERVIEW ON YOUR APPLICATION!

Overall, you want to make sure that your interview goes smoothly. In order to make this happen, you must be prepared before the interview for both the expected and unexpected. And most importantly, BE NATURAL and BE YOURSELF. It is best to think of an interview as a conversation, because while you want to “sell” your best qualities to an admissions counselor, they want to “sell” you their school. Below, I have listed some of the most important things to consider before you go to an interview, with the help of : http://www.actingforbusiness.com/interview/JobInterviewtips/college/collegeinterviewtips.htm

1. Shake the interviewer’s hand and make sure to introduce yourself! A firm handshake often shows confidence.

 2. Keep up on current events.  The interviewer may ask you your opinion about a current event, so you want to be sure that you have read a recent newspaper, or at least are aware of what is currently going on in the world. Being unaware, is not a good quality, because it makes it seem as though you have no idea or don’t care to know what is going on around you. DON’T STRESS ABOUT THIS PART OF THE INTERVIEW, BUT BE PREPARED with at least one topic to discuss that interests you and relates to a current news event. For example, one relevant current topic might include Haiti Relief efforts.

3, DON’T EVER BRING A PARENT INTO THE INTERVIEW. REMEMBER YOU ARE THE PROSPECTIVE STUDENT NOT YOUR PARENT!

4. Do your research about the college. Not looking as if you are interested in the college is a huge mistake and if you haven’t done any research you will look disinterested. You will almost certainly be asked why you are interested in the college and what sparked your interest in it. Do not say anything negative about the college and don’t say anything cliche either. TRY AND BE HONEST, BUT SOUND INFORMED AS WELL. You may list your reasons for interest in the college as the programs it offers, its unique (educational or social) systems (depending on the school), or possibly its other characteristics that appeal to you. BUT, NEVER TELL A SCHOOL THAT IT IS YOUR “SAFETY SCHOOL.” IF ADMISSIONS KNOWS THAT THEIR SCHOOL IS ONE OF YOUR LAST CHOICES, THEN YOU MAY BE MOVED TO THE LOWER END OF THEIR LIST OF ACCEPTANCE, SINCE THEY NOW KNOW YOU’LL MOST LIKELY ENROLL SOMEWHERE ELSE ANYWAYS! Also, try and refrain from listing all other schools you’ve applied to unless they ask, because that also raises the question as to why you’ve applied to those other schools as well.

5. Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. Ask questions that show your interest in the college. Have them prepared beforehand. Don’t ask questions that could easily be answered by looking at the college brochures, course catalogue or their website because that will make you look as if you have not done your homework.

6. Review your essay. You interviewer may be interested in your essay topic or wish to discuss it with you. BE PREPARED!

7 . DO NOT SHOW UP TO AN INTERVIEW IN JEANS, SHORT SHORTS/SKIRT,UNFITTING OR TIGHT CLOTHING, BAGGY CLOTHING, OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD WEAR OUT WITH FRIENDS. WEAR A NICE SUIT, DRESS, or DRESS PANTS AND COLLARED SHIRT. LOOK PROFESSIONAL; YOU WANT TO POSITIVELY RELFECT YOURSELF. AVOID PERFUME OR COLOGNE! That may seem like an odd request, but some people are allergic to perfume, and the last thing you want to do is cause your interviewer to break out in hives or completely be unable to speak with you due to the scent. MOST IMPORTANTLY, NEVER CHEW GUM OR CURSE DURING AN INTERVIEW! IT IS DISRESPECTFUL AND WILL BE NOTED BY THE INTERVIEWER!

8. CONSIDER PREPARING A RESUME REFLECTING YOUR GRADES, TEST SCORES, EXTRACURICULAR ACTIVITY INVOLVEMENT, SPORTS INVOLVEMENT, AWARDS/ ACCOMPLiSHMENTS, WORK EXPERIENCE, ETC. THIS WILL PROVIDE YOUR INTERVIEWER WITH A SUMMARIZED LOOK INTO YOUR BACKGROUND/ HIGH SCHOOL CAREER,AND INTERESTS.

9. Arrive on time! DO NOT BE LATE!

10. Make eye contact with the interviewer throughout the interview. BE CONFIDENT. THIS IS YOUR TIME TO PROVE YOURSELF, AND YOU’VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES! 

….AND DON’T FORGET TO ALWAYS THANK THE INTERVIEWER FOR THEIR TIME!

YOU CAN DO THIS! YOU ARE MORE THAN READY TO IMPRESS ANY COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICER. YOU’VE ALREADY MADE IT SO FAR! BEST OF LUCK GUYS! IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS, POST THEM!

R.A.T.

seanna-85While I hope no one followed my example, my actual college application process was hectic.  I had everything in order theoretically…great grades…pretty test scores…more extracurricular and community service hours than I could list…I was in tip-top shape—ready for anything!  My I’s were dotted, and my T’s were crossed.  Only one more thing to do.  Apply.  As you’re reading this, you might be thinking that this was me around mid-November, early December at the latest.

Well…you’re wrong.  This was me on December 26th.  Regular decision deadlines for most schools in the country were January 1st.  Did I mention that my application process was hectic?  For four days, I thoroughly researched the 25-ish schools on my list and started finalizing details.  A mentor had to sit me down and say, “Pick 10 from this list, and send in the materials—you have to make your decisions…NOW!”  Obviously, I did make the decisions, and I did post-mark my apps by the deadline…however, it was still unnecessary stress that could have been avoided had I stopped procrastinating on FINALLY choosing my top schools.  By now your applications are in, so let’s discuss what I felt like afterwards.

Three words: relieved, anxious, and tired.

I was relieved that the formal process was done.  Now, all I could do was wait for the colleges to decide if I was a prospectively good fit for their school environment.  I’d passed the tests, made the grades, gave back to the community… now I could breathe a little.

IMPORTANT: THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU STOP EARNING GOOD GRADES OR WORKING HARD IN SCHOOL.  COLLEGES WILL LOOK AT YOUR LAST SEMESTER GRADES.  THEY CAN REVOKE SCHOLARSHIP MONEY, AND ACCEPTANCE DECISIONS.  BEWARE.

Now that I’ve given that piece of advice, back to my second feeling.  I felt anxious about getting the responses in the mail.  I liked something (or many things) about each school, and non-acceptance letters would feel like a personal rejection of me.  I was worried that I could have done better on the essays, and perhaps I didn’t “sell myself” correctly.

Tired because I’d been striving for perfection for six months…in and out of class.  Senior year can seem like a whirlwind of activities…I’d be lost in the next set of things to do without realizing that I’d finished the last ones.  Hopefully, your year hasn’t been like that too much.  However, I was tired, and I still had to find energy and enthusiasm to finish out the school year.

So, after waiting for a few months, I started receiving the college decisions in the mail.  My first acceptance letter was amazing…I can’t quite describe the feeling.  I was wanted…on a 4-year college campus.  For someone from a family who doesn’t pump out college graduates, this was something new…a goal apart from everything else I’d worked for.  All of the work…the stress…the time management…the effort…the tears and the struggling…it was all worth it.

So hat’s off to you for completing the applications.  Now…sit back…relax…you’ve got amazing things coming your way!

Video Blogging: Taking the leap to college

joseph-85CSO’s Executive Director Matt Rubinoff came to campus and we did some video blogging. Here I encourage you to think outside-the-box and venture away from home for college. Sorry about the rain and thunder background noise; it was not your typical sunny California day!

A Motivational Moment

angelica-85There are no such things as big problems, only small people. If one doesn’t let their problems overwhelm them, they’ll make it through anything. I was always told that our problems are only as big as we make them, so when life knocks you on your butt, just get up. We all fall down but only the strongest have the courage to dust themselves off and try again. Just remember this when you want to cry, just smile, your cheesiest smile.

The Financial Aid Process

angelica-85GET HELP!!! These are the first two words that come to mind when I think of the financial aid process. Completing the FAFSA form can be very difficult without the proper guidance. It is very important to get assistance while completing this form.

My first suggestion is to sit down with your parent or guardians because there are many questions that you won’t be able to answer on your own. There are many questions that can trap you up. If you’re not able to get assistance from your parents, your high school Guidance Counselor would be your next best option.

As a senior in high school I tried to complete the FAFSA form on my own, it took me a while to finish it. To be honest, it took me 4 months to complete it and I was forced to get assistance in order to complete it.

I often hear counselors advise students to fill out the form in January, I feel that this is great advice. Filling out the form as early as possible will increase your chances of getting sufficient aid. Please seek assistance and fill out the form as soon as possible, it is a long process.

Good luck!!!

FAFSA– What a form!

ashley-85As we all know the FAFSA is a very important form, and to be honest the thought of filling it out terrified me. I know it is silly to be intimidated by a form, but I was. This was my first true step to independence and I was so afraid to fill it out. As I waited to get my taxes back the fear of the FAFSA built up inside of me. Finally the day came when I was going to fill it out. I had no idea what I was going to do. Like always I was a special case. The FAFSA was to be filled out in all my information since I was a warden of the state. And like usual this proved to be rather difficult. But luckily I had wonderful help. My aunt was a tax pro so she helped when she could and then I had a wonderful woman, an admissions counselor at another school to which I had applied to, basically on call if I needed help. So I sat down at my computer, taxes in hand and I went to work on this really long form. There was some tough parts to it but I asked about them and got it all figured out. I finished my FAFSA and all had gone well. No sweat.

Now it is time for me to tackle the big bad FAFSA again and I think back to how scared I was. Yes, parts of it were a little confusing and I am sure I will need help again this year, but it is just a silly little form no matter how important it may be.

I want you all to remember this. And please ask for help, that is what admissions counselors are for! There are many people out there who are willing to help you just have to ask! Good Luck!