February, 2011

I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

irvin-85College is, in a few words, is a mixture of emotions, conflicts, successes, self-realizations, ever-increasing responsibility and many falls; these very same reasons are why I love college. As I have mentioned before, college is a continuous humbling experience, always teaching you a lesson with every instance that occurs. The second quarter that I have spent in college has been the most academically challenging time period of my life. Three classes at a time might not seem as much but believe me, at the pace that these classes go, you are gasping for fresh air every Wednesday and feel a huge relief once Friday comes around. Since everything is so fast paced, you cannot waste any time, specially if you are taking a science or math course. Physics in college is very, very different from physics in high school and I have come to realize that the hard way. Never had I felt so overwhelmed by the material of  class until I sat in a physics lecture which covered an entire chapter in less than an hour and a half. My other two classes added even more stress to the already stressful term and not to mention that the harsh New England temperatures did not help my situation. Yet,  despite the stress and the cold, snowy nights, I have to say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the intellectual, and at times, even physical challenge that college poses. College tests what you are really made of and I love that. Yes, I could do without the stress and without the pressure that grows greater as the term goes on, but I believe that this is preparation of what is to come. I’d rather be challenged out of my comfort zone and grow than simply remain comfortable and not develop as an individual. I had to make hard decisions, such as deciding to withdraw from my physics course, thus changing my intended major from engineering to totally undecided. Yet, all of this is experience from which I can draw from in the future. All of what I am going through is experience for what will be the real world, stress, hard decisions, work, but at the same time, there is also great relationships that are formed along the way. I will talk more about that in the next post, but until then, seniors, stay strong! And juniors, start studying for the ACT!

L.O.V.E. = Love. Obey. Value. Encourage

jeremy-85Greetings CSO Nation!

As I look back on my first year in college, I realize I’m at the half way point.  I’m grateful for the opportunity, but more importantly, I’m grateful for L.O.V.E.  The month of February gives me a chance to express my love for those who have been in my corner.  February is also a chance to thank those who have my back through whatever and whenever.  That would be my parents.

Oftentimes, we take our parents for granted.  Seriously, I realize some of you may have grandparents who are your parents or you may have other family members who substitute as your parent.  I just want to show some love to my parents because I realize how critical their assistance has been in my life.  Especially up to this point.

I am pursuing higher learning because I want to achieve a level of success in life which will allow me to have my best life *as he says in his best ‘Oprah’ voice*.  The main reason I’m here today is because of values instilled in me by my parents.  My parents ensured I was in the right programs and schools in order to position myself for college.  I could not have done this alone.

So, it is with love that I write this post in the month of February.  L is for the love my parents have consistently given me through the years.  O is for my continuous effort to try to obey their rules, advice, and guidance as they share their personal experiences with me.  V is for the value of all that love and support – it’s priceless and I value them to the highest.  Finally, E is for the fact I encourage them to continue to be a part of my life even though I’m away from home.  I call my mom.   I ask her for advice and direction.  I realize that I still need them in my life – now, more than ever.

As you’re preparing for college, please never forget what matters most: the L. O. V. E. you share with your parents – it’s invaluable and the best thing in life!

Sometimes, I hate that I love college

jenny-85College is hard at times. Being away from your family. Not having mom’s pho or fried rice. Getting a fever even though you have a paper due soon. And then feeling like you had the ground pulled out from under you only to realize you just stepped on some black ice.

But along with those times, you get the good stuff. Laughing at a Facebook post with your roommate at 2 in the morning even though you’re supposed to be working on your essay. Waking up the next day with your head feeling like mush, only to see a text from a buddy telling you to meet up for breakfast. The little things that make your day seem not so bad.

Then there’s meeting people. Others that are perhaps more ambitious or smarter than you. Others that have dreams and come from different backgrounds. I would be lying if I said you’d meet nice people everywhere, but among the less sociable ones, you get friends. Then you find joy in talking with them and understanding where they come from. Maybe even sharing music tastes or book titles. I was introduced to Korean pop music.  And I am quite happy I have.

It’s these little things. Making friends and meeting people that you normally wouldn’t have a chance to. Taking a film and writing class that requires a lot of time you don’t have, but actually enjoying writing that essay because that movie was REALLY good. Or seeing a light at the end of the tunnel when your chemistry homework actually made sense. (I almost cried, but I told my roommate it was the eye drops.)

Valentine’s Day was just same old same old. But as I walked back to my room to drop off books, I noticed something on my door knob. There were several valentines from my dorm mates hanging there. And suddenly my day didn’t seem too bad as I walked out again to another class, chocolate melting in my cheek.

I love these little things.

A Dream Does Not Have Price

irvin-85I remember when I first saw the price tag of what used to be the school of my dreams. Beside the name “Duke University”, appeared a five digit number that seemed to whisper “there is no way you can afford this”. With the hope of finding other schools that would not require my parents to sell everything, I scrolled down the list but all I could see was an expensive price tag for every school that I was looking at. Discouraged, I limited my options to more affordable institutions, such as my community college. All of this was before I found out about financial aid and how, with the help of the institutions as well as the government, I would be able to afford going to a school that I had worked hard for.

I can summarize my feelings towards financial aid in a short sentence: probably the best thing that could have happened to my educational career. Thanks to the help of Dartmouth and as well as Federal Aid, I am able to attend this great institution. Do not be discouraged when you see an expensive price tag. Keep in mind that if an institution really wants you in their campus, they will do as much as they can to help you go there. Financial aid is like a secret yelled out loud that very few people are aware of.

Just because you see an expensive price tag does not mean that that is what you are expected to pay to attend that institution. That price tag can be covered in many different ways such as grants, outside scholarships and federal aid. There might be a few loans here and there but, if you use your resources, you can cover those loans with outside scholarships. Apply to as many scholarships as you can. The more scholarships you get, the more you can help your parents and the more money you will be able to have to buy books and hey, even to buy what we teenagers feel is important, such as clothes and all that good stuff. (With moderation of course).

Whenever I am asked how I am able to attend an Ivy League school and how I am able to afford it, I say that the hardest part was actually in getting into the school. Paying for the school was not one of my main concerns. As I have said before, if an institution accepts you, they are willing to help you as much as they can. You just have to let them know about your situation. If you do not speak up, they will not know what your family is going through and thus they will not be able to help you. The money is out there, all you have to do is look for it. Do not let your dreams be shot down by a five digit number, realize that you dreams do not have a price and that no matter how expensive a school is, with enough effort and education, you can afford it. All it takes is awareness of the resources such as scholarship websites, your counselor in high school and even the financial aid office at the college of your dreams!

Gunned down by Cupid

seanna-85This is a love story.  The happy ending hasn’t occurred yet, but we’re in the middle of the honeymoon stage.  A few fights have occurred, but we’ve managed to overcome the issues & have positive expectations for the future.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to express my adoration for Pomona College in a paragraphed poem…before you start reading…let me warn you.  This love declaration does not rhyme. 

Choices—College is an overabundance of choices.  Oftentimes, students may find themselves in trouble for the types of choices they make.  Although you have to attend school or receive education until you’re 18 or graduate from 12th grade, college isn’t mandated by law.  You choose to succeed.  Every class you attend, every assignment you turn in, every party, event, or club that you’re involved in…will primarily be your choice.  I’d tell you to make only the best choices, but then I might set you up for later guilt…a few mistakes won’t jeopardize your experience…just make sure you choose the “right” ones to make…

Classes—Hopefully, you’ll attend a school with classes that spark your creativity, challenge your thinking, and provide healthy frustration.  Pomona boasts great classes and faculty with PhD’s and vast student involvement with research, but I didn’t understand the significance of having such great professors & course material until I was attending as a student.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I have classes that make me groan and I’ve taken a few that I was overjoyed to be done with…but the GREAT definitely outweighs the bad.  College is about academic growth…classes are an integral component of that academic facilitation.  So even if you took Basket Weaving in high school to earn that “A”, step outside that comfort zone in college…

Involvement—As mentioned before, college is full of choices.  You can get involved in a variety of activities…or…you can opt out of campus or service-related involvement.  Personally, I love to remain active, often, overwhelmingly so.  One great thing about my college is that there are so many options available that allow me to get involved in exactly the ways that I’d like.  I’m interested in educational improvement & success.  There are so many mentoring and tutoring programs at the school that I’ve had to limit my scope…but that’s an AMAZING thing to be able to say.  This also applies to student-run organizations and other activities around campus.  With every event that I choose to attend…there’s something else that I’m missing…

My Bed—With all that running around, between choices and classes and extracurricular involvement, I’m often exhausted by the end of the week.  Scratch that, I’m tired every night by the time I make it back to my room.  This has developed into a new love for my bed.  If you get to college & have the urge to go and go and go (similar to the Energizer Bunny), make sure that you allocate time to recharge your batteries.  Running on an empty tank is dangerous for your health, as well as your outlook on your experience.  Between you and me, sometimes I even hug my bed (we’re just that close).


Getting Money and that College Experience!

jesse-85My sophomore spring is off to a great start! The semester has already picked up and is moving faster and faster every day. I can’t believe that I’ve already been in school for almost a month. If you want to see how the first few weeks went, check out the video below!

One of the first things I did was go see my financial aid officer because you always have to be sure that your finances are in order. You can never be too careful!

One of the most crucial things about preparing for college is making sure you do EVERYTHING you can to try to make sure you can pay for it.

I can think of 3 ways to start:

1. Apply to A TON of SCHOLARSHIPS!!- you can start applying as early as middle school for some. Apply to EVERY SCHOLARSHIP you qualify for! Local and National.

Note: Make sure to check out scholarships that are offered locally because the pool of applicants is smaller which means you will have an even better chance of receiving award.

2. FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is crucial to getting Financial Aid from the schools that you will be applying to. Be sure to fill it out!

3. Talk to your high school counselor! Set up a meeting and talk it out with them, they should be able to help you out with the details of applying for the FAFSA and applying for scholarships.

These are just some first steps, it is up to you to follow through and get that money! You don’t want to miss out on the college experience! Check out the latest VideoBlog to hear about some of the experiences I’m having in college!

I Hate Being Broke

jenny-85You can’t do a lot of things without money. You can’t go out to eat with your friends. You can’t enjoy that green tea latte while relaxing at a local Starbucks. You can’t buy your Chemistry textbooks (They cost A LOT). And you can’t pay for the laundry because each time you use the washer or the dryer it costs you a buck and twenty-five cents (That builds up, you know.)  So what are you going to do? Wear your old clothes and hope they don’t smell?

These are just some of the potential problems of a broke college student. How do I know? I have spent a Saturday night NOT going out because my student card didn’t have enough money for the dryer. I ran back to my room to look for change but didn’t find any. Then I realized that I couldn’t ask my dorm mates for change because they were out partying. So I was just standing in the laundry room, staring stupidly at my pile of wet clothes. Not fun.

Most of us start to feel some freedom once we’re in college. “Yes! Mom and Dad can’t control how I spend my money anymore!” Well, don’t go mad shopping, you’ll regret it very soon. You’re going to be broke and unhappy. There’s going to be too much stuff in your already small dorm room. Besides, come summer to those who are abroad, where are you going to store your stuff when you go home? Storage space isn’t always free…

Hints: When you see piles of coupons in your post office, TAKE THEM! TAKE ALL OF THEM! (No, not really, save some for other people, too.) And do research. Ask your professors before the semester starts about which books to get. See if you can buy them earlier or if there’s a secondhand book store. Amherst College has a student run program called The Option where students sell and buy used books.  Research! Save money! And then treat yourself to some wings occasionally. It’s good to enjoy life, but be responsible.

Money isn’t Everything

ashley-85The biggest problem I have had with college is the cost of it, especially since I could have gone to an in-state community college for almost free. Instead I chose to follow my dream and I have been struggling ever since. I have had many people criticize me on my choice and there have been many times that I have wanted to quit, to move back home where it would definitely be less expensive and in turn less stressful, but I wake up every morning happy that I am still here. There are many kids at my school who do not understand what it is like to barely be able to pay tuition, but, unlike I originally thought, I am not the only one in my position on my campus.

While I don’t want to tell you to not pay attention to cost, I also do not want that to be the only thing you think of. College is a place for many of us to reach the dreams we never thought we could and to find new ones; and if you are not happy with where you are at, then that won’t happen. Here are some tips so that you are not desperate at the end of the semester to pay off your semester’s tuition:

-Make payments on time. My school has payment plans and although you only get a small fee if you do not make payments on time it is much more manageable and less stressful to make the payments then coming up with it all at one time.

-Use meal plans. We all know that cafeteria food sucks, but if you are paying for it then use it and don’t order pizza every night.

-Sales and coupons. If you are shopping, no matter what it is for, find sales and use coupons. See if you get student discounts or frequent shopper discounts at the places you go.

-Needs over wants. If you don’t need it then it can wait.

-Laundry. If you can take your laundry home. If not, try cost effective options like hang drying your clothes. It may take twice as long but it is free and better for the environment.

-Shop around for books. If you can, shop around online for your books. Most places you can find them cheaper than at school and there are also places that you can sell your books back to. It’s a great way to get some extra cash.

-Work Study. If you are eligible, get a work study job. They have a maximum number of hours and every penny counts.

2011 Financial Forecast: F.A.F.S.A. = Find and Apply Financial Strategies in Advance!

jeremy-85Greetings CSO Nation!

I survived the Blizzard of 2011!  I’m officially a SURVIVOR!  I hope everyone reading this post endured and weathered the storm – no matter what state you’re in.  This too shall pass…

There are great lessons in every storm!

A storm teaches you to prepare in advance. A storm teaches you to come together with those close to you and help each other out through the difficult periods.  A storm teaches you about your inner strength and how much you can bear.  Storms give us an opportunity to reflect and realize that trouble doesn’t last always.

As I read the news reports out of my hometown, Chicago, there were people stranded on the Lake Shore Drive who really thought they were not going to make it.  But they did.  The amazing thing was the kindness of strangers.  People came out of their high rise condos and apartments to bring food and water to those who were stranded on the drive for well over seven hours.  Storms can bring people together.

Many schools were closed for the day and some through the week, but life goes on.  Speaking of life, the money matters, as it relates to college, can be a do or die experience for many and creates a personal kind of storm.  As a storm teaches you to prepare in advance, so does the process of Financial Aid.  It behooves you to prepare in advance.  The FAFSA is the foundation and a mandatory rite of passage for all college students.  After the college application, it is the most critical piece of paper you will ever complete!

When FAFSA says they are accepting applications on the first of January, believe them!  File your application on the first day!  The money goes so fast and as a future college student, you want to be in the early processing batch which is always the first two weeks of January.  Don’t delay.  Seek help from your parents (they have the expertise you need to figure the paperwork out) and work together as a team!  Those are my tips for financial aid as you work towards higher education.  Stick to this strategy each year and you won’t regret it.  Some storms can’t be avoided, but financial storms can be if you file your FAFSA as soon as possible.