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!