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Posts Tagged high school counselor

Putting a Face on Success

abigail-85Winter terms at Dartmouth (8-9 weeks) are said to be the worst time to be on campus and by week 6, I was drained and wanted nothing more than to leave. Many of my friends went to Miami or Cancun for two weeks, but I knew I had to see my family and surround myself with their positive, cheerful energy.

While I was home, my high school counselor and English teacher invited me to speak to their students about campus life, schoolwork, traveling, extracurricular activities, old and new friendships, my future plans, and everything in between. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into but because I am forever grateful to both of them, I obliged. They told me that I would talk to a group of sophomores in the morning but oddly enough, that was not the case.

Instead of staying for an hour, I ended up staying the whole day at Sparks High. After the first group of students, one group after another came in and asked me to talk to them, and so it went on until the dismissal bell rang. Questions came at me from left and right, questions that I had never asked myself. One student asked me if I always knew that I would attend college, another student asked me what would I have done had I not enrolled at Dartmouth, and another student asked me if I believed that she or any of her classmates could one day be in my position.

It took me a few minutes to answer these questions and I figured that the students’ probably realized that I was not prepared with notes (like I should have). But afterwards, my teacher told me that many of the students said that they loved talking to me and wondered if I could stay a bit longer to discuss their individual college plans. She told me that while I may have been nervous, the students didn’t catch any of it because “success needs a face.”

Some first-generation college students leave their homes with dreams to “make it big” and regularly going back to their hometown may not fit in the lifestyle they have imagined for myself. It is a pity that those people will never realize that they could “make it big” by making a big impact on budding first-generation college students. There is an incredible amount of talent and potential in schools that are constantly labeled as “failing” and, if you have had the opportunity to attend college, it is crucial that you go back to them and show them that a college degree is possible.

Remember your roots, remember your responsibility.

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!

College on a Dollar-Menu Budget

seanna-85FAFSA.

Ferocious-Anxiety-Financial-Stimulating-Atrocity.

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

*KEEP EVERYTHING!

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!