Paying for college is quite possibly the largest barrier our students face in accessing college.
For those who do not know, students can receive financial aid by completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or WASFA (Washington State Application for Financial Aid, for undocumented students) and by applying for scholarships!
However, it can be difficult to navigate the application processes to access this aid. Especially for students who will be the first in their family to go to college.
At CAN, one of the priorities of our AmeriCorps College Coaches is to work one-on-one with students to teach them the tools necessary to not only apply for financial aid the first year, but also for years to come.
Kimberly and Abselom are Mount Rainier High School students who are currently in the process of seeking financial aid. They both completed their FAFSA applications and are now working hard to get as many scholarships as they can. Read on to learn more about them and the beginning of their journey to college.
KIMBERLY AND HER EXPERIENCE
Kimberly recognized pretty early on in her college application process that she would not be able to go to college without the help financial aid. Unfortunately, her family cannot afford to send her to college, so she must find alternate ways to attend with minimal amount of student loans (or none at all!).
For Kimberly, going to college is important because she wants to pursue a career in which she can help up lift her community. This may be as a lawyer fighting for immigrant rights or possibly something in communications where she can advocate for folks in her community. She wants to have a career that makes her happy because she knows that she is doing good (and necessary) work.
Kimberly also wants to show her parents that she “can do more than just be in a kitchen.” She reflects on the machismo that lives on in Mexican culture and the role they feel women should have. Kimberly will be the first woman in her family to go to college and she wants to show her parents (whom are in Mexico) that she is capable to achieve more than what society believes she can. She wants to make her family proud even when facing the challenges of being a Latina in the current climate of the United States.
Before coming to CAN, she didn’t know anything about applying to college. She thought about going to college often but didn’t know how. The concept of financial aid was foreign to her but she is happy that aid exists to helps make college a possibility for students like her.
She thanks her AmeriCorps College Coach for guiding her throughout the process of applying for financial aid. She has learned so much about the process that she is confident she will be able to do it again next year—by herself this time!
ABSELOM AND HIS EXPERIENCE
From a young age, Abselom’s parents instilled in him the desire of being an engineer. And as he grew up, he found his own interest in this field increase and plans to pursue a degree in computer engineering. Abselom’s #1 motivator in going to college is his family. Abselom will be the first in his family to attend college and he says, “I don’t want to go to college for myself, but for my family.” He will be living out their greatest dreams, as well as his own!
Being the first in his family to go to college brings about many challenges. He has no one to rely on in helping him navigate the process and although his parents are 100% supportive, they have a difficult time understanding the intricacies of the financial aid applications because there is a language barrier. Before coming to CAN, he didn’t know what went into applying for college, especially about the financial aid he could receive. But with the support he received from his college coach, he feels better prepared and even says he can accurately read his parents tax forms (which is needed to apply for FAFSA).
Money for college is crucial for Abselom because his parents do not have the financial resources to send him to college. He doesn’t want his college education to hinder his families finances so although he has already submitted his FAFSA application, he will continue applying for any scholarships that come his way!
THEIR ADVICE TO STUDENTS LIKE THEM
Kimberly and Abselom both advise students to start planning for college in your junior year of high school! Especially with their personal statement essay because it takes time to perfect.
Kimberly also advises students to think about their future while in high school because colleges will look at your grades and activities. She also says to always remember “you are good enough!” and to “never give up, because having at least one person who supports you is enough to keep you going.”
Finally, their #1 advice to students? Apply to all the scholarships you can! You never know what you’ll get.
P.S. In the past few weeks both Kimberly and Abselom have received amazing news--acceptance letters to college! Congratulations to these amazing students on being accepted to Central Washington University and/or Eastern Washington University.