On March 13, This American Life
of NPR released a compelling report on the discrepancies of high school education between low-income and wealthy students and how it either fostered or alienated low-income students from success in higher education. The report followed three different students from a low-income high school in the Bronx – all of whom showed promise in college enrollment.
One student graduated from high school early and never attempted to attend college, another won a prestigious full-ride scholarship but failed out of school and the final student graduated from college and become a teacher.
Each of these students had the intellect to attend college and succeed; however, they didn’t have the resources. Making information of these resources more readily available is the first step to helping lower income students achieve in high school, college and life. With that, here are 10 resources for low-income students to help navigate college applications
and financial aid, college readiness requirements and the college campus culture.
College Applications & Financial Aid: Guidance Counselors, Mentoring Programs, Free FAFSA Workshops and Scholarship Search Engines
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While there may not be much help and guidance at home when it comes to applying to college and financial aid, there are resources outside of the home available to you. First, you should seek out your high school guidance counselors. They not only supply best practices for college applications, but they can also direct you to mentors or organizations that specialize in helping low-income students with their college applications.
Most of these services also extend to financial aid applications as well. Plus, every year, cities across the country host College Goal Sunday
. These free workshops are perfect for students and families who have no idea how to fill out the form, decipher financial aid options or ultimately pay for school.
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Finally, there are a plethora of scholarships for you. Teachers and counselors can usually direct students to local or national scholarships, but you can find options on your own too. Filling out a profile on Fastweb
is a great way for you to find scholarship opportunities for which you actually qualify. Once you have filled out every section of the profile, you can view your scholarships, which you will then have to apply to individually.
College Readiness: Remedial Courses, Advisors and Financial Aid Administrators
As soon as low-income students step foot on campus, their insecurities about their academic and cultural preparedness are triggered. And that’s perfectly normal. While some of the wealthier students may give no indication, they are likely experiencing anxieties too. Regardless of how everything may seem, the arrival on a college campus the first time is scary for everyone.
If you’re placed in remedial courses for the first year, don’t despair. It says nothing of your intellect; rather, it’s about your preparedness. You deserve to be in college just like everyone else there, and your professors and advisors are working to ensure that you’re on the same page as your peers. Attend these courses, spend study time on the assignments and meet one-on-one with the professor or teacher’s aide to help you succeed in the actual courses and throughout your college career.
Meeting with your advisor for the first few times will be intimidating, but their purpose as an advisor is to help students. They would much rather help you than to see you fail out of college; don’t be afraid to approach them. If you are struggling with a course, dorm life or something as simple as directions to a building on campus, seek guidance from these resources. If they don’t have the answers to your questions, they will be able to direct you to someone who does. Remember, there is no question too simple or “stupid.”
When it comes time to paying for school, dealing with tuition and financial aid
discrepancies or changes in your ability to pay, you can visit or call your school’s financial aid administrators. Though you may be intimidated to speak with the people that seem to control your finances, these people are on your side. Their sole job is to ensure that you can realistically afford your tuition bills; so if anything happens to your financial circumstances, speak to a financial aid administrator as soon as possible.
Campus Culture: Library, Career Center and Student Health Services
While a college classroom can be daunting, everything else about the campus can seem a culture shock for low-income students too. Your high school may not have had a library, gymnasium or cafeteria. On a college campus, you have all of these benefits and so much more; however, you may be too scared to ask for help.
Again, these resources are here for you – so use them! If you can’t afford textbooks or need help with a research paper, visit the campus library. This building doesn’t just house books; it’s home to knowledgeable staff who are more than happy to teach you the library basics – like how to find a book, use the computers or navigate the resource center.
Though you may have envisioned flipping burgers all of your life, the reality is that you’re a college student. It’s time to start dreaming bigger. Check out your campus career center
, which is staffed with experts who can assist you in finding a career that will shape your academic pursuits. They’ll also help you format a resume and cover letter when the time comes, prepare for interviews and match you with internship opportunities if you feel that’s something you’d like to do during college.
Finally, whether you’re sick, injured or need to speak with someone about how overwhelmed you may feel, the student health services are at your disposal. All of these services are included in your student fees so you don’t need to pay extra for them. It may be especially beneficial for you to see one of the campus therapists about any discomfort you may feel about being in college. Though you may feel isolated in your feelings, there are plenty of other students from all different backgrounds going through something similar.
In 2014, the White House published a report on Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students
that referenced a study, “Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America,” which stated that, “When children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution get a college degree, their chances of making it to the top nearly quadruple, and their chances of making it out of the bottom increase by more than 50%.”
Though there are many significant barriers to getting in and succeeding in college; the time, stress and anxiety are worth it. As a low-income student, you don’t just deserve to go to college; you deserve to graduate too. Never be afraid to ask for help, and take advantage of the resources at your disposal to make sure that happens.