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Four Different Perspectives about the College Process from Graduating Seniors

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

By Members of the Press Club on January 27th, 2021


The Press Club wrote about 4 perspectives about the college process with so many emotions. We talk about policies, advice, and the Financial Aid Process.

//School Support Systems by Farah Al-Gubari//

I had always regretted changing schools during the middle of sophomore year for the past 2 years, leaving my friends and everything I knew at SLHS (Skyline high school). However, at the start of this year, I realized that it was the best decision I made because while my friend struggles to navigate the college application process with little to no help I have many resources at CCPA (Coliseum College Prep Academy) to help me with everything I don’t understand or need help on. Below are some excerpts from a conversation I had with my friend the Skyline student that show how different our experiences have been.

How was your experience as a first-generation student applying to college and financial aid? And did you get any support?

The student experience at Skyline: My experience as a first-generation student applying to college and financial aid was very overwhelming. I found myself being confused about what I had to do and if I was doing things the right way. My school helped me to get essays done and answer some of the questions I had regarding the applications I was doing. However, I felt alone during this process because of the lack of support that I had from some of my counselors.

My Experience at CCPA: As a first-generation applying to college, I felt like I was unable to put my best into my college application. I didn't have as many volunteer hours as I wished I had. Both of the internships I started last year were canceled. I didn't have much to put on my college application. I also felt like I will never finish them because there was just so much to do. Every college I applied to had its own set of questions and I had to write drafts, edit them, then get them edited by a teacher. It was just a lot of work but thankfully I was in SRA and they helped me a lot. I might not have needed CCPA's help as much but I was always told that they will be there if I need them and that was an extra hand ready to help me when I needed it.

What did you learn during this process?

The student experience at Skyline: Something I learned during this process was to reach out to different people that could help me and not be embarrassed to do so and to take it upon myself to keep track of deadlines.

My Experience at CCPA: During this process, I learned that I should’ve started writing early. At least a draft would’ve been helpful because starting from zero was overwhelming and discouraging

How did you deal with stress?

The student experience at Skyline: When I was the most stressed, I gave myself a break to unwind and I made sure to prioritize my mental health. I found that surrounding myself with people that made me happy really helped me feel better. I picked up the habit of journaling and I dived deep into reading lots of books. Even though this process was very challenging, I’m very glad I got to experience it because I uncover new parts about myself that I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered on my own.”

My Experience at CCPA: I'm not the best at dealing with stress and college apps were so stressful to the point I get on antidepressants for about a month. However, when I realized that my mental health comes first I would leave an assignment halfway to take a break. I would take short or long breaks depending on how I feel and then get back to work when I no longer feel overwhelmed. But because of the pandemic, I can't go anywhere so I just take the time to read books on my reading list, write poetry, or just talk to a friend I haven't talk to in a while.

Overall, you shouldn’t have to attend CCPA to get the help you need during the college application or even scholarships to look at scholarships. Many attending OUSD are first-generation and or low-income students, and the college application process could be extremely overwhelming. This process can make many of us feel unworthy or changing our minds about going to college or university. All Oakland students should be able to access resources to help them finish college applications.


//What does low-income mean by Xochitl Diaz-Suarez//

Many of us have heard the term “low-income” be used to describe our socioeconomic status. Low-income is basically defined as poor; however, in the eyes of colleges. Who exactly qualifies as a low-income student?

In Oakland, our streets are filled with unattended waste, an abundance of air pollution, homelessness, underfunded schools, gun violence, and displacement, yet some of us cross the fine line of low-income into the middle class. Oakland families are encouraged to commute in order to make a living wage, but barely make it out of the poverty line.

In my case, my father is unemployed, and my mother working overtime, we are borderline low-income since we earn less than $45,000. FAFSA only accounts for taxes, not really medical expenses, rent, or supporting our families abroad, or more.

Personally, filling out the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA) away from my family was hard. Not understanding the information or order of the paperwork, I was stressed. I was fortunate enough to have gained the support of College Track and my college counselors, but other schools don’t offer the support we have access to. I began to apply for scholarships so that I could avoid less stress when it comes to financial aid. I received rejections and more rejections. So what did I do? I still applied.

What I advise rising Seniors and Juniors at CCPA is to start EARLY. Apply to bigger scholarships like Students Rising Above (SRA) or Questbridge, but focus on local scholarships more because you have a better chance of winning it! I’m going to list a resource that lists scholarships to apply to in 2021:

So please, take advantage of the resources you have and prepare your writing early. PLEASE APPLY ASAP!

//Higher Education Should Be Free by Stephany Casillas//

As a first-generation student, applying to universities was not easy and it was especially difficult when it came to filling out paperwork. FAFSA was always talked about by my teachers as part of the college process but I didn’t learn about the CSS profile and IDOC until much later. The CSS profile is an application for non-federal financial aid that is required by primarily private colleges. It is very in-depth and took me a long time to complete. The IDOC is additional financial aid documents that are requested by specific colleges. It was overwhelming at times and my parents and I didn’t understand how to fill it out. My college counselor helped me a lot and I was able to complete all the documents. If you ever need help filling out any financial aid documents ask your college counselor! Also, I recommend familiarizing yourself with your parent’s tax documents so it won’t be as confusing.

When filling out financial aid applications you are considered low-income if your parents make less than 75k. The higher your income the less financial aid you get. This becomes a challenge for people who make more than 100k; they are considered “too rich for financial aid” but their income is not enough to pay for college. Most families aren't able to pay the EFC(expected family contribution) that is calculated by FAFSA. Other expenses aren’t taken into consideration such as medical expenses, sending money to family in other countries, car payments, and mortgages.

It becomes hard for students and they have to look for scholarships to apply to so they can afford college. I would recommend that any future college applicant applies for as many scholarships as possible. Although there are some scholarships that require your income to be less than 75k to be eligible, there are many out there that don’t. One piece of advice I would give is to apply to local scholarships because it increases your chances of getting the scholarship.

Policies should be put in place that gives people more financial aid or even lowers the cost of education. Pursuing higher education should be a right for everyone and not a luxury! The high cost of university sometimes impedes people from attending college which should not be the case.

//The Struggle is Real by Alexis Ayala//

The college process is full of emotions! Having to navigate as a First-Generation student has given me the opportunity to speak and inspire others to start early with this process.

Starting from the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application process was a pain. It was a pain because as a First-Generation student I didn't know what the taxes forms meant so I had to struggle and get help from College Track and a college advisor. Applying to all the colleges like UC, privates, and CSU have all shown me to maybe consider going to Community College (CC) and then transferring to a 4-year. I say this because CC allows you to save on spending less money on classes, books, and tuition leading to transferring and not be in so much debt. Many people make it seem like CC is bad but in reality, it has diversity in backgrounds and age.

Coming from a low-income/working-class family, now categorized as middle class, has not given me many opportunities for my future. Like I say “The rich stay rich and the poor just get poorer”. In our country, we need to change the requirements for how much you need to make to be considered to have an Expected family contribution (EFC) of 0 and EFC is how much your parents will have to pay out of their pockets unless you have scholarships to pay the money asked to pay. Our public education will always be that the white/lighter skin color will go to higher education while many Black, Indengious, and People Of Color members have to drop out because of not having enough money or not receiving enough help.

A policy that should be made is families that make $200,000 or less should still be considered in the range of low-income/working class. I say this because, in Oakland, people have to make above 100,000 to survive. $200,000 should still be considered Low-income, working-class, or middle class because even Biden has said he will tax people that make above $200,000 a year.

I believe that college should be free at no cost and have more people have higher education. As a country, we are uneven about pay meaning some states people make so little and are considered low-income but compared to Oakland people have to make so much to be barley be considered low-income but as a whole country, it means middle class. As a student that doesn't know what kind of college to go to; I want to go to a college and make myself happy.

Going to a Community College has many benefits like building community, less debt, and great professors. A piece of advice I would give future seniors and juniors now is ‘FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND MAKE YOURSELF HAPPY NOT OTHERS”!

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