Faces of FAFSA: Salma
First-generation college student
I am 16 years old and the middle child of a family of five. I have incredible parents who immigrated to the United States from Central America, and have always worked tremendously hard to provide a great life for me and my siblings. As a junior in high school I have started looking past graduation and am hoping to attend a four-year university so I can study international relations. Because I know I’ll need financial assistance with tuition, I’ve spoken with my counselor and she’s told me a bit about FAFSA. I consider myself pretty capable, but I feel like anytime you do something for the first time, especially if it’s this important, it can be pretty intimidating. Plus neither of my parents attended college, so even though they are willing to help they don’t have experience with the application or the American financial aid process in general. We’re all going to have to learn a lot over the next year. I’m lucky to have my parents help though, because I don’t think I could answer detailed questions about our household income without them. I’m also really grateful that we have family friends who have attended college, and hopefully they’ll be able to give me any extra advice I might need to fill out the FAFSA.
Because I study and work hard, I’m not super worried about getting into college – I feel like my grades are good enough to get me in to lots of places. What does worry me is figuring out how to pay for it. What if I get into my dream school but then I don’t get enough aid to cover it? Some of the colleges I’m looking at have annual tuition rates that are almost as much as one of my parent’s salary. It’s frustrating for someone like me, who’s relying on financial aid but excited to start applying to schools, to have this black hole of information surrounding such a critical aspect of the process. I’m worried that by not knowing the amount of financial aid I’ll receive I might miss out on a great educational opportunity, because I feel financially intimidated by the really great programs. Without that education it’ll be even more challenging for me to achieve the life I see for myself down the road. If my parents and I had a better idea of what sort of loan I would receive, we could sit together and make a plan moving forward. And maybe I would have to narrow down some of my school choices. But at least I would have the facts. I know I’m only 16 years old, but to me that just makes sense.
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