This is an article for all of the struggling students on campus. If you are like me, you have done it all at some point during your college career: work, go to school full-time, face internal strife at home and overextend yourself to strengthen your curriculum vitae.
My family falls on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, and due to this I received a number of grants and scholarships. Even though I have worked steadily since November of my freshman year, I relied on that money to survive, and I am eternally grateful for the support the system has given me.
Before this academic year, I took the initiative to apply for about two dozen scholarships, so I could take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and apply to graduate school, which would cost upward of $1,000.
I felt that I was a competitive candidate for many scholarships.
I am a first-generation college student. My overall GPA is about a 3.6, and my major GPA is upwards of a 3.8. I worked my way up to assistant manager at Target, and during that time I was taking 17 units, volunteering on a research team and working 36 hours a week. Despite being worn thin, I got a 4.0.
I left Target to coordinate a wellness volunteer group — the Peer Ambassadors of Wellness (PAWs) — on campus through the Student Health Center.
I helped implement events like Suicide Prevention Week and Depression and Anxiety Screening Day.
Now, I am a tutor for children with autism and conducting my own experiment in the psychophysiology lab for the Psychology Honors Program.
I felt proud of my achievements, bragged like crazy in my personal statements and sent all my applications in on time.
Then, the financial aid office requested some extra paperwork from me, which I also filled out and sent in on time.
Within two weeks of the tuition deadline I had not heard anything from financial aid. I waited in line and was told that it still had not completed my paperwork. During the week of the tuition deadline, I waited in line again.
There was still no progress on my paperwork, but I was encouraged to come in again the day before tuition was due. So I waited in line a third time, only to be told that my paperwork was finally completed and that I should see my fee deferment information the following day on my portal.
Finally, I found some short-lived peace on the day tuition was due, but I did not receive any of the two dozen scholarships for which I had applied.
My parents had to pull money from their retirement last year, and, as a result, I didn’t qualify for any of the grants I normally receive. I didn’t see a penny of their retirement: not because they didn’t want to give it to me. They really could not and I didn’t really need it at the time.
Now in order to supplement my income, I have taken out every loan available to me.
I am officially out of that money, and it’s not even November.
Recently, I have tried figuring out why I did not receive any of that scholarship money. Was my personal statement flawed? Did the boards and committees for those scholarships think that one working parent in a family of five would be enough to sustain the next steps in my academic career? Were my extracurricular activities not enough for these scholarships?
After further speculation, I thought these possibilities to be unlikely.
Scholarship foundations need financial information long before tuition is due so students can use it to pay for tuition.
I gave the office all the paperwork it needed on time, and yet, none of it was filed until the day before tuition was due. Therefore, all the scholarships I applied for did not receive my financial information in time.
Now, after all of the hard work I put in to make myself a strong candidate for graduate programs, I am stranded because someone, or a long string of people, twiddled their thumbs.
This is, quite literally, the worst thing that has ever happened in my academic career, and it isn’t even my fault.
Being forced to put my dreams and goals on hold isn’t even the worst of it all. The worst thing, I think, was the look on my parents’ faces when I told them I can’t afford to take the GRE or apply for graduate school. They know how hard I’ve worked and that they cannot help pay for it, either.
This campus promotes academic enlightenment and growth. We are supposed to be a school of diversity, discovery and distinction, yet the only diversity I see are the sad stories of struggling students on campus who can’t finish in time because classes or funds are cut.
The only discoveries I have made are the flaws within our system and that student voices are completely ignored.
The only distinction I see about the formal education I’ve acquired is that it has caused more stress in my life than an education I could have received on my own.
It’s time we start demanding more of our administration and getting our money’s worth for our education.
This campus should strive to cultivate successful, flourishing lives, not forsake them from the start.
I wish I could look back on my time as a Bulldog with pride, but, instead, I am left brokenhearted.