Monday, February 6, 2012

What Do You Think?: Is College Within My Reach?


Nicole is the youngest of four children and just entered 9th grade.  No one in her family has ever been to college, except maybe a class or two at City College.  Her parents both work two jobs to support the family and they encourage Nicole to get a job after high school.  However, she has been talking with her favorite teacher and he told her that she would do great in college and it will help her get a better higher paying job.  He shared stories about how college was one of the best times of his life and how it helped him realize his passion for teaching.  Nicole also wants to be a teacher and so she has started considering actually going to college.  The thought of being the first person from her family to do so is at the same time exciting and terrifying, but she still can’t quite see it as a true possibility.  She knows her family is poor because her parents have to work so much and they always scrape by for a day or two at the end of every month, so how could they possibly afford college?!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What should Nicole do to find out more information about college and how to pay for it?  Who can she talk to?
  2. Do you think that your family could afford college for you?  If money was not an issue would you want to go to college?  Why or why not?
  3. Do you know anything about financial aid and scholarship money?
  4. What do you think about being the first one in a family to go to college?  Would that make you want to go more or less?
  5. What do you think Nicole’s parents and siblings will think about her applying for college? Will they be supportive?  What about your family?

* The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara offers scholarships to students with a high school diploma or GED who have spent four years in Santa Barbara schools from grades 7 to 12. is the website for these scholarships. They also list other specialty scholarships here, including ones who are AB540 status. Another SB site for AB540 scholarships is the Adsum Education Foundation.
The Ventura County Community Fund supports Ventura students with college funds (

* There are many websites which break down cost and answer questions that students might have, making it less difficult to find out the information they need, such as: and there are also forums where other students can go online and discuss the pros and cons of different options.  This is often a great way for students to connect with others who are looking at similar options and/or those who have already made similar decisions. 

* Summer competitions and other essays can earn students scholarships simply by having them write their story, share their goals, and/or test their academics.  High marks are also ways to earn academic scholarships, but there are many types of scholarships available.  Scholarships can be competitive, but there are also numerous scholarship funds that go unused because not enough people apply. is a site that lists different types of scholarships that are out there.  Religious, athletic, high school, and military scholarships are some of the many types available. 

* Work-study programs at universities work with financial aid programs for students who have financial need.  Universities often offer these employment options as a way to benefit both the students and university, as the university then has lower cost employees, and the students often are able to study during down times at work and are able to work around their class schedules as well.  Especially in local college communities, many places of employment cater to student schedules, with part-time employment available on nights or weekends, and even summer or holiday employment.

* Grants are often offered to students who demonstrate financial need, usually on a first-come-first-served basis.  Grant money is financial aid which does not have to be re-paid.  Federal loans (Stafford and Perkins) are cheaper than private loans and often have more flexible repayment options.  Private loans are also an option if Federal loan funds are not available or have been utilized.  Early applications are the best way to maximize the amount of aid available.

* Based on demographics, students may find it easier to get into school in some locations over others.  In recent years, some regions in the Midwest and Northeast have not seen as many first-year applicants, which led them to offer more scholarships in-order to increase enrollment.

* If a student is undocumented, they may not be eligible for federal aid.  However, there are other resources out there which have funds specifically to support undocumented students in their education.  and some of the listed sources at the bottom of this blog have some great resources for undocumented students to receive financial support for college. 

How Mentors Can Help:

* Talk about your own decisions about going to college, whether or not you went, how you decided where to go, who you talked to, and how you paid for it.  If you did not go to college, talk about this decision, and you can also talk about those you know who went to college, into the military, or trade school. 

* Discuss your mentee’s motivation for going to college, whether this if financial, occupational, personal, etcetera.  Discuss some of the goals they want to achieve and help them to really feel sure about their decisions and not just feel family or other pressure.  Encourage them to consider all of their options.

* Encourage your mentee to talk with their high school career center and counselor about what kind of preparation they need in-order to apply for colleges.  Help them begin to work on some of their goals and where they see themselves going.

* Talk with them about considering junior college first or other local college in-order to save money on tuition and allow them more time to figure out their career goals.  Encourage them to start looking earlier so they have more time to make an informed decision. 

* Talk to your mentee about scholarships and other financial support.  Encourage them to write about their stories, their goals, and their reasons for going to college and sending them in as essays for scholarship money for college. is a site to help them take a look at the different types of scholarships available.  Encourage them to search for scholarships in their local area, as well as talking with their high school, religious organizations, employer, and the universities they are planning to apply to. 

* Direct them to the FAFSA website and talk with them about financial aid. contains a lot of information for applicants about different types of aid and how to apply.  Let your mentee know that there is a lot of aid out there and the responsibility would not have to fall on her parents.  Scheduling an appointment with a college financial aid officer is a great way to give them an idea of what they will need to do and what might be out there.

* Talk with your mentee about working students and how many jobs are flexible with students’ class schedules, especially on-campus jobs. 

* Encourage them to be wary of credit card companies that often target young adults and discuss with them the pros and cons of credit cards.

* Talk with them about different resources out there - friends, school counselors, teachers, and online sites (such as: ) and other online forums where students discuss their decisions, what worked and what didn’t.

Funding Resources for Undocumented Students:

Additional Resources:

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