By Brenda Duran (Senior)
The struggle to pay for college is one that affects not only the seniors at Senn High School, but also high school seniors nationwide, annually.
The tuition for college has drastically increased over the last few years, and students are finding it more difficult to obtain the financial aid that they need. According to the Washington Post, the main reason young adults drop out of school is because they’re unable to balance school and work, which they need to do to support their education and families.
The counselors at Senn High School are no strangers to the difficulties seniors face when deciding how they’ll pay for college. They do recognize often times students’ final decision for the college they’ll be attending revolves around their scholarships and financial aid award letters.
Senn’s counselor and senior point person, Kathleen Farrell realizes that there really is only one key factor that matters to most students; which school gives them the most money.
“They end up going to any school simply based on affordability,” Farrell says.
Likewise Dolores Carrillo, a senior at Senn was facing one of the most common decisions there is when it comes down to electing the college of her choice.
“FAFSA thought that I had money enough to pay $28,000 per year,” Carrillo says. “ I was stuck between going to a school I really wanted or choosing a school I could only afford.”
Every year, seniors have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The process is one that requires students to upload their parents and their tax information as well as a lot of other personal information such as address and social security number, and based on that information students receive grants and loans from the government.
Additionally, as if not always receiving the financial aid that fits students’ needs wasn’t enough, the process of filling out the FAFSA application is one that is time consuming, tedious, and confusing. Sofia Ali, another senior at Senn, was awarded a very minimal MAP and PELL grant when she realized that her FAFSA had been filed for the previous year not the current year, and all her initial plans and dreams had to be put on hold.
“I didn’t understand how such a small mistake could cost so much. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be able to afford college,” Ali says.
Since the interviews were conducted I have followed up with both Carrillo and Ali, and I am happy to announce that they’ve both earned scholarships to resolve their financial woes. Carrillo is a Loyola Scholar and was awarded nearly $55,000 in scholarship money. And Ali then informed me that she had received the Pullman Foundation Scholarship which awards her $10,000 per year.
There is no doubt that there is help for students facing this challenge. All they have to do is work for it just like the seniors at Senn High School did. Despite all the struggles and complications, the seniors at Senn had a pretty good year since all together they’ve received almost $2.2 million in scholarship money, counselors like Ms. Farrell are optimistic about this year’s graduating seniors.
“They worked really hard. We had a really great year with the seniors,” Ms. Farrell said. “ We really work hard to help them make the transition to college. They did a good job, I’m proud of them.”