Once I completed my college applications, I celebrated. I spent the entire Winter Break my senior year of high school on drafting essays, responses and catchphrases to the quirkier questions of the Common App. I knew it was a matter of waiting until I received my college decision letters. Having applied through my colleges, except one, through Regular Decision, I wasn’t going to receive any of my letters until late March, some not until April. I knew the decisions were going to arrive, but financial aid? Although I applied to thirteen colleges, I knew net cost was going to help me decide which college to choose. But that nicety is consumed by my deeply rooted conviction that college should be affordable for all. I take offense that the cost of attending some colleges and universities bars many students from enrolling. No one should have to settle for anything less than their dream school because their school won’t provide enough financial aid.
[M]y deeply rooted conviction is that college should be affordable for all.
So, yes, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to afford the schools I applied to. My cheery confidence in going to college got a reality check; I needed to make sure I could afford college. I hoped that my four years struggling through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and taking a boatload of AP courses would impress the admission officers to accept me. I hoped my GPA would impress the financial aid officers to throw me another fifty thousand dollars.
While my intense Senior year workload prevented me from wallowing in my fears, nonetheless I began to ask myself whether doing IB was worth it. I could have further entertained the thought and (wrongly) reasoned that if I couldn’t afford any college, then my advanced courseload was a complete waste of time. But I had stopped myself; I didn’t want to worry about failure.
I learned a ton about financial aid that year. Having accessed my parents’ tax returns a couple other times from scholarships I applied to, I was already familiar with terms such as gross income, exemptions and the American Opportunity Credit. But I had to wait until April to complete my FAFSA as well as my CSS Profile, since for many blue collar jobs, employees are discouraged from taking a day off. This is the situation of my blue collar family. When a day off means not being paid that that day, my hard-working parents literally can’t afford to take a day off. So as Tax Day approached was when my parents were able to have a day off to file their tax returns. It pains me that it’s only because of a federal requirement to file taxes that my parents were allowed a day off. But being sick or physically exhausted—very valid, human reasons—aren’t considered important enough to their bosses. I took this moment very personally; I’m going to college so that my parents can have more days off. They can afford to take more time to enjoy their lives and better their wellbeing. They don’t need a reason to have the day to themselves; they are allowed to enjoy themselves. With a college degree, I will have the means to take vacations, for my own recuperation, but also for self-love. I will have a job that values my worth and understands that I am a human with very human needs and no one is going to step over me simply because they must meet a deadline or quarterly profit margin.
I’m going to college so that my parents can have more days off. With a college degree….I will have a job that values my worth and understands that I am a human with very human needs and no one is going to step over me simply because they must meet a deadline or quarterly profit margin.
Having this realization about my self-worth, I sought devoting my time and energy doing my best to succeed. I was a senior who was very inspired from his Mexican immigrant parents. Their hard work contributed to my success; college was around the corner. After all, going so far in school meant I had already beat a lot of the odds. I was already winning.