For the average American student and their family, college can be a major financial burden. Families will seek many ways to afford college tuition, including building up their savings account, applying for scholarships, taking out a loan, and relying on financial aid. In high school most students have access to a college counselor who will help them through the process, but what happens to these students once they leave High School and begin their first year of college? Well, some students will receive help from someone they know who has been through the college and financial aid process. Others will get lucky and be one of the few students who secure an appointment with their college’s financial aid advisor before the deadline. Unfortunately, during my first year of college I was not able to get any help to navigate college. I was not able to make an appointment with my advisor. I tried my best to complete the financial aid process by myself and based my decisions on the advice that my peers shared. I was worried I would make a mistake. Students should not struggle alone while navigating college. There should be more advisors available to help all students on campus, not just a lucky few who are able to secure the limited appointments available before financial aid deadlines.
When filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application 37% of parents and 41% of students found the process confusing. Out of the 41% students, only 25% sought help from a financial aid counselor, while 57% sought the help of their parents. Not only is the application process confusing for students, but equally as confusing to their parents. If there were more advisors available to help students, and advisors were proactive, instead of reactive, students would not struggle the way they currently do when filling out the FAFSA application. Without the help, many students will end up without aid, unable to pay for college, or drop out because they don’t have the knowledge on where to get the resources they need.
In order to help college students, we need to provide them with better quality of help and resources. We need advisors to be proactive and c easy to access. College assistance should be frequently advertised on campus and digital platforms, especially when the FAFSA application is first opened. It’s time for colleges to adjust the way they operate and provide help to students.
Mia Acevedo is a sophomore at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, CUNY and a member of YI-New York’s Fall 2021 Young Advocates Program.