"I Wouldn’t Be Here if it Wasn’t for the Scholarships."
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Posted by: Kim Szarmach, Communications Intern
For students under-represented in higher education, every dollar counts when piecing together a financial aid package. And their ability to obtain those dollars and succeed in college depends on policymakers establishing a Streamlined FAFSA and approving increased, sustainable funding for need-based aid like Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, as well as programs like Federal Work-Study, AmeriCorps, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
As she grew up, college was always a topic of conversation in Abigail Luna's house. Her parents, both immigrants, wanted her to have the opportunity to achieve a higher education, because they were never able to.
"My parents have always inspired me to be a good student and eventually attend college," she said. "I guess that’s always something I wanted to do in my life.”
But when it came time to apply, Abigail realized she would need financial help through federal student aid to make her family's dream come true.
“That was my goal: Go to college and pursue a career I wanted," Abigail said. "But, one thing that I thought would be a barrier was my financial need. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the scholarships I received."
Luckily, Abigail was able to receive guidance from Upward Bound Appalachian State University, which helped her fill out the FAFSA and apply for local scholarships as well. She was awarded enough aid to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro without having to take out student loans during her first year.
“There is a lot of stuff I wouldn’t know about if I wasn’t in that program, like financial aid or what classes I need to take if I want to go to college,” she said.
Now Abigail is a freshman studying International Business and getting into the swing of college life. She said she thinks her college and major are a great match for her needs and interests.
“My parents are from Costa Rica and I have uncles that are from Mexico and Guatemala, so I really like trying to understand different cultures," she said. "I also like learning different languages so I think International Business is a good fit for me as a major.”
Abigail hopes to continue her studies by getting a master's degree one day, but right now she's just focusing on making it through all four years of her undergraduate program. While her financial needs are currently being completely met by institutional and federal grants, Abigail plans on applying for more scholarships next year to ensure she can continue to finance her education.
“You never know” about financial aid, Abigail said. “It always depends on what I have and what I will receive.”
Asked how she thinks college access could be improved nationwide, Luna said she wishes everyone would have the resources she did when learning about applying to college during high school.
“There are a lot of students who don’t have someone in their family who went to college or don’t know anyone who received a higher education," she said, adding that institutions “should give more information to high school students who don’t have someone to help them.”