AMANDA LY I worked hard all through high school here in Los Angeles. And I dreamed about going to a private college far from home. But, I knew that my parents couldn’t afford to pay for a private school. I figured I’d get scholarships, grants, and loans.
Now, I realize I was too optimistic. I didn’t understand the economy and how hard it would be to borrow money for school. I also didn’t ask financial questions of my guidance counselor, my parents, or even the colleges I selected.
My guidance counselor just told me to apply and then see what happened. I applied to six schools. I didn’t know much about financial aid. When I filled out the FAFSA form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, I noticed my parent’s income looked small. But the counselors always assured me that some of us would get grants or loans or scholarships. I just assumed they were talking about me.
I spent hours writing and revising college essays. I sought out recommendations. I did everything I could to show that I could be a good student. I got into my first choice — a small East Coast School. At first I was in shock. And then I felt really excited.
Then the financial award letter came. There was some money in grants and loans, but my parents still needed to pay $12,000 a year. I didn’t understand what some terms meant like “subsidized” and “unsubsidized.” In high school we learned what subsidies had to do with farmers and agriculture, not education. Even with the loans, we had to come up with thousands of dollars on our own. My dad and I went to the bank to apply for a private loan. We were denied because of our low household income. And I missed the deadline for many scholarships from foundations and non-profit groups.
After all of that, I couldn’t make the money work. I declined the admission. I’m now at a community college finishing my last semester this spring. I’m hoping to transfer to a four- year college. And this time, I hope that the grants and government loans will help me cover the costs.
Youth Radio produced Amanda’s commentary in collaboration with L.A. Youth, a newspaper written by teens in Los Angeles.