By Caitlin Eckvahl, ECMC Foundation
Once the last bell rings, students are out of school for the summer, and for those moving from high school to college, there may be more to do before the first day of fall semester than anticipated.
Katelyn Montavolo, College Affordability Advisor, UAspire
For many high school students from traditionally underserved communities—first-generation college students, students of color and/or students from low-income families— applying and gaining admission to a postsecondary institution is only the first of many major hurdles. High school students from underserved populations may not have resources such as a home computer or at least one college-educated parent to help them navigate difficult financial aid paperwork. As a result, students may miss institutional deadlines, fail to complete the FAFSA or misinterpret financial aid awards.
These complexities can result in "summer melt," a phenomenon wherein a student applies to college, is accepted, but fails to matriculate into his or her first semester. We asked Katelyn Montavolo, a College Affordability Advisor at uAspire, how students can find resources to maximize their financial aid and beat summer melt. Since its launch in 2006, uAspire has helped more than 43,000 students leverage upwards of $657 million in financial aid.
According to Montavolo, students should start everything early: start saving, start planning and start now. She explains that the FAFSA is a requirement for acquiring financial aid, and that both students and parents need to be prepared for this year's release of the 2018 FAFSA on October 1.
Students should also start searching for scholarships as soon as possible. Scholarships can help reduce college costs and offset the financial gaps that federal aid cannot fill. uAspire has a scholarship search tool with information about scholarship opportunities across the U.S. available at: https://www.uaspire.org/students/scholarships.
Ask for help
Filling out the FAFSA or other college documents alone can be intimidating, but uAspire can help. uAspire partners with local high schools in the Boston and San Francisco Bay Area to help implement an active texting campaign called "Summer College Connect." Students receive reminders about upcoming college deadlines specific to them and their institution and can reply with their questions, ask advisors for assistance, as well as make appointments. Recently, uAspire added an additional feature that allows students to send picture messages, allowing students to show advisors exactly what they are struggling with, without running up their phone bill. "A lot can be fixed over text. Sometimes, it's a simple phrase students need help with," says Montavolo.
Consider your options
Getting into college can be exciting, but not being able to afford it can leave students feeling helpless. College tuition for four-year universities can be steep, and taking out numerous loans can be detrimental to a first-generation student's future financial stability.
Having a backup plan can help students navigate alternative educational options. Montavolo explains that, "Our mission is to make sure high school seniors have an affordable option for college." She says that if cost is a factor preventing students from attending four-year institution, they will present them with all options, including community college. If students don't start college as soon as possible, Montalvo says, "it's hard for them to get back into [school]."
uAspire Affordability Advisors like Katelyn Montavolo are still available to help students navigate and discuss college affordability options even after students have begun their first semester at college. Advisors can help students stay on track with their college plans in an affordable manner and ensure that students are able to meet their educational goals.
Students can contact and make an appointments with a uAspire advisor near them here: https://www.uaspire.org/students/advisors.
For students outside of the Boston and San Francisco area, here are resources that can help beat summer melt:
In 2015, ECMC Foundation made an investment to support uAspire's mission and efforts in helping low-income and first generation high school graduates develop financial awareness and realize their college affordability options. Learn more about uAspire.
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