Spotlight on Springfield: Solving Scholarship Setbacks

By: Kristin Ouellette | Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Anxiety about money is a top concern of students applying to college. Even students who do their best to secure federal money, aid from their intended college, and outside scholarships don’t always find that their anxiety lessens once they walk into the classroom on their first day of college. In addition to attending class, studying for exams, and making friends, many students work to pay their way through college, or spend precious time fulfilling financial aid and scholarship requirements. Students with outside scholarships can have particular trouble making payments for their first year of college, as it is often unclear how and when the scholarship money arrives at the college’s financial aid office.

uAspire trains our advisors to help students with these issues, and we serve as a connection point among scholarship agencies, colleges, and students.

In June of 2014, Monica walked across the stage of her Springfield Public School graduation feeling proud of her solid high school career and excited about her future at the University of Bridgeport. She had spent the year as uAspire Student Ambassador, helping Financial Aid Advisor Bernadette Astacio connect with her peers for financial aid help. Monica was a lively and engaged student with average grades and high hopes for being the first in her family to go to college. She had gone to Bernadette early in her senior year to discuss paying for college, applied for at least ten scholarships from outside organizations, and made an informed choice about where to enroll. In addition to receiving a $5730 Federal Pell Grant and a large award from the University of Bridgeport, Monica’s hard work applying for scholarships had paid off. She had received over $4000 in scholarships from community organizations.

During the summer, Monica relied on uAspire’s continued support to submit required forms and take other steps, like completing ‘entrance counseling’ — a mandated part of the federal loan process that can be overwhelming. Monica also brought her fall semester bill to Bernadette to make sure she fully understood it, and they worked together to budget out her first semester.

In August, Monica had registered for her classes (she decided to major in Business) and needed to purchase her books. She put in a request for a book advance from Bridgeport, but was denied. Monica started to panic — her classes would start in just a few days, and she didn’t have $500 needed to purchase books. She immediately called Bernadette, who told her that her scholarships may not have been disbursed by the community organizations yet, and that the school could not offer her an advance without proof that Monica had received these scholarships. Monica didn’t know she had to bring these documents with her to college. Bernadette called the financial office on Monica’s behalf and explained the situation to an administrator there, and instructed Monica to contact the community organizations to vouch for her. While she was able to prove that she had received these scholarships, and purchased her books without a problem, Monica is having the same issue this semester. This repeated problem underscores how crucial sustained uAspire advising is to these students throughout their college career.

Money worries are among the most pressing for young people in college, and have the potential to affect students’ work and ultimately continued enrollment. uAspire commits to students throughout their college career, and ensures through continued support and expertise that money will not get in the way of a college degree.