The deadlines for college applications is quickly approaching, and college seniors in McFarland say they are feeling a bit nervous, as distance learning has made it difficult to receive advice or resources from school staff about college applications.
Not only do seniors have to worry about submitting their college applications, many are also unsure of how to fill out their financial aid forms, which schools to apply to, how to pick a major, and scholarship opportunities. Seniors are left asking themselves questions like, “What do I write about in my personal statement essays?” and “How do I fill out FAFSA?” and “What scholarships are out there?”
“I am extremely concerned about the process since I do not know anything, and I am really uninformed about what I am supposed to be doing in order to get ready to begin applying,” said Melanie Nunez, a senior at McFarland High School.
Nunez is not alone in her feelings. McFarland High senior Leslie Vasquez said her and her classmates have not received much assistance from school personnel, with the expectation of a few scholarship opportunities.
“It feels like everyone is on their own as of right now to figure it all out,” said Vasquez. “We haven’t been guided as to what we’re supposed to do with college essays and scholarships really which makes senior year a bit more stressful as it all has to be done online.”
However, Nunez and Vasquez recognize it’s still a bit early in the application process, she said, and hopes to receive help in the near future.
“I would say I am slightly stressed about whether or not I will complete everything in time and do it correctly but am certain I will receive help when the time comes,” said Nunez.
Daniel Diaz, a school counselor at McFarland High, said he is remaining in contact with the seniors via email and other online platforms during the distance learning process. College representatives have reached out to him, and he said he will be sending this information to seniors soon.
“I am going to be sending them a bunch of emails that talks about their personal statements, applications and a lot of information students are going to have at their disposal so when it is time, they will have at least a little bit of knowledge on how to fill out the application,” Diaz said.
In the meantime, it’s important for students getting ready to apply to universities to continue to work hard in their classes and do well because colleges will be looking at their GPA, Diaz said.
“They need to make sure they have their A-G requirements as well as start their applications soon because it is a long process,” Diaz said. “It is up to the student to apply and finish the application, write a great personal statement, and be involved. Sell yourself and do a great job because we want the universities to pick you.”
Diaz said the financial part and fee waivers portion of the application can be confusing for students; however, he is going to bring in Youth2Leaders, a nonprofit organization that promotes college access in Kern, to lead a workshop on how to apply for waivers and more.
“I already know for a fact that a lot of our seniors are going to qualify easily,” said Diaz. “I believe they give you six or eight free college applications. If you want to apply to other colleges, you have to pay for it on your own.”
Youth2leaders runs a Cash for College workshop, which is a financial aid workshop. Diaz said McFarland High school is going to be doing their Cash for College financial aid workshop on Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. FAFSA opens Oct. 1, 2020 and closes March 2, 2021.
“If you miss it, there will be more workshops following that,” Diaz said. “We will track our kids because it is very important to get financial aid for college.”
Although Diaz takes on a lot of the work when it comes to helping seniors with college applications, McFarland High also receives assistance from Trio, a program out of Cal State Bakersfield that provides academic, career, and financial counseling to students and encourages them to graduate from high school and pursue a college education. This program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in college, according to the website.
“We are fortunate to have Trio working for our school,” said Diaz. “We also have our English teachers to assign some topics that may come up in your personal statements.”
Other advice Diaz has for students is to pick a school that is affordable and is covered by financial aid. Diaz also says it’s okay if students are not sure what they want to major in. They have plenty of time to figure it out.
For any additional questions, seniors are welcomed to contact Youth2Leaders. They may assist with college applications and financial aid. The best way to reach them is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and phone (661) 374-8817. Students may access their web page for any additional information at y2lef.org/.