Dear FAFSA, Please Do Better

Dear FAFSA, Please Do Better

Please understand that not all families are exactly the same.
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Did you know that fewer than half of children in the U.S. live in “traditional” nuclear families? If you work for the FAFSA, then that answer is no.

If you are a college student, you know the pains of filing for financial aid every. single. year. I just recently had to fill out my FAFSA again for next school year, and it was not a pretty experience.

Let’s start with the fact that my mom passed away this past summer. It’s very hard to be required to think of this in financial terms, but the FAFSA makes you do this. I had to file as an “independent” student this year. This means that I would not be required to provide parental information. But I was not approved, therefore delaying and possibly eliminating my financial aid I need for school.

This is because the FAFSA does not understand the concept of having anything other than a “normal” mother-father-child family.

They assume every single college student has this type of family. On the FAFSA you can only put your mother or father as your provider, so other caretakers such as grandparents or stepparents do not count. This makes it almost impossible to understand how to fill it out if you don’t fit in this category.

Just because my family does not qualify as this, I am being punished by having my financial aid unapproved.

Also, the people of FAFSA think parents' entire income goes straight toward their children’s college fund as if they don’t have bills to pay, food to buy, or health problems to take care of. They also ignore the fact that some parents are uninvolved in their child’s life and therefore do not even help them pay for their college. Many students I know struggle to pay for college on their own and owe thousands of dollars in loans because of this.

So FAFSA, please get it together. Please understand not all families are exactly the same. Is this really too much to ask for?
Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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When People Respond to My Major With 'You Better Have a Rich Husband'

The things I've learned working with kids are worth more to me as a person than any college class I've taken. Most days, the kids teach me more than I could ever teach them.

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This past week I have been working at the local elementary school's art camp as an assistant teacher. I've been helping with the camp for three years, and I've worked at a preschool as well. Now I'm in college at the University of North Alabama as an Elementary Education major. More and more lately, I'm getting a sour face when I tell people that I'm an education major." Be prepared to be poor," they say. "You better get a rich husband."

But I'm here to argue against the preconceived notion that I have picked my career based solely upon the fact that I won't make as much as a doctor or engineer. Is this the mindset that you want the people who are teaching your children to have? If so, good luck to you and your family. I've been incredibly blessed by my short time spent with kids so far. Working with children has greatly improved my life and I'll tell you why.

Working with kids is not easy by any definition; I think that's something we can all agree with. But isn't that what makes it so wonderful? I've always heard that being a teacher takes a special kind of person, but I wholeheartedly believe that working with kids makes you into a special person. The things I've learned working with kids are worth more to me as a person than any college class I've taken. Most days, the kids teach me more than I could ever teach them.

I know you could see this one coming: kids are patience builders.

Coming from a perfectionist who began teaching with a low tolerance for anything that went wrong, I've learned a lot about patience. Children are just learning, just beginning their lives. They haven't had enough experience to shape their conscious or moral standards. In their eyes, they have two models to form their foundation upon: their parents, and those around them. So how can we expect anything less than occasionally acting out or making mistakes? Maybe we're the ones they're modeling their silly behavior after at times. Kids may get into more trouble than we prefer, but we love them all the same.

Kids are, sometimes brutally, unquestionably honest.

If your hair is frizzy and sticking up everywhere, then they'll let you know that you look like a porcupine. Or why, they'll ask with a giggle, are those red bumps all over your face? I'm so thankful that I don't even have to keep myself humble; the kids do it for me… and I don't even have to ask! They will never hesitate to point out your flaws or mistakes, even if it's something that you're trying to conceal; you can never underestimate a child's observation skills. They continue to impress me every day.

They stay optimistic.

It doesn't matter if they've never painted before; they're going to paint a picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex for their dad and he's going to love it. Being an optimistic person myself, it gives me high hopes to be around children who love life and look for the good in people. I think their optimism is quite contagious. If only I could catch onto being so excited about something that early in the morning.

Also, with children comes continuous laughter and fun.

Working with them brings out the 5-year-old in me (not that I don't act like I'm five years old all the time). Whether it's bringing inanimate objects to life or imaginary friends, kids know how to have fun no matter the circumstance. You have to be creative with them, constantly making up games and characters to keep up with their imagination. You kids keep me young... or age me twice as fast. You decide.

Their innocence is refreshing.

They haven't experienced the world yet to spoil their minds, and I continuously wish that I could be so innocent minded. In the words of Patrick Rothfuss, “When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind." You took the words right out of my mouth, Rothfuss. It's nice to be around little ones so untainted.

They're always there to lift you up.

There is truly no better feeling than a child making something for you, because they used their time and their resources that they could've spent doing anything else. When I have my own classroom, I'll be eager to display all of the gifts my kids have graciously given me. They love seeing their work hanging up because they know we treasure it. But the tangible gifts are only a small portion of what truly matters, which is the sentiment that I so often receive from kids. If I'm down and out, they can tell. If they run up and give me a hug or a smile so big, it never fails to brighten my day.

Lastly and most importantly, kids are authentic.

They're completely themselves, because the cruel world hasn't given them a reason not to be. They're unashamedly bold and that's something that we should all strive for. Kids are friends with whoever they want, and they don't distinguish each other by race or beliefs, but simply see each other for who they are. It's OK to be different. As the older generation, it's our job to set an example for our kids to be themselves and to love life.

Now you understand how interacting with students has shaped me as a person, and I'm sure those who have been around kids would agree. My passion for teaching has given me so much more than I ever thought it would, and I've barely gotten started. I can't wait to see how much I've grown as a person at the end of my journey.

So next time you cringe at the life decisions one has made because of financial reasons, consider that they have a huge heart for teaching and all that it entails. Maybe they're in it for more than simply the money. Never discredit an individual's passions because of your worldly attitude.

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I Just Finished The Last Final of My Undergraduate Career

I did it, everyone! I graduated!

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I've dipped my hand in the waters of the Inverted Fountain. I can't and won't go back now.

We have this tradition at UCLA involving our beloved and iconic Inverted Fountain. During our student orientations, we place our hands in the churning waters of the interesting piece of architecture with the knowledge that we cannot touch those waters again until after completing our ultimate final and are about to graduate. If you do, you are cursed with an extra quarter added on to your academic year.

Today, I touched the waters because I submitted my final essay for an English college course, and I have nothing else left between that paper and my graduation day.

I transferred to UCLA two years ago, and consequently, had two fewer years than other students at UCLA who began attending their freshman years. I walked past the fountain for my first year often and always thought: 'Maybe it won't be so bad if I have another quarter here. Maybe I'd finally have that college experience people talk about. Maybe I could make more friends and take a more active part on campus. Maybe...I could dip in one toe.'

Like I said, it's been two years and I never touched the water of the Inverted Fountain until literally five hours before I started writing this article. And I am glad for it.

Transferring and making the most out of my two years of UCLA meant that I made the transfer friends that I might not have made otherwise. It meant that I took advantage of all the services available on campus and checked out every nook and cranny, knowing I had less time to explore than my other four-year friends. Honestly, I think I know more about this campus now than most students have known their full four years here.

I was scared at one point that two years wouldn't be enough. But, if you've read any of my previous articles, I think that my appreciation posts for my roommates, the campus and Westwood are enough for me to write future iterations of UCLA college brochures. I love UCLA and all the people that I have met here. I wouldn't have become the woman and adult that I am today without the environment that nurtured me and challenged me and excited me.

I will have left UCLA by the time this article will be posted. I am thankful for my time here and I will not forget any part of it. Thank you, UCLA. Bruins Born, Bruins Bred, Bruins till the day we're dead.

Cover Image Credit:

Andrew Evans

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