So many high school students have the desire to go to college, but worry they don’t have the funding. At the Dream Project, we’re making the college dream a reality for thousands of students.
The Dream Project is a student-run program at the University of Washington that partners with first-generation and low-income students in Seattle-area high schools to help them get into and succeed in college. One of the most important things we do is help them secure financial aid.
A recent report from Public Agenda revealed that 70 percent of high school graduates could not identify the standard federal financial aid form—the first step in getting not only federal student aid, but also scholarships.
For many students, the federal financial aid application, known as FAFSA, feels like an intimidating beast that’s blocking their path to higher education. It’s confusing and complicated. Students need to know social security numbers and extensive financial information for themselves and their parents. And they need to meet the deadlines.
Usually, a student just needs someone to guide them through the questions. Our 500 undergraduate mentors work weekly with 1,300 local high school students as they navigate taking the SATs, selecting colleges to apply to, and writing personal statements. Sending a few reminder texts about FAFSA and scholarships doesn’t hurt.
How the FAFSA makes it possible: Temneet Sahle, Dream Project Mentor
My parents came to the United States as refugees, and never received any formal education, but have always stressed to me the importance of a college education.
Every year when I fill out my FAFSA, my Student Aid Report tells me that my family cannot afford to pay for my education. Financial aid is the only way I can afford to attend the UW. Thousands of other low-income students have challenges and aspirations like mine. Incredibly, one quarter of families with college-going children do not even fill out FAFSA, according to a recent study by Sallie Mae and Gallup on “How America Pays for College.”
That is one reason why I am a leader and mentor in the Dream Project, helping other students access the money that is available to them.
Temneet Sahle, Dream Project mentor, with a student
Clicking “submit” on college apps: Nicole Guenther, Dream Project Mentor
As a Dream Project mentor, I’m always excited to hear my students say, “I got in!” Acceptance is inspiring.
But we recognize that being accepted to colleges is not enough—our students need the funding to keep them in school.
As current college students, we’re filling the FAFSA out right along with our students, so we’re up-to-date on changes in the process. We can assure them that myths they may have heard about the FAFSA aren’t true.
For example, students often mistakenly think that if they file the FAFSA and are offered loans, there’s no way to turn them down. They might think that financial aid is only available for four-year universities and not for community colleges, which isn’t the case.
High School Seniors: Your Dream Project To-Do List!
FAFSA and scholarship facts: Luke Allpress, Dream Project Mentor
Both of my parents are public school teachers in a small rural town in Washington State. They instilled in me the importance of public education and modeled for me the change I could make as an educational leader.
I am in the middle of earning my bioengineering degree, and I am working hard to pay tuition and rent. I’m so grateful to help others navigate this process, as I know how confusing it can be to go through this process alone. In fact, since we know how important grants and scholarships are, my Dream Project peers and I fundraise for $1,000 scholarships that we give to 20 high school students each year.
When I’m working with high school students, I remind them that most colleges have financial aid priority deadlines in February or March. Students in Washington state who signed up for the College Bound Scholarship should file their FAFSAs as soon as possible.
To learn more about the Dream Project or to support our efforts, check us out. And if you’re a high school student in the Seattle area, ask your counselor if Dream Project partners with your school and come to a visit!