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Organization helps students prepare and find ways to pay for college (+ Video)


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  • Lauren Negrete/Arizona Education News Service

Emily Rainge Can Take A Sigh Of Relief When It Comes To Planning For College, Because The 17-year-old Has Been Involved With Be A Leader Foundation Since Last Academic Year. Photo By Lauren Negrete/Arizona Education News Service

Emily Rainge can take a sigh of relief when it comes to planning for college, because the 17-year-old senior at Camelback High School has been involved with Be A Leader Foundation since last academic year.

The Arizona foundation’s  goal is to increase the number of college-going students by inspiring and empowering elementary and high school students to become college-bound, focused and prepared through leadership training and mentoring.

Applying for financial aid, resume building, job interviewing, community service and networking are just some of the skills that Rainge has learned through her time with Be A Leader.

AZEdNews Video by Lauren Negrete: Preparing for college

Jessica Solis, a Be A Leader college-going counselor in the Phoenix office, works with 140 students every year to help them complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and get into the right college.

Solis said that students in the senior boot camp program earned a combined total of $3.2 million in scholarships. That includes merit-based scholarships, which students can receive for all four years of college.

Organization helps students prepare and find ways to pay for college (+ Video) JessicaSolisBeALeaderFoundation1000

Jessica Solis with Be a Leader Foundation.

Students should be smart about their finances for college, but also weigh all their options, Solis said.

Oftentimes, students assume that transferring from a two-year college to a four-year college is cheaper, but there are colleges that offer in-state grants that are just for students who enroll directly after high school, Solis said.

Time is an issue as well. According to a National Student Clearinghouse 2017 report, 13 percent of a students sampled said they completed their bachelor’s degree in six years after transferring from a community college.

Rainge said her goal is to attend Stanford University or Pomona College in California to study neuroscience, and that she will apply through QuestBridge, a program she heard about from Be A Leader Foundation.

QuestBridge is a national nonprofit based in California that connects the nation’s most exceptional, low-income youth with colleges and opportunities. QuestBridge works with students from high school through college to their first job to increase the percentage of talented low-income students attending the nation’s best colleges and to support them to achieve success in their careers and communities.

Over 15,000 students applied to QuestBridge last year and about and about 5,000 were selected. Eighty-eight percent ranked in the top 10 of their class, 72 percent were first-generation students and 78 percent of finalists were eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch.

Organization helps students prepare and find ways to pay for college (+ Video) EmilyRaingeBeALeader21000

Emily Rainge, a high school senior.

Rainge said she was attracted to QuestBridge’s college match program with 40 partner schools and the opportunity to have her fulltuition  paid, minus her family’s expected contribution.

With one sibling already in college at Arizona State and a younger brother, Rainge said scholarships are essential to make her dream of going to college affordable, and her parents are proud that she is taking steps to apply for financial aid.

There are other online resources to seek out as well. Besides applying for scholarships and grants directly from schools, students can create a profile that matches them with scholarships for their interests and career goals on websites like FastWeb.com and Scholarships.com among others.

Rainge said she is happy to be taking the next step in furthering her education.

“I know that if I go to school in California, I’ll be living on campus and I’ll feel homesick,” Rainge said. “Something I’m most excited about is making new friends, learning new things, joining college organizations.”

Success is possible through students’ hard work and with the support of other people to help students achieve their goals, Solis said.

“We follow our students through college, as well,” Solis said. “We want to not only help them get into college, but also help them finish it.”

The organization assists undocumented students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in navigating the unique challenges they face in accessing college.  application.

“Unfortunately, they’re unable to receive government financial aid, but there are programs out there in Arizona and nationally that do give scholarships to students who are DACA, also known as Dreamers, and they require students to still do the FAFSA since they have a Social Security number,” Solis said.

Most states and colleges use information collected on the FAFSA to determine whether Dreamers are eligible for aid, according to the FAFSA website.

“I think it’s important to join a college prep program or just a program that will assist you in learning about different opportunities,” Rainge said.  “You can’t do everything by yourself, you’re going to need some assistance along the way.”

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