Saving dollars at Hunter

A beginner’s guide to scholarships

Are you in college debt? Are you out of luck as how to save while at college? Is financial burdens consuming you to the point you can’t focus in class. Good News! I know a way to fix all of you problems! Well.. Some of them, I hope. I will share you the tips I have learned to save big and pay off tuition debt while at Hunter.

When I first started at Hunter College, I felt I would have a relief from any financial burden because my FAFSA and TAP would cover my whole tuition at Hunter. Surprisingly it did not. One would think with a tuition as low at Hunter, and one of the lowest tuitions for a college education that you would not need to save up and start paying some bills; unless you are Native American where you can go to certain schools for free. By the end of my freshman year, I had a few hundred dollar gap in my tuition, plus the money I lost for paying for expensive textbooks, which by the way most of them were barely used in class.

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There are many ways one can save up and pay off their tuition fees. For starters within Hunter College, if you come from a low income family, you are eligible for a work study, which can grant you $800 a semester but you have to give up 100 hours of your time volunteering in the library.

Before attending college, I was immersed in a college prep program since I was a junior in high school at Educational Alliance. I thought I knew everything there was to know about financial aid. I always knew that New York state has two aid programs, one called HEOP which provides full tuition to low income students in New York City, and EOP, which is like HEOP but for NY state schools. When I was first applying online to Hunter College, there was a list of questions of my educational history.One of the first questions were “Are you eligible for SEEK?”, in which not having know what was SEEK, without checking, I immediately clicked no. Unlike FAFSA or other government online forms where there is always a question bubble next to the question, which summarizes what the question is asking you, there was no such button on the CUNY online college application form, which screwed me over for life.

What is SEEK? SEEK is the CUNY’s name for HEOP. The average person would not have known that they are the same and many students by accident or lack of information usually click no to being eligble. As a student from a low socioeconomic background, if I was admitted to SEEK I could have recieved a full ride, private tutoring, and stipends to pay for textbooks. I only found out about this program halfway into my first semester. I immediately approached the SEEK office on the East building ninth floor, where I pleaded with the director to help me out. At the time, Ms. Summers was the Director of SEEK, and she told me “even if you would have been accepted to SEEK, all incoming freshman need to take a Summer seminar before starting at Hunter, to be a full member.” I was really sad that a program that is funded to find students like me, would X me out for life to receive the perks of being a SEEK student all because CUNY fails to inform their students about this financial opportunity.

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I started to look into scholarships in the beginning of my sophomore year, and here is what I learned.

Always aim for small scholarships

Many students are compulsory to apply for big scholarships hoping they would win and pay off their debt in one shot. Big scholarship grants are always highly competitive, and also usually provides the scholarship to less than 10 people a year. Smaller scholarship grants, are not only less competitive, but offer more room for many people to obtain aid.

Whatever department you are in, EVERYONE should subscribe to your department’s email newsletter

Each department has a point person to research scholarships and send you a list monthly with new available scholarship.

Apply to fellowships

Fellowships always will provide you a stipend on top of you gaining great internship experience. Building your resume and saving money is killing two birds with one stone.

Check out Hunter & CUNY’s scholarship page

Listed is filled with fellowships, scholarships, and other opportunities. At Hunter in the Student Services office in 1119 East building, Myrna Fader and other counselors can help you apply to scholarships.

How else to save? I recommend everyone to open up a checking and a savings account if you have not done so. Check for banks that are accessible across the city and offers no hidden fees and minimums and a high interest rate. I have an account with Chase bank, and My Saving Direct (part of Emigrant Bank). Why am I telling you all of what you probably know in High school? If you do have an account, you can link your bank account with your CUNYfirst account to receive a direct deposit. Whenever you have a surplus of money from scholarships that already covered your tuition, the remainder goes straight to your bank. I have saved a few thousand dollars from linking my savings account with my CUNYfirst.

Nextgenvest is a NYC based nonprofit to help students both in High School and College to save money and get more financial aid. Once registered online , you get assigned a advisor who texts you ways to save. I am currently having an advisor do the work for me, to find grants for Graduate school, How cool is that!

It’s kind of a no brainer, that you should be preparing food at home, so you have something healthier, cheaper, and bigger than the opposite which is represented at our cafeteria. But even if you were late to school and did not have time to prepare food, don’t worry you are in luck. Join Hunter College Foodies on Facebook where you can find/post FREE food events happening around hunter. I originally had the idea when I was working in USG, but the administration there did not support my idea. I usually find free food at various department info sessions and club events. So I thought, Hey! Let me make a platform where other students can benefit. To Staff, You can also have some FREE food.

Finally if you are ever having trouble drafting an essay, coming up with a thesis or writing points, you can always hit up the Writing Center in Thomas Hunter 4th floor, where there are tutors daily available to help you.

I hope I was able to help you start saving, and if you need any further help, feel free to email me.

Happy Savings!

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