Stop judging me just because I come from a poor background

At Rutgers, ‘EOF’ is synonymous with poor

“You’re so EOF,” laughed the other person once I explained  I had been sitting at the computer for 20 minutes figuring out a way to make my document two pages instead of three without making the font too small to read. I wasn’t going to spend an extra four cents on a piece of paper with just a few lines on it.

I laughed along at the time but I knew that to them EOF was synonymous with poor.

I have lived my entire life knowing about the financial struggles that my family faced. My parents worked hard to make ends meet. Though my father is a chef, we couldn’t always afford to have gourmet meals (even though he could definitely make them) and had to settle for cold cuts or sometimes just eggs for dinner. Things were difficult but we always made it through the hardships that came along and with through these tough times, I learned the value of every little penny.

However, I realized that not everyone struggled the way my family did. Some days my friends would ask to go out and when I told them that I couldn’t because I had no money, I knew they didn’t understand when they would reply with “just ask your parents for money.” When I got my first phone in high school, a TracFone that didn’t do anything beside call and text, my classmates always asked me, “when are you going to get a real phone?” When I told them I would when I could afford to pay for it myself, my answer baffled them.

Coming from an unsteady financial background definitely was a big factor in my college choices. I thought a lot about where to apply and I made sure to take advantage of all of the resources available, such as SAT waivers and college application fee waivers. Then, I made the best decision I could have ever made and applied for SAS EOF.

For those that don’t know, SAS EOF, which stands for School of Arts and Sciences Educational Opportunity Fund, is a program targeted toward students from lower-income families and gives them the opportunity to obtain higher education. It allows students to earn a degree who might not have otherwise had the chance.

In order to be accepted as an SAS EOF scholar at Rutgers, you must fill out the application while applying to the school. If you are accepted into the EOF Program, your acceptance to Rutgers is conditional. In order to be officially accepted into Rutgers, you must complete the EOF Summer Institute.

Summer Institute was a semester’s worth of material jam-packed into five weeks. Though I was only taking two classes, it felt like I was drowning in school work. On top of that, programs were mandatory to attend, making it extremely important to manage my time. Although it was a lot of hard work, Summer Institute provided me with skills that are critical to my success in college and beyond. On top of that, I had the opportunity to live in the Livingston Apartments and make friends who I probably wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for EOF.

I sacrificed most of my summer before college to attend Summer Institute and though most of the time I was wishing I could have been at the beach instead of in class, EOF provided me with an experience that was unlike any other. Even now during college, EOF continues to have my back, providing me with constant support and opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t from all the emails Dean Shostack sends. I am able to go through my college journey knowing that I always have someone to talk to or look to for guidance. And with the financial support they offer for school and even for study abroad, I am able to attend Rutgers and experience more outside of the classroom knowing that money does not have to be something that holds me back.

After my experience with this amazing program, when I think back to when I was called “so EOF,” I realize now that it’s not so much of an insult. Through EOF, I have met some of the hardest working students. I met future doctors and businesspeople. I met future authors and teachers. I met people who all came from similar backgrounds as me but had one thing in common: hope for a brighter and more successful future. Being an EOF scholar is something to never be ashamed of.  It’s a label that one should wear with pride, knowing that because of this program, one day they will be able to say “I made it.”

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