Making It to a US University as a Low-Income - Edukasyon PH
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Making It to a US University as a Low-Income, First-Generation Student

Anthony is a Kaya Co Fellow currently interning at Edukasyon.ph. Born in Cebu, he immigrated with his family to the United States and is now a rising junior at the University of Southern California. In this post, Anthony tells us how he managed to make it to a prestigious US university as a low-income, first-generation, immigrant student.

My nanay, navigating the international airport system along with her band of 4 boys, is how I would describe my college application process: lost, confused, and in a hurry. Trying to juggle scholarship applications, college applications themselves, a course load full of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and a part-time job was a daunting task.

I didn’t know what to expect. My parents didn’t go to college and my high school didn’t really cater to high-achieving students who pursued top universities. It meant that I had to go at it alone. And like any bright student, I dove in head first without dipping my toes in the water.

I struggled. Well, that’s an understatement. I flailed my arms and legs, and used sheer will alone to stay afloat. I applied to more than eight schools and two national scholarships; I completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS/Financial Aid Profile, and I finished all the standardized testing needed (ACT).

As a low-income student, it was difficult to fund my college applications. I did my research online and in my local community and found waivers to make them free. I was also fortunate enough to become a QuestBridge scholar, which allowed me to streamline my applications to schools such as Brown, Columbia, Yale and the University of Southern California (USC), to name a few.

After all my applications were completed, deadlines met, and tears wiped away, waiting was the only thing left. As the decisions came in, a mixture of acceptance and rejection letters piled up in my room. Ultimately, I decided to attend USC. The school’s location, academics, and financial aid package convinced me; however, I had one more obstacle left.

My parents did not want me to go to USC. They did not understand why I applied to so many schools. They wanted me to stay and attend the local community college the way my brother did. The disconnect between my parents and me was at its most blatant. The reality that they could no longer guide me, hand-in-hand, faced them. I understood. I was scared, and I knew they were scared for me too, but eventually, they supported me.

Growing up, with so many things trying to stop me from achieving my goals, resiliency was the only thing that remained by my side. Those times when I questioned my capabilities, especially when I lacked the support from my family, I found a way to never give up. Even during those moments when it was hard to see the finish line, I kept on going. I know what it means to be poor, and I didn’t want to help perpetuate the cycle of poverty. I am now a rising junior, on track to graduate with honors, inches away from my finish line. So, please, remain resilient, even when it’s the only thing you have left.


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