Stomping the Yard

Freshman Memoirs: Beware of Financial Aid

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Calling all college students! Our new weekly column, Stomping the Yard, aims to help undergrads excel in their studies and social lives.’s team of experts will show you how to get it done from the day you move into the dorms to the minute you step off campus for that first job. Submit questions and feedback for The Yard via

This summer, I’m featuring “The Freshman Memoirs” from current college students who want to share with incoming freshmen the experiences and advice they’ve learned in their college careers.  This week’s memoir comes from Shemiah Curry, a junior at Bennett College who realized reading a financial aid award letter carefully is definitely fundamental.

Shemiah Curry

I remember being so excited about college. I was the eldest, the first to leave the nest. My parents were so proud of me because I had received scholarship money to attend the University of Missouri at Columbia (Mizzou). However, it wasn’t until we actually went down for orientation in August that we realized we read the award package totally wrong.

My advice to incoming freshman would be read your award letters from perspective colleges carefully.  Sometimes the amount of money they are offering you sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. Mizzou offered me approximately  $54,600.  When opening my award letter, I was so excited that I didn’t realize this amount was to be shared throughout my entire four years.

Here I was, a second-generation college student and I felt like I had messed up. I was now enrolled in a school that really wasn’t offering me that much money. My parents and I still had to pull out loans to make it through my first year of college  (which was something I really wanted to avoid). Read your award package carefully so that you know the difference between how much an institution is offering and how much you need to find in scholarships.

I have peers who have also misread a reward letter.  This is why attending college informational sessions are important. Sessions such as these provide you with all the details you need to help process and transition into the college experience successfully.  I want to emphasize that it is not just first-generation college students who need help figuring out the college process, but all students do! Think about it: the world is constantly changing. Your parents could have attended college in the early ‘90s, but so much about the college process has changed since then. Never be afraid to ask for help and clarity.

Understanding your award letter is critical to deciding which college you should attend. If you have the option to choose from three schools and they are all offering you different amounts of money, you have to be able to understand the monetary values they are offering you to make the best decision. Lastly, understanding your award letter correctly can help you avoid last-minute stress.

College is already a tense environment when moving in that first week. There is a combination of freedom, liberation, sadness, and frustration in the air. If you go to an institution knowing how much money they will give, you can fight for the extra money you need. It will hurt you, if you find out at the last minute that you need an estimated $10,00 to make it through your freshman year.  This then will add stress your plate.  Please avoid my mistake. Read carefully.

The best opportunity college provides is allowing you to learn from your mistakes and succeed.  Trust me, it hasn’t been all hard for me! I realized in my first year at school in Missouri that I was really seeking more support on campus for myself as an African-American female student.  So, I made the decision to transfer to Bennett College.

At Bennett, I have been on an awesome roller coaster ride of success!  And, as I have more experiences in learning off campus I recognize how well prepared I am because of  the great tools Bennett’s given me through encouragement from professors & training in professional branding and interacting in the career world.  As a result, I’ve traveled internationally for school, am currently interning at MSNBC, and interned at the White House you can follow my blog HERE.

About Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that has served more than 600 girls 7-17 years old to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blog and on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.