Stomping the Yard

Freshman Memoirs: Me Vs. Financial Aid

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

“Let’s get ready to rumble! In this corner, we have Taylor Carr, a rising junior at Howard University. And in this corner, we have the mean, hungry, and ever-growing college tuition bill!  Who will be the victor in this boxing match?”

This summer, I will be featuring “The Freshman Memoirs” from current college students who want to share with incoming freshman the experiences and advice they’ve learned in their college careers.

In this week’s edition, Taylor Carr talks about not giving up on your dream of a college degree in the face of financial aid woes…

“The biggest step I had taken in my life was leaving Chicago to attend Howard University in a new city with no friends.  My freshman year proved earning my college dream definitely wasn’t coming without challenges.  But the biggest learning lessons weren’t just connected with my coursework–I was learning so much about myself as well.

As a rising junior, I realize the most valuable lesson I learned in college was at the completion of my freshman year. My summer vacation was wrapping up and my mother told me she and my dad didn’t receive the parent-plus loan to assist with paying for my tuition.  That loan in particular covered the majority of my tuition making it possible for me to attend Howard.

She told me that the decision was now out of my parents’ hands and I was the only one who was going to be able to come up with a solution for this seemingly unsolvable problem. So, for the next month, I reached out to friends, family, mentors, Howard staff and students. They all offered valuable advice, but none of their plans fell into place. It seemed that I was the end of the road, and my college tuition bill was going to win this fight.  I had accepted that I was not going back to Howard University in the fall and started looking for jobs and to start school in Chicago.

But even though it seemed that my college tuition bill had knocked me out and I was done for the count, I wasn’t finished fighting.  There was something in me that wouldn’t allow me to give it all up just yet.  I made up my mind that I was going to exhaust every possibility to get back into Howard. On that same day, I booked a trip to Washington, DC.  I contacted mentors and teachers to write recommendation letters for me.  I prepared a personal statement and was on my way to the financial aid office ready for anything.

That week, I sat in the financial aid office talking to everyone, from office staff to the university provost. And, every day of that week, I was turned away and told that there were no funds for me.  But I fought harder and harder for my place at Howard University. I knew that Howard was where I was destined to study and money issues weren’t going to stand in my way. As soon as I thought it was over, I got a phone call. A meeting had been arranged to present me with a payment plan that would work for me and my family’s needs.

After that meeting, I looked back on that last month and a half and was elated that I pushed myself. From that moment on, I knew that I had to be a fighter. Even as things got tough and I got discouraged, I preserved and took control. Now whenever I get discouraged I remember this quote, ‘…You never can tell how close you are. 
It may be near when it seems so far. 
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit. 
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.'”

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.