“I’m on the school’s tennis team,” says Farhat. “My older sister baited me into it. She wanted me to join a sport. I went to tryouts and ended up joining the team.”
“Besides tennis, I participate in a lot of extracurricular activities. Last summer, I participated in an engineering research project with my school. I’m also part of Heart of Los Angeles, where I took enrichment classes in computer science and art photography. I also did test prep tutoring.”
The engineering research project helped inspire her interest in engineering. “I think it is really interesting. My family members never pushed me to do it, but my older sister is also studying it in college.”
“I feel like my parents have always wanted me to go to college, even though they never explicitly stated it,” she says. “My mom is a high school graduate, but my dad attended some college. They both went to school in their homeland, Bangladesh.”
“In high school, I decided there was no point in stopping here and decided I wanted to go to college.”
Learning from her older sister’s experience
“I’m part of a low-income community, so we knew I’d be eligible for some kind of financial aid. But I didn’t know how much. I learned about the FAFSA to pay for college when my sister was applying for college,” says Farhat.
“In my senior year, the college counselor came to all our classes to talk to the seniors about it. My first impression was that it would be confusing. I was told I would need one of my parents and their tax forms, and that it might be more confusing or easier for different people.”
Farhat brought her dad to Heart of Los Angeles to fill out the FAFSA. “It was a workshop with different time slots so there wouldn’t be too many students and parents in the room. There were three or four people available to look over something if we needed help.”
“It was easier for me than others. My sister had already filled it out, so my parents already had their own login — the FSA ID — and a lot of their information transferred over.”
“For the most part we were completing it on our own, but there were some difficult parts.”
Figuring out tricky questions on the FAFSA
“There was an area in the FAFSA about businesses and assets and there was also a section about checking and savings accounts. It was difficult filling out that part,” recalls Farhat.
“Keep an open mind on what you might expect with the FAFSA. I thought it was going to be a difficult process, but it wasn’t.”
“My dad recently invested in a business, but it didn’t clarify what year they wanted that information from. We weren’t sure whether to include it. The second part that was confusing was checking and savings. My parents had been saving up money, but not inside a bank. So my dad wasn’t sure what to put.”
The counselors at the workshop were able to help Farhat’s dad figure out how to answer the questions. “I think if it hadn’t been for the workshop, we wouldn’t have taken the time to make sure we had everything right,” she says.
“After we finished and submitted the FAFSA, we got a confirmation where it told us our Estimated Family Contribution. We showed that to the counselors so they could explain what we were looking at.” It was a low number, she recalls, which meant she’d be eligible for more financial aid.
Later, Farhat was offered financial aid packages by the colleges she’d applied to. “My parents expected I would get financial aid, but they were still excited when they found out how much aid and work/study I was given from each school,” she remembers.
Farhat’s advice: Have your documents ready
“Have a parent nearby when you are filling it out, if you can. Have your taxes ready and any information you think might be necessary,” says Farhat. “It’s really important to have when you are starting because, if not, it is going to look really confusing.”
She adds, “Keep an open mind on what you might expect with the FAFSA. Filling it out is different from person to person. I thought it was going to be a difficult process, but it wasn’t all that difficult.”
“I know college will be difficult, but I know I have to make it through it to see the future that’s ahead. My parents are excited for me.”
Farhat will be attending the University of California, Berkeley and plans to study engineering. She says she’ll keep playing tennis, but just for fun.