First Year Struggles: How Persistence Paid Off at the Financial Aid Office at Cal Berkeley

I stood there for the 100th time this summer in Sproul Hall, hoping that I did not make the biggest mistake of my life committing to UC Berkeley. Okay, maybe it was not the 100th time, but I spent so much time in the financial aid office, an employee, Suzy, on the first floor knew me. Everytime I came in, I was told to provide additional documents. After having my Certification of Independence denied, of course, I appealed. Then I was told to provide my tax return transcript, W-2, and tax return, despite having plenty of support letters and a statement about my situation.

After providing all the documents, I was told that my letters needed to be signed. Apparently, they weren’t, and the override for my independence could not be processed without them. Sure enough, I messaged my supporters, and they spoke with Sarah Christensen. A couple weekends later, the override which Sarah performed finally processed. I thought that finally, as an independent undocumented student, I would receive funds. Little did I know, an ugly $32,000 dollars would show up as money I owed in my Cal Central. I emailed Sarah as soon as I noticed, how was I supposed to pay that amount of money?

The next day, I did the only thing I knew how to do in my situation. I marched back to the financial aid office and asked why. The wait during the summer wasn’t long, and I was able to meet with Sarah again. She assured me that perhaps the Independence appeal just needed time to process. This had happened many times, in which my situation was a matter of process, and I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Sarah was just telling me what I wanted to hear to get me out of her office. Nonetheless, I chose to believe in Sarah and focused on my Stats 2 final coming up. I let four days go by without stepping into the financial aid office, I took my finals, and packed my things for move out.

The day after my stats final, I chose to go to the EOP office on campus before going to the financial aid office. It was there in which I found out I was being charged out of state tuition due to my undocumented status. Apparently, the AB 540 affidavit I had submitted in April had not been processed. Of course, I uploaded a new copy to my Cal Central and went to the financial office. Long story short, it wasn’t until orientation week that I finally received financial aid for the summer and my AB540 affidavit was processed, thanks to Rod Santos for processing my documents manually.

But can I fully blame Berkeley? Considering our government has decided to invest $717 billion on a 2019 defense bill involving the military but fails to fund public universities, maybe I can’t blame my school entirely. As I witness high school friends which were meant to attend state schools, UCs, even private universities end up not attending school, I refuse to settle. And every low income student should refuse to settle. It is people and students like me who refuse to settle that pave the way for future generations. So when your school fails to fund you properly, don’t just sit there and expect for them to fix it, because they won’t. Reach out to the financial aid office, reach out to resources, reach out to your people and let them help you.

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Yendy Rebollo

Yendy Rebollo

Yendy Rebollo is an independent, low-income, first-generation, undocumented or rather DACA-mented, woman of color navigating higher education at the University of California Berkeley. She has been an independent student since her senior year of high school, when she ran away from her abusive parents. It is in that same year, Yendy became a published writer with Yendy is currently double majoring in Ethnic Studies and Comparative Literature with a Minor in Education. She strives to attend law school as soon as she is finished with her Bachelor’s degree.

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