When I first began looking at private colleges, my parents and I had an understanding: I could choose to attend any school I wanted; however, they only had so much money that they can put towards tuition. The rest is up to me to find. Fair enough.
I choose a small, all-girls, private university. My first year, academically, was extremely successful; finished with a 3.5, became close to my professors, joined a leadership group on campus (a program that the school claims to take great pride in), was accepted to a specialty house for the next year, and signed up for a heavy course load (plus the leadership group) next semester.
What I didn't have was a social life. Being a private school, there is a lot of privileged girls. Not all of them are snobs (in fact, those who are seem to be in the minority) but they just didn't understand that no, I could not go on road trips on the weekend, couldn't stay up all night partying, etc, because I was working. I worked around 25-30 hours a week, an average of 5 nights, which also restricted me from joining any sorts of clubs.
However, I was optimistic about my next year. My grades were good, and I'd shown a commitment to the university. I figured I'd receive at least a little more financial aid for the next year, right?
I still needed to fax in a copy of my social security card, driver's license, and some other stuff. Easy enough. First, I called the financial aid department to get the fax number and give them the heads-up that my documents were about to be sent. The woman on the other line was pleasant, and told me she'd be looking for them. That done, I headed over to the restaurant at which I work in order to use the fax machine.
Did my thing, fax seemed to send with no problems, so after awhile (about 15 minutes), I called the financial aid office to make sure they'd received it. The woman on the other end (same as before) told me that they had not. Uh. Shit. I said I'd send it again, and she commented that sometimes it just takes awhile for the fax to go through. I agreed to give it another shot, and asked if it would be alright if I called back in an hour to check and make sure they'd received my information. She said sure.
Sent the fax again and headed home. After an hour, as promised, I called the financial aid office...
...and got a recording saying they were closed for the evening.
Alright, I understand that you have specific hours of operation; however, why would you tell me I could call back in an hour to make sure my fax, which included copies of my PERSONAL INFORMATION such as social security number, when you knew you'd be closing, for fuck's sake.
Okay, fine. I leave a voicemail including my name and phone number, and asked if they would call me tomorrow to let me know if they had or had not received my information.
Three days pass. No call.
Finally, I call them again. I let the woman on the other end of the line know that I was checking on my financial aid status, and asked if they had received my stuff. She put me on hold momentarily while she checked. After a few minutes, and comes back and tells me that she had, and that my financial aid information should be updated on the information system by the end of the week. Awesome.
For the next week, I check my account daily. Nothing. Another week goes by. Nothing again. Finally, I call the office again, give them my name, and ask if they could check on my financial aid status. She says sure, asks for my social, and starts typing madly on a computer. After a moment, she pauses before asking if I had renewed my FAFSA yet, because the school didn't have it.
I tell her I filled it out over a month ago, and she puts me on hold while she goes to check. While I'm on hold, I pull up the FAFSA website to check the status. Lo and behold, it says that my FAFSA had been processed over a month ago and had been successfully sent to the school.
Woman comes back on the line and says that they don't have it. I mention that I was looking at the FAFSA website at that point, and it said that it had been processed. She pauses momentarily before saying she'll check again. A few more minutes on hold pass, before she comes back and tells me that they do have it, and that my financial aid award will be posted on the information system within the week. I say okay, thank her for her help, and disconnect.
The good news is that the award was, indeed, posted on the information system.
The bad news is that my financial aid was exactly the same as last year (which wasn't much to begin with), plus the cost of tuition had risen substantially.
I just don't get it... I know that my family's income is lower than that of probably over half the student population's, while my grades are higher than those of the same number of students. As far as I know, financial aid is given based on two things: need and merit. We certainly have the need, and it seems that my performance the first year should count for something, especially when the fact that I was working part-time (something that very few of my fellow students do, it seems) is taken into consideration.
I call the financial aid office and ask who I should call. The woman on the phone gives me a number, which I call. I get her voicemail. I leave a message and request for someone to call me back. A few days go by. No call. I call back. Voicemail.
I call the original financial aid office again and ask if there's anyone else I can try to call. She gives me another number. I try it. Voicemail (for the record, I'm calling at around 9am, when the office is open but when I figured it'd be unlikely for anyone to be on a lunch break). I leave a message, again asking for her to call me back. No call. Meanwhile, the deadline is inching closer and closer.
Finally, I call that number back, and the woman answers. I explain my situation to her (politely), and ask if there's anything the school can do to help me out. Keep in mind, this school boasts a "deep commitment to making a -school name- education affordable." The woman tells me I'd have to talk to my financial aid counselor about it. I ask for a number, and what would be a good time for me to call. "Well, she's on vacation right now, but she'll be back at the end of the week."
Vacation. Two weeks before the deadline to accept one's financial aid award.
I spend the next week in a panic. The day she is supposed to be back in her office, I call hourly (yes, I am that freaked-- if I can't afford to make the tuition payment, I can't go back in the fall) until I finally get a human answer rather than a goddamn voicemail recording. I explain my situation. She asks about my grades. I tell her. She asks about my family income. I tell her. She asks if I'm involved with any on-campus activities. I explain that I CAN'T get involved with any on-campus activities when I'm working 25-30 hours a week. She says there's nothing she can do, that all the money they have to give has already been awarded to other students.
Where is this freaking money going?!?! I'm only getting around $8,000 from the school itself; the rest is state-sponsored scholarships and loans. I knew my freshman year that my aid was going to be low, because my high school grades were terrible; however, I've already proven myself in your university's classes-- don't tell me I'm fucked for four years because I blew off high school!
So, I may not be going back to school this fall, which means I'll lose my job, which means I don't know how I'll EVER end up going back because without a job, I have no way to pay for school.
Pass the Xanax.
*EDIT* The "WHY WON'T THEY GIVE ANY MONEY TO MEEEEEE" is really more of a side rant in this post. It's upsetting, but I am well aware that I chose to go to a private school, thus agreeing to pay the absurd amount of money. I'm not entitled to any sort of aid just because I decided I wanted to live beyond my means, heh. The bad service is the run-around they kept giving me-- something I would really rather NOT happen when we're talking about financial issues (yes, I'm a little neurotic about money).