Have you met the UCLA Optimists? Over the next several months, the Bruin Blog will be highlighting our student Optimists. These current UCLA undergraduates will give you insight into the application process and tips, student life and culture, and what it means to be a Bruin.
I am from Merced, CA. It’s a relatively small town where cows and dairy farms are more common than skyscrapers and business suits. While in high school I joined my school’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) club, which definitely changed my life for the better. Through AVID, a college preparatory class, I was able to learn all the details about what it takes to apply to college and how someone like me could get there. I was always told education is the gateway to a better life, but it can be difficult to envision yourself as a college student if no one in your family was able to attend college before you. I think it is easy for students to automatically rule out top-tier institutions because they assume they will not be able to afford it. I originally fell victim to this flawed ideology as well. Finances was one of the major factors I considered when searching for colleges. But after applying for financial aid and scholarships, I realized college was an attainable goal. Granted, I did not think I would ever attend a school as prestigious as UCLA, but I’m glad I had the courage to apply after all.
Fast-forward to my first quarter at UCLA; unfortunately I continued to stress about money, and I felt like I needed to find a job. Luckily, getting a job came easier than I thought it would! First, UCLA does a great job in helping students find jobs by posting them online through the ASUCLA jobs board (for on-campus jobs). The daily student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, also publishes both on-campus and off-campus jobs! In college, I realized there are regular jobs and work-study jobs. Federal work-study jobs are great for students because wages do not fall below the current federal minimum wage, and most times are even higher. The amount of hours you are able to work under the work-study program depends on an individual student’s financial need, when you apply, and the amount of school funding at your institution. UCLA is really helpful in providing resources for students to find jobs. The main portal every student uses, MyUCLA, has a section devoted to finances and jobs. Within this section I was able to search for work-study jobs offered both on- and off-campus. After refining my resume, I was able to land an administrative assistant position in an office directly next to my on-campus residence hall. The great thing about on-campus jobs is that sometimes the positions you hold are so convenient you can almost roll right out of bed to get to work.
Although there are great opportunities to work on-campus, I also spent two years as a tutor at a local Santa Monica middle school. I initially did not consider working off-campus; however, it definitely has its perks. At first I was hesitant because I did not have a car and although Santa Monica isn’t too far from campus, it was definitely not in walking range. However, my future career goal is to be an educator, so I felt that this experience would be beneficial in the long run. So of course I took the job as an AVID tutor when it was offered to me. Commuting to Santa Monica actually wasn’t too bad, considering I could get directly to the school for only $0.50 each way on the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.
The last job I received was actually the first one I wanted when I came to UCLA. During summer orientation, my New Student Advisor (NSA), was honestly the coolest person I had ever met. She was so helpful, so knowledgeable, and she seemed to be having fun. Advisors counsel incoming students and make sure they start off their UCLA experience in classes perfectly suited to their needs. When incoming freshmen and transfers come to their own student orientation, parents and siblings are welcomed too. I was able to work with the New Bruins who came to the sessions, as well as reassure parents that their child would be safe on-campus and would definitely make friends (possibly the top 2 concerns parents have for their kids). Initially I didn’t know being an NSA had so many dimensions to it, but once I joined, I loved how inviting everyone was. It didn’t feel like a job, which was a bonus. Over summer, although we worked hard, we also acted in skits for the incoming freshman, had impromptu photo shoots, and even held our own “Club Jamba” party session in Jamba Juice every week.
Overall, I didn’t think having an on-campus job could be enjoyable. I initially just wanted a job to pay for extra expenses. It turns out UCLA offers a wide range of jobs for almost anything students are interested in. Looking back, I stressed over not being able to afford college. Students who think college isn’t worth pursuing because of financial reasons should abandon that thinking as quickly as possible. Between financial aid, scholarships, grants, loans, and jobs on- and off-campus, UCLA offers more than enough resources for students who may be worried about financially staying afloat. So many people are here to help, which creates an atmosphere that is unlike any other college I’ve visited. Whether I am at work, in class, or cheering at a sports game, I am always experiencing new things at UCLA and learning what it means to be a True Bruin.