Hey new Bruins! My name is Renato Escobar (he/him), a 2nd-year psychobiology major and part of the UCLA class of 2023. I am from Thousand Palms, California and I am very excited to share my thoughts, feelings, and steps that I took at the time when I was in your position, and hopefully provide you with some insight on how to navigate financial aid.
May 1st, 2019. Thousands of thoughts rushing through my mind, each one making me more anxious by the second. What is this? What do these numbers mean? Can I even afford it? Where will all this money come from? Should I decline? Suddenly my mind went blank and all I could think of was one thing: all the blood, sweat and tears that this acceptance cost me. Right away, I clicked “accept” and sighed with relief. This was the day I decided to take a leap of faith and invest in UCLA, making this the biggest decision of my life.
Being a first-generation student coming from a low-income, Latinx family, I did not know how financial aid worked or how I was going to afford college. What I did know was that I had to learn as soon as possible how to read my financial-aid award letter, so I reached out to the UCLA Financial Aid Office. I truly recommend you all to reach out to them if you need help breaking down your award letter. The thought of discussing money and your own personal affordability might seem awkward and scary ( I felt the exact same way ), but once you enter this unknown space you’ll quickly learn that the discussions taking place are centered around you, your financial wellness, and how they can guide you in the right direction.
After meeting with the financial aid office and finding exactly how much money I needed to cover for attending, I made many trips to the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center. To me, the Scholarship Resource Center is the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, as they have hundreds of internal and external scholarship opportunities to provide you with. Not only did they guide me towards scholarships that applied to me, but they also provided me with the tools needed to successfully fill out these scholarship applications and become a strong applicant. The scholarship resource center provides these tools through a variety of workshops with topics such as “How to Draft a Strong Personal Statement”, “How to get Letters of Recommendation for Scholarships” and more. After applying to many scholarships and being rejected to a handful of them, I was awarded with two scholarships: The Hispanic Scholarship Foundation and the AAP Scholarship, which both helped cover all the funds that I was missing. So coming from someone that was in your shoes about a year ago, don’t let a scholarship rejection discourage you, as there is an endless supply of scholarships that are waiting for you to apply.
The next resource that I am about to share with you all, is one that truly changed my life when it comes to handling my use of money, and that is budgeting. Entering college and having the freedom from being away from my parents, I never noticed how much I would spend on unnecessary things. A couple of dollars over time eventually adds up to a big amount, and it can happen without you knowing. I was truly struggling with this, until I reached out to the UCLA Financial Wellness Program, where I had one on one budgeting training and much more financial wellness education.
To finish up, I just want to congratulate all of you new bruins for getting accepted to UCLA and starting a new chapter in your life. And please, don’t let the fear of money keep you from being somewhere where you belong. Investing and entering into the unknown of UCLA is going to be the biggest and most beneficial leap of faith that you will take, and I promise you won’t regret it.
Take risks, take advantage of as many opportunities as you can and remember you can learn something even from the worst experiences. Also, please know that you are not alone. Everyone on campus is here here to support, encourage, and welcome you! So please, reach out to those around you, whenever you’re in need of help. Once again, congrats and welcome to the Bruin Community!