BHS college counselors reflect on college costs, mental health


As seniors begin to submit their first college applications, many students have started thinking about the huge costs that come with attending most universities, which include application fees as well as the actual tuition. The process of finding financial support has been extremely stressful and confusing for many students, including Mark Amianda, a junior in the Multilingual Program (MLP).

Amianda described his background, moving from Kenya to Berkeley last year. “My mom is still in Kenya and she can’t afford to pay for my college because it’s so expensive. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough money for college because right now I only have enough to apply to two colleges,” Amianda said.

He added that his only source of information is Berkeley High School college counselors, and that he plans on reaching out to those counselors to get more information on financial aid and scholarships. “Hearing about financial aid makes me feel like it’s going to help me apply to college. It makes me feel relieved from stress,” Amianda said.

According to Jennifer Hammond, a BHS college counselor, there are many different types of financial aid available to students, such as loans, which they would have to repay later, and sometimes grants, which students don’t have to pay back. Additionally, students can apply for scholarships, as well as free or reduced application fees.

When it comes to financial aid packages, some schools can offer more money than others. According to Yasmin Navarro, a BHS college counselor, low-income students are more likely to find full-ride scholarships and grants at Ivy Leagues because these universities have more money to give. In contrast, in-state schools tend to give loans rather than grants, which can harm the student in the long-run if they aren’t properly educated on repaying these sums.

Navarro described how this entire process is extremely tough on students’ mental health, though the issue has become normalized in today’s culture. “I see it affecting students and I see students who maybe don’t necessarily know how to broach the subject of affording college internalize it,” she said.

She continued, describing how educating students on financial aid may help them build a better relationship with money. “In reality, the more they talk about finances and financial aid, the more it can empower students to make college decisions that are smart financially,” Navarro said. 

Hammond also explained that there are many jobs available to college students that can help them to pay off debt while attending university, rather than after. She emphasized the importance of students having this knowledge, as it opens up opportunities, no matter their income.

“You just need to get educated and make wise decisions, keeping finances in mind, but not making decisions solely based on that,” Hammond said.

She strongly urged that all students educate themselves and seek options that allow them to attend colleges, no matter their financial status.

“You shouldn’t assume, as it will be easy to, that as a low income student, (you’re) not going to be able to afford college,” Hammond said.