FAFSA Story Series: Melody Jimenez

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By: The Campaign for College Opportunity

Melody Jimenez is a 19-year-old, sophomore at Sacramento City College who is hoping to transfer to University of California, Berkeley as a political science major.

As the child of working-class Filipino immigrant parents, Melody has felt alone in navigating the college application and financial aid process.  Melody’s mother attended college in the Philippines, and is unfamiliar with the American higher education system, and her father has only taken a couple of community college classes.  As a result, Melody has largely endeavored to figure out the process on her own, often leading to twists and turns sending her down a less direct and inefficient path to pursuing her educational objectives.

From the outset, due to insufficient information at her disposal, Melody picked a community college due to its proximity, until she realized that Sacramento City College was a better fit in terms of what she wanted to study and the opportunity to transfer.

In applying for Federal Financial Aid, Melody’s mother verbally answered a couple questions but, otherwise, Melody was largely responsible for completing and submitting the paperwork on her own.  Unfortunately, Melody’s lack of familiarity with the process and subject matter caused needless delay and detriment to her benefits.

Specifically, Melody attempted to accurately fill out the parents’ financial tab concerning tax information.   The question asked if her parents had filled out a “1040X amended tax return?”  Melody misunderstood the question and, mistakenly answered yes, when in fact that was not the case.  As a result, the immediate repercussion was that Melody was not able to access the IRS data retrieval system, which led to a much lengthier process of manually entering the information and a higher risk of error.

The longer-term impact was that, due to Melody answering that question incorrectly, she was unable to receive financial aid on the first day of school seven weeks ago.  Instead, she had to work with her community college’s financial aid office to correct the error and re-submit the paperwork.  She does not anticipate receiving financial aid at all this semester.  Instead, to make up the difference, she had to quickly find a job as a Student Assistant on campus, in order to pay for textbooks and transportation related costs, such as parking and regional transit.

Melody has demonstrated exceptional drive and dedication to pursuing her career goals in public service.  She recognizes the flexibility financial aid has given her to invest her time in pursuing unpaid internship experiences with a member of the California State Senate, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a non-profit organization.  In addition, she is very involved with her school’s student government as well as the statewide Student Senate for California Community Colleges.  She has gained direct experience advocating on behalf of issues facing college students–something she hopes to continue doing well after she finishes her university studies.

Melody takes her studies and career-related experiences seriously.  She is an excellent example of a well-intentioned and hard-working student attempting to make the most of her federal financial aid opportunity, yet who would benefit from a simplified process. Melody would like to continue her education by going on to receive her Master’s Degree in Public Policy and looks to give back to her community through her work in public service