Futureology program helping students file for financial aid

By Greg Mellen

As part of the Capistrano Unified School District’s array of programs to help high school students prepare for their post-graduation lives, the Futureology program is beefing up its offerings to help seniors complete applications for financial aid to attend college and university.

“As college (entrance) applications are winding down, we are shifting our focus to financial aid,” said Bea Nguyen, college and career counselor for Futureology.

“There are so many myths, so we want to break down the barriers,” said Erika Gardner, coordinator of college and career counseling. For example: Financial aid does not only apply to four-year colleges, but can be applied to community college and trade school tuition and costs.

College students are legally required to either fill out Financial Aid for Student Applications (FAFSA), or formally opt out. Students have until March 2 to complete aid applications.

Financial aid is not just for lower income families: opportunities are available for households making up to $201,000 annually through California’s Middle Class Scholarship.

Nguyen said it is important to fill out a financial application, which she says is strictly confidential, regardless of economic status. With the U.S. economy teetering, inflation, and the possibilities of a recession, she said families may face shifting financial circumstances that can be taken into account by colleges if there is a financial aid application on file.

“So, there are compelling reasons,” Nguyen said of filling out the applications, regardless of whether one needs aid now.

Students who are undocumented can apply for financial aid through the California Dream Act. Gardner said it is a myth that Dream Act financial applications will be used for deportation.

This year, Futureology played host to after-school drop-in financial application workshops districtwide, with one at each high school and open to all students. Each school also has separate opportunities for students to get help, whether during lunch time drop-in or scheduled one-on-one sessions. San Juan Hills High is holding Financial Aid Evening Workshops at the library periodically through Feb. 28. Check the Futureology website for specifics.

Throughout the year, the Futureology program, which was created in 2016, evolves with the seasons. The school year begins with preparations for the College Fair in October. This year, for the first time since pandemic concerns interrupted the event, a full-scale in-person fair was held.

With about 120 post-secondary institutions, including universities, technical schools, community colleges, and military academies, the event drew 600 registrants and countless others who filled the gym at San Juan Hills High with long lines stretching through and beyond the school parking lot.

After March, when most seniors have completed admission and aid applications, the Futureology counseling team shift focus yet again to juniors and younger students, urging them to consider their postsecondary education futures, including college list jumpstarts for juniors and career workshops for sophomores and juniors.

Throughout the year the program offers special guidance for students who want to be the first in their families to enroll in college.

The Capistrano Unified School District has 70 counselors throughout kindergarten to 12th grade. However, Futureology is a special subset concentrating on college and career counseling and consists of four counselors and a coordinator.

The Futurologists say their goal is to help students plot a course to be “agents of their own futures.”

For more, visit cusd-futureology.org.

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