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Santa Clara High School Student Wins EVERFI Contest

June 2021

We are thrilled to share that Joanna Luna in Risha Shah’s class at Santa Clara High School has been selected as a winner of the EVERFI Pathways Student Blog contest. Luna’s win earned her a $1,000 529 College Savings Gift card to help fund higher education.  

EVERFI helps teachers, schools, and districts bring real-world skills to students through training and support at no cost.

Congratulations, Joanna Luna! Check out the winning post below.

"I plan to take what I learned in the Pathways course to help me create a budget and stay financially stable during college. As mentioned in the Pathways course, college is expensive and it’s important to know the net cost of the school you choose to attend. You wouldn't want to be accepted into your dream college and then find out you can’t go because of the cost of tuition.

Through this lesson, I was able to identify my financial goals for my undergraduate degree at a 4-year college. I’m glad that I took the Pathways course before my meeting with a college financial advisor because I was more prepared on what to ask and what all the vocabulary meant. Most importantly, I knew which loans in my financial aid package would benefit me the most, such as the loans where the government would pay for the interest fees while I was still in school. Without knowing this vocabulary I would’ve also accepted unsubsidized loans, causing more debt to stack up very quickly.
Learning how to approach financial aid also allowed me to communicate with my parents about the importance of the FAFSA and why I needed their tax forms to get free money for college. I now know that applying for the FAFSA every year will help me obtain more financial aid from the university I go to and the government. The money that the university and government give me would allow me to take out fewer loans.

I compared all the financial aid packages from all the schools I got accepted to in order to help me decide which college was financially the best fit for me. I added up all my work study, loans, grants, and scholarship awards and then subtracted that amount from the cost of attendance to calculate the amount my family contribution would be. Seeing that my family contribution would be less at UC Berkeley than the other schools and knowing that UC Berkeley was one of my dream schools made the decision to go there easier and less stressful.

I’m still worried about how I’m going to pay back my loans after I graduate. Yet, the Pathways course put my predicament into perspective and at rest for the time being by informing me about smart ways to pay back loans. For instance, paying them back while I’m in school, making extra payments, paying back higher interest rates first, and paying when interest is deferred. Using the 50-30-20 rule (budgeting with needs 50%, wants 30%, and savings 20% of my expenses), I could have the extra money to pay back loans outside of paying for other necessities. I can’t believe there’s a website like this that can help me keep track of my future plans by focusing on my finances now. I feel more prepared than ever for my next steps in my life by going to college with a financial plan."