Thousands of students have reached out to me over the last decade with questions like how to succeed in community college, transfer to four-year schools, or apply to law school. After advising so many students, I've realized how they often had the same questions. It made sense. A lot of information is often unavailable to students from underrepresented backgrounds. I've compiled a lot of the common questions that I've received through the years and answered them below. The questions track my higher education journey. They're separated into four sections: (I) Succeeding in Community College, (II) Transferring to Four-Year Schools; (III) Applying to Graduate School Abroad, and (IV) Applying to Law Schools.
You should take everything with a grain of salt. My experiences might not necessarily apply to you. And what worked for me may not work for someone else. And some of this information might become outdated by the time you read this. But when I was a student, I always found it helpful to hear how people from similar backgrounds navigated through the same challenges. I hope this information helps to demystify higher education for you.
I. Succeeding in Community College
Common questions I've received about succeeding in community college as a first-generation college student from a low-income background.
1.) How did you decide on community college?
Like many community college students, I chose community college because it was the most affordable option to start my higher education. My family and I grew up low-income. But I was fortunate to go to public schools in Arcadia, which is an upper-middle-class suburb in the San Gabriel Valley. My parents rented a small backhouse in the city because they wanted my younger brother and me to attend a school district that they heard good things about. Even though we all shared one bed for some time and my younger brother and I ate free and reduced-priced meals at school, this decision set us up on a path to college. I didn’t know how to afford college, but I knew that I wanted a higher education because that’s what my classmates talked about.
When I was a high school senior, I applied to local four-year colleges and universities. I was accepted into several of them and enrolled at a California State University (CSU). However, before the fall, I received my first tuition bill. Even though I qualified for “full financial aid,” I was shocked to find that it still wasn’t enough. I still needed to take out loans to cover unexpected expenses and the costs of living. I grew up watching my parents struggle with crushing debt when they were barely making ends meet. That scared me as an 18-year-old. I decided to disenroll from the CSU and registered as a student at my local community college, Pasadena City College (PCC). I intended to transfer after two years at PCC to a four-year school, like a University of California (UC) or CSU.
2.) How did you pick classes?
If your goal is to transfer to a four-year school after community college, then you should pick (1) classes that fulfill your general education requirements and (2) lower-division classes in your major that you need to transfer. Most community colleges have “articulation agreements” with local universities and public four-year schools in their state. These agreements essentially provide a “checklist” of classes that you need to take at your community college to transfer into the major you’re interested in.
For example, I went to PCC (in California) and wanted to study political science. California has a website called assist.org, which allows students to search for articulation agreements between schools. To provide an example of how I found an articulation agreement, go to assist.org. I inputted PCC as my “Institution” and looked up UC Irvine as the school that I’m interested in transferring to. I then looked up my major, “Political Science,” which allowed me to find the articulation agreement between PCC and UC Irvine for political science. Below is UC Irvine and PCC’s articulation agreement for political science for 2022-23.
The top of the agreement explains the general information needed to transfer into political science. UC Irvine “recommends” that students complete “IGETC prior to transfer[ring].” IGETC (Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum) is the series of courses that UCs generally ask community college students to take before transferring (regardless of their major). For example, IGETC requires students to take two courses in “English Communication.” When you’re registering for classes, you’ll usually see what classes fulfill which general education requirements.
The agreement then provides a list of lower-division major courses that you need to take before transferring. The classes on the right side are PCC classes that are equivalent to UC Irvine classes. For example, “POLS 007” is a class at PCC that is equivalent to “Poli Sci 11A” at UC Irvine. The agreement states that you need to take four classes from the list. The rest of the articulation agreement, which is four pages long, describes other requirements.
If your goal is to transfer, you should plan in advance by:
Looking up the articulation agreements and transfer requirements for four-year schools that you’re interested in.
Creating a list of classes that you need to take to transfer to these schools.
Planning out which semesters you’ll take these classes depending on how many years you want to spend in community college.
Note: The UCs and CSUs are currently in the process of establishing a singular framework of lower-division classes that community college students will take to transfer to both UCs and CSUs. This framework is called the California General Education Transfer Curriculum (Cal-GETC). Cal-GETC will eventually replace "IGETC" for the UCs, which I talked about earlier. Depending on when you start in community college when you're reading this, you should keep updated on the status of Cal-GETC if you're interested in transferring to a UC or CSU.
3.) Did you do any special programs in community college?
Whenever you enroll at a community college, you should look into the college’s programs that help students register for courses and transfer. Two common programs at community colleges are programs that (1) help new students transition to college or (2) allow students to take “honor” courses. I did both types of programs while in community college.
Many community colleges have programs to help new students transition to college. Among other benefits, these programs often provide specialized counselors, orientation events, and (perhaps most importantly) guaranteed spots in classes that you need to fulfill general education requirements for transfer. For example, Glendale Community College (in California) offers a “First Year Experience (FYE)” program. Glendale’s FYE program is open to newly graduated high school students, students who take a gap year between high school and college, and incoming international students. It provides two years of free tuition, guaranteed spots in high-demand general education classes, dedicated counselors, and other benefits. I participated in my community college’s version of this program (PCC Pathways) when I was a student, which helped me get the classes that I needed.
Many community colleges also offer “honor” courses. These courses typically offer students access to classes that are smaller in size, more interactive with professors, and more advanced than non-honor courses. Completing the honor classes sometimes opens up special transfer opportunities to certain four-year schools. For example, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has its NOVA Honors Program, which offers opportunities like small class sizes, seminar-style discussions, guest speakers, and “special transfer opportunities to selective institutions.” I participated in my community college’s honors program, which I found helpful because it prepared me for the types of classes that I had at Yale (smaller classes with more reading and writing assignments). It was also helpful because completing PCC’s honors program (which required taking a certain number of honors classes) gave students like me priority consideration as transfer applicants to schools like Pomona College and UCLA.
4.) What activities did you do in community college? How did you pick them?
I participated in a variety of activities on and off campus while in community college. I was an assistant speech and debate coach at the high school that I attended and helped my parents with work during all of community college. During my first year, I also got involved in student government by joining its “Lobby Committee,” which allowed interested students to advocate for the community college by meeting with legislators in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
During my second year, I increased my involvement with the student government. I won an elected position on the student government’s board. Through that position, I got involved in the local political environment. I organized a voter awareness day before the 2014 midterm elections, when local political campaigns and organizations came on campus to meet students. I also organized a town hall for a local assemblymember to talk to students and a debate for candidates who were running for Pasadena mayor in 2015.
I picked activities that I was genuinely interested in and didn’t do them just to add things to my resume. For example, I was interested in learning more about the political system, which is why I got involved in student government and interned in Congress. Pick activities that you’re genuinely interested in or want to use to explore different potential careers. But if you’re unable to be involved in extracurricular activities because you’re already too busy with school and personal commitments, like taking care of family or working full-time, then that’s perfectly acceptable too. Those personal commitments are “extracurricular” activities that you can highlight in your transfer applications. If anything, that might mean you have more to offer in terms of life experiences.
5.) How did you do well in classes?
A few things helped me do well in my classes. The main things were planning my schedule in advance, striking a good balance in the types of classes I took, and getting to know my professors well.
You should ideally know what classes you need to take to transfer and have already created a rough plan of which semesters you’ll take each class. That way, you can find a good balance in your classes. For example, it might not make sense to take all intensive reading and writing classes in the same semester, because you might be overwhelmed trying to write four to five final papers. Alternatively, taking all classes that require daily problem sets might be overwhelming too. Pick classes that provide you with a good balance between the daily work and the final assessments (papers or exams) that you need to do.
It's also helpful getting to know your professors, both to do well in the class and to potentially gain mentors who can write you letters of recommendation in the future. For example, show up to office hours if you have any questions about the material. If the professor allows it, you can even bring drafts of midterm or final papers to ask for their feedback before you revise them. Sites like Rate My Professors aren’t perfect, but I sometimes found them helpful to see what advice other students had for specific professors.
6.) How did you make friends while in community college?
One of the biggest non-academic concerns that I hear from students is that they’ll be missing out on the “college experience” and won’t find close friends in community college because everyone is a commuter. Some of my best friends to this day were from community college.
It’s true that a lot of students just leave campus as soon as they’re done with their classes. But a lot of students are also involved in extracurriculars on campus. Getting involved in extracurriculars is a great way to meet friends with similar interests. A lot of my closest community college friends were classmates that I worked with on our student government. Taking smaller classes, such as honors courses that have a lot of group work, is also a great way to get to know your classmates better.
7.) How did you afford community college?
I worked multiple jobs to help my family while in community college. But fortunately, I didn't have to worry much about community college tuition because of financial aid. Not only is community college tuition a fraction of the costs at four-year schools, but most students also typically get enough financial aid to effectively make community college “free.” Some programs just make community college tuition-free. For example, California offers the California College Promise Grant that allows enrollment fees to be waived.
In addition, there are internal and external scholarships that you can apply for. A lot of community colleges have charitable foundations that offer scholarships for students. My community college has the PCC Foundation, which provides scholarships that students can apply for annually. I won a scholarship from the PCC Foundation during my second year at PCC, which helped me pay for costs-of-living expenses outside of tuition.
II. Transferring to Four-Year Schools
Common questions I've received about transferring to four-year schools during community college, including to Ivy League schools.
1.) How did you decide where you were going to apply to? What was the timeline of your applications?
I never intended to transfer to a school like Yale. When people ask me for advice about transferring to Yale, I usually preface my advice by saying that they shouldn’t just focus on schools like Yale. Because the things that make you a good applicant for Yale are the things that made you a good applicant for any school.
I focused on transferring to a UC or CSU because that’s where most community college students in California transfer to. And there are clear articulation agreements between California community colleges and UCs and CSUs, in addition to programs that even guarantee you admission to certain schools. Those applications were due in November. I started writing my personal statements in August of my second year in community college and submitted them in November.
During that winter break, I had free time and was researching how to prepare for the transfer transition process. I found a 2008 article on Google in Yale’s student newspaper about a UCLA student who transferred to Yale. That was the first time that I learned that it was possible to transfer to Yale. But the article also said that there were only 23 new transfer students that year and that the acceptance rate was only “3 to 5 percent.” I looked into it more and found out that I qualified for a fee waiver (you should apply for fee waivers at all the schools that you’re applying to if you qualify). I figured that I'd apply since I had some free time. The deadline for private universities, including Ivy League schools, is later in the school year during the spring. For example, Yale’s deadline is March 1. Make sure you check the deadlines when you apply, because they may change depending on the year.
2.) Is it worth applying to schools like Yale if the acceptance rate is so low?
Like I mentioned, I never intended to transfer to Yale originally and I advise students not to make their goal be only transferring to a specific school like Yale. Apply broadly to multiple schools that you think you'd enjoy attending.
But if you have any interest whatsoever in applying to a school like Yale, then you should apply. Students from underrepresented backgrounds often self-select out of opportunities. Don’t do that. Let the school be the one that says no. You should apply if you’re genuinely interested in the school because you never know what might happen.
For example, I mentioned that I found an article about a student who transferred to Yale and realized that I could get a fee waiver. I figured why not try? I revised my UC application essays, submitted an application, and essentially forgot that I applied. Months later, on the day that I was graduating from PCC and set to deliver the commencement address as valedictorian, I got an email from Yale saying that I was accepted. I reread the email a few times and told my parents. My mom told me to check again. My dad asked me, “what’s Yale?” I then Googled where Yale was and relearned that it was in Connecticut (I forgot where the school was since I applied). I tried to find any PCC alumni who transferred to Yale for advice, but the only alumnus I could find transferred in 1962 and had already passed away.
However, since I transferred, I’ve returned to PCC to mentor students and host workshops on transferring to private universities. Since I’ve started hosting these workshops, four other PCC students have transferred to Yale, including one this past year. All I needed to do was show PCC students that it was possible and encourage them. There’s no reason there needed to be an apparent 53-year gap between when the last PCC student transferred to Yale and when I transferred to Yale. It's just that students didn’t know that this was possible or they self-selected out. So if you’re interested in applying to schools like Yale, just go for it and see what happens.
3.) Are there programs that help you get admitted as a transfer?
Yes, for some schools. I touched on some of these programs in the Succeeding in Community College section. For example, I talked about how completing the honors programs at certain California community colleges gives you priority consideration as a transfer applicant at schools like UCLA.
Some programs guarantee you admission if you meet certain requirements during your time in community college. For example, six UC schools have Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) programs, which guarantee that you get admitted to at least one UC school if you complete the required classes and hit a GPA requirement.
Look into whether there are similar guarantees at schools that you’re interested in. The schools that offer these programs tend to be public universities, like the University of Florida, which offers “guaranteed transfer pathways to students” from Santa Fe College and the State College of Florida. Private schools are less likely to offer these sorts of programs, but it’s still worth looking into.
4.) Can non-traditional students transfer to schools like Yale?
Yes. You can transfer from community college to schools like Yale even if you’re an older student or a student who has a large gap in their higher education journey.
You can apply through the standard admissions process for transfer students. However, you should also look into undergraduate programs at schools that are built specifically for non-traditional students and applicants. A lot of students don’t know that several Ivy League universities actually have programs, admissions tracks, and even colleges for non-traditional students. You get the exact same university degrees, have the same professors, and take the same classes as any other student.
But you also have more flexibility both during the application process and your time as a student, including in some cases being able to extend your financial aid to cover more semesters than a normal transfer student can (such as through Yale's Eli Whitney Students Program (EWSP)).
5.) What do Ivy League schools require in their applications?
Ivy League schools typically require the same components to apply as a transfer student as any other private school. They typically require you to apply through the Common Application or Coalition Application and ask for: personal statements, a list of activities that you’ve done, letters of recommendation, college transcripts, high school transcripts, test scores (suspended during the pandemic), and application fees. They also require that you submit a report (often called a college, dean’s, or registrar’s report) from a school official with information about your standing at your current college. For the application fees, you can apply for a fee waiver (which I highly recommend you do).
You should always check what each school requires, because there are some slight differences. For example, some schools invite transfer applicants to interview with alumni. Some schools also offer different transfer applications. Brown offers a separate “veteran-friendly application that allows applicants to highlight their military experience” (“Veterans Application”), which automatically has no fees and doesn’t require test scores (even before the pandemic when Brown’s standard transfer application required them).
6.) What set you apart in your application?
That’s difficult to say because I think getting into a place like Yale is a lot of luck. (My transfer class had 24 students and only 3 of us transferred from community college.) I think getting good grades is important but getting into a place like Yale as a transfer student requires more than that. For example, I had a 4.0 GPA in community college, but I also know people who transferred to Yale from community college without all As. I really focused on my personal statements and letters of recommendation.
I started writing my personal statements early to give myself plenty of time to revise. I started writing my UC essays at the start of August (before my second year of community college began) and went through 15 drafts before submitting them to the UCs in November. Back then, the UC personal essay prompts were more like the Common Application’s and unlike today’s “personal insight” short responses. When I decided to apply to Yale, I revised my UC essays and wrote a few more essays (because private schools often have additional prompts). I used one of my UC essays and revised it to make it my main Common Application essay.
You don’t have to go through as many drafts as I did. But it’s important to go through a few drafts, because you want other people to take a look at them and give you feedback. Ask your professors, classmates, community college counselors, etc., to review your drafts. Ask them if they understood everything you talked about. No one knows your story as well as you do, but that sometimes means that things that seem obvious to you aren’t as obvious to someone else.
Your personal statement should highlight three things: (1) why you want to pursue your major, (2) what you can add to their school that they don’t already have, and (3) what you want as a student from their school.
When you talk about why you want to pursue your major, you’ll usually tie in your personal narrative. For example, what about your background, upbringing, and experiences led you to what you want to study? Unlike high school students applying for freshmen admissions, four-year schools usually expect you to have a more concrete idea of what you want to do with the rest of your education. That also includes an idea of what you want to do after college with the education that you received. Focus on “showing,” not “telling.” Don’t tell me that you’re a hard worker. Show me by providing me a story about a time you persevered. Narratives and stories make your personal statements more compelling and memorable, especially when admissions officers read thousands of essays and don’t spend more than a few minutes on each essay. I usually tie my personal statements together with a story at the start that I return to at the end.
Personal statements are important to any school that you apply to. They're especially important to schools like Yale that only accept a few transfers a year. They’ve basically already built a complete graduating class when they admit their freshmen class. Your personal statement should highlight what you’ll add to their school that they don’t already have. In my personal statement, I talked about my experience interning on Capitol Hill in DC. During that internship, I didn’t meet a single intern that summer (among hundreds of interns) who was attending a community college. They all went to schools like Georgetown and Harvard. And this disparity continued up to the staff level and the actual congressmembers. Very few of them came from similar backgrounds to mine, even though the decisions they made impacted these underrepresented communities the most. I realize the importance of bringing these underrepresented perspectives to places where they’re less common. And that’s what I wanted to do at a place like Yale, where backgrounds like mine are less common. However, I also wanted to gain new perspectives from my classmates and professors at Yale and bring them back to my community.
You also want to articulate why you want to transfer to their school. You don’t need to go into extensive detail about why you want to go to their specific school in your general personal statement. For example, I didn’t talk about why I wanted to go to Yale specifically in my main Common Application personal statement. But I did talk about why I needed to transfer to a four-year school to do the work that I’m interested in pursuing in the future. Yale, and other private schools that I applied to, asked for short responses about why I wanted to attend their schools. In those essays, I shared more about why I wanted to go to their schools.
I included my Common Application personal statement below. There are things that I would change as a better writer now. For example, I’d break up some of the longer sentences. However, I’ve always found it helpful to read examples of essays, so I included mine.
Letters of Recommendation
I also focused on my letters of recommendation. Unlike most public schools, private schools typically ask transfer applicants to provide letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are important because they demonstrate your ability to perform academically well. In their letters, professors can talk about how you excelled in their classes and what about you will make you a great addition to any four-year school.
Get to know professors as early as you can when you start in community college. For example, go to office hours at least a few times a semester. Not only will this help you do better in your classes by allowing you to receive feedback from your professors on your work, but you’ll also build relationships with professors who might become recommenders. One of my recommenders was a professor who I had during my first semester in community college. I ended up taking another class with them during the following semester. I didn’t take classes with them during my second year, but I continued to stay in touch. I asked them for a recommendation and they wrote a letter that said I was the best student that they ever taught. I’m sure that letter helped because it demonstrated to schools that I could hit the ground running academically once I transferred.
My recommenders didn’t teach classes in my major. Ideally, you’ll have recommenders who both know you the best and who teach in your discipline. But if you have to choose between both, I’d always choose the recommenders who know you best and who can best speak about your ability to do well academically.
When possible, your recommenders should be recent professors from your time in community college. Letters from high school teachers aren’t as strong because they don’t reflect your current abilities as a student. In addition, because schools care about your ability to do academically well as a student, letters from professors usually hold more weight than letters from work supervisors and employers. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever ask your employers to write letters. Maybe they know you best and could have something impactful to say. Or maybe you worked for them for a long time before you returned to school. But generally, academic letters from your community college professors are a safer bet.
When you approach your professors to ask them to write letters of recommendation, ask them if they feel comfortable writing you a positive letter of recommendation. If they accept, try to make their lives as easy as possible. I provided my recommenders with a list of schools that I was applying to and the deadlines to submit the letters. I asked them what would be helpful for me to provide them while they write their letter. Professors might sometimes ask for a copy of your resume and personal statement.
7.) Do high school grades matter to transfer to Ivy League schools? What about standardized test scores?
Ivy League schools generally ask for you to submit your high school transcript. They also used to require standardized test scores (suspended during the pandemic), which meant that you needed to submit test scores from high school unless you retook the tests in college. High school grades and scores don’t matter as much if you’re applying to be admitted as a junior, so long as your academic record in community college has been good.
That’s different if you’re applying during your first year of community college to transfer as a sophomore. Applying as a sophomore means that schools will only have one semester of college grades to look at, which gives your high school record more weight. So if you’re applying to get admitted as a sophomore, your high school grades might matter more than if you applied to get admitted as a junior.
As of now, standardized test scores are still optional. This requirement was suspended during the pandemic. It might be brought back in the future. When I applied to Yale, I needed to submit my high school standardized test scores. The scores were fine, but they wouldn’t have been competitive to get into Yale out of high school. I considered whether it was worth retaking the SAT to get a more competitive score. I ultimately decided against retaking it because I’d rather spend that time keeping my college GPA up and doing extracurriculars. If they bring back the requirement for transfer applicants and you didn’t take any standardized tests while in high school, then you’ll need to take the ACT or SAT to apply to transfer.
8.) Can international students transfer to Ivy League schools?
Yes, but you’ll have to make sure you meet the normal eligibility requirements of a transfer applicant from the United States. For example, you can’t have completed more than the equivalent of two years of college coursework to apply as a transfer student.
9.) How did you afford transferring to a four-year school?
I started my higher education in community college because it was more affordable, so paying for a four-year school was top of mind. For the four-year schools that I was applying to, I applied for any scholarships they offered. For example, I was invited to apply for the UCLA Regents Scholarship after I was accepted as a UCLA transfer student and I applied for it.
I also applied to separate external scholarships, like the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship (JKCF UT Scholarship). The JKCF UT Scholarship is the largest national scholarship for community college students. When I was a student, the JKCF UT Scholarship provided up to $40,000 per year to students transferring to a four-year school (it now provides up to $55,000 a year). The JKCF UT Scholarship application was similar to transfer applications by requiring personal statements, letters of recommendation, a list of your activities, etc. I applied for the JKCF UT Scholarship during my second year of community college and was fortunate to win it.
The JKCF UT Scholarship combined with Yale’s financial aid allowed me to attend Yale College on a full ride. For my family’s income level when I was a student, Yale would have provided me with a full ride now. But back when I transferred, Yale still expected the students “at the highest level of financial need” to provide a “student income contribution” of several thousand dollars. (The student income contribution was eliminated by Yale in 2021.) The JKCF UT Scholarship helped cover my student income contribution.
I’d recommend applying to as many scholarships as you qualify for (both at the schools that you’re applying to and through external organizations like the JKCF).
10.) How did you adjust as a transfer student? Any advice on the transition?
Transferring to a new school is going to be an adjustment no matter where you go. You’ll be entering a school at a time when most members of your graduating class already have formed friend groups and have a sense of how the school operates. But that situation varies by school. Some schools accept a significant number of transfers, which is great for new students who are transferring in because that likely means they’ll have well-organized orientation programs for you to get acclimated to the school. There will also be a lot of students who are new and looking to form connections.
For schools that accept fewer (or very few) transfers, it can sometimes be more challenging for new transfer students. For example, my transfer class to Yale was 24 students and only 3 of us came from community college. That made it more of an adjustment for me initially. I remember during my first week of class seeing my classmates in suits and wondering if everyone just dressed like that. Turns out it was just consulting and finance recruiting season, which I didn’t know about. You’ll have to figure out how to adjust both academically and socially to your new school.
Like I mentioned, I transferred to Yale as one of three community college students while most of the other transfer students came from schools like Columbia, Stanford, and Princeton. So I was initially concerned that I couldn’t keep up academically. I also had to deal with the challenge of Yale not accepting all my transfer credits from community college. Meanwhile, most of my classmates who transferred from other four-year schools had all their credits transfer.
When I was in community college, I took honors courses that featured more intensive reading and writing assignments compared to non-honors courses. Those courses were the most similar to my Yale classes. But I was still initially caught off guard by the number of assigned readings and wasn’t sure what to prioritize.
I remember taking a midterm exam for a human rights law class (that was offered to undergraduate students) and getting a C despite studying for it for a long time. Like in community college, I started regularly going to both the professor’s and the teaching assistant’s (TA) office hours. I found that extremely helpful because I got a better sense of what they were both looking for in strong exam answers. I also got a better sense of what materials they thought were most important to master. I ended up getting an A on the final and in the class by learning which materials to prioritize. I’d recommend going to office hours, especially your TAs’ office hours. Because TAs are usually the ones grading exams and essays, they’ll have better tips on how you should study and write to perform better on your assignments.
I also had to deal with Yale not accepting all my transfer credits. They took three semesters’ worth of credits instead of four semesters’, which made me a “sophomore and a half.” This happens occasionally to community college transfers to schools like Yale. People approach this situation in different ways. Some transfers petition to get more of their credits to transfer or overload on classes at Yale every semester to graduate “on time” in two years. Some transfers decide to take a “gap semester” to work a semester during college so they can graduate with their classmates in the spring.
Because I received the JCKF UT Scholarship and got financial support, I started leaning towards spending another semester at Yale to get a full three years there. However, I should have started that process of petitioning for another semester earlier. I started that process during what would have been my second to last semester at Yale. It all worked out in the end, but it was stressful rushing to get the additional semester approved.
When you receive a list of which credits are transferring over, review it as soon as you can. If you think some credits should have transferred but they didn’t, contest that determination. It’s helpful to keep syllabi for all the classes that you took because your new school might want to see them. Start this process early because it’ll be more difficult and stressful to do it when you’re closer to graduation.
Another challenge in adjusting to your new school is building connections and friendships with other students. Like I mentioned, this is less of a problem at schools that accept a larger number of transfer students. For schools that don’t, it can be more of a challenge. I remember when I transferred to Yale, I attended as many events as possible, introduced myself to different groups of people, and looked for activities to join to meet more students.
What I often found helpful was actually leaning into the fact that you’re a transfer student. For schools that don’t accept many transfer students, students are interested that you transferred to their school. Ask them how they found their experience at the school, what advice they have, what classes to take, etc. And ask them what activities they’re involved in on campus, because being involved in extracurriculars is a great way to meet others. Before you get on campus, you might even want to ask the admissions office if you can be connected to current transfer students (or you can look for other current transfer students on platforms like LinkedIn). Current transfer students (at schools that don’t accept many transfers) are often excited to welcome other transfers too. They can serve as mentors and friends as you start at your new school.
III. Applying to Graduate School Abroad
Common questions that I've received about applying abroad for graduate school, like at the University of Oxford.
1.) Why did you apply to graduate school abroad?
I didn’t initially consider applying to graduate school abroad. My senior thesis advisor at Yale was a Rhodes Scholar. He thought that I would be a good candidate so he encouraged me to apply. I was always interested in higher education policy. I worked in the field all throughout undergrad. After finding out that Oxford offered a master’s degree specifically in higher education, I researched the program and thought that it’d be a good fit.
I applied for the Rhodes Scholarship and became a finalist. I didn’t end up winning it. But by then, I basically had a completed application to Oxford (because the Rhodes Scholarship required a personal statement, resume, multiple letters of recommendation, etc.). A mentor encouraged me to submit the application and then figure out the funding. I applied, was invited for a virtual interview with professors in the department, and was accepted.
I contemplated for a long time whether doing the program abroad was worth it. I never got to study abroad while in undergrad because I had less time as a transfer student. I knew that once I started law school, I wouldn’t get as many opportunities to go abroad. I decided that the experience was worth it because of the program and the opportunity to live abroad. I’m glad I made that decision because my time at Oxford was some of the most fulfilling in my educational career. I met and learned from professors and classmates from across the world who I still stay in touch with.
2.) What did your Oxford application require?
Application requirements vary depending on the specific program, so look into what your department asks for. The application for the Master of Science in Higher Education required undergraduate transcripts, a resume, personal statement, list of three references, and two writing samples. Standardized test scores weren’t required and shortlisted applicants (applicants that they’re seriously considering) are invited for interviews.
3.) What did you write your Oxford personal statement on?
Personal statements for graduate programs are generally different than personal statements for undergraduate programs. In undergraduate personal statements, you’re usually just explaining who you are and why you’re interested in studying a specific major. Graduate personal statements are a lot more focused. You still have to explain who you are and why you’re interested in pursuing graduate work in a subject. However, you usually have to be more specific in writing about the type of work and research you want to do in the graduate program. For example, some graduate programs ask you to specifically write about the research project that you hope to do as part of your dissertation for the degree and the professors that you want to work with.
When I was writing my personal statement, I tried to integrate my background with why pursuing a degree at Oxford was a good fit. I talked about how attending community college as a first-generation and low-income college student got me interested in affordable higher education. I talked about how this led me to work in higher education policy and advocacy, including doing academic research and writing my senior thesis on college affordability. I then connected that to why I wanted to pursue graduate school specifically at Oxford. I mentioned things such as the department’s research-intensive environment, the opportunity to learn about higher education systems from across the world, and specific professors whose research aligned with my interests. I included my personal statement below.
I never considered applying to them because I didn’t initially think it made sense for my career to get a degree abroad. Like I mentioned, I only applied for the Rhodes Scholarship initially because my senior thesis advisor was a Rhodes Scholar who encouraged me. But the more I learned about getting a master’s abroad, the more it seemed like a great opportunity. Unfortunately, by the time that I finished the Rhodes Scholarship process, most of the applications for other fellowships had already closed. It made sense why the other people I knew that were going through the Rhodes Scholarship process also applied to other fellowships at the same time to maximize their chances that one of them would work out (which is what you should do if your goal is to get funding to do graduate school abroad).
I still applied to Oxford because universities abroad will occasionally offer institutional scholarships to admitted students too, like Oxford’s Clarendon Scholarship. Fortunately, I ended up receiving a graduate scholarship from the JCKF. Like I mentioned, I was a JCKF UT Scholar. They offer existing JKCF scholars the opportunity to apply for their graduate scholarship, which provides up to $150,000 to pay for graduate school. I applied for it and was fortunate to be awarded the scholarship, which I used to help pay for Oxford and law school.
IV. Applying to Law Schools
Common questions I've received about law school applications, including how to study for the LSAT.
1.) Why did you apply to law school?
I had law school in the back of my mind when I started undergrad. In high school, I competed in speech and debate and mock trial. But I didn’t know if that was the actual path that I wanted to pursue when I started undergrad. I thought that I could use college to figure out if I truly wanted to become an attorney.
I was always interested in politics and policy, so I wanted to get more exposure to those areas. I got involved in government and on local and national campaigns. I really enjoyed that work because I felt like I could make a difference in the lives of people like my community college classmates. But gradually, I noticed that just being involved in politics and policy wasn’t enough. A lot of times you also needed to be involved in the legal system to make an impact. I realized that throughout college, including when I saw how students at our law school helped file legal challenges that temporarily halted the “Muslim Travel Ban.” Witnessing that crystallized my decision to go to law school.
But I also knew that I needed to help my family to make ends meet. I knew that the law could offer me that stability if I worked in the private sector but that I could easily transfer those skills to public interest and government legal work in the future too. That further convinced me that a legal career made sense.
2.) Did you apply "straight through" from undergrad?
No, I took one year between undergrad and law school to get the master’s degree at Oxford. Undergrad students who decide that they want to go to law school often contemplate whether they should try to go to law school “straight through” (immediately) after undergrad or take time doing something else (e.g., working or doing another graduate program first). It’s something that I was undecided on as well.
The main benefit of going straight through is that you get to your goal of practicing law sooner. If you know for sure that you want to be a lawyer and don’t want to spend your time doing anything else, then it might make sense to go straight through. But if you’re not completely sure you want to pursue the law or have another interest that you want to try out, then taking some time before law school might be better. You could even get some more exposure to the legal profession, such as being a paralegal, to figure out if you really want to go to law school. And you could work jobs to save money to pay for law school. The current trend at most law schools is having student bodies where most people aren’t straight through. For example, most of my law school classmates weren’t straight through.
In my case, I was undecided if I wanted to go straight through or spend some time working in policy. I decided to apply to the Rhodes Scholarship and law school at the same time, including studying for the LSAT. As a result, my attention was divided and I didn’t study for the LSAT as much as I should have the first time. But I got accepted into Oxford to get a Master’s in Higher Education. I decided to complete this program before going to law school, which I thought was worth it because I’m interested in continuing higher education policy work in the future. I’m glad that I got to study something else (and be abroad) before committing to the law. Ultimately, I don’t think you can go wrong with whichever option you choose so long as you’ve done your due diligence in figuring out if law school and the legal profession are really for you.
3.) What do law school applications require?
Most law schools require you to submit:
A personal statement
A resume or list of activities
Letters of recommendation (usually 1-2 are required but they’ll accept 1-2 additional ones)
Standardized test scores (traditionally the LSAT but some schools accept the GRE now too)
School-specific application fees (usually $70-85 per school, which is in addition to Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) fees that are discussed below)
They also allow you to submit an optional “diversity statement” and addendum. Many schools also have school-specific supplemental essays, which are either required or optional. Some invite you to do admission interviews as well.
You’ll apply to the law schools through LSAC’s application portal. You have to pay LSAC to use their “Credential Assembly Service” (CAS), which is $195 (as of 2022) to create an account and $45 (as of 2022) for each school that you apply to (so the cost to apply to each extra school is $45 plus the school’s application fee, which is typically $70-85). CAS is LSAC’s online service that you use to compile your transcripts and letters of recommendation. LSAC then calculates a cumulative GPA that gets reported to the schools that you apply to. You can apply for a fee waiver from LSAC, which I recommend you do because it even waives LSAT fees. If you qualify, you’ll either get a “Tier 1” or “Tier 2” fee waiver depending on your income and savings. Tier 1 gives you more benefits, including two free LSAT takes (compared to one free LSAT take for Tier 2) if you retake the LSAT.
If you get rejected for a fee waiver, then consider appealing LSAC’s decision. If they affirm their fee waiver rejection, then you could directly email law schools to ask for a fee waiver. Many of them are happy to grant you a waiver for their application fees. But you’ll still have to pay LSAC for their CAS fees, including the $45 for each school.
4.) How many times did you take the LSAT? How did you improve on the LSAT?
I took it three times, which wasn’t ideal. Like I mentioned above, my attention was divided the first time I took the LSAT because I was also applying for the Rhodes Scholarship. I started briefly studying for the LSAT for a few weeks in the summer of 2017 leading into my senior year of college. My first blind practice test was a 158 (out of 180). But then I started focusing on the Rhodes Scholarship application and basically stopped studying. I had my Rhodes Scholarship finalist interview two weeks before the December 2017 LSAT (the last possible date that I could take the LSAT to apply to law school that cycle). After the finalist interview didn’t work out, I realized that it was too late to try to cram for the LSAT but still went through taking it. I got a 164, which wasn’t bad but also wasn’t ideal for getting some competitive scholarships to pay for law school.
The next time I took it was in September 2018 after I graduated from college and before I moved to Oxford that October. Picking it up felt like I was starting all over again because I forgot everything that I practiced a year ago. I spent that summer really focused on studying for the LSAT. I was scoring within my ideal range a few times and felt like I could hit my desired score if everything went well. Unfortunately, I had gotten too much in my head that this test was all important and I stressed myself out too much. When I took the LSAT, I reached the logic games section and misread a rule on the first game. I wasted too much time trying to figure out what went wrong and then guessed on nearly half of the section. I felt discouraged and ended up getting a 162.
The last time I took the LSAT was actually just two months after my second take. I registered to take the November 2018 exam. I flew back to the U.S. from Oxford to take the exam during the weekend. But by then, I was so familiar with the exam so it felt just like a normal practice test. I didn’t do as much intense studying between my second and third takes. I continued doing some practice sections and tests here and there whenever I had time and worked on some of the types of questions that I tended to miss most often. I felt confident the day that I took the test and the exam seemed to go smoothly. I ended up getting a 173. But if I could go back in time, I would have approached studying differently so that I didn’t need to take it three times. Some tips I learned were:
Dedicating a period of time when you’re consistently studying for the LSAT.
If possible, dedicate a consistent period of time when you’re focusing heavily on studying for the LSAT. During my first take, I started studying during the summer, stopped studying for a few months because of the Rhodes Scholarship, and then tried to pick it up two weeks before I took it. After that, I didn’t look at the LSAT at all until seven months later when it was time to start studying to retake it. Each time I came back from a long pause, it felt like I was starting over and relearning things that I forgot. If I could go back in time, I would have dedicated a period of time in which I was consistently practicing and studying for the LSAT instead of studying for some time, stopping, and trying to pick it back up.
Triaging (and practicing) by section.
Do a full practice test “blind” when you begin your studying. It’s important to see which sections that you’re initially better or worse at, because you’ll understand where you have the most room for improvement. For example, I was always fine on the reading comprehension section, but I didn’t understand the logic games at all. (The first time that I took the LSAT without much studying, I only got one reading comprehension question wrong, but I got over half of the logic games questions wrong.)
I was solid on the reading comprehension section, okay on the logical reasoning, and needed significant improvements on the logic games. But I started studying by doing full practice tests. By the end of the four hours, I felt too burnt out to actually review all the questions closely to see what I did wrong. It also didn’t make sense for me to keep doing sections that I was already fine with. I ended up scoring more or less the same on every practice test after a few weeks because I wasn’t actually improving. My scores really started improving when I started “triaging” my studying to focus on the sections that I needed to improve on the most.
I took out the logic games sections of all the previous LSATs that I could get my hands on (while preserving a dozen full LSATs so I could practice taking full tests). I practiced those sections over and over for weeks. Once in a while, I’d do a full practice test just to get a sense of timing and my endurance. But focusing on drilling individual sections is what ended up significantly increasing my overall score, because I had the most to gain from improving my logic games performance. I ended up only missing one logic games question on my third LSAT take. After I felt like I mastered logic games, I moved on to logical reasoning, because that was weaker than my reading comprehension.
Triaging (and practicing) within sections.
The same principle that I described above also applies to practicing within the individual sections. You should triage your studying to focus on the types of questions that you miss more often before further practicing the types of questions that you’re confident about. This only applies if you already usually perform well on a specific section but there are still some points that you’re consistently missing. For example, I know a lot of people who say that they usually feel confident about the reading comprehension section unless there’s a specific subject (like science) that causes them to lose a lot of points. If you’re in that scenario, I’d find reading comprehension passages that are just about science and practice those sections as much as you can.
For me, there were certain types of logical reasoning questions that I’d miss more often. Between my second and third LSAT, I found this helpful book online called the Fox LSAT Logical Reasoning Encyclopedia. It takes a bunch of old logical reasoning questions from practice tests and splits them up by type of question and level of difficulty. For example, a section of the book will just be “necessary assumption” questions, which will start with the “easiest” necessary assumption questions to “easy,” “medium,” “hard,” and “hardest.” Each question is followed with the right answer and an explanation. When I had free time, I did the “hard” and “hardest” questions for the type of logical reasoning questions that I was missing the most. That allowed me to start getting those hard points that I’d often miss and improve my score.
Looking for free or less expensive resources online.
I never took those in-person LSAT courses because they were far too expensive. I relied a lot on the free logic games explanation videos produced by 7Sage that used to be publicly available on YouTube. Because I was impressed with their logic games explanations, I purchased their least expensive package to learn from their “core curriculum” with several video lessons. (Currently, 7Sage’s least expensive package is $69 a month, but you’ll also need to get the “LSAT Prep Plus package” from LSAC as well, which is explained later.)
Unfortunately, after I took the LSAT, 7Sage removed their free logic games videos because LSAC’s legal department said it violated their copyright. The videos are still available, but you’ll now need to purchase a package from 7Sage. However, LSAC has since partnered with Khan Academy to offer a free online LSAT Prep course. This course didn’t exist when I was studying for the LSAT, so I can’t say from personal experience if it’s good or not. But I imagine that it would at least get you familiar with the LSAT.
The LSAT also offers its “LSAT Prep Plus” package, which is $99 a year. This package provides you access to over 70 LSAT practice tests. If you need to save as much money as possible, then it might be worth just getting the LSAT Prep Plus package and studying with Khan Academy. If you find that Khan Academy isn’t clicking, then I’d look at something like 7Sage’s least expensive package for just a month or two to learn the basics.
5.) Did you take the LSAT or GRE?
I took the LSAT. As of now, if your goal is just getting into law school, focusing on the LSAT generally makes more sense. Not all law schools take the GRE, but they all take the LSAT. That means that you’ll be able to apply to more schools. It’ll also be easier to understand where you stand among applicants. All schools have historically accepted the LSAT and publicized their LSAT medians, so you’ll have a better idea of your chances compared to accepted applicants.
However, the GRE might make sense for a few reasons. For example, if you’re interested in doing a dual program at another graduate school (like business schools that accept the GMAT or GRE), then taking the GRE makes sense because you only have to take one test to apply to law school and the other graduate school. Alternatively, if you find the LSAT really isn’t clicking, then it might be worth taking a practice GRE to see how you do. If you find that it seems a lot more intuitive and that you grasp the material more, then it might be worth trying out the GRE.
Note: The LSAT's format is also likely changing in the future. In 2019, the LSAC agreed to change its logic game section as a result of a lawsuit. They recently experimented with the logic games’ replacement so it’s unclear what the new replacement section will be. The change may affect how you find the LSAT compared to the GRE.
6.) What was your law school application timeline?
Law schools use “rolling admissions,” which means that they evaluate applications as they come in for a period of time to fill out spots in an admitted class. For example, in the 2022-2023 application cycle, Yale Law School was accepting applications from October 1, 2022, to February 15, 2023. The earlier you submit your application, the earlier you’ll typically hear back with a decision. That also might mean that if you apply later, there might be fewer available spots.
I actually applied to law school twice because of the LSAT situation that I described earlier. By the time I got my December 2017 LSAT score in January 2018, it was too late to retake the LSAT but I already finished some law school applications. I figured that I might as well submit my application to these schools to see what would happen. I hoped that my GPA (then a 3.93) would help balance out my LSAT score. I submitted them in late January 2018. I was waitlisted by two schools before I ultimately decided to go to Oxford and retake the LSAT because I thought that I could improve my score.
The second time that I applied, I submitted my applications early in November 2018. I started getting results in early January 2019 (for example, UCLA called with an acceptance the second week of January) and I got all my results by the end of March 2019 (Stanford called with an acceptance the last week of March and was the last school that returned a decision for me). Most schools got back to me in February 2019 but it varied for other students (for example, Harvard called with an acceptance on February 12 for me, but I knew they were doing rolling admissions for at least a month before then). It’s generally better to apply earlier rather than later, but I think any time before New Year’s Day is early enough.
7.) What did you write your law school personal statement on?
The advice for writing strong law school personal statements is similar to writing strong transfer application essays, which I explained earlier. For example, you still want to focus on “showing,” not "telling." However, instead of explaining how your background and experiences have led you to want to major in a certain subject and transfer to a four-year school (in the case of transfer application essays), you’ll be focusing on how your background and experiences have led you to want to pursue a legal career and education.
You’ll generally use the same standard personal statement for all schools (typically about 2-3 double-spaced pages with 12-point font) and then individual schools often ask for required or optional supplemental essays. Some people change part of their standard personal statement to adapt to each school. For example, their last paragraph might be different for each school and be about why they want to go to each school (e.g., a professor, clinic, or class that they’re interested in). Generally, I don’t think it’s necessary to adapt your standard personal statement for each school because schools that care about that will ask you that question directly in supplemental essays.
Like I mentioned before, I applied to some law schools twice. Because of that, I decided that it would be best to rewrite my personal statements when I reapplied. The first time that I applied, I focused on why I wanted to go to law school (for similar reasons that I explained earlier that being involved in just politics and policy isn’t often enough to make an impact). My essay the first time that I applied was fine. But I think my essay from the second time that I applied was stronger. I still focused on why I wanted to go to law school, but I added more information about the type of legal work that I want to do with my career. For example, I talked about when I spent a few years in special education as a child and how that made me want to work within the legal and political systems to allow every student to have access to a quality public education. (In law school, I actually worked at the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program for a summer!) Below is my personal statement from the second time I applied to law school.
8.) Should you write a diversity statement?
Most law schools will allow you to submit an optional “diversity statement.” The acceptable length of these essays depends on each school, but they’re roughly 350-500 words or 1-1.5 double-spaced pages with 12-point font. Even though it’s optional, it’s usually recommended that you write one because it’s an additional opportunity for you to share your experiences coming from an underrepresented background (however you define it), talk about what you’ve learned from those experiences, and explain how you’ll contribute that perspective to the classroom and in your future career.
But what counts as diversity? It could include, but is not limited to:
First Generation College/Professional School Student
Unique Prior Profession
You should still review each school’s diversity statement prompts, because some of them specify what aspects of diversity they want applicants to write about. However, many schools take a broad perspective of diversity, so you definitely want to consider writing a diversity statement if you can.
Keep in mind that the diversity statement’s focus should be on yourself. For example, don’t write about just what it’s like to be low-income in America. Write about your experience being from a low-income background. Your diversity statement also shouldn’t be a complete repeat of your personal statement, but there can be some overlap.
9.) Does it matter what I studied in undergrad or where I went to undergrad if I want to go to schools like Yale Law School?
No, you can major in any discipline in undergrad and still go to law school.
For where you went to undergrad, it can help but it won’t ultimately determine if you get in or not. Going to a school like Harvard or Yale for undergrad could give some students (in my opinion, an unfair) advantage. For example, they might get to know professors at Harvard Law School or Yale Law School, respectively, who might write them letters of recommendation that attract more attention from some admission officers.
But it doesn’t make or break candidates at the end of the day. If you went to an undergraduate institution that isn’t as well known, but you knock it out of the park with your grades and activities, then you’re as competitive as anyone who did well at a school like Harvard and Yale. Many of my Yale Law School classmates went to Yale and Harvard for undergrad. But plenty of them went to other schools that aren’t as “well-known.” They excelled at whatever school they were at before coming to law school and they beat out plenty of applicants who went to “fancy” schools for undergrad.
10.) Does it matter that I went to community college?
No, it doesn’t (but you’ll still need to get your four-year undergrad degree to go to law school). I know plenty of people in law school who started in community college. But remember that your community college grades will also be factored into your cumulative GPA that LSAC calculates, so keep your community college grades up.
You should also usually ask for law school letters of recommendation from your professors at the four-year school that you transfer to instead of your community college professors. The professors at your four-year school are the teachers who taught you most recently, so law schools will put more weight into what they have to say to evaluate your current academic abilities. However, if you feel like a community college professor’s letter of recommendation would be powerful, still feel free to ask them to write one. But I’d still include other letters of recommendation from your four-year school’s professors. Your community college professor’s letter can be an additional optional letter.
11.) Can you transfer law schools?
Yes, you can transfer to other law schools after your first year (1L year) of law school. You’ll have to apply during your 1L year at your law school. Look at each school’s website for specifics, including how you can join student organizations as a transfer student. For example, most flagship law journals at schools will require transfer students to go through the application process in the summer before they start their 2L year at their new school (potentially before they even find out if they’re accepted).
12.) How do you afford law school?
It’s no secret that law school is expensive. That was something that worried me in college when I thought about pursuing law school. I made it my goal to (1) understand each school’s financial aid and scholarship policies, (2) apply to as many external scholarships as possible, and (3) work during law school.
Financial Aid and Scholarships at Law Schools
Financial aid policies differ between schools. Some law schools offer both need-based and merit-based financial aid. Some law schools, like Yale and Harvard, only offer need-based financial aid. Meanwhile, other law schools also offer merit-based scholarships, including ones that cover full tuition. For example, the University of Chicago offers the Rubenstein Scholarship, which covers all of tuition. When you apply to schools that offer merit scholarships, they’ll either ask that you apply through LSAC (e.g., by checking a box and writing an extra essay) or they’ll automatically consider you for scholarships when they look at your application. I was fortunate to be awarded and invited to interview for some of these full-ride merit scholarships at other law schools.
However, Yale doesn’t offer full-ride merit scholarships. It now offers full-tuition need-based scholarships, which I would have qualified for if it existed then. Unfortunately, Yale didn’t offer these full tuition need-based scholarships then. However, Yale has a fairly generous loan repayment assistance program called the “Career Options Assistance Program” (COAP). COAP helps Yale Law School graduates who want to pursue public service, academia, or government work (because these professions pay less than big law). If you make below certain income ranges, COAP helps pay your student loans. For example, if you make $50,000 (as of 2022), you don’t have to pay anything for your monthly student loan repayments. But if you make between $50,000 to $64,999 (as of 2022), you need to pay 15% of income over $50,000. Other schools offer similar programs (e.g., Stanford has its Loan Repayment Assistance Program), so look into these sorts of programs when you’re considering schools.
There are generally fewer external scholarships for law schools compared to college scholarships. However, external scholarships still exist. Along with the JKCF Graduate Scholarship, which provided up to $150,000 in funding for graduate school, these external scholarships allowed me to attend law school without taking additional debt.
You should consider external scholarships that cover any graduate schools, not just specifically law schools. For example, the P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans provides $90,000 for any graduate or professional school program.
Jobs During Law School
Law students often find that it’s difficult to work during the school year because of how intensive law school can get. (However, I know classmates who managed to work during law school too. It just takes greater balance.)
However, your summers during law school are a great time to make additional money to help pay for school. For example, if you work as a summer associate at a big law firm, you’ll often be paid a prorated first-year associate’s salary for the weeks of the internship. In addition, many law firms are starting to offer “diversity fellowships” that 1Ls can apply for. If you get one of these diversity fellowships, firms will often include additional scholarship funds (e.g., $50,000) on top of your summer salary. But they often split up the payment depending on if you return to the law firm for the next summer and after graduation (e.g., you get $10,000 during your first summer on top of your salary, you get the next $20,000 if you come back to intern the next summer, and you get the last $20,000 if you return to the firm after graduation). You can even work as a summer associate at firms the summer before you start at law school through programs like the SEO Law Fellowship.
One cautionary note is that additional income might affect your financial aid package. Check your school’s financial aid policies to see how any additional income affects your aid. If it significantly affects your aid, you might be able to work with your employer for a workaround. For example, they could agree to pay you after graduation so that the additional income doesn’t affect your financial aid while you’re in school. In the meantime, you can take out loans that you’ll repay when you get your delayed summer pay after graduation.