Navigating Scholarships

ACCENT reporters Nicholas Brown and Nathan Lu met with three ACC students to hear their experiences applying for scholarships.

Written by Nicholas Brown

Video by Nathan Lu

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Whether it’s paying for tuition, fees, books or other educational expenses, it is no secret that college is expensive. So, when means fall short, how can college students fill in the gaps? Scholarships are part of the answer.

Three students, each a member of Austin Community College’s Alpha Gamma Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, shared how scholarships have contributed to their success as students.

Jennifer Ebert is an education major and attends ACC completely online.

Ebert is the recipient of five scholarships this year alone. These include one scholarship that she was awarded from ACC’s general scholarship application, and four others that she was able to access through PTK. Of the four scholarships from PTK includes the Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship, in which Ebert was one of only eight students internationally to be recognized.

“Having these scholarships…having the additional funds for anything that I need…has been able to alleviate that financial burden that I normally feel in a typical semester,” Ebert says. 

Paralegal major, Brandy Lewis, is a non-traditional student who has also received four scholarships from the ACC general application and two from PTK.

“Essentially I have paid for no school and it has actually allowed me to stop working my part-time job. I was working full-time and part-time,” Lewis says. “It relieved a lot of things for me…to be able to get these scholarships and just know that I could fully focus on my studies.”

However, ACC and PTK scholarships are not the only form of additional aid that students can receive. Communications major, Saliyah Parker, has earned non-ACC affiliated scholarships which helped cover multiple semesters worth of tuition.

Parker was awarded her first scholarship from her apartment complex, which offered residents to apply for a scholarship made for adult learners, Parker decided to apply “on a whim.” To her surprise, she was selected.

Parker has also been awarded a scholarship through ACC’s general application. 

“I remember just feeling wowed. You know…overwhelmed in a really good way,” Parker says. 

For some students, applying for scholarships may feel like quite a daunting task. Searching through available scholarship options and crafting the perfect essay can be a timely process. ACC’s general scholarship application can make this procedure feel a little less intimidating. All it takes is a single application and short essay to be considered for hundreds of scholarships. 

“Anyone who is intimidated by filling out an application…break it down into pieces. I didn’t fill any of this stuff out in one day,” Lewis says.

Scholarships can be beneficial in addition to being a form of financial aid. Parker shares how applying for scholarships can form a sense of ambition. 

 “It definitely calls to the forefront a drive to want to apply yourself once you’re selected for that first one,” Parker says.

Not only that, but scholarships also look great on resumes if you plan on applying to transfer or for future employers. 

With the many opportunities that scholarships offer, Ebert insists that students have nothing to lose by putting themselves out there.

“Never be afraid to apply. Don’t be afraid of getting told ‘no’,” Ebert says. “You won’t know unless you apply.”

For information on applying for scholarships for the Spring semester, visit https://www.austincc.edu/students/scholarships.

For students who are interested in joining Phi Theta Kappa, visit https://sites.austincc.edu/ptk/.

Financial Aid for Beginners

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Written by Duncan McIntyre

In the age of COVID-19, students in higher-education institutions around the world have had to cope with a rapidly changing collegiate landscape. Classes are largely being held virtually, and students have had to deal with the financial strain caused by a global economic downturn. Some students may now, more than ever, need additional resources to help pay for school.        

For students at Austin Community College, this help can come in many forms. In addition to federal grants and loans, emergency relief funding from the American Rescue Plan now offers assistance to students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The process to apply for financial aid can be difficult to navigate, and some students may not know what assistance is available. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most commonly utilized tools for students seeking aid, but there are also lesser-known avenues that students can take.                                                                          

Belinda Peña, an outreach coordinator for the ACC work-study program, discussed some of the benefits of applying for FAFSA.                                                                                        

“The main benefit is you’re applying for several types of financial aid all in one application,” Peña said “With just the FAFSA application, students are applying for grants, loans and work-study, which is a type of part-time work that students can do on-campus or off-campus.”                              

Another application, the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) is also available. “The TASFA is very similar – it’s just for a specific population of students.” Peña said “So if they’re undocumented, for example, they may qualify. With the TASFA they’re applying for grant money and work study.”                                                                                                      

The financial aid department also offers resources for students who need help applying for FAFSA and other types of assistance. On their website there are videos with step-by-step instructions, and a chatbot that students can use 24/7 to locate relevant information.                     

The department also offers virtual workshops at certain times of year. In October, when the FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 school year opens; there will be a month of workshops that students can attend to get help completing their applications.                                                   

Peña also encourages students to seek alternative forms of aid. “Here at ACC we have over 600 scholarship opportunities that only require one application,” Peña said “On our website we also have a list of external scholarships. You can apply for external scholarships that are offered through different nonprofits and organizations throughout Texas.”                                                    

Isabel Torres is a single mother, an ACC student, and a participant in the work-study program. In regards to the financial aid process, Torres said “It was super easy. Financial aid was really good about giving me the steps for doing the financial aid application and explaining the differences between the grants.”                                                                                                        

Torres also connected with student assistance services, where she was able to find help caring for her child while continuing to pursue her education. “I have a daughter who’s 4, and she goes to the ACC child lab. She’s got great instructors,” Torres said.                                        

Isabel Torres smiles at the camera wearing a red sweater while her daughter sits on her lap smiling as well.
Austin Community College student, Isabel Torres, and her daughter. Torres has utilized ACC’s student assistance services to complete her FAFSA and access childcare which is helping her complete her schooling. Photo provided by Isabel Torres

Before coming to school, Torres was concerned about the affordability of education. “It was not in the budget at all,” Torres said. “Financial aid was a really crucial part of continuing my education.”                                                                                                                          

Students may be offered participation in work-study in their financial aid package. In work-study, they can earn $15.60 an hour, but unlike traditional aid such as grants and loans, students don’t have access to all the money offered at one time.                                                           

Torres recommends the program to all students. “The best thing about it is that you can make your schedule, you’re not going to be forced to work 40 hours a week,” Torres said. “The program is really flexible.”                                                           

As a participant in the program, Torres is employed by Student Affairs and works closely with advising and academic coaching counselors. In doing so, she has gained essential skills that will help her in careers to come.              

“I learn a lot of tools that are essential, especially interacting with people. Communication is going to be essential no matter what career I intend to go towards,” Torres said.                  

For students who are curious about the work-study program, or are trying to find help paying for school, Isabel has these words of advice: “I feel that at some point each student should try to meet with an advising counselor or check out student assistance resources. There are so many good tools that we offer. They really do want to help. You can ease the burden of responsibilities and focus on your future.”                                                                                                                          

The FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 school year opens in October, but applications are still available for students who have already started classes and who need aid.  Students looking for help paying for school can contact the student services help desk by calling 512-223-4243.

What College Students Need to Know about Managing Credit Cards

By Alexa Smith

From getting an apartment to buying a car – credit is an important part of your financial history. Once students get to college, it could be the right time to start building your own credit history. But with so many different credit cards and options available – how do you know where to start? How do you know how to stay out of debt? How do you know how to get out of debt? 

ACCENT sat down with Ayeesha Green, a financial coach from the Student Money Management Office to get you started on your financial journey. 

Students might wonder why they should care about credit. They may have their parents helping them out right now or just feel no need to get a credit card.

“Students should care about their credit because it can be the difference between having an affordable lifestyle and a super expensive lifestyle,” said Green.

Without a credit history, you may find you have to put down a higher deposit on an apartment or have a higher monthly payment for your car. Your credit history will also affect your auto-insurance rates. One thing many students do not know, is that employers can pull your credit history as well.

Green noted that ⅓ of employers will pull a modified credit report meaning they cannot see your credit score but they will be looking to see if you have late payments and if you’re financially consistent.

Green said students should start to establish credit as soon as they are ready which is usually when they are in college. However, there is a specific way Green suggests going about building credit. You don’t want to jump in too fast and get a credit card with a ridiculous interest rate and yearly fee.

Instead, Green suggests getting a secured credit card from your bank or credit union. She suggests using it for a monthly payment you are already making, such as Netflix or Spotify. Then set up an automatic payment to that credit card in the exact amount of that subscription. Put the card away and don’t use it for anything else. This will set you up to build your credit score without running the risk of credit card debt.

However, many students have already fallen into the trap of credit card debt and have found themselves with the pressure of paying off loans before even graduating college. For this, Green recommends creating a budget and looking for a place where you can cut back. Whether that’s less Starbucks a month or pausing a Hulu subscription. Take that extra cash and put it towards your credit card debt every month to start paying it off. 

Green also recommends students set up an appointment with a financial coach at the Student Money Management office before opening a credit card. This can help students understand the different types of credit cards better and how to manage their budgets.


To schedule an appointment with the Student Money Management Office, head to their website and click “Schedule Your Appointment”. For more tips, follow them on Instagram @accmoney, on Twitter @ACCMoney512, and on Facebook

ACC Implements new Payment Deadline

Story by: Nalani Nuylan

Austin Community College will implement a new tuition payment deadline in Spring 2020. This new system eliminates confusion and to help students save their money. Here is the need to know information regarding the new payment plans.  

Students registering on or after January 6 will need to pay their tuition by 11:59 p.m. on the same day the student wishes to register for classes. That means you’ll need to make your tuition payment or establish a payment plan the same day you register in order to secure your spot in the desired class. Continuing Education classes are not affected by Same Day Pay requirements. Spring 2020 payment plans are available now through January 31, 2020. Students registering after January 31 will need to pay their tuition in full on the day they register. 

If you are late on your same-day payment students will get a $20 fee for each late payment and a student hold is placed on your record until the debt is paid. Unpaid payment plan accounts may be sent to an outside collection agency. Students are responsible for any collection costs and attorney’s fees associated with the collection of the account.

Students can pay online with a credit card, debit card or e-check, in person at the Cashiers Office or by mail before the payment deadline. With mail, send a check or a money order. DO NOT send cash.

Financial aid is still available for students who submit the FAFSA. However, it is still the student’s responsibility to pay for the difference in your tuition or you may get dropped from your classes.     

This system benefits students because the first tuition deadline occurs closer to the start of the semester, so students have more time to arrange payment and/or establish an interest-free payment plan, starting with a downpayment of 34% of the student’s tuition like before. Daily – Same Day Pay – deadlines begin after the first deadline in order to eliminate the confusion of when to pay and allows students an opportunity to claim open seats in classes that would have appeared unavailable.

For more information go to ACC’s Tuition Payments and Deadline page here.