PSA: fill out your FAFSA

Hey students, have you filed your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) yet? If not, then do it now, especially if you live in California. If you don’t live in California check herefor deadlines in your state.

March 2nd is the priority deadline in California. I’ve been filling out the FAFSA since 1998 and still don’t know what happens if I file after March 2nd because I would afraid I would get less aid or not be eligible for a Cal Grant. Anyone have a better idea of what happens if you file after March 2nd?

Speaking of financial aid, I’m writing a paper with a few other students on financial aid knowledge of students at five different high schools in Southern California. The schools vary by size, ethnicity (either mainly Latino or mainly African American), high school graduation rates, University of California/California State University eligibility rates, and percent receiving free or reduced lunch. I’ll be presenting the findings at the American Educational Research Association annual conference in Chicago this spring.

It's a bad time to be a student at a California public higher education institution From the reading I’ve done in this area and another paper I’ve co-written using the same data, I think it’s safe to say that Latino parents and students don’t know too much when it comes to financial aid. And that’s bad considering the rising costs of attending postsecondary institutions.

Personally, I know it would have been nearly impossible for me to attend UCLA without financial aid… and that was back when the total cost was about $14,000. I had every type of aid you could get (minus private loans): federal and state grants, scholarships, work study, and federal loans. I learned that the free money — grants and scholarships — was ideal, but I was also willing to take out loans unlike many Latino students. Thanks to the aid I had, I didn’t need to work more than 10 hours a week and had plenty of time to study, get good grades, volunteer and be involved with MEChA and student government.

Despite being a first generation college student (meaning my parents didn’t attend a 4-year institution), I was still able to navigate the system. I had good counselors who notified us about deadlines for FAFSA or scholarships. I wasn’t poor, but my parent’s income at the time I started going to college had just decreased and made me eligible for more grants. I also did my undergraduate education at a time when the California economy was good (pre-dot com bust) and fees/tuition not only remained steady, but also decreased.

I feel like I lucked out, but I know there are many more who limit their dreams because they don’t know about financial aid, they just don’t apply because of the sticker shock, or they just can’t get financial aid because they’re undocumented.

Related nerdy higher education stuff


Question of the week: numerology

A lot of you know that my favorite number is 31. My mom and dad are less obsessed about their favorite number, but the whole family still knows that is is 23. This is the day of their anniversary, the day my father became sober, and the day Grandpa was born. It’s a good date in our family, and I hope it stays that way. This I why I really hope they don’t decide to watch The Number 23, and not because I heard that the movie is bad.

What’s your favorite number and why?


Look mom, I’m in Tu Ciudad!

Tu Ciudad Magazine, which focuses on Latino Los Angeles, quoted me in an article on Latinos in blogging in this month’s issue. I think it’s kinda cool and hope that what they say about the increase in Latinos blogging is right. I feel it’s important for us to be speaking for ourselves, even if it is through the self-published medium of blogging.

Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve found a lot more people doing similar things and it’s created an interesting and supportive community, Blogotitlán (by the way, I didn’t coin that, but I can’t remember where I read it first). When I started contributing to I searched for Latino bloggers based in LA, I couldn’t find too many. I’m glad there’s a lot more now.

[I don’t have a scanner, so I just took a picture. Click the image to see the large version. Sorry if it looks crappy.]


¿Y las tortillas?

Food I can’t eat (at least for 40 days)

Less than an hour after I left Ash Wednesday services, I had my first challenge: the food at the GSA appreciation reception at Westwood Brew Co.

They had a bunch of food I couldn’t eat. They had breaded chicken strips, quesadillas, tortilla chips, Chinese chicken salad, plain Ceasar salad, and platters of fruits and veggies.

I gave up tortillas. Yes, tortillas.

After looking at my plate full of boring salad, some cucumbers and carrots, I told el novio, “maybe I should just give up alcohol.”

He looked at me, paused and said, “but you don’t even don’t drink that much. That would be easy for you.”

“Yeah, I know.”

A few minutes later, my friend Oiyan walked in. She saw the ashes on my head and started talking about the best part of attending a Jesuit college: Easter break and spring break.

“So what did you give up?” she asked.


“Tortillas?! That’s like me giving up rice!” she exclaimed (she’s Chinese).

It will be hard. Yesterday I felt like just giving up something else like frivolous spending/shopping for stuff I don’t need. I’ve already tried that, it was a challenge, but not in the way tortillas will be. I see giving up tortillas for 40 days not as something that will bring me closer to God, but it will be fun (in a weird, masochistic sort of way).

And no, I’m not just doing this because tortilla prices are going up.


Lenten reflection

miercoles de cenizas I wrote this last year but never got around to posting it.

I missed the 8 a.m. Mass. I had class at noon. The evening Masses at 5 and 7 just didn’t work with my schedule because of a meeting. So, I had to go at 9.

And I had to go. I can’t miss Ash Wednesday. It’s not because it’s a Holy Day of obligation (it’s not), but because I miss the ritual, the music, the people there, and the message about Lent. I like Lent. I like the fasting and the giving up of something, or adding something, like almsgiving. I like that it reminds me that I am Catholic and I need to take more time to engage my faith.

Ash Wednesday Mass ended around 10 p.m. As I was shuffling out with the dozens of other students who waited until 9 p.m. to get ashes on their forehead, I checked my cell phone. I had one missed call and message, both from my mom.

As soon as I got out and crossed the street toward the parking structure, I called my mom back. Danny, my older brother answered the phone.

Danny: Hello.
Me: Hey, Chunk Status.
Danny: Hi C! I was just talking about you to Lori and now you called. What are you up to?
Me: I just got out of Mass.
Danny: You went to Mass?
Me: Yeah, whatever. It’s Ash Wednesday. I can’t not go.
Danny: I know, but still…
Me: Is mom there? I want to talk to her.
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