"I Have the Potential to Do Something Great in the Future"

October 19, 2017

By Kim Szarmach, Communications Intern

For students underrepresented in higher educationevery dollar counts when piecing together a financial aid package. And their ability to obtain those dollars and succeed in college depends on policymakers establishing a Streamlined FAFSA and approving increased, sustainable funding for need-based aid like Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, as well as programs like Federal Work-StudyAmeriCorps, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Umesh Bhandari lost his father, Shree Parsad Bhandari when he was 1 year old. Umesh's family lived in Nepal, but his father worked in India. One day on Shree Parsad's way to work, he collapsed and became unconscious. He didn't receive help for two hours before he was finally sent to the hospital. But because he didn't have enough money, he didn't receive proper care and passed away.

"That will always stick with me," Umesh said. "What if there had been a better [medical] community, what if there were more helpful people, not just focusing on the money? That’s what drives me to be in the medical field. I want to become a psychiatrist and open my own clinic one day so I can help people."

Now Umesh is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Arlington, earning his Bachelor’s of Science in nursing. He originally wanted to study psychology, but felt that a nursing degree would allow him to get a job right after college and support his single mom and two siblings.

While Umesh is an extremely dedicated and passionate student, he said he wouldn't have been able to get to where he is today on his own. Umesh got help from an ApplyTexas counselor who edited his application essays, helped him find community service opportunities and file the FAFSA. He receives a Pell Grant, Federal Work-Study aid, a grant from NCAN member, Scholarship America, and a number of other private scholarships.  

“Knowing that so many people are investing in me, that shows me that I have the potential to do something great in the future," Umesh said. “Since they’re investing in me I should be studying every day because I don’t want to waste anybody’s money." 

Umesh is surely not wasting his opportunity for a higher education. Not only must he work hard in classes to maintain the requirements of his Scholarship America grant, Umesh is taking advantage of all the interpersonal opportunities college provides.

“Just going out and talking to people has helped me grow not only educationally, but experientially as well," he said. "[I've been] working on my communication skills and making new friends.” 

Umesh said he is lucky to have these opportunities and understands that for many other students, access to higher education is more limited than it was for him. He said he thinks institutions should provide more need-based grants because many students with difficult personal lives don't have the ability to achieve high levels of academic success in high school and don't receive merit-based aid, even though they have the potential to succeed. 

“There are many students out there who have to support their family, working full-time, and going to high school at the same time. If they are doing that it’s hard to be in the top 10 [of their class] or getting a good SAT score," Umesh said. He added that institutions “need to understand why certain people aren’t doing as well as they should.” 

No matter their background, Umesh said, all students should have the right to a higher education. It is up to policymakers and private institutions to make that possible.

“Our youth are the ones that will lead the generation,” he said. “If we don’t have a good education from higher institutions, what will we do in the future?"

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