VA Education Secretary Atif Qarni shares advice on financial aid and college admission process with Gar-Field students
Posted on 10/22/2018
VA Secretary of Education (right) in assembly at Gar-Field High School with Principal Dr. Cherif Sadki (left)Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni visited Gar-Field High School recently as part of a statewide tour to promote opportunities and resources for high school students.

He inspired an assembly of 120 juniors and seniors representing Gar-Field High School’s student diversity, with a specific emphasis on first-generation college-goers, immigrant students, and students who would benefit from information on financial aid and scholarship options at Virginia’s various public institutions.

The first point Qarni made was that students should fill out the financial aid application as early as possible, and to take advantage of in-state tuition.

Qarni’s special assistant, Rose Minor, and Kyree Norman, specialist in Governor Ralph Northam’s office, both immigrants, also spoke to the students and told of their struggles and challenges. The team introduced students to RaiseMe, a scholarship site that recognizes coursework, clubs and sports, and community service.

“Our students were excited by the RaiseMe micro-scholarship process,” said Brian Basset, International Baccalaureate (IB) program coordinator at Gar-Field. “For many, it made the idea of paying for college a possibility. It also revealed a benefit of attending a school whose student population helps qualify a school for these micro scholarships.”

Minor, who attended University of Virginia, answered a student’s question about a grade point average (GPA) being an obstacle to college acceptance.

“Institutions are looking for great people, people with citizenship and collaboration skills, and who are creative. Volunteer work is a huge component; colleges want to see a full picture of an individual; they want to see more than a GPA,” Minor said.

Qarni told students to be persistent when applying to college, and that universities are telling him they are looking for good, engaging stories.
“You have really great stories that you can share,” Qarni said. “Demonstrate that through the application process. I cannot emphasize that enough. Universities are looking for people who have gone through challenges. Challenges build character. You have to try. Apply to as many colleges as you can; you never know where life will take you.”

Asked to describe what college is like, and his advice, Norman said, “Be prepared for a tough time. Study groups are very important to help you focus on just studying. Make that a daily habit. Be early with everything; don’t panic, don’t give up.” 

Gar-Field High School Principal Dr. Cherif Sadki closed the assembly, telling students that “no matter your background, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or immigration status, please don’t give up hope.”