This piece is part of a series of financial aid-focused student profiles. These student stories are part of our ongoing reporting on financial aid. You can also read our analysis of a student survey about financial aid and our reports on the financial aid Day of Action and subsequent town hall.

Antonia Boorman is an M’20 from the UK. She was not seriously considering Minerva until she saw her financial aid package, which she considers to be very generous. Overall, the reality of paying for Minerva lined up with her expectations based on her financial aid package. The last year cost more than she expected because of Manifest, but she was able to afford it because she had a higher paying job in the summer of 2019.

She also accidentally opted to start paying off her loans while she was still attending Minerva instead of waiting until after graduation which she said created more financial strain than necessary.  Starting to pay off the loans sooner rather than later gave her a lower interest rate, “which is good, but at the same time that means I’m paying $200 a month which is not something that I can afford.”

She got more financial aid at Minerva than at other universities she applied to in the UK and the US. In the UK she got a loan to cover tuition and at other US colleges she didn’t get anything. So Minerva’s financial aid package with a grant and loans to fully cover tuition and other fees and work-study to cover living expenses was the most generous offer she received. She said it was unexpected because Minerva is a US university and the other US universities did not give her any aid.

Boorman said that she felt grateful for the financial aid given by Minerva. She feels that Minerva did not have a responsibility to provide financial aid but does anyway: “We don’t really have the right to ask for money from them. So the fact that they’re giving out so much financial aid to everybody I think is a pretty good thing and it makes me sad that so many people are frustrated about it.” For that reason she did not participate in the financial aid Day of Action or town hall. She did not agree with the premise of demanding more from the institution and did not like the hostility.

She felt like she understood the financial aid process including how to appeal (though she never had to) and how to contact Melissa Morgenstern, Minerva’s Student Accounts Manager. Even though she understood the process, she said it is long and some things still don’t work out even if you do everything right.

She expressed frustration that the financial aid process is so lengthy. The first-year US financial aid application including the CSS profile is extremely long. Boorman also said that it is frustrating to redo it every year even though her finances have stayed the same throughout her time at Minerva. She mentioned that UK taxes don’t line up with Minerva’s financial aid timeline so she can’t provide all the documents Minerva requires.  She submitted the additional tax documents once she gets them after the Minerva financial aid deadline.

An additional challenge for Boorman is that her parents are separated, so she had to fill out a non-custodial waiver to establish that she is only financially supported by one parent: “It was very, very stressful because in the first year I had to establish that I didn’t have contact. And then I had to do that every single year, which was traumatic in itself, but also just a very difficult process to do because how do you prove that you don’t talk to somebody?”

She mentioned that budgeting and day-to-day finances vary between rotation cities because they have different costs of living. She said that one of the first things she would do in a new rotation city is find and sign up for the “free experiences” newsletter. Many big international cities like San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and London, have free experiences and/or events that are free for students, so finding an email newsletter with those events can be a great way to learn about things in a new city.

Boorman’s tips for current and future students are to save up as much as you can over summer breaks and take out as little in loans as possible.  She said that summer internships have helped her save up for expenses during the school year and for paying off her loans.  Being in debt has been stressful for her, so she recommends only taking out the loans you have to.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences with money and financial aid at Minerva with the Quest, please reach out to Emma Stiefel ([email protected]), Erin Paglione ([email protected]) or any Quest editor.