New Rochelle, N.Y. High School senior, Matisse Clayton, spoke with her school counselor, Jessica Dorsett-Posada, about the status of her college applications in January 2014. For many students choosing a college, financial aid is the deciding factor – no matter how many schools accept them. Matisse and her family weighed their financial options between American University and Catholic University of America in Washington along with New York State University at Binghamton. All three offered her financial aid, but ultimately, Mattise chose Binghamton, which offered her a full ride scholarship. Ann Hermes/Staff
Haleigh Doherty and her mother, Margaret Doherty, strolled the campus of Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, during Fall Academic Preview Day in November 2013. Haleigh kept her college choices to campuses along the East Coast and decided to attend Fairfield University, in Connecticut after they awarded her a $25,000 annual scholarship. Ann Hermes/Staff
Volunteer Vinette Richards assists families and students filling out FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid ) forms in the library of New Rochelle High School in January. Students and families often need help navigating the application process and interpreting the financial offers they receive from colleges. Ann Hermes/Staff
In the heat of the college application season in November 2013, New Rochelle High School senior Adaugo Ezike (r.) took an essay-writing course at Columbia University's State Pre-College Enrichment Program (S-PREP). Adetoro Adegbola (l.), is an instructor with the program, which helps academically talented minority students prepare for careers in medicine and science. After winning scholarships at several top engineering schools, Adaugo decided to attend Cornell University where she hopes to study biomedical engineering. Ann Hermes/Staff
Just a few days after students pressed the 'submit' button on their college applications in December 2013, they faced a whole new pile of forms – and tensions over decisions about where to spend the next four years. January was consumed with financial aid applications. New Rochelle High School College & Career Center Coordinator, Bonnie Proudian assisted students with the process. Ann Hermes/Staff
Beatriz Contreras listened to advice from volunteers about her daughter's FAFSA application in the New Rochelle High School library. The annual event, 'College Goal NY: FAFSA Completion Events for New York State Students,' assists more than 100 New Rochelle High School seniors and their families. Ann Hermes/Staff
In early November 2013, Margaret Doherty and her daughter Haleigh Doherty, toured Saint Michael's College Fall Academic Preview Day in Colchester, Vermont. Haleigh made a relatively early college choice in February 2014, Fairfield University, in Connecticut, offered her a $25,000 annual scholarship. In March the news that she’d been accepted to the school’s honors program and would be exempt from certain core classes confirmed her belief that she had made the right choice. Ann Hermes/Staff
Students took a break outside between classes at New Rochelle High School in January 2014. Ann Hermes/Staff
New Rochelle High School senior Esteban Acevedo, pictured here plotting economics graphs, immigrated from Colombia with his family four years ago. He worked hard to learn English, and became a top student and president of the school's chapter of the National Honor Society. In March, his hopes were dashed when his top college choice – The University of Chicago – had rejected him. By April, he was riding high on his acceptance at the Ivy League Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, with a substantial financial aid package. Ann Hermes/Staff
Preparing college applications in December 2013, Matisse Clayton talked about the fees with her mother, Gwen Clayton, in her father's restaurant, Alvin & Friends in New Rochelle, New York. Matisse and her two siblings spend much of their time helping out and doing homework at Alvin & Friends. Ann Hermes/Staff
College financial aid played a large part in Camille N’Diaye Muller's final college choice. The New Rochelle High School student, shown here at Harvard University during a whirlwind visit on the eve of the May 1, 2014 college choice deadline, got a full scholarship to Princeton University and generous aid packages at Harvard and Wellesley College. She chose Harvard. Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
College costs were make or break for New Rochelle High School senior Matisse Clayton: With a lot of help from Mom and her color-coded files, she applied to 18 colleges, was accepted at four, and won a full ride at one.
This is the final article in a series following five New Rochelle High School seniors on their quest for college financial aid. The project is a partnership between the Monitor and The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.