First-Generation Transfer Student of Color Refuses to Allow College Costs to Deter Her Career Goals
In the summer of 2018, Naydeline Mejia’s life turned upside down. Working towards a career in speech pathology, Mejia found herself mentally and creatively constrained by her studies and the college town of Burlington, Vermont, which she called home for two years. An Afro-Latina native New Yorker and daughter of Dominican immigrants, Mejia missed the hustle and bustle of her hometown. She packed her bags, moved back to the Bronx, and began her college transfer process.
After applying to Fordham University and New York University for spring transfer, Mejia was ecstatic to receive acceptance letters from both schools — ultimately, she chose NYU. “The deadline to make the decision was really soon, and I still hadn’t got my financial aid,” Mejia says. Mejia was left with no choice but to pay the $500 enrollment fee before receiving her financial aid award. “It was really an investment. I really had to push my parents,” Mejia says. “Then I got my financial aid reward, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’ It was really not feasible for me.” The university’s $76,612 cost of attendance caused Mejia to withdraw.
Every year, young adults across the nation must make difficult decisions like Mejia. “A lot of people have to make a hard college decision based on finances. How much is a piece of paper actually worth?” Mejia asks.
Why do American universities cost hundreds of thousands of dollars? “You’re paying for the experience,” Mejia says, adding, “It’s like you’re paying to attend summer camp for four years. It’s really ridiculous. It’s such a fucked-up system.” Despite the emotional roller coaster Mejia endured in her first attempt at transferring schools, Mejia, in retrospect, reflects positively on the whole experience. “It was all meant to be,” she says.
Mejia is now a junior at Baruch College in New York City. She enjoys the university and appreciates its affordable cost, though she feels left in the dark as a transfer student. Colleges around the nation are notorious for neglecting the needs of transfer students, according to a 2009 Indiana University Bloomington study. At both the University of Vermont and Baruch College, Mejia says she saw extravagant orientation-week events for incoming freshman while transfer students were simply greeted with, in Mejia’s words, “‘Here’s your schedule. Get in there.’ That’s it.”
Like many other transfer students who are overlooked by their institutions, she believes it is important for universities to do more for their transfer students because “a transfer student’s experience is very different from someone who’s going to college straight out of high school.”
Outside of school, Mejia interns for the fashion and beauty brand Coveteur. Working directly with Coveteur’s senior beauty editor, Hannah Baxter, Mejia writes stories for their website and hopes to further her career in the fashion and beauty media industry. She also works as an editor for Salty, a feminist newsletter, working closely with contributing writers and occasionally writing stories. The newest addition to Mejia’s resume is Glossier, the popular makeup and skincare brand, where she works in the company’s SoHo showroom as a part-time sales associate.
An aspiring journalist, Mejia hopes to serve as a voice for the communities she belongs to. “My goal is to tell the stories of underrepresented people, and that plays into my identity and background,” Mejia says. She adds, “[My identity] naturally bleeds into everything I do.”
Discussions of mental health, in particular, should be amplified, according to Mejia. As someone living with depression and anxiety, she says, “My mental health is such an important part of who I am. Ending the stigma [around mental health issues] is important.”
Mejia’s layered identities intersect with one another to create her lived experience. Mejia has one piece of advice to offer others who might be in similar situations as her: don’t do 100 things at once. She says, “Life is so short, so don’t waste your time doing shit that doesn’t make you happy. You don’t know if you’ll be gone tomorrow or next week, so why are you wasting your time doing this thing you hate to your core? If you wake up every day and you’re like, ‘Fuck, I have to do this again.’ Don’t do that to yourself.”