Maggie Astor, MHS Class of ’07
Barnard College, Class of 2011
Major: Political Science
Were you financially prepared for college?
I had a modest amount of savings for textbooks and day-to-day expenses, but my family was not prepared to pay for tuition, room or board without substantial financial aid.
When you applied to MSF, did you already know what college you were planning to attend? What was the name of the school?
I attended Barnard College, an affiliate of Columbia University.
How does the MSF scholarship help you prepare for college?
The MSF scholarships were part of the cumulative package that allowed me to afford my first-choice college.
Why did you want a MSF scholarship?
I needed financial aid, and a lot of it — plain and simple. I had worked extremely hard for years, getting straight A’s and taking numerous honors and Advanced Placement courses. After putting in so much time and effort to earn the opportunity to attend a top-tier university, I really didn’t want my family’s financial constraints to take that away from me.
Did finances affect your choice of school or major?
Finances did not affect my choice of major. Nor did they affect my choice of school, but this was only because I received an extremely generous need-based financial aid package from Barnard. I was very fortunate — Barnard was my first choice, and it also ended up being the only school that gave me enough financial aid to attend. With the aid, it actually cost less than the schools I applied to as financial safeties. Had it not been for Barnard’s financial aid — more than $150,000 in grants over my four years there, coupled with a manageable amount of loans and a work-study job — I could not have attended.
If you could not have afforded college, what other options did you have?
I did not consider options other than college. The only question was which college I would attend. If I had not gotten that financial aid package from Barnard, I would have attended a public university and taken out larger loans to pay for it.
What is your major?
I majored in political science.
In addition to the MSF scholarship, what other types of financial aid or support did you use?
I received need-based financial aid from Barnard. The grants and loans, along with my parents’ contributions, covered my tuition, room and board. A work-study job (8-10 hours a week) covered textbooks and daily living expenses, along with my savings from summer jobs and internships. (Summer 2008, I worked at a clothing store; summers 2009 and 2010, I had paid internships as a reporter at the Bergen Record.)
Once you complete your studies, what is your plan for the future?
I completed my studies in 2011 and immediately began a summer internship at the New York Times, where I copy edited for the Metro section. After the internship ended in August 2011, I spent about six months working as a political reporter for the International Business Times, an online publication. I helped cover the leadup to the 2012 presidential race, including traveling to New Hampshire to report on the Republican primary there. In February 2012, I returned to the New York Times as a full-time copy editor, and I have been there since. I continue to write articles on the side, sometimes for the New York Times and sometimes for BKLYNR, an online magazine covering Brooklyn. In the future, I hope to move into a reporting position at the New York Times, preferably covering politics.
What would you say to current MHS seniors who seek financial aid?
Apply to every potential source of financial aid you can find, and apply to your first-choice schools even if you don’t think you’ll be able to afford them. As I learned, top-tier private colleges can actually be more affordable than public or even community colleges if you qualify for need-based financial aid.
What do you remember best about being at Montclair High School/Montclair?
Academically, the Center for Social Justice at Montclair High School, which stoked my interest in politics and helped shape the way I see the world as a journalist. Non-academically, the friends I made in Montclair, with whom I am still close eight years later.
Please describe any volunteer/community service during high school?
I volunteered at New Jersey Peace Action from sophomore year through graduation.