A Black person in a gray beanie, black long sleeve, and orange and black dress sits cross-legged in a park.

Me sitting in a park in Brooklyn.

Students living a hyphenated life (for example, low-income and first-generation) encounter compounding barriers that impact our ability to pursue educational opportunities. I won’t shy away from the truth: this can be an exceptionally difficult and lonely process. Here is my advice on how to find and use NYU financial aid and education resources on campus and build lifelong, scrupulous financial skills.

Funding Your Education

External Scholarships

Conducting research and forming a financial plan is the kindest thing you can do for yourself as you prepare for college.

First, I localized my research. Even though I am from a small town, scholarships are widely circulated within my local community. Ask people within your local network, such as counselors, teachers, and even your friends, about available resources. Applying for smaller scholarships is a phenomenal way to collect funds for tuition, housing, or miscellaneous college expenses.

Beyond my hometown and the University itself, I used the internet to source opportunities. A simple search led me to find and receive The Gates Scholarship. It’s a highly selective last-dollar scholarship for students from low-income households. You can always research your special interests as well. A scholarship may exist for it! 

Begin your research and application process for scholarships earlier than you think you need to. External scholarships are competitive with tight deadlines. Also, plan ahead for tax season: any scholarship funds used outside of tuition and school materials are treated as income.

A Black woman in a black dress holds up a scholarship check.
Here I am holding up a local scholarship check.
Financial Aid Platforms

In order to receive federal student aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by your college’s or university’s set deadline. You need to fill out this form to be considered for a Pell Grant, which is a federal award for students who display exceptional financial need. At NYU, 24 percent of first-year students that matriculated for fall 2023 were eligible for a Pell Grant. 

NYU also requires the CSS Profile for students seeking non-federal aid from the University. It’s free for students whose families make under $100,000. NYU meets the full demonstrated need for students who complete their applications on time, so mark your calendars accordingly! Additionally, in accordance with the NYU Promise, those students enrolled at NYU from fall 2024 onward who matriculated at NYU as a first-year student will not have to pay tuition if their family makes under $100,000 a year. 

Once matriculated, familiarize yourself with the on-campus resources available that help with financing education. The NYU Office of Financial Aid is available to answer any questions related to financial aid. This office also oversees the Student Emergency Fund to help students address crisis-related expenses. Reach out to NYU Financial Education, which is composed of a team of experts dedicated to enhancing your financial literacy skills with programs, events, and 1:1 coaching.

Enjoy What You Can, How You Can

Campus Life

There are many ways for low-income students to become involved in opportunities historically reserved for those with disposable income. Students are exposed to many on-campus residential events (often with free resources, food, and entertainment) as early as their first year. Residential life has much to offer, and I encourage you to explore it not only as your living space but also as a campus resource for low-income students.

Students who identify as low-income and first-generation can also find community through the NYU student-led club First-Generation, Low-Income Partnership.

A busy street in Manhattan’s Chinatown in the evening.
Manhattan’s Chinatown is about 20 minutes away from campus.

From travel to archival sites, accessing online journals, purchasing literature, and sourcing funds to supplement the time you’d spend employed in an hourly position, research can be an incredibly expensive field to break into. 

Luckily, NYU prides itself on research and is always searching for ways to support students in their research endeavors. As a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar, I received a grant to focus on a topic of my choice over the past summer. The College of Arts and Science also has a grant for undergraduate students pursuing research. As a recipient of this grant, I can source materials outside of NYU to enhance my studies.

Two female-presenting students browse shelves of books in a used bookstore.
A couple of my friends browse a local used bookstore.
Study Away

Growing up in a low-income household, I missed out on opportunities for academic travel. It surprised me to find out how accessible studying abroad is at NYU. Not only is the tuition the same across all NYU global sites, but housing can sometimes be more affordable abroad! 

You can study away up to three semesters at NYU. And yes, I did milk that for what it’s worth! I studied away at Buenos Aires, London, and Florence, and my financial package traveled with me. I also traveled to Vietnam for a week through the travel colloquium with the MLK Scholars program. All while staying on track to graduate with a double major!

A Black woman in a green skirt and multicolored floral top stands against a white fence at the Independence Palace Saigon in Vietnam..
We visited the Independence Palace Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on an all-expenses paid trip with the NYU MLK Scholars.
A Black person in a white top and white bandana turns to the side and smiles with greenery and a waterfall flowing behind them in Buenos Aires.
In fall 2022, I visited the Iguazú Falls through a free trip granted to all students at NYU Buenos Aires.

We All Got Bills to Pay

The reality of being a low-income student is that many of us choose to pursue employment while enrolled in classes. Let me help you demystify finding paid, on-campus employment opportunities and paid, off-campus internships!

Wasserman Center for Career Development

The Wasserman Center is a free on-campus resource many students tend to forget. They offer digital services and appointments to review your résumé and cover letter and help you tailor your job search to your specific interests. There are also free workshops available to students and a career fair each semester to expose students to a variety of career opportunities while on campus. 

Although I discourage you to take on unpaid internships without financial stability, NYU Wasserman offers an internship grant each semester to students who pursue unpaid internships. The grant is competitive, but it never hurts to try!


Yet another underused resource! Handshake allows students to select their specific interests and delivers curated opportunities based on individual education and employment history. I interned at The Metropolitan Museum of Art after I sourced the opportunity on Handshake. I also worked on campus with the College and Career Lab at NYU because of an application I submitted through Handshake.

A Black woman in a black turtleneck and multicolored skirt sits in a chair in a beige and white office, smiling.
This was my cubicle while I interned at The MET!

Live True, Be You

There’s a unique community of students at NYU who come from low-income families and are in the same boat as you. As isolating as it may feel at first, you can definitely find people on campus who relate to your background. At the end of the day, we’re in this together! Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it and refer to the wide range of financial resources at your disposal. 

Hiya! I’m Sade (she/they) and I’m a senior pursuing an interdisciplinary study of Social and Cultural Analysis, Journalism, and Creative Writing in CAS. I’m currently researching Black erotics, family dynamics, and community practices. I was raised as a southern peach from Perry, Georgia, but NYC has increasingly become home to me. On campus, I’ve worked as a College Leader in CAS and as a Marketing and Communications Assistant in the Center for Faculty Advancement. I’ve also been a Contributing Writer at Washington Square News and I’m a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar. When I’m not writing, you can find me tickling my kitties (Clementine and Carrot Cake, for the cat-world initiates), biking with my partner, or crisping up some tofu in my kitchen.