Chances are if the words financial aid, or student loans plague your vocabulary, then you probably need Jessica Brown in your life. Brown, a financial aid counselor, and also a graduate of historically black Howard University, utilizes her brand and website to help students navigate their way through the financial chaos that is college.
At only 26-years-old, she has founded collegegurl.com late last year after seeing so many of the students that she worked with frustrated with the financial aid offices on campus at their universities. “I came up with College Gurl after working for multiple universities within the financial aid department, and seeing the trend of students not really understanding how to pay for college,” she said.
She added, “There are many parents that bring their children to college and when they get their first the bill, then they’re looking at us as college professionals like, “How are we supposed to pay for this?”
Brown says she wants to be the liaison between a high school graduate and their college choices, to help them with what would be most financially fit. Back at her Alma Mater, Howard, Brown states she really wanted to be journalist. As things changed in her life, so did her dreams.
Starting off, as a National Spokesperson for dfree, a financial freedom movement based out of New Jersey, Jessica assisted the movement to help educate churches across the United States, on how to handle debt. It was on this platform that Jessica said she found her voice that allowed her to touch others. Trying to figure out how she could continue in giving more back to the community, Jessica took her background in finance, Howard Broadcast Journalism degree, and her experiences to find her calling; and began writing a book called How to Pay for College When You’re Broke.
“I just started writing a book, and it was all about how to pay for college, and next thing you know when I started to see that I was really on to something I said, “Wow how can I capitalize off this and make this more than just a book, make this a brand,” she said. Creating a GoFundMe campaign, attending financial conferences to sharpen her savvy, and making herself a walking billboard with the College Gurl logo, Brown launched collegegurl.com.
Brown, remembering herself as a freshman at a black college. says before she stepped foot on campus her parents helped her to get a financial plan to pay for school together. “My mom was so helpful in this college process… my mom used to come home every day with scholarships for me to fill out,” she said.
Working on scholarship applications, became a family activity in Brown’s house, and because of this, external funds also helped to assist in paying for her college tenure. With no real horror stories, she states that it wasn’t until her junior year of college when her mother was laid off from work, and her father’s business didn’t do as well as they would have liked, that they looked more towards the school for help. Still on top of everything, Brown came out unscathed by the financial aid woes.
To call her the know it all of college finances, would be an understatement. Young and hip enough to be relatable to her target market, and extremely knowledgeable on the ins and outs of financing education, Brown and the College Gurl brand are exactly what any incoming, current or former student needs right by their side.
Here’s some tips from the College Gurl herself:
- Borrow what you need not what you want. “So many students are just borrowing because they can. You don’t need a 5,000 to 10,000 dollar refund every semester. A lot of these students are getting these refunds because their parents are maxing out these parent plus loans. Borrow smart,make sure it’s just enough to pay for your educational expenses.”
- Know what you owe! “If you are going to borrow loans throughout your tenure in undergrad, or grad school, make sure you stay on top of what you owe. There are so many different websites that you can use, like nslds.ed.gov. All you have to do is enter your FSA ID information, and any loan that you have borrowed, you can see on the website. Staying on top of your loan history and knowing what you owe is going to be critical to your financial security after college.”
Currently working on a line of College Gurl apparel, Brown is ready to continue steering the ship that is knowledge of finance, and is inviting everyone to come aboard.