“The need for secondary education is growing, but accessibility is becoming more and more of a challenge—especially for students from low- and middle-income families,” says Reshma Misra, a UBC
alumna who recently completed her BA in Psychology.
Like many UBC students, Reshma comes from a rich cultural background. Although she was born in Canada, her parents decided to raise her in their native India, where she could learn about her family’s identity and traditions. After completing high school at an international boarding school, it was UBC’s well-balanced programs, combined with the city’s unique West Coast vibe that brought her to Vancouver.
Initially uncertain about her career path, Reshma knew she wanted something that would allow her to express her vibrancy and creativity. Ultimately, it was a toss-up between arts and business. Reshma submitted her application to the Faculty of Arts and the Sauder School of Business—and was accepted into both.
Along with the acceptance letter, however, she received a delightful surprise. Reshma discovered that she was a recipient of the President’s Entrance Scholarship, a one-time financial incentive meant to entice brilliant students to UBC. Although making the choice was scary, she eventually gravitated towards the arts and experimented with a few different courses before she settled on psychology.
“I really, really liked psychology, says Reshma. “I could see a wide variety of applications for the skills, and I was fascinated by the concepts. The interesting thing is that I eventually came full circle. I
decided to take my training in the direction of business.”
For Reshma, the award was a windfall that eased some of her short-term financial burdens, such as tuition and rent. However, like many students, she still had to take on student debt and get a part-time job in her third year. Reshma began working in the call centre of the UBC Development Office, where she discovered her story was far from unique. Many of her co-workers were students trying to balance full course loads with a need for financial stability and independence.
“The financial burden of education is increasing,” says Reshma, who notes that the cost of tuition has gone up since she started university. “It’s no longer a given that you can work summers and pay off your tuition. When the cost of living is high and the cost of education is high, it’s difficult. I know students who are working two or three jobs trying to avoid debt, and they’re just scraping by.”
In the future, Reshma plans to combine some business courses with her psychology training in order to pursue a creative career in marketing or strategy. For now, she is happy to be part of the Development Office and work alongside the inspiring donors and alumni striving to make education more accessible for students.
Entrance awards, like the one given to Reshma, have become a major focus for fundraising at UBC. Many of these merit-based awards are renewable, providing bright students who need a leg up with a vital source of funding throughout their studies.
“When you think of supporting UBC as an institution, it can feel overwhelming—like you can’t make much of a difference. But it’s important to realize that every gift impacts individual lives,” says Reshma, adding that the value often goes beyond financial relief. “Receiving an award is a great feeling. It’s like a boost of motivation that keeps you moving forward.”