For many students and their families, one of the most challenging steps toward matriculation is navigating the financial aid process: from FAFSA applications and tax forms to weighing the cost benefit of a college education. Through it all, an accessible and supportive financial aid office can be the key to unlocking a student’s academic career.
As a sophomore at Occidental, Sheryl Reinschmidt ’94 began learning the ins and outs of this essential resource as a student worker in the office of financial aid. This foundational understanding of how financial aid can determine a student’s future has recently inspired Reinschmidt to directly impact a future Tiger through a planned gift.
After seeing her older sister have a positive experience at Oxy, Reinschmidt knew she wanted to follow in her footsteps (“though I’d never have admitted it!”). Growing up in Los Angeles, she was familiar with the campus and liked the idea of staying in the city and exploring a liberal arts education. “I wanted to get a great education and make connections with interesting people–check!” says Reinschmidt. In order to gain this experience, the first-generation college student recalls “I needed help in understanding the financial aid process and in meeting important deadlines,” all of which could change the course of her academic career.
While attending Oxy, Reinschmidt received support far beyond the classroom, from faculty members as well as her work-study bosses, with whom she worked from her sophomore through her senior year. “The office of financial aid is where I met my professional mentors and unwittingly began a rewarding career.” After graduating with a degree in psychology, Reinschmidt took one day off following Commencement and came right back to campus to start as a full-time financial aid counselor.
After working on campus for three years, Reinschmidt moved on to various other higher ed institutions before returning to the College as the director of financial aid in 2021. “One of the reasons I am happy to be an alumna employee is that it was Oxy staff members that had the greatest impact on my student years,” says Reinschmidt. “I believe in the transformational power of higher education and in an Oxy education specifically.”
Creating an accessible resource through the financial aid office has been a priority for Reinschmidt, including communicating to students the various factors that go into a financial aid decision. She aims to infuse education about the financial aid process into every meeting with a student and their family, providing information that will be useful beyond their time at Oxy.
Reinschmidt’s contributions now extend beyond education and support into more direct financial assistance through a planned gift. She understands that a gift of any size can make a difference to a student’s educational opportunities and she has personally witnessed that even a “small” gift amount can make a difference in where a student can afford to go to college. "I was only able to attend Oxy because of the financial aid made possible by the gifts of generous donors before me,” says Reinschmidt. She sees her planned gift as helping to expand access and having an impact upon a future Tiger who needs the Occidental experience to thrive—“and maybe even to become the president one day!"