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Financial Aid Office Updates Shoestring Strategies App

The Financial Aid Office updated its student budgeting app, Shoestring Strategies for Life @ Harvard, to include a centralized calendar and section on health and wellness in a bid to further support students once they matriculate.

The Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, which recruits and supports students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, first released a printed version of the guide in 2005 and in 2014 unveiled a mobile app version. The app is divided into categories related to academics, personal finance, jobs, events, and health.

The new health and wellness section includes information on mental health resources, local recreational activities, and listings for wellness classes. The Financial Aid Initiative created that section because of increased campus focus on mental and physical health, according Michael P. Richard ’17, an HFAI student coordinator who has worked on the app since 2014.

The app’s update also includes a centralized calendar that continuously compiles sporting, arts, advising, and student club events. Richard said he hopes the app will help incoming and current students navigate University resources, and take advantage of local deals and discounts.

HFAI student coordinator Sophie T. Carroll ’17 said the app is intended to increase connection and support between the Financial Aid Office and students on campus.

“As the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, in addition to our normal recruiting of high school students and students to come to the University, we also want to focus on supporting students from low socio-economic backgrounds once they’re on campus,” she said.

Mike Esposito, director of HFAI and assistant director of Financial Aid, said the updated app is “something that students can take with them in their pocket on the go, and be a lot more convenient and usable for most people living in the 21st century.”

The Initiative’s student coordinators developed the content, media, and design of the app and will continue to maintain it. An outside development company, Modo Labs, provided the app’s template.

HFAI will continue updating the app’s content throughout the year and is working on enabling push notifications to alert students to impromptu events and giveaways happening on campus, Esposito said.

HFAI is still working to appeal to current students, as oppose to just incoming freshmen, Richard and Carroll said. Richard said he hopes the app can ultimately spread beyond Harvard to other universities.

“I would love to see this featured, for example, at the Ivy Gen conference or across admissions presentations to inspire our peers to want to take on something like this,” he said. “At the end of the day we don’t want just to have Harvard be better and more financially accessible, but we want colleges across the country to be so [accessible], especially at other places that don’t have as robust support systems as Harvard does."

Shoestring Strategies is free and currently available to download through both the Apple and Android app stores.

—Staff writer Brittany N. Ellis can be reached at brittany.ellis@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @britt_ellis10.

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