Essays, Parenting

Dear high school graduates

With high school graduations coming up, I have a message that I’d like to put out here for any high schooler who desperately wants to go to college but believes they can’t afford it:

Just get there.

I know you’re looking at those student financial aid packages and the amount of money you still have to come up with on your own, and you’re thinking it just isn’t possible. But I’m telling you it is.

Just get there.

Take whatever free money you can get. “Free” meaning you never have to pay it back. Take only what you need in student loans to actually pay for your tuition and dorm room (if you need one,) and then start looking for a job on or near campus. Ask the financial aid office to set up a payment plan. Work your ass off this summer and save up as much money as possible to help pay for that first year of school. Don’t worry about the second year yet. Just figure out how to pay for that first semester.

Just get there.

At this point, you probably think you’ve received all the scholarship money you’re going to get. Keep looking. Once you decide your major, there will be scholarships that you can apply for that are only available to students in your major at your school. You don’t know about those scholarships yet, but you soon will. There will be others too.

Just get there.

Once you’re fully ensconced at your new college or university, they want you to stay there. If it looks like you’re not going to be able to make a tuition payment, you can – and should! – ask for help. Most schools have funds available for just this purpose. There are need-based scholarships that exist for the sole purpose of keeping students in school. You don’t have to meet any gender, race, or ethnicity requirements to apply. You don’t even have to maintain a 4.0 GPA. You only have to need help and be passing your classes to qualify for this type of assistance.

Just get there.

Not everyone has family members who can help them pay for college. I know that. You might be on your own financially, and that’s scary. But you can do this. You might have to take out a student loan or two, and that’s scary too. But if you’re willing to work hard, you can say no to student loans and still go to college. You can say no to part of the loans and return what you don’t need to save yourself from massive amounts of debt after college. But don’t worry about that too much right now.

Just get there.

It’s going to suck to work a full-time job while going to school. I know because I did it. But you know what really sucks? Doing the same thing when you’re older and have a family to support in addition to yourself while going to school. You know what else sucks? Not being able to take advantage of the internships and other opportunities available during your college years that are going to get your foot in the door for the jobs that pay a living wage. You know what sucks the most? Having multiple degrees and still not earning a living wage because of the opportunities you had to miss out on because you had kids to support during your nontraditional adult college years. So, go to school. Do it now. Just get there!

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