Sam the Student: Obligations to Self and Family
Dear Sam the Student:
One of my dreams when starting college was to spend a semester or year abroad because I just love traveling. I can't even explain I have the draw to it, but it sparks something inside of me and makes me feel like myself. Problem? My mother's really struggling financially and I don't know if we can afford for me to go away. Tell me there's gotta be a way around this so I don't have to wait until I'm 30 to see another country.
Signed, Wanting to Leave on a Jet Plane
Dear Wanting to Leave on a Jet Plane:
I don't feel comfortable telling you to act definitively one way or another, but I can point out benefits and drawbacks to both options, and that might help you in your decision.
Let's say you stay home for your four years and help your mom out with money (although I'm not entirely sure how you, as a college student, are able to swing that). Your mom gets a temporary life preserver for four years, and doesn't have to experience how unspeakably hard life can be without money. You'll feel like you're truly helping out in one of the deepest ways possible, even if you have to put yourself and your dreams on hold indefinitely.
But let's say you do go: your mom may struggle (or she may find a way to scrape by). You may feel guilty and like you're abandoning her, but you may also realize that your college years are the time you come into your own and start to make your own choices. You might not also feel this unless you have a really deep bond with your mom, especially as you walk to your classes in sunny Spanish sun or take a Norwegian tram up a mountain.
Dear Sam the Student:
My finances are in trouble, and I see no way of affording my degree. The tuition itself for this year is "paid" with student loans, but I owe rent on my apartment (which is showing up as a debt on my student account) and I won't be able to get a loan for next year until that number is zero. The only option I see is putting college on hold for now and working until I pay that off, but I have no idea how long that'll take, or if I can even finish.
Signed, Need Money
Dear Need Money:
As soon as you finish reading this all the way through, visit your school's financial advisor immediately. Do just about whatever it takes to get an appointment today -- not tomorrow or next week, but now. Explain your situation and (politely) demand answers how your school can help.
After that, do not drop out of school. You'll lose momentum, and drastically decrease your odds of getting a degree. You'll also need to devote a solid day or two to scouring the internet for scholarships and grants, which means writing essays. You may not like having to write thousands of words in the span of a couple days, but you need to if you want to finish school. And when I say "scour the internet for scholarships and grants", I don't just mean a half-hearted search, but going into the deep corners of the web and applying for everything, even if it's as little as $50.
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