Apply from the Fiscal Edge

Dear Sam the Student:

I've just applied to a bunch of colleges in my area so I can start this fall, but I'm worried I won't get in. Although I graduated from high school, it was in a bit of a roundabout way where I didn't get certain credits necessary for the first year. There's so much work that's gone into this and I really want to get my degree, but I'm worried I won't get accepted anywhere.

Signed, Applying from the Edge


Dear Applying from the Edge:

Although schools profess to having a strict set of criteria for admission, the truth is they'll bend the rules when it suits them and the trick is to understand what those rule-bending magic words are. Write a letter to each school explaining what your circumstances were that caused you to get your high school diploma but not with all the usual classes.

When you write this letter, take a page or two and be really detailed about your cause: are you a visible minority who recently immigrated here and had difficulty adjusting, but took evening English classes? Did you have ill family members to take care, or a part-time job that was a necessity? Colleges like to see growth from their applicants. And as much as they say this is untrue, they also look to fill quotas so see if you can get an in that way.


Dear Sam the Student:

I have a bit of an embarrassing problem- I graduate this semester and only have just over a month's worth of classes, but I can't graduate just yet. The thing is, I owe the library a few hundred dollars in overdue fines and they won't let me graduate until I've paid up.

Signed, Overdue and Ready to Go


Dear Overdue and Ready to Go:

Well, you've left things a bit late, but not so late that you can't fix them. That being said, it's important to just get this taken care of as soon as possible. If your school was anything like mine, they really take their time getting moving on anything that doesn't benefit themselves.

Talk to your library right away to see what your options are. Obviously, paying the hundreds would be a pretty painful option, but there might be ways around it. I remember at my university, the same thing happened to me, except the amount was much less. No matter how hard I looked for the books, I couldn't find them but I also couldn't quite resign myself to just paying the library. Instead, I negotiated a deal where as long as I provided the books (which I found online for much cheaper), they'd be happy and erase my delinquency.