I Paid For College, and I'm Proud
It was never a question of "if" I would go to college. It was expected of me, and I expected it of myself. I remember talking with friends in the first grade about attending the University of Hawaii together. As a Navy brat and Oahu resident at the time, it seemed only natural.
There was a lot of talk of scholarships, loans, and grants as I got older and began setting my eyes on the reality of a college education. I didn't grow up in a middle-class household. My parents, 18 when they had me, did a fantastic job at the whole parenthood thing on a very tight budget. So while there was no college fund waiting for me upon graduation, the best gift they gave me was the confidence never to second guess that I could make it happen on my own.
I graduated from an out of state school in three-and-a-half years, earning a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the #1 journalism school in the country- the University of Missouri.
This is not to say that it was easy. Indeed, it was a struggle. This is also not to say that I didn't have moments of resentment that I didn't have any financial help. I sometimes fought back bitterness and resentment, especially every time I had to choose between buying a textbook or doing things like going out to dinner with friends who put their tab on their parent's credit card.
The hardest struggle for me in college wasn't the actual studying part, though my grades did suffer a bit from the time I put into working so that I could pay for everything. And yes: everything. From my rent, to my car, to my clothes, to my food- it was all on me, aside from help from my parents here and there when they could afford it.
I was lucky to attend school at a time when interest rates were low and grants weren't as hard to acquire. I had a handful of scholarships to help out, too. I'll still be paying off my college education until.... I die? I honestly don't know. It's pretty far off.
The work and the sacrifice involved led to one of my proudest accomplishments, however, and I think the fact that I made it work financially is a big part of the pride I take in having earned my college degree. I wish I could say that I made this happen by carefully planning out my budget every semester, and give you tangible takeaways that you could apply to real life. The truth is, though, that it was sheer stubbornness on my part. I decided that I would NOT fail. I would NOT give up. It was equal parts determination and hope that everything would work out, and many afternoons crying in my financial aid advisor's office, begging for him to find just one more way for me to squeeze a little more money out of my next financial aid package.
That college education has been well worth the investment, and it's something I'm hopeful I'll be able to help my own children attain. Ideally, we'll be fortunate enough to help them pay for at least part of it. My husband was financially responsible for his entire college experience, too, and we often talk about what we'll do if we're in a position to pay for our kids' college educations.
While we never want them to endure the stress that we did while working our way through college if we can help it, we also don't want them to take it for granted. We feel like it's a great time in their life to learn how to take responsibility, and to learn some life skills to go with those fancy pieces of paper. We'll see what that solution is when we get there, but I don't think it will involve blindly writing a check every month for tuition and expenses. That would be taking away an incredible gift of pride and accomplishment away from my children that only they can give themselves, something we can't help them attain with money.
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