Paying for College
“Mom? Are you saving money to pay for my college?”
It seems like the biggest conversations always happen in the car, when we’re listening to music and just kind of zoning out. What a question! Completely out of left field.
Thinking back to when I was 11 years old, I don’t even think college was on my radar. I just thought of college as that place from Animal House where Otto and Bluto attended toga parties and Neidermeyer did everything he could to spoil the fun.
I had never considered the possibility; and by the time I did, it was too late. My solidly middle-class parents made too much on paper for me to qualify for financial aid but had too little in the bank to offer financial aid. And though I knew little of scholarships, I was pretty sure that my solid C average wouldn’t qualify me for one.
After high school, when I wanted more out of life than my job could offer, I joined the military, to find something different, break out of the rut I was too young to be stuck in and to earn my GI bill. College was a piece of cake after I was in the military; the confusing admission process was made easy through the paperwork and testing I had already completed, and I was encouraged to get my degree by my supervisors. I did, through a series of equivalency tests and college classes, where I earned straight-As. A few years after I was honorably discharged from the military, I used my GI bill and earned my BA, this time with not quite straight As—but in my defense, I did take and pass college-level Statistics.
I was nearly 30 when I walked for my diploma; I earned it through a lot of hard work, and it means a lot to me to have earned it. I want my kids to understand that the fruits of hard work are sweet and satisfying.
“Well, no, we’re not,” I told him. “But that’s part of the reason we encourage you so much and why we’re so proud of you for your accomplishments, your hard work and your grades. You work hard, and if you keep up that hard work, you’ll have no trouble earning a scholarship to help you pay for college.”
My kids seem to appreciate the things they work for and get for themselves, and I think that also counts for college. “What if I don’t want to go to college?” He asks.
“You might not want to. You don’t have to. There are a lot of jobs that you can do without college, but all of the things that you’ve told me you wanted to do are jobs that you will need to go to college to learn more about science in order to do them. But if you change your mind, that’s okay. You’ve got plenty of time to decide.”
He thought it over for a while. “Okay.”
“But I tell you what… I promise that I’ll put aside some money for therapy. Because they don’t make scholarships for that, and the blame always comes back to mom anyway!”
Really, Mom? [laughs] Gee, thanks.”
“You’ll thank me for real, later.”