Should the Valedictorian Drop Out?

by Judge Josh on February 3, 2011

Stella’s got problems. She was the valedictorian in high school, headed for great things, and now things are off the rails.

Hi, Judge Josh! First of all, I love your blog.

I like you already.

I’m in a bit of a tight situation. My college is more or less running me bankrupt. I graduated valedictorian of my high school, so you would think the doors would have been wide open for me.

I would, yes. Congrats on the valedictorian thing! (Valedectorianship? Valedictorianism?) That’s one of those things, by the way, that will still impress people when you’re 50. I was a co-salutatorian, and somehow I still earn esteem points here and there for that one. :)

However, I suffer from an extreme depression and anxiety issue, so I only wound up applying to four colleges.

Well, four is plenty, really. You can only choose one (at a time) right?

Because I am paying my own way entirely, I picked the school that gave me the most money: Prescott College.

The school made a lot of promises they never fulfilled. Because they hardly ever grade anything, I lost my $10,000 scholarship due to not being physically able to submit my grades to the providers.

That’s strange. I don’t quite understand that. You don’t get a report of your grades at the end of each semester and your transcripts aren’t available to you?

They also revoked my on-campus work study position, saying that I was not the type of person they wanted interacting with their students and customers (I am a lot more conservative and traditional than most people here).

I have to be honest, Stella — my skepticism meter is going crazy right now. I’m guessing you’re leaving out some details here? I’ve just never heard of anyone losing their job because they’re conservative and traditional (although I’m not certain of what specifically you mean by that).

Did the depression/anxiety manifest in some inappropriate behavior toward customers? Did you end up lashing out at someone, not show up for work, etc.? I’m kinda left to my own devices here to figure out what happened, but it sounds like SOMETHING did. What was it?

I missed the transfer deadline for spring, and now I’m stuck in a school that hates me until at least fall.

Well, I definitely hope it’s not the case that the entire school hates you, although I totally believe that it may feel that way. Doesn’t seem much doubt that you hate IT, so if that’s the case, and you’ve also got no scholarships and no jobs, then yeah, I think getting the hell out of there one way or another is a solid idea.

The other major issue is that the school does not provide on-campus housing. We are expected to find our own places to stay within the community. With so many rental agencies having a “no student” policy, the only thing I found was an apartment that costs me $600/month. This was fine…until they took my job and my scholarships.

Well, I assume February rent is paid, right? So about three months left before you can finish the semester and then take off. You can grab a different job in town to earn rent money until then, even if it means Taco Bell. It’s better than bailing on a semester’s worth of college credits.

should-i-drop-out-of-college

Exception to the rule.

My father wants me to just drop out and come home before I can bleed any more red ink. However, I’ve already paid for spring semester, and I’d hate to think of them keeping all that money ($15,000) for nothing.

Yeah, I tend to side with you. I see your dad’s point, but then again, your dad loves you and knows you’re unhappy and probably wants to make it all better for you asap. I’d want to do the same for my daughter in that position.

But yeah — if you’re passing your classes, I’d hate to see you blow off the tuition money you’ve already spent and not get any credit for those.

My father makes a great point that this school is costing me far more than I could ever earn in scholarships, and the loans are continuing to surmount.

That’s true of any school, pretty much, except for those on full rides. :)

Do I drop out and move back home? Or stick it out until I can transfer?

Stick it out, then transfer.

Are there any ways to bring in money when the entire university seems to be working against you?

Yeah — go get a job, homegirl! Outside the university I mean. They’re out there. Many of them may suck, but they do pay, and you just need some extra cash right now. Unless you can score yourself a roommate at this late point in the semester, which is possible but might be tough.

Thanks for reading this, I know I can be long-winded.

You’re very welcome.

— What about you guys? Should she suck it up for the rest of the semester or hit the road back home? Let us know in the comments below.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

pam g February 3, 2011 at 8:37 pm
Patteson Ashley March 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Thankyou for replying my application iam looking for this offer and hope i will get it.Iam trying for the last 10 years in my country and never make it.

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Abby February 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I totally agree with Judge Josh. Stick it out and then transfer to a place that won’t treat you like shit. I mean, no campus housing? And for nearly $30 grand a month? (I found that number online, hope its correct.) Big waste. Not to mention the apartments with a no-student policy. Then it’s doubly not fair for the college to not offer you a place to live.

There are plenty of other great schools out there that would die to have the high school valedictorian join their campus. They’ll offer you money and a lot of options, and they also won’t withhold your grades for absurd and nonexistent reasons.

I wish you luck, don’t give up!

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Larry Launstein Jr February 3, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Leave right now and go to a community college near home. That way, you can build your credits back up before going to another university. And the tuition is far less expensive, too, and you may be able to get some serious scholarship money, too. I went to two community colleges, Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, and Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan, and got a lot out of both places. Make sure that any community college you attend has the ability to transfer most of your credits back.

And get a good lawyer – you may need it – this school sounds like they are ripe for a lawsuit.

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Sheri February 3, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Stella,

Wow that sounds like a rough ride! I can guarantee there is a school out there that will stick to their promises, especially since you are obviously very talented. Focus on getting yourself into a school that helps you out financially, so you can focus on your academics and your health instead of stressing about paying so many bills.

I feel your pain, and wish you the best of luck!

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kiwinc February 3, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Stay. It’s really only til the end of April, then there’s that week of spring break….so it’s not much time at all, really, since we’re already 1/4 way through February.

You can usually transfer after the deadline. That being said, I think you need to reconsider a couple of things. Why are you in college? What do you need from a school that Prescott isn’t giving you? Because if you just transfer from one school to another without thinking about this, you’re not going to be any better off a year from now.

Have you let anyone know about your anxiety issues? A lot of schools offer help with that – free and confidential. I don’t know what happened with your job or your grades, but I think if you work with a counselor, they may be able to help you with both of those areas. Some of these folks are awesome and will speak for you, can help you get things back where they need to be.

I don’t know what the job situation is like there, but if you can find even a minor job to help with your living expenses, take it. It’s tough to do college and work at the same time (I’m doing that right now, and it’s hard), but you only have a little while to go.

Good luck. And please don’t settle for a 75% refund. You’ll just have to take (and pay for) these classes again.

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Diane February 3, 2011 at 10:19 pm

If you are really miserable, I would take the 75% tuition refund option and skip spring semester and start elsewhere in the fall. I also need to dose out some tough love though – school is expensive, and it’s your responsibility, not the school’s to deal with that financial burden. They are not obligated to provide you with scholarships or jobs and the next school will probably be expensive as well. The universities in my city all charge outrageous rates for on-campus housing anyways, and students here often choose to pay the same amount for something much nicer with roommates off campus. I may have read wrong, but since you mentioned Prescott gave you the most $$, I’m guessing the scholarship came from them? If so, and they do have a weird grading policy, that should have been taken into account before revoking your scholarship (unless you had a lot of uncompleted work that delayed your grades, which is not their fault). If your depression was leading you to act in a manner that would cause them to fire you from your work-study position, then you need to talk to somebody who can help you so that this problem won’t continue to pop up in the future.

I wish you the best, but I do encourage you to thoroughly evaluate your situation and make sure your are taking accountability for what has happened where it’s due, or similar problems will likely continue to pop up in the future.

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Diane February 3, 2011 at 10:20 pm

On another note – the $15,000 for a semester – I saw it on their website as well, but that seems insane to me – I’m Canadian and I know I pay lower tuition, but is $15,000 actually normal for 1 semester?

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Rachel February 4, 2011 at 1:11 am

In California, in-state tuition is over $17k. So yes.

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Nikki February 4, 2011 at 8:13 am

I’d kill to pay 15k a semester. I have scholarships and still am paying close to 30k. Retail price? 51,000.

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Nikki February 4, 2011 at 8:14 am

$51,000 a year.. to clarify.

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NA February 5, 2011 at 2:03 am

It depends on whether you are at a private college or a public college. Public colleges cost less as a result of receiving government funding. Private colleges have to raise all of their money on their own. In regards to public schools, the cost of the school depends on the state as well. The cost of attending a public college varies from state to state.

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Hold on! February 3, 2011 at 11:13 pm

“However, I suffer from an extreme depression and anxiety issue, so I only wound up applying to four colleges.”

Um. Perhaps I’m naïve… No, I’m naïve. Anyway, this statement cracks me up. I have only applied to two so far. First, the local community college where I attended 2 years, and then to the university. I think going to CC first helped a lot on that one. And no, I didn’t just settle for the closest— I chose the one I wanted. At least for my Bachelor’s degree.

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Stephanie February 3, 2011 at 11:56 pm

I can’t tell you what to do but I have issues with paying for things even with my job as many college students do. Here is a suggestion look up plasma donation centers near you. You can donate twice a week and you get about $60 extra cash every week (and I believe my center is on the low end of payment) It isn’t the only thing by any means but it is good for some extra cash in a pinch.

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Nuria February 4, 2011 at 12:44 am

“If you are really miserable, I would take the 75% tuition refund option and skip spring semester and start elsewhere in the fall.”

You need to gauge how you’ve been feeling and if you think you’ll be able to pass your classes or if you’re already unable to concentrate in class and don’t think you’ll be able to do so.

You should talk with your college DSS (disability support services). Every college has one (they are required to!) and they can even erase your grades from last semester if their really bad and give you other options too. Like if it’s for medical reasons, you might even be entitled to a FULL refund!

Furthermore, regarding your money issues, if you have documented (psychiatrist etc) that you have depression and anxiety that is significantly impairing your ability to function then you easily will qualify for government assistance. I know it’s hard and there’s a lot of judgement/stigma on this but I don’t think you should feel any guilt or shame in accepting the services that you are entitled to and qualify for. SSI (social security income) gives you approx, I think $700 per month plus medicare benefits. SSD (social security for disabilities) would give you $950. You can work on either of these for either up to $85 / month with no penalties or above that with for every dollar you make subtracting $2 from your benefits, so there’s an optimization level but I don’t feel like doing the math on where that is. Plus all this varies by state… those are the new york levels.

The number of university students with psychological disabilities is growing for a number of reasons. I think the world is getting faster and more competitive with more and more expectations. We just don’t like is a very friendly compassionate society and that’s awful… but I’m hopeful that it will get better… but unfortunately the reason why it may get better (more compassionate / empathic) is because understanding is growing as more and more of US are suffering with anxiety and depression.

I was lucky enough not to have had to deal with such anxiety and depression during my undergrad days, allowing me to graduate with my B.Sc. in 4 years. I also went to Canada for my undergrad which gave me tuition of only $10,000 per year minus a $2500 scholarship that I got every year. This allowed me to now currently only have $13,000 in loans which I have 10 more years to pay off… which is not bad at all. Unfortunately during the course of grad school (I am working towards a PhD) and that’s making me take a lot longer than most. I’m still hopeful that I can do it, but I recognize that I will need longer than others and I’m okay with that.

Josh, I think given the number of students that struggle with these issues, it would be helpful for us if you could research this a bit more and write an article with more information about resources and services (such as those I mentioned) available to students. I think you would also gain a lot from furthering your knowledge in this (growing) area of concern. I hope that doesn’t come across as rude of me (the way I’m saying it). It’s nearly 1 am in new york. I haven’t been sleeping well lately, so I’m sure I’m not writing that to you as politely as I should be but it is not my intention to sound bossy or rude in my suggestion so please please please don’t take it that way.

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Chas February 4, 2011 at 1:32 am

I agree with Larry & Diane about getting out of there. Been at schools where they say they care about their students and the ones who show great potential for increasing their education through their school. However, I have been stabbed in the back and given up all hopes on lost promises that other people make to me. I have come to the strong decision that the only one who knows and can really believe is you. Lost hopes of success through lost promises are corrupt, but it all winds up being related to the fact that these people work for money and they want yours. If you are miserable and not getting the treatment or the education that you have supposedly been promised, I would bail out of the situation before these people can continue to try and rip you off even more money. Better to have lived and learned than to have been taken advantage of and wind up broke in the process.

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j. jordan prescott III (of the wentworth prescotts) February 4, 2011 at 4:19 am

i, mr. prescott III, would like to confirm my entire school IS out to get you. beware.

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grinwithin February 4, 2011 at 9:48 am

Just from the voice of experience I agree with Josh that there is more going on than what is written here.

If a school does not provide a transcript/grades, there has got to be a reason why.. usually unpaid tuition/fines.

The school wants to make money, so the question is why didn’t the financial folks work with you to get the documents the scholarship board needed? If they refused, then you have legal action… but that’s another topic about student/institution contracts with reasonable expectations. The student handbook should provide detailed deadlines of when grades are available, why you might not receive them, and what to do.

As far as the Work-Study being revoked.. What did you do? It isn’t opinion that gets you fired from a job? Most colleges have a mental health person on staff to help students navigate the stress. They want you to succeed.

This probably seems really harsh but the whole tone of the email is “everyone hates me, I’m going to go eat worms”. This is the most ridiculous statement I ever heard. You can not please everyone ALL the time. There are people who will dislike you, I would even go as far as to say they will hate you with a passion. But to be this melodramatic about it is not a healthy attitude.

The purpose of school is to become educated so you can have an advantage to get a good job and work where you want. I think that finding even a clerical job in your field is good experience. Even if someone takes the McJob, always be looking to get your foot in the door in the field you want to work in.

Being that the Dad says, cut the losses and come home, could be a warning sign. He knows how depression affects you and could be concerned. I know several college students that had depression, was convinced that everyone was out to get them, had financial problems and fear of the huge debt they couldn’t pay, and wound up committing suicide because they didn’t want help and they didn’t seek stress counseling. I am not saying that this is the case here, but I am saying that the people around you could have concern.

One question to ask is, if you transfer, what will be different? Will you face the same problems/challenges?

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Eileen February 4, 2011 at 11:14 am

Dear Stella,

Please place yourself — your well being — first and foremost before anything else, not school or money. Others often interpret manifestations of depression as misbehavior, whereby the patient in turn may feel persecuted. This is a destructive cycle for anyone to enter, with the patient usually on the losing end.

I would assume that with a “severe depression and anxiety” diagnosis that you have continued care with a psychiatrist? You and your doctor\s should decide if it is in YOUR best interest whether to stay in school — no one else.

I understand that money is an important factor, but perhaps should not be considered in your case. What ever you decide, I hope you confront this situation on multiple fronts, such as:

1) If you have not done so, please register with the disabilities unit of your school ASAP – even if you plan to withdraw. Typically it only takes a short doctor’s or counselor’s letter and a few minutes. You need to understand that while they don’t have any real legal power, the University usually considers their advice.

2) If you’ve had trouble with grades/attendance, take a prof and/or department head into your confidence. If you can get even one prof to write an email/letter on your behalf to the University requesting compassion for you that is also a powerful tool.

3) Once you register with Disabilities, contact the director of Student Affairs. Ask to speak with their student advocate director. Beg for his/her help. If you have lost your doctor, ask them for a referral.

Start to bring people into your confidence, if you can. The better others understand your condition and how your symptoms dictate your behavior, the more likely you should receive compassion and assistance. In addition, the better you learn to advocate for yourself now, the better you’ll be able to for the rest of your life.

In closing, I will note that it is obvious you left out some important details. But even if you had outlined more information, in the end, only you and your doctor can decide if school is the best place for you right now — not any of us or your parents — no matter how well intended the advice.

FYI: the school might consider a better refund due to your medical condition or might reinstate your scholarships while placing you on some type of transitional probation depending on the reason for rescinding them, should you decide you might wish to return. Even if you are determined to never return, I suggest that you fight for that if you can. You never know how you will think when you feel better.

Best of luck.

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Rebecca February 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Josh, something’s really effed up here.

Valedictorian: sure, it’s impressive. But…it’s just a title. You may be the cream of the crop from YOUR school, but…what if you were a big fish in a little pond? What if your school is 93% country bumpkins? What if Homer Simpson could be Valedictorian? So, use it to your advantage, but don’t think that you shouldn’t be persecuted just because you’re Valedictorian.

The “However, I suffer from depression/anxiety” statement? Ohhh Em Gee! That is flawed logic. Pure and simple, trying to explain things away. It’s perfectly acceptable to apply to four colleges, or 10 colleges, or one. It Really.Doesn’t.Matter. You chose to apply to four: good job. The-End.

The “Because they hardly grade anything” statement is BS too…methinks trying to deflect from this scenario: The professors don’t hand out assignments machine-gun style, but more meaningful long-term projects. As a result, there’s less assignments that actually are weighted heavier. Ms. Valedictorian has problems with her depression/anxiety and neglects her schoolwork (which happens, and should be addressed if you’re going to make it at ANY college). And so, Ms. Valedictorian is trying to get more funding, but she is not showing Academic Progress. (pdots…which is it, are you paying your own way entirely or are you getting scholarships? or is this the Prescott money that you’re talking about?)

“They also revoked my on-campus work study position, saying that I was not the type of person they wanted interacting with their students and customers (I am a lot more conservative and traditional than most people here). ”

***Again, with the deflection. Something happened. And they have the RIGHT to move you or relieve you of your duties if you can’t perfom them. You would THINK they’d try to find you a clerical role, or something you could do that was NOT working with the public, but then again…people are pretty much in place by February. Maybe they didn’t HAVE anywhere for you.

Apartment woes: Well, if you plan to stay at school, you better find a way to pay your way. If you gotta rent a room (or a couch) from someone for less, that may be what you need to do. Not sure why $600 by yourself seemed doable when you left home, but…here you are. There’s gotta be cheaper places out there. It’s not going to be like “living at home” because well…your folks EARNED their way to a nice house. You…just starting out? May have only earned a crappy room or couch. You may have earned eating ramen noodles sometimes.

Rental companies are SMART for saying no students. Why? Look at your job situation. Look at your POTENTIAL jobs…you’re geared for making minimum wage. They are protecting their interests, and part of that is renting to people that have some history. And, some tie to the community other than the semester beginning or ending. Yes, it sucks for you…but they’re not in business to make YOU happy. Or to “give” you a place to stay. They are offering a service in exchange for payment.

Someone mentioned receiving 75% back if you drop like, by next week. I don’t think I’d do that…because you’ve just wasted 25% x $15k = $3,750 by doing that. I don’t even have that kinda money to burn, and I’m an ADULT. I say stick it out, and get the grades that will transfer. IE, not D’s and F’s.

*****************
The depression thing: Don’t mean to be harsh, but THAT is the hand you were dealt. It **IS** your reality. So, you’re going to have to get tools to learn how to function in society with your “disability”. Are you doing things like:

**Taking meds as prescribed
**Attending counseling/psychiatry appointments as agreed upon by you and your doc?
**Laying off the caffeine, getting enough sleep
**Eating decently (I know, it’s college…)
**Asking yourself the tough questions on what makes your depression/anxiety worse or better and taking steps?

^^^This is stuff you should do REGARDLESS of what school you are at. No one is going to hold your hand over this. Well, that’s what psychiatrists and counselors are for. So you can function. And even be productive.

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Janine February 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Stella,
It sounds like the stress is not worth it. They don’t deserve to have you. School is meant to enrich your life, not to make you more miserable. Trust me, take the time and dont’ stress out about it. It sounds like your dad (who knows you best) thinks you would be better off coming home – he loves you, he would know better than anyone. You CAN find a happy situation. I went to a univeristy for my first year and I was miserable. The next fall I went to a JC where I was very happy. The next two years I attended another University studying Classics (Greek&Latin) – a very demanding high stress major – then it was expected of me to attend Grad school, which I started last fall. But the stress got the better of me and I decided not to go on. With the stress level eliminated from my life, I was finally able to decide what I want to do with my life and within a few weeks I was able to start my life as a personal trainer and I couldnt be happier. This had nothing to do with my degree, but I just couldn’t see clearly with the clouds of finances and stress of classes. You never mentioned what major you were in or what you wanted to do with your education, do what you love, but also enjoy the journey that is going to take you there.

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Stephanie Pooler February 4, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Wow, I am probably going to be seen as the wicked witch, but I gotta say it. Suck it up and stopped whining. I have BiPolar disorder, Mood Disorder, Anxiety, PTSD oh and an eating disorder NOS for good measure. I suffer from severe asthma and I have permanent damage to my neck and shoulder and dominant arm/hand. Everyone has challenges and hurdles. Its called life. My father just died 6 months ago and my mother has cancer. I am a wife and a mother. I pay for my school without any help, pay for a mortgage. She does not need to go on disability. She need to go to a therapist. I am in therapy, and I go to a group session for my mood disorder so I spend 3 hours a week in therapy.

Guess what I still carry a 4.0. I firmly believe that people who need help should get help but there is a lot to the story that we are not hearing. She should be working with disability services and she should take control of her life and not assume the victim role it is far too easy to do, believe me I know.

In regards to the lost scholarship, you could have taken the time to meet with your professors during office hours and requested a letter regarding where you stand with grades and then submitted to the scholarship committee and then forward a transcript at the end of the semester.

The work study…well there is something more there. She is saying that she is far to conservative than everyone else and that they don’t want her interacting with people. Well there has to be a reason. I wonder if conservative is a nice way of saying judgemental and maybe critical? Again I taking a swag here because we only have one side of the story and I really think it is a skewed view of that side. She may have been top of her class but that does not ensure that she has adequate social skills. Her interpersonal skills may not be on the same level as her intellectual ones. My son has tested off the charts intellectually but social skills were sadly lacking. He was so smart he couldn’t relate to people his own age. Thankfully he finally grew into them. Unfortunately it wasn’t until his freshman year of high school.

There are always options and there are always ways to overcome the challenges that you face. You just have to make that decision. With my mental health issues it is extremely easy to:
1. Fall into the victim role and stay there.
2. Judge everything in very black and white terms
3. Be VERY VERY negative about things.
4. Blame others for EVERYTHING that befell me.

Maybe it is just age, wisdom, maturity and a whole lot of therapy but I made the decision to be in control of my life. I had to look at self and start working on being accountable for my actions, and controlling my life. The best thing this young lady can do is get to a therapist and then begin to take control of her own life. She needs to stop looking to others to decide her life (no offense Josh) and make decision and stand by it. I agree with the person who said that just changing school might not make a difference. She may need to change the behaviors (notice I did not say person) before she changes schools.

I apologize if there are any typo’s but I don’t have time to run it through spell check I have 5 minutes to get to class. Good Luck to the young lady.

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Terry February 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Stephanie, you should be so proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Your words hit the nail on the head for Stella. My daughter also is dealing with extreme anxiety and eating issues, so I have some idea of what you’re going through. Keep up the good work and surround yourself with people who care about you. There are alot of us out there!

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Ashley February 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Stella–

Before anyone could give you sound advice, I think you have to give out x, y, z. What happened at your job, what specifically happened with your grades…The world, and this college, is not seeking to destroy you, so there are a couple of steps we aren’t seeing here. I’m getting the sense that there were some ill-informed decisions made along the way, like your choice of housing, etc. I think your next step should be to find somebody on/off campus and give them every last detail, right down to the dates and times. You might find somebody sympathetic on campus, like a grievance officer. Or you might want to seek a lawyer. Anyways, best of luck–I hope you realize all of this advice is based on an incomplete picture, and that next time you really should fill in all the details.

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Anya February 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I am a Prescott College student. PC has a unique educational philosophy. Learning here is hands on and field based. While studying here I have done hands on restoration projects, eradicated non native fish and vegetation from the Verde River watershed, performed high angle search and rescue operations, spent weeks exploring the Wet Beaver Creek wilderness, and learned Spanish in Mexico (on a $5,000 scholarship the school gave me.) I am a double major in environmental studies and adventure education.

I’m a first generation immigrant that came to this country with nothing. I have scholarships and a work study. I also have worked at the grocery store. I am paying for college out of my own pocket. The 15,000/semester is alot, but they offer great financial aid and I can put no price on the education and experience I am receiving here.

There is on campus housing available. Living in town is much cheaper though. You can find a great room in a house for about 250. I personally am living in a trailer for 50 a month. I have never heard of someone paying 600/month here before.

I don’t know what you did to lose your work study, but there are plenty more available. Take some initiative, talk to some people, and you’ll be back on your feet right quick.

Grades are optional at this school. However, they are always supplied. I always take grades in my classes, and I have never had issues with getting my grades back. Actually, you not only get a grade but a narrative evaluation where the teacher reflects on your performance in the classroom. This is possible because our maximum class size here is 14 students.

This school is an amazing opportunity for students who are self directed. It is not up to the school to find your house and pay your bills. I’m not responding to this to try and get you to stay here, Stella. I just want the readers to know the typical perspective of a PC student: I love it here.

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Nuria February 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I feel that I have to say this to Stephanie Pooler… I’m surprised at your apparent complete lack of empathy. Yes, I congratulate you on handling the difficulties that you have been dealt in life with amazing strength and courage BUT that doesn’t mean that you should have the arrogance to make the rest of us feel like crap that we’re not suffering with all the struggles that you are and managing to do all that you are. Are you not able to be proud of your own achievements without being judgmental towards those who are not (yet) able to do the same? Yes, I have a myriad of psych problems myself and meds and therapists etc are not a magic eraser. However, whatever I have achieved (currently still pursuing a PhD), what I go through mentally has made me more empathic to others struggles, not less. Maybe your problems have been bigger than mine or others, maybe you’ve handled it better… bravo for you… does it somehow make you feel better to admonish those who are not (yet) handling it as well as you? That doesn’t exactly help out! Saying you got through it is helpful. Making others feel like crap because they haven’t is certainly not.

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Larry Launstein Jr February 5, 2011 at 6:52 am

Amen, Nuria. I’ve had to battle similar issues mentally. But I never let it stop me in my desire to succeed. I had lots of moments where I was depressed and down, but I was able to pick myself off the carpet and go at it again and again. And I wound up with two degrees, from Michigan State (journalism) and the University of Michigan-Flint. And I’m starting to consider grad school, if I can find one nearby that will allow me to study in the field of my choosing, and still run my graphic art and web design business. I thought Stephanie’s message was very harsh. And I purposely don’t go out of my way to make someone feel like crap just because they’re having issues. I don’t like being looked down at, and I’m sure Stephanie would not like people looking down at her. We don’t know all of this person’s struggles. But I stand by my comments that the best way out of this kind of situation is to start again in a community college. A lot of people have negative thoughts on community colleges, but they serve a vital function, and you can get your freshman and sophomore stuff out of the way. And in my case, when the University of Michigan-Flint came calling, because I did so well at Mott Community College, they not only took me in early, but offered me a partial scholarship to boot. I had to work very hard to get and keep scholarships that I got, but I’m very glad I did. I will have some loans to pay off, but at least I’m not hurting as bad as some students are. That’s the part I’m really concerned about – seeing young people in such a deep financial hole just as they are getting their lives started. The people who created this mess are the ones who are to blame. I long for the return of the days when one could actually work their way through school, even if it meant washing dishes in the residence hall cafeteria or take a job in the community to save up the money to attend. That of itself would make me and lots of people feel better about school – that you worked your way through. To me, that would be the ultimate in rewarding.

I believe that if you can work your way through school, you can develop a work history while you attend school that employers will think highly of. I held various work study positions while in class, and don’t regret a minute of it. And I also worked for a long time at a regular seasonal job and after that, worked to try to develop my business.

I was under a lot of pressure to keep my grades up and my scholarships, more than most people, because of what I had at stake. Trust me, it isn’t easy to attend class and do the work, run a business, organize an intercollegiate golf club, work on the student newspaper (at first) and then take a more steady work-study job in the UM-Flint Recreation Center. What I believe is that one has to want to succeed bad enough that they will be willing to do these things. I got out of UM-Flint with honors in Visual Communications-Graphic Design.

Again, this is meant to point out that my personal experiences, which are much like those of the person here, can be overcome with some effort and desire, and a willingness to deal with some bumps in the road along the way.

I’m very fortunate to have attended one of the top three journalism schools in the nation, and a world-class university’s graphic art school. And both schools wanted me, and I wanted them. Sure, there were lots of emotions involved for me, but now looking back on it, I have no regrets. And I have both Mott Community College and Lansing Community College to thank for helping me get ready for the big university.

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Larry Launstein Jr February 5, 2011 at 7:12 am

I also have my scholarship check from the Flint Area Advertising Federation – now the (Associated Advertising Federation – Greater Flint) hanging on my wall, and my 2008 Student Silver ADDY Award, also hanging on my wall.

And I continue to get recognition for my work by my peers in the graphic design field. That means a lot to me, and gives me the desire to keep fighting. And I’m starting to attract other graphic designers who like my work who want to work with me, either other companies or freelancers.

When I made the decisions to attend both Michigan State and the University of Michigan-Flint, I did so because I really wanted both schools, and they wanted me, not only for my money, but for what I brought to the table.

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LC February 4, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Stick It Out

I am in certain predicament at my own school. In fact, I graduated as Valedictorian of my high school. However, I knew upon my acceptance to Ivy League, that I’d be in a classroom full of the “cream of the crop.” So, I was determined that I wouldn’t let that intimidate me. Yet, I’ve come to learn that you never really know how or what you’ll do in a situation until you’re actually in it. So, I’m on my Junior year now and these past two semesters I’ve gone through have been my toughest. I’m constantly juggling feelings of loss of passion towards my major and a great disdain for my current University all together. I am not even factoring in the emotions I’ve had to deal with in regards to my current “downward spiraling” family situation. With all these emotions, and school being much more of a challenge on an emotional level more so than academic (that in itself is a story in its own), I know the feeling of wanting to just get out and leave behind a school that seems not to have your well-being in it’s interests. Yet, I guess, as I am learning the hard way, is that even if you’re university isn’t making the transition into the atmosphere of college easier for your or more manageable, then you’ve got to do what’s best for you. If that means you must transfer, then do so. Just make sure you do research and have options to fall back on. Don’t make rash decisions. Thus, finish this semester (especially since you’ve paid tuition). Get a job off campus, and find something to release your stress on your downtime (whether it be to go to church and reach out to the Lord to give you strength, read, write, exercise, etc.–whatever makes you less anxious and can bring some what of joy and a form of escape from your overwhelming problems.) You need an outlet so you can release negative energy in your life. Also, find someone you can confide in. Talking your issues through with someone you trust is always a good form of release. Anyways, just try to stay as positive as you can and finish out this semester the best you can. Then look into transferring (preferably to a community college back home). I’ve come to learn I would’ve been better off (emotionally and academically) if I stayed home and went to community college for two years and then transferred. But hey, you live and learn, and currently despite my issues at my current university, I am holding on until I graduate because honestly I won’t get a partial full ride (like I have now) at any university back home.

So, just keep on pushing through. You’ve come this far. No point in giving up (not even mid-semester–and you’ve paid tuition for this semester). You’ll be fine once you find a way to cope and manage your struggles outside of school with school. It takes time and everyone grows at their own pace. Trust me, I am learning and growing as you are trying to do. College has shown me parts of myself I didn’t know I had, and sometimes I don’t like the new shades of myself, but I am learning how to cope and deal with all that while still trying to attain my own form of academic superiority (because I cannot strive to fulfill the expectations of my peers or even that of the university). They are unattainably high, thus, I must strive for myself and my own success, because at the end of the day me and my peers will graduate with the same degree regardless of whose GPA is higher.

Be strong! You’ll find your way back to your own inner peace again. Everything happens for a reason and in time.

I’ll leave with some food for thought: “Not everything faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” –James Baldwin

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MT February 5, 2011 at 1:09 am

I definitely feel where Stella is coming from b/c I was Valedictorian of my class, but that really doesn’t mean much once you’re in college. My scholarship doesn’t pay for books, but someone that had a lower GPA than me in high school could luck out and have a 28 on the ACT and get a full scholarship that covers books! That’s crazy!

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NA February 5, 2011 at 1:59 am

Judge Josh and some others may not realize this fact, but oftentimes, people who are hyperpartisan treat people badly for having different political beliefs than them. Look at a lot of the political blogs and news sites and at comments on news stories on news sites. Some of the criticism is more about who the person is and what the person believes rather than any tangible thing being wrong with a certain belief or beliefs or any real concerns. For example, U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman is often attacked by some liberals when he takes conservative positions on an issue but never when he takes a liberal position on an issue. It is because he is an independent who caucases with the Democrats. Some liberals believe he should believe a certain way because of his political affiliation. That is only one example. There are others involving liberals and conservative criticism and conservatives and liberal criticism. It is quite possible that Stella’s bosses might have been hyperpartisan liberals who did not like the fact that a conservative was working in their store or restaurant and thought it would be right to fire her.

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Larry Launstein Jr February 5, 2011 at 7:07 am

Inscribed on the trophy given to the leading goal scorer in the National Hockey League every season – “Never Give Up” – Maurice “Rocket” Richard, one of the dominant forces in hockey history.

Winston Churchill also said this, as did the late college basketball coach Jim Valvano.

And they are absolutely right.

Stella, you are facing some serious adversity right now. But please keep these thoughts in mind. Richard had to battle injuries and discrimination throughout his career, but became one of the two dominant players of the 1940s and 1950s, along with Gordie Howe. He was the leader of the greatest dynasty in hockey history the five consecutive Stanley Cups in the late 1950s, and was the Hart Trophy (league MVP) in 1947. Churchill actually battled bipolar disorder but led his country to victory in World War II. And Valvano died of cancer, but also led North Carolina State to the NCAA men’s basketball championship against a heavily favored Houston team in 1983, and later became a beloved college basketball color analyst.

But all three of them overcame their adversities to find greatness.

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Michael February 5, 2011 at 5:59 pm

To NA,

“It is quite possible that Stella’s bosses might have been hyperpartisan liberals who did not like the fact that a conservative was working in their store or restaurant and thought it would be right to fire her.”

It is also EQUALLY possible that Stella is a hyperpartisan conservative (ala Ann Coulter) who did not like the fact that she had to deal with liberals, and thought she could openly show her disdain of them while at work, in which case, it would be right for them to fire her.

I agree with the (unfortunately) very few comments to the effect that Stella has not come clean with the ACTUAL events here. I think she is presenting one, wholly biased view of the situation, and she is not deserving of any advice on this issue other than this: tell the truth and be forthright about what is going on, else lie in the bed you’ve likely created for yourself.

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Anna February 6, 2011 at 4:47 am

Hi Stella,

First of all congrats for being the HS valedictorian. That takes WORK!!
Second of all, major congrats for your strength to deal with depression. I had it too and it was rough. People who say “deal with it” and expect that to help are imho either ignorant or callous, it’s not that easy. Everyone who has it needs help, it’s not some kind of personality flaw but a real disease or disorder, and there’s no shame in going to the right person to cure it.
Third of all, I know what you mean about wanting to apply to more colleges, I wanted to do 4 this year and just did 2, 1 of those was my dream college and I got it.
Fourth of all, job discrimination is not imaginary. I would find out exactly why you lost your work-study position, because it might help you in future. Did they give you a written statement? Whether it’s ‘your fault’ or not, you deserve the exact reason. I actually got into my dream college the 2nd time around (grad school)…I’m guessing I didn’t get in the first time because I left my work experience off of my application. Why? Because I lost my job after 12 years and they denied me references. Along with several other colleagues they fired for the same reason – the management told us to our face it was because of our religious beliefs which had recently changed, then they told others we were ‘not trained’, and colleagues I was ‘taking time off for an injury and then wanted to go to grad school’. It was a part-time volunteer job and I had planned to attend grad school by distance, I decided to heck with my old workplace (I didn’t want to deal with the effort of trying to document their discrimination, and just got another job!) listed all of my work experience on the second time around including that of my latest job which was paid and would give me references if needed (I think they weren’t. I don’t know why I thought so lol), and am now happily enrolled in grad school full time.
Lastly, I’m on a loan. I was worried about the money but nothing is worth unhappiness. If you want to stick out college cause you don’t want to quit, good for you. If you would be happier taking the refund, do it. Oh and I think they should take responsibility for their own scholarship, if they didn’t give you the grades in time and you have written proof you asked them, that’s a good starting place. Otherwise just cut your losses and learn from the whole horrible thing, some injustices are worth agonizing over and some just aren’t, and some are actually fair even though they suck. Good luck, I know you can do it!!

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Carly February 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm

WOW. I would’ve gotten all my fellow fired folk together and burned their asses. That’s ridonkulous.

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Carly February 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm

I attend a school that’s been investigated for some shady dealings in the past, so I feel that if you really feel like you’re getting royally screwed over, if it really is just a matter of the school not keeping a promise that they made to you, I would look into their rights to do that and see if you can fight them on it. A lot of the time it does turn out to be legit (some fine print that you didn’t read, etc.), but if they’re not making good on their own policies, or if they’re expecting something of you without providing the resources to make that possible (no viewable transcripts to judge your marks on, for example), then you might be better off standing up for yourself and taking this to someone in the college admin. Don’t let the school TOTALLY screw you over. Best of luck. :)

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Terry February 8, 2011 at 10:24 pm

How do you transfer schools if you have no grades to transfer???
Regarding your emotional well-being, you should be seeing some type of counselor. You should know that being labeled as depressed can you up as being “un-insurable” down the road. Its not fair but I know this to be the case. Good luck.

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Cary Cave February 11, 2011 at 3:03 am

Stick it out. Went through same depression, also had some trouble with money but in the end it is worth it. Those grades will take you places!

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Juan Rodriguez June 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Stick it out & transfer. If you can move in with someone else to help with rent, that would help. Honestly, I think that, as a Valedictorian, you should have aimed for a better place altogether

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Zach August 30, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Hi everyone – would love to hear some advice. Josh hasn’t gotten me an answer for a long time despite his promise to answer within a couple of days if we publicize this site via social media sites. I guess he’s busy.

I’ll keep it as short as I can. Thanks for your advice in advance…

I will be a senior this fall at Alfred University, on track to graduate with a BS in Marketing. Unfortunately, after classes and a couple of internships, I realize that I detest the concept and practice of marketing. My passions, I believe, lie in writing and thinking about “softer” fields including sociology/psychology, theology, and ethics.* I have 35k in debt so far.

But at this point, I wonder if I should just make the smartest decision financially and pursue a field that I won’t kill myself doing like marketing/selling.

Should I switch majors to Accounting, costing me another 10k in debt and year of school plus whatever else for a CPA? Or–my brother is a mechanical engineer at Cornell, I come from a long line of engineers, and I’m pretty bright–should I go for a second bachelor’s in engineering after graduating with my Marketing degree? That option might run me another 40k in debt and 4 years’ time, but pay out better than accounting in the long run.

Other options I’ve played out in my head include joining the peace corps to forgive some loans, starting my own PR business after graduating, studying for a Master’s in philosophy in the UK on a full-ride (fingers crossed for that scholarship)…feeling overwhelmed. What’s the smartest call here, you think?

*One last note on “following your passion,” which I hope you’ll include as I think applies broadly to a lot of the questions you receive on here. While it’s true that an English major can–to the relief of many English majors–be employable after all (in advertising, technical writing, etc.), I don’t believe that any fiction writer is thinking “press release” when asked about her true passion.

I just question the logic in many of the comments saying “less money is worth following your dreams”…I mean, yeah, hypothetically, I’d consider writing essays on my theological musings for a 30k salary the rest of my life instead of doing some ******** for 60k. An exciting/interesting gig is probably worth that 30k difference per year in overall happiness points…

…but I doubt I can get paid anything to be an essayist. More likely, well-meaning students write essays for 4 years in college (“following their passion”), then for the next 40 years write sparingly trying to impress consumers, publications, etc. or write soulless freelance how-to articles, kissing ass, teaching, and/or some other b.s. for that lower salary that they had assumed would be worth the tradeoff in extra fulfillment of “following their bliss.” Point is, when you realistically appraise what you can get paid to do, I’m wondering if anybody besides rock stars actually get paid to do what they love…I don’t know if writing for the sake of writing is worth the 30k difference I could be making as an engineer/accountant.

That is a bare-bones assumption that all your theater/art/English Lit/philosophy/anthropology student advisees should think about quantitatively: What’s the value on the fulfillment I’ll get from a career loosely related to my passion (like writing advertisements), as opposed to a better-paying gig that is unrelated to my passion (like accounting)? Will your job’s loose connection to your true passion for 40 hours per week REALLY offer you more happiness overall than an extra 30k in salary in an unrelated field?

After all, happiness is the end-game here.

Is a job just a job, and might we all be better off doing something tolerable and challenging for the most money per hour possible?

Thanks for your thoughts on my situation! Your site is a godsend for indecisive students like me and many others.

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