I love it when someone approaches me with the words, “Hey, settle this bet for us.” It’s fun to be a bet-settler, but there’s some pressure because a) I mean, this is a bet. Someone’s going to be declared the LOSER because of what I say; and b) You have to set aside your natural tendency to declare the asker (in this case, Sam) the winner because you already feel a tiny bit of allegiance to them because they boosted your ego by asking your “expert opinion.”
Anyhow, today’s bet is between Sam and Cam. No, this is not a Dr. Seuss book. Sam writes:
I’m Sam, and I’m hoping you can settle an argument with me and my friend Cam. I have been accepted to my first choice school, Eastern Michigan University.
I will be starting in June but still do not have the money to pay for it, let alone a place to live, food, etc.
The first part of the Sam and Cam debate is whether or not I can go to school full time AND work full time – while attempting a social life and volunteer work of course. How many people are able to do this, get reasonable grades and graduate in time?
How many people ARE ABLE to do this? Well, certainly more than actually DO it. Most take a little more laid-back approach than simultaneous full-time school and full-time work. As it happens, I was pretty aggressive like you were when I was an undergrad, and I’ll share my own experience with you as a point of comparison.
The most aggressive semester I attempted as an undergrad consisted of: 18 course hours, 3 additional credit hours at an internship (which took about 6 hours of work per week), a part-time job delivering food (about 20 hours per week), with an additional 8 hours weekly at the college newspaper. I did zero volunteer work, but I did drink and party pretty heavily, usually on Thursday and Saturday nights.
Schoolwork was never very difficult for me, though. I didn’t have to study for hours on end to get good grades. I was an English major so I had a lot of novels to read and stuff like that, so that did take up some time, also. I minored in Spanish and French, and neither one of those were terribly time-consuming outside of class, either.
Anyway, I look back on that semester (I was 21 then, and I’m 36 now) and think I must’ve been out of my mind to attempt all that. But then I look at the actual outcome, and it was fine — I got an A in every class, did my paid jobs just fine, and still found time to do way too much drinking and misbehaving twice a week.
I would probably collapse from exhaustion by 2 p.m. every day if I attempted this today, but you won’t. You can probably pull it off, but it won’t be easy, especially if you have harder areas of study than I had. This may sound odd, but try to keep yourself in the best physical shape you can as well — I think that’s what saved me in college. I drank really heavily and obviously had a large load of courses and work, but I also lifted weights and did cardio 6 days a week, which gave me a lot more energy than the average Joe. You’ll need every bit of it.
The second half of the Sam and Cam debate is whether I can get through college without taking out student loans. He insists that I will have to, as I have a gap between my financial award package (where I am considered an independent) and the actual COA.
Hmmm, an independent — maybe you’re not 18 or 19. OK, I’ll shift my assumption to you being in your early 20s.
Whether you’ll have to take student loans obviously depends on your total costs (school, shelter, living expenses, the whole thing). The size of the gap you refer to is pretty important. If it’s $1,000 or so — yeah, you can probably work that off. If it’s $5,000 — I’d be surprised if you can pull it off without loans.
Remember, just because you take out some student loans doesn’t mean you have to take a LOT of student loans. I mean, let’s use an easy round number of $2,500 per year for four years. Graduating with $10,000 of student loans is NOT a big deal, even if you’re in a low-paying profession.
I guess I feel that taking out loans would be cheating and permanently put an asterisk in my mind whenever I see my degree mounted in my study.
But we’ve only just met, so let me dial it back and just say, hey, take it easy on yourself! Loans have financed almost every business you know of, from mom-and-pop shops to Coca-Cola and Microsoft and any other big company you know of. Seriously, go to Yahoo! Finance and look at the financials on every publicly traded company you can think of. Most have millions of debt. Many have billions.
There are two sides to moneylending of any sort: one is a debt, the other is an investment. You know how the debt part works. But consider that the government is a massive investor in the dramatic upside potential of millions of college students, and you’re one of them. And as investors go, they’ve got some of the friendliest terms you’re ever going to find on unsecured debt (it’s unsecured because they can’t send a repo man to your house to take back your education if you don’t pay up. Unlike a car loan, home loan, etc.).
College expenses are ridiculous; they’re out of reach for a large majority of families without the use of borrowed money. The government wants you to be educated. Society, as a whole, wants you to be educated. Everyone benefits from an educated populace. Trust me, no one admires a fiercely independent person more than I do — but sometimes the right thing to do is take the money.
Barry Bonds? Asterisk. You? I think not.
I also am afraid that I as soon as I take out student loans (federal only, and especially not private ones) I will be notified I won a scholarship.
Don’t worry about that at all. If you win a scholarship and you don’t want the loan, send your disbursement right back to the government. You can probably do this at your bursar’s office, maybe — I don’t know, it’s been a long time since I was in college. 🙂 But a student loan is just like any other loan. You can pay it back the next day if you want to.
Maybe it’s the fact I have applied to over 200 scholarships at this point and I am confident of my multi-tasking abilities or that my optimism is getting the best of me, but I think I could GET BY on scholarships and working full time.
Who do you think wins this debate, me and my passion driven ignorance, or Cam and his pessimistic debt inducer methods?
Let me try to give you a bit of perspective here, if it’ll help you make your choice. Ask yourself why you’re going to school and what things in life are worth paying for. You can probably tell that I’m on the side of you taking at least some modest loans so that you can relax a little during school and do some things that you enjoy, take a few exploratory/elective-type classes, and generally just follow some leisurely pursuits that you may rarely get another chance to do once you’ve graduated and are out in the storied “real world.”
When you’re absolutely burning the candle at both ends and spending every spare moment you have working or studying, you lose the OPPORTUNITY to do those things — and again, college is the only opportunity a lot of people have to experience and explore certain things. You’re just too busy to enjoy yourself in any way, and I wouldn’t recommend that path to anyone unless it was absolutely necessary.
Enjoy yourself a little, homegirl. It’s part of college.
OK, Peanut Gallery — what do YOU think she should do?