Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking about college. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
Attending college was never a question for me; however, I needed to find a way to pay for it. My parents didn’t have the opportunity to attend a university or college, so it was something they always desired for me and my siblings. They believed that having a higher education meant more doors would be open for us. They knew that education was a path to success—not necessarily the kind that means earning thousands of dollars overnight, but the kind that enables you to stretch yourself in ways you never have before and transfer those skills wherever you go.
Staying Within My Means
I explored options outside my home state but it wasn’t feasible for me to leave. I didn’t generate enough income to pay for an apartment, bills, or furnishings, and I didn’t feel like I needed to leave home to have the university experience I hoped to have.
Being realistic with myself was hard. I had several universities that I dreamed about attending. I could envision myself reading under a tree that was hundreds of years old and having access to a library that was used by the greatest minds in the country. Although my university didn’t have the academic reputation of USC, Notre Dame, or Boston College, it was what I could afford and I had to work with that. I knew if I put forth the effort I could make my experience just as good as what I envisioned at the universities I dreamed about.
Don’t owe anyone after you’ve earned your diploma.
The best advice my sister gave me was to graduate from undergrad without any debt, if it was possible. There is so much freedom in knowing when you invest in something as important as school that you aren’t tied to it financially anymore once you are done.
I may have traded my dream university experience for one that was free from debt, but in hindsight, I don’t regret that decision at all.
Do you really want it?
Consider whether attending college is something you’re doing to meet your own goals or to avoid disappointing parents or family members who would like you to continue a legacy streak at a certain school. Ultimately, no one will be burning the midnight oil for you when it’s time to put the work into a ten page research paper that includes a Powerpoint (and don’t forget the bibliography page)! It will be your hard work and effort alone that gets you through your classes successfully.
Committing to something as financially burdensome as college because someone else is encouraging you to do so may lead to financial hardship and even resentment toward the vocation you are pursuing.
Write + Pray
Discover your story within His.
Save your money and live with your parents or family.
For many, college is a rite of passage in which you leave home and explore the world on your own. However, don’t let outside pressure discourage you from living with your parents while you attend school. Living on your own is a huge financial commitment and only you can decide whether it is worth getting into debt. The bills for rent or on-campus living will be addressed only to you and not to those who may be judging you or are being critical because you chose to live at home. Where you choose to live is not an indicator of the kind of adult you are or a measure of success. Living with my parents saved me a substantial amount of money.
I was able to save most of my money from nannying during high school and into college. I always filled out my FAFSA and was granted work study jobs on campus, which I thoroughly enjoyed because it meant that I would make a little money while catching up on my homework. It was not easy to see everything I saved go so quickly toward books and parking passes, but this is what I wanted and the expense was worth it.
Don’t be afraid to wait until you can afford to attend.
It’s okay to have the desire to go to school but to wait and save money until it is financially responsible to go. There is no formula that says you can only attend a college at a certain time in your life. Don’t let the cost of school deter you from pursuing a degree if that is what you desire. There are many different ways of pursuing higher education including scholarships. Although it may be time-consuming to apply for scholarships, they may mean the difference between being able to attend school or dismissing the opportunity to receive financial assistance.
I didn’t want my college years to leave me drowning in debt. I maintained the same mentality with my masters program and even applied the same strategy when the time came to plan my wedding.
Ask the Holy Spirit
If you’re struggling with a particular decision, bring it to prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to help guide your discernment. Consider all your options and determine what is immediately feasible and what may take longer to plan. Financial discernment can be challenging, but with practice, it can be more natural.
This is just one of many stories about college life and discernment. We want to hear YOUR story. Please share in the comments below!
And if you want more help with finding your own story, our popular Write + Pray course offers 9 topics, nearly an hour of guided video, and almost 50 Scripture verses and questions for you featuring Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Find your story today.