When I reached junior year of high school, I knew even then I would need to find a way to afford attending college. Like many, I come from a middle-class family where my parents make enough money to get by and feed us, but college? Not happening. Everyone, especially my dad, nagged me time and time again about how I needed to start applying for scholarships to make sure I could go to college.
But then came the questions.
“What makes you special?”, “What extra curriculars did you participate in?”, “Why should we give you the money and not someone else?”, “What sets you apart from other minorities?”, These questions came at me from all directions every time I looked at a scholarship offering. I didn’t feel like I should need to prove why I deserved it. I felt so overwhelmed by the idea of scholarships that eventually I dropped the idea. I asked myself, what now? Then I did what I knew how to do best. I kept working.
I began working at the age of 16.
I got my first job working at a movie theater. Although I had fun, it demanded a lot of attention. I had a job to attend to now while my friends were playing sports, joining school clubs, or hanging out. My responsibilities left me with no time for anything else.
In college, I eventually found a job that let me go to school while offering to pay for my classes as well. I still went for it even though it felt too good to be true. In the end, my instincts proved me right and high school happened all over again, except worse. I worked two jobs totaling up to 40-60 hours a week while still trying to catch up on homework. Meanwhile, my peers enjoyed their frat lives, went to football games, or met up for study sessions. They lived the college life every student deserves.
I felt alienated.
My work schedule only allowed for so much freedom. Even scheduling classes around my job felt like trying to solve a difficult math equation. Honestly, I couldn’t relate to drowning in debt or attending social gatherings like my friends. While they faced 15 to 18 hours of class credits, I barely reached 10 because of work.
It’s not easy to enter the big, scary world of college. Going at it alone feels like one of the toughest things someone can do. I tried it, simply because I felt like an outcast. But I still craved those friendships, I still wanted to say that I attended at least one frat party, or one football game. I wanted the college experience everyone talked so highly of but I knew deep down that I cared more about not being in debt, getting good grades and still being able to financially take care of myself when my family no longer could.
I came to accept that my job came before my college social life. Partying on a Saturday night when there’s a 12-hour shift to be at the next day really didn’t seem worth it. I once again had a responsibility to myself. I needed to do whatever I could to keep my job while continuing my education. Working and going to school at the same time proves difficult. For many, enjoying a social life is just as important as maintaining a job. The key is to find the secret recipe to juggling both. Once you do that, life becomes much easier. I’ve learned that with time management and the right friends, I can live the college life I always wanted while still being a responsible worker.