For my first year at community college I was short ~$600 since financial aid didn't cover all my expenses, so when I went to multiple banks to see if I could take out a loan, they all labelled me as a credit liability because I didn't have any credit nor a job at the time. I had to borrow the money from a rather well-off acquaintance and he jokingly told me to pay him back when I got my PhD because he knows I studied hard to go back to school. Next year, if I get approximately the same amount of aid as the previous year, worst case scenario I will have to get extremely lucky in finding a job (considering I could not find a job for months before I started school) for several weeks just enough to pay the tuition and then quit the job afterwards. Or I can give up my summer research opportunity and sacrifice polishing up my academic resume for transferring to a 4-year school and just find work to pay off my second year of community college. I didn't think I'd have to worry about this until it came to it, but it's been concerning me for a while now...if I cannot get the money up front for even a relatively inexpensive 4-year school and financial aid will not cover me, I guess that means I cannot go to school at all until I search for jobs and work for the next several years (before I began community college, I had been looking for a job for more than half a year before I had enough and decided I needed to go back to school for an advanced degree so I could stabilize my situation better). There are several reasons I want to avoid this, but for the sake of brevity I won't go into it in this post. I've also considered working while studying, but the thing is that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed so I am already putting in well between 75-100 hours per week for studies just to maintain a less-than-perfect grades, and I'm afraid if I get a full-time job (assuming minimum wage is $7.25/hr, 40 hrs/wk, 52 wks/yr, I'll have just over $15k/yr to attend school with) my grades will drop tremendously and I won't be accepted into any graduate schools at all, and who knows what I can do an undergraduate Physics degree. So my question is for those of you who got through college on your own without any support...how were you able to maintain a high GPA and get into a good graduate school? I don't see too many options right now. If I could just somehow get the loans, I wouldn't even mind being in debt, even if it was a terrible interest rate. I'm confident that I'll be able to get a decent-paying job post-graduate school, and if I can comfortable live on $10k/yr (as I've done for the past several years), then I think I'll do fine if I can just finish school somehow.