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Trouble with the college idea

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  • Thread starter tuatha1337
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  • #1

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[SOLVED] Trouble with the college idea

I'm a freshman in college, still. I've been attending off and on for 2 years now, variant on my available funds for school. I've failed a number of the classes I've attended so far, I have great difficulty juggling a full-time job (sometimes over-time) and 2 classes, at times just one. All in all, it's been very, very depressing. My parents make too much money to claim even a moderate loan from Uncle Sam, and they donate very little themselves. I am many years away from being able to claim myself as an independent on the FAFSA. At this point I've even given up hope on scholarships.
I hope to become an aerospace engineer, but I'm even questioning that for other alternatives such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, or politics. I've done well through my high school years, achieving over 1300 on the SAT and a few exemplary AP course scores, with a less exemplary 3.3 GPA.

My questions are: What are my options to dig myself out of a potentially irreversible and horrible situation? Is joining the military, namely Air Force, a viable option? Should I simply lay off of the college until I save up money or am eligible to claim independence on the FAFSA? Thanks for any help you have to offer.
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
One of my friends was in a similar situation - he took 10 years, but he did eventually finish his undergrad in materials science.

To be frank, it is certainly a concern that you are failing first-year courses - the material won't get easier as you go on and the hardest courses will probably be second and third-year. Can you work for a semester (maybe taking a distance education course on the side) and save enough money to go back to school full-time for another semester?

If your parents are unwilling to support you, it may be possible to "disown" them and make yourself eligible for a loan. There should be some sort of counsel to advise you on this at your university.
  • #3
The military is a viable option, but not suggested if it's not truly what you want to do. The compensation is pretty good but doesn't match the sacrifice. If you don't gain personal satisfaction from the work (and it can be hard with all the extra duties), or if you have ambitions outside of the military, it's almost impossible to succeed. You may be able to put up with it for four years and grab the GI Bill and the sacrifice may even help you choose a path... but you are probably wasting your time and the government's money.

The military can be a great career, but like any career you must be in it for the right reasons. I'm not trying to be down on the military, but I made the mistake of joining without a true desire and am working hard to get where I could be already (grad school, university career track). My time in the AF has been a great learning experience and even personally rewarding but these things could not overcome the lack of drive. Will my new career path be "easier" or "less BS"? No, but hopefully I'll be able to put some of that personal satisfaction in the bank to draw on during the difficult times.

Some people know exactly what they want in life and know exactly which institutions will help them fulfill their personal goals. Some lucky geniuses can reach success without (or with little) institutional support. For us normal folks, you're probably going to have to actually try something to decide what exactly it is you want... so just be careful with "trying out" the military because it's difficult to turn back until your contract is expires!
  • #4
There is always the option of private educational loans. I do not know anything about them other than that they exist. It might be worth looking into.

Just an idea.
  • #5
Here is the secret: study for your classes before the semester starts.

This is the only way you can have a major part time job, get A's with little effort, and still have time left over for socializing.

If it sounds like not a big tip, try it, and you'll see that it makes all the difference in the world.
  • #6
Thank you all very much for your help.

That's a very interesting idea Crosson. With a part time job I could very easily get A's. I am fully able to learn the information and complete the work, but time constraints with a full-time job greatly influences that. Knowing the material beforehand would certainly help. The only problem is with money. A part-time job would make it slightly difficult to make rent, but effective money management could solve that, also I would not be eligible for benefits through my company. I'm aware that some schools offer medical insurance and services, but some require that you be a full-time student for that... (I'll have to double check my school for that.)

Oedipa Maas, I'm not sure if I'm quite willing to disown my parents. Despite the fact that they choose not to fund my education, I do love them. And disowning them may strike off a sore spot with them for a very long time. But I will consult the counselor on the subject, I think they'll be able to help... It is their job after all.

I've heard all numbers of nightmares regarding private educational loans and would prefer not to be swarmed in interest payments for the next 20 years. I do understand though, that some of them are indeed reasonable. I'll have to look into that.

Military though, is an idea which I'm willing to pursue. I've put years of thought into it, and both of my brothers say they greatly enjoyed their experience thus far. There are many career fields that I would be satisfied with in the Air Force, plus my hopes to somehow enter into NASA one day can be greatly aided by a career in the Air Force (from what I hear at least, please correct me if I am wrong). What has been holding me back, however, is the idea of the commitment and the "what ifs" of if I don't really like the field I'm put in, or if I am not able to attend higher education because of my post, or if I do not do as well as I hope. A structured life would be great and all, I'm all for it, but if my performance is somehow substandard I don't think I would enjoy it at all. I also feel that my reasons are not in the right place, as I continually think of what I would become through the Air Force rather than any kind of great service I would provide. Is this an issue? Opinions?
  • #7
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If you really can't juggle a needed job AND your coursework, you may be better off just taking time off from school and saving money. If you don't need to fit classes and studying into your schedule, you would even have time for a second part-time job to help save even faster. And, during that time off, and while under less pressure from school, you can start working back through the notes and textbooks from the classes you have failed and need to retake. That way, when you do return and retake them, you will be better prepared for them. Otherwise, you're just wasting your hard-earned money if you are too busy to study for your classes and just fail them and have to keep repeating them. You may be able to save up enough that you can then sustain yourself through a few semesters with just part-time jobs and summer employment.

You should also talk to the folks in your college financial aid office. They may know of some other options you haven't thought of or weren't aware of.
  • #8
sometimes (depending on where you live) the engineering job expos come around, wouldn't hurt to ask them if they have any student programs that can help.
  • #9
I would echo what moonbear has said: take time off from school to save the loot you need. Use this time to study on your own.

One might also consider taking courses at your local community college (it would be cheaper to fulfill your general ed requirements there)
  • #10
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
I would echo comments by Moonbear and ptabor, particularly ptabors comment about taking advantage of community college. Also, with respect to school work, it's like another job - it requires commitment.

Going into the Air Force might help with later employment with NASA, particularly in aeronautics, but then NASA is struggling with limited budgets at the moment. Also - the Air Force requires 'full-time' commitment, but they do help with college tuition. I knew several Air Force officers in my graduate school program.

I held part time and full time jobs during my undergrad and grad years. I was very fortunate to have a job during my grad (MS) program which allowed me to study during the evening (I worked an evening shift at a municipal water production facility).

One can find loans to help pay tuition, but I'd caution one about taking on too much debt. If possible - work and earn the money to pay tuition and expenses.

As for parents help, I chose not to rely on my parents. They, particularly my mother, told me early on (when I was 15) that if I was going to college, I was expected to contribute my share toward the expenses. I ended up working during 11 and 12th grade and had saved enough to pretty much cover my first year at a private university. I continued working, and in fact, I was able to pay all of my college expenses (without loans) and have enough left over to help my folks pay for some of my siblings' college expenses. So it is doable.
  • #11
College is expensive, no doubt. I managed without my parent's help though. I used a combination of Stafford loans (I think there is something different now) and a campus job. I found a balance of 30 hours work and 9 hours classes worked very well for me. It took longer, but what's important is not when you finish, but that you finish.

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