Candi Sparks shares the valuable lesson she learned in assuming that her son would get money for college.
It is so unfair how expensive a college education is. But colleges and universities will get their money before your child sets foot on campus. Education is a business and schools run it like one.
My exceptionally bright son graduated in the top five in his class. I thought that if anyone would get money for school, it would be him. We just knew that between the academics, sports, community service and test scores, that the big bad world was ready and waiting to pave his way. Surely they would throw money at his feet.
We were so naïve. It didn’t happen, at least not at his schools of choice. And he actually did get a private scholarship that was probably enough to cover a few semesters worth of books. The rest would have to come from somewhere else.
Having done my best to stay involved and do the right thing, I felt extremely cheated. It’s just not fair to have a bright child whose choices are limited due to lack of money. But it happens a lot.
I’ve had friends tell me about children who went to college for one semester and drop out, for lack of funds. Other parents told me about students who delayed school – taking a “gap” year (a year off) between high school and college while the student worked to raise money for tuition, to never return to school. Our children can lose opportunity for lack of funding. What kind of parent would I be if I let that happen?
Ever since he was born, I told my son that he can be whatever he wants to be, as long as he was willing to work for it. It started off as cowboy… an astronaut… the president! He likes math and structure and will probably become an engineer. That’s a career that needs education, as most do. He did his part and studied all the way through high school. He actually had the most credits of anyone that ever graduated the school, and he had lots of advanced placement classes under his belt too. You would think that it would be a slam dunk for scholarship money. What he got was probably enough for a semester’s worth of books.
But it helps to be grateful for the good things in life, no matter how small. It was wonderful that someone would recognize his talent in the form of a scholarship. And the money came in handy.
Rather than getting upset or letting my child feel bad about school due to the financial situation, I did what they used to do in the old days. I gave him “The Mommy Scholarship.”
Thanks to a very dear mentor – who has since passed – I was given the advice on how to plan for college “So you don’t have to plan for it later.”
I took the advice and had been setting aside college money for him, from the first time I took him to the doctor. He was just a few weeks old at that time.
I wasn’t always consistent in putting money in the fund, so I set up automatic deposits into the account whenever possible. Family also put money in for holiday and birthday gifts. This money grew over time and literally made the difference between my son taking a gap year, not going to the school of his choice because of money and having to start off college in debt. These things were avoided by putting his education funding on autopilot over the years.
Then, another wonderful thing happened. The school accepted his AP courses as a semester of college credits. Meaning, my son completed one semester of college during his high school. The college would accept that work as college credits completed. He had done his part toward helping reduce the cost of college and the price tag in high school is a lot less than it is for college!
Told you he was smart and hardworking, as so many of our children are. I count that as a blessing, and look at it as a kind of “scholarship.”
This story has a happy ending, but it comes with a painful lesson too. It’s probably not unique, but maybe someone can learn from what I’ve gone through.
Yesterday, I was running a money matters workshop with elementary school parents. The Assistant Principal went up before me and he talked about the school’s test scores and college readiness for students.
The parents politely listened but they thought it was too far off to be concerned about. But then we talked about education funding and The Mommy Scholarship. I don’t say it to brag on myself – it is really about getting our children the education that they need. Often it will be by any means necessary.
Time goes fast, so does money. Then there’s your child, having to deal with all of the moving parts when they suddenly become an “adult” at 18 years of age. As soon as your child turns 18 years old, their tuition, room and board is none of your business – according to the school. You (the parent) will need the “permission” of the child to discuss his/her package (or lack of one).