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From Hopeful to Nothing: My Compounding Frustrations

HopelessinNorthDakotaHopelessinNorthDakota Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
Three years ago, I started my sophomore year. I was still working as a reporter and playing high school football for one of the top teams in the state of North Dakota (I admittedly wasn't very good and had other passions, like sports writing). That winter, my family took a trip down to the Twin Cities and I took an unofficial tour of the University of Minnesota. At that point, I began to seriously think about where I wanted to go for college.

I didn't know what I wanted to major in, what field I wanted to go into. I've bounced around from a STEM field, to Marketing, to Broadcasting/Journalism. But I knew I wanted to go somewhere that had some name recognition. I wanted somewhere that was not, for lack of a better term, a "sausage fest." I wanted to be go to big time football games as a student, like my mother and her mother had. But most importantly, I needed space.

A year had passed, and we went down to Minneapolis again, and then I got stressed. I thought I was a pretty qualified student. I soon got a little more greedy. I began to think I could do more. Go farther, like California, Ohio State, or Washington. I was fixated on that. I wanted out. I wanted to be a part of the rest of the country, a world I still feel shut out of living in North Dakota.

I took actions I thought were necessary to go that distance. I retook the ACT, only to get the same score of a 30. I continued my volunteer activities and extracurriculars. I took the toughest classes my school offered. When I graduate this May, I will have completed 3 full dual credit classes and a semester of science.

By the time my senior year started, I began filling out applications. I got daunted by the Common App, and beginning that process of filling out scholarships was scary. I also didn't apply to a few others because I realized I could not afford them, such as Washington. When 2016 ended, I had filled out my FAFSA and applied to 4 schools: Minnesota, Montana, Montana State, and University of North Dakota. I was accepted to all 4. My financial aid was garbage. My scope had shrunk. I know that most suggest to avoid loans, but they were my only option to go somewhere worth going to. But I was fine with that. My first choice was Minnesota, and I had wanted to go there for a very long time. I had finally had a plan I was comfortable with, despite not getting into the college I wanted. I was okay with taking out private loans from the state bank. I had finally accepted what I was going to do this fall.

And then last week, my parents dropped quite a bombshell. They said that they were probably not going to be able to, thanks to my mother's student debt from graduate school, and not willing to cosign on loans. It doesn't help that my dad has been furloughed since 2017 began. I cannot take those loans out on my own. My biggest problem with this is is that it didn't come sooner. It's March, after all the deadlines, and I don't really have a clue on where to go from here.

At this point, I'm not even sure if I can go to college. Despite applying for numerous scholarships now, I do not know I can even cover the cost of attendance at the University of North Dakota, a cold, smelly, boring 4-year community college. But I guess I can't afford to hold those flaws against them anymore.

I've heard a few suggestions. The first is to swallow my pride, do the embarrassing thing and live at home and go to the local community college. That would great, if there were a local community college. The nearest are each an hour minimum away, which on icy North Dakota roads is too dangerous a commute. The next suggestion is to take a gap year. I only have three years left of being considered a dependent and having access to military benefits thanks to my retired dad, which I want to use as much as possible while I am broke in college. And frankly, in rural North Dakota, where the hell am I going to find a job that pays enough for me to go to college. On top of that, both solutions would remove any scholarship money I received to begin with.

It wasn't until recently that found I had a passion, some semblance talent, and experience in a field (Sports Journalism & Broadcasting) Now, the opportunity to study it and make a career out of it seems lost.

I feel so crushed and bitter. I really just want a magic solution to fix everything, but one doesn't exist. It looks like I'm destined to be stuck in this frozen hell. Though I am still looking for advice, this story might serve as a lesson. Hopefully someone can find one and see where I went wrong.

Replies to: From Hopeful to Nothing: My Compounding Frustrations

  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,922 Senior Member
    What's the most "affordable" option right now? And how much is it
  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN Registered User Posts: 2,408 Senior Member
    I'm sorry. I hope it works out for you. BTW, quite a few students in the Twin Cities go to the U of ND - I wasn't aware it was a cold, smelly community college. What does it smell like?
  • eandesmomeandesmom Registered User Posts: 3,099 Senior Member
    If you defer from your most affordable choice and do NOT take any classes at all in the gap year, instead saving money and working as much as you can, you should be able to defer your entire package, including scholarships.

    What does your financial package from North Dakota look like? What are your stats, EFC? There may still be options out there for you but the clock is ticking. Can your parents contribute anything at all?

    You can also start shopping for more affordable options that might give you a better package. Are there relatives you could live with that are near a CC that would be affordable and have some employment options? You may also want to look into online options for an associates degree and then a transfer to North Dakota. It can be done, you just have to be willing to persevere, get creative and be flexible, adjusting your dreams.

  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 9,999 Senior Member
    What do military benefits give you? Any tuition?
  • HopelessinNorthDakotaHopelessinNorthDakota Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    edited March 20
    @PurpleTitan My dad retired back in 2009. No tuition benefits, but I get access to the base, which means things like food and movies are considerably cheaper. And their health insurance plan is great.
  • HopelessinNorthDakotaHopelessinNorthDakota Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    @CheddarcheeseMN There's a food processing plant and landfill usually upwind of campus. How people can walk outside without throwing up is beyond me. And it doesn't help that Grand Forks is pretty much just a bigger version of my town, with nothing to do but study, get alcohol poisoning, and watch hockey.
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,922 Senior Member
    @HopelessinNorthDakota how much is your cheapest option (per year)
  • HopelessinNorthDakotaHopelessinNorthDakota Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    @philbegas North Dakota is my most affordable option, but that might still be a reach.

    @eandesmom My financial aid package from UND hasn't arrived yet. I don't know what stats you're looking for. I don't know what the EFC is. If this helps, the estimated Parent+ loan was about 19,000 for Minnesota. Financial aid was about 1800 in work study and around 5500 in federal loans.
  • philbegasphilbegas Registered User Posts: 2,922 Senior Member
    tuition is $4,068.50 per semester that doesn't seem too bad
  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 2,575 Senior Member
    What is your budget?

    Your EFC is on the student aid report from the FAFSA: log in and look it up.

    While you're there, see if your dad filed as a displaced worker since he was furloughed. If that's not listed and he meets the conditions in the instructions, update your FAFSA and resubmit.

    Then go to all your schools and call the financial aid offices. Your FAFSA was based on 2015 income, but if your dad is out of work then that is not a true picture of your current situation. Explain your situation and ask if they would be able to add additional need based aid if you file an appeal as an out of state student. If they will, ask for the exact procedures and follow them to the letter.

  • eandesmomeandesmom Registered User Posts: 3,099 Senior Member
    By Stats I meant GPA. You noted your ACT already.

    EFC is the estimated family contribution, when you fill out the FAFSA it will generate a number that tells you how much (the minimum) your family is expected to be able to pay for. It may break it out into both a Student contribution or just a family one. That number is what is looked at when determining if you qualify for any financial aid.

    Aid comes in 2 forms. Merit (scholarships) and Grants. Grans are based on need. State schools (most schools) do not meet full need.

    So for example, if your EFC is $10,000

    North Dakota Cost of Attendance (206-17 school year)
    Tuition $8137
    Room and Board $7,630
    Books and Supplies $1000

    Total Cost of Attendance (COA)(not including any additional personal or travel expenses) is $16,767 for 2017.
    The 2018 rates will likely be slightly higher.

    IF your EFC was $10,000 then the offer would look something like this

    COA $15,767
    EFC - $10,000

    ="Need" $5767
    - max federal student loans $5500
    = $10,267 additional needed (EFC + remainder after student loan), PLUS books and personal expenses.

    If that was the scenario, the largest grant you would be offered, if any, unless you had scholarships, is $267.00. This is because they will typically offer you loans before any grants. In this scenario your "need" would allow you to qualify for the maximum subsidized federal loan of $3500 and then an unsubsidized loan of $2000. BUT you'd still have to come up with that 10K shortfall.

    Books and personal expenses don't count for most schools when they figure out aid, they just look at tuition, fees, room and board. Which means basically most schools expect you to come up with that at a minimum. Often that can be covered by summer savings if you can find a job.

    However, depending on your GPA, if it is above a 3.5 weighted AND you applied to North Dakota before the priority deadline, it is likely you'll be offered a scholarship, either $1,000 or $2,500 annually depending on your gpa (based on the 30 ACT).


    there are also state specific scholarships you may have qualified for


    In that scenario, again assuming a 10K EFC, you could be looking at a package that looks like this

    COA $15,767
    University Scholarship -$2,500
    North Dakota Academic Scholarships $1500 NEED TO APPLY https://www.nd.gov/dpi/uploads/204/directions.pdf
    North Dakota State Student Incentive Grant Program - $1950 as long as you listed your ND HS on your FAFSA you should qualify for this one
    Adjusted COA $9.817

    EFC - $10,000
    ="need" = 0
    - student loans $5500
    = $4,317 additional needed for direct costs. Plus books and personal expenses.

    Your family's EFC has to be really really low (like close to 0) to qualify for additional grant funds (Pell) and your mom's grad school debt is not considered as a factor. If income has drastically changed since 2015 based on the furlough/retirement you can contact your schools to file a special circumstances form (when did your dad retire?) but I'd figure out what the EFC looks like without your dad's income first to see if it would make much of a difference.

    Please bear in mind these are suggestions. Contact the University Financial Aid office or have your HS GC help, it is unclear if the awards are stackable but they appear to be.

    IF you were to take a gap year, and work full time, assuming you could find full time employment, it is not unreasonable to think you could save the 15K-17K needed to cover 2 years of out of pocket costs in the no scholarships at all scenario. Full time at $10 an hour, living at home. Delay your start longer and you can save more.

    It's not pretty, it's not ideal but your instate option is very likely one of the best deals around, that is very very low compared to most state options.

    IF the scholarships as outlined above come through, you could theoretically save 2K over the summer and then get an on campus job during the year to cover the remainder.

    If you haven't already, use this tool and it should give you an estimate as to what they might offer you.


    Based on your ACT score, given the state you are in, it is possible you will qualify for full tuition. It just really depends on how other kids in your date did and whether you fall in the 95th percentile for your state or not.

    North Dakota Scholars Program
    This program provides merit-based, full-tuition scholarships to qualifying North Dakota high school graduates who choose to earn undergraduate degrees in North Dakota.
    Amount: The amount of the scholarship is equal to the tuition rate charged at the scholar's institution, not to exceed the highest regular resident undergraduate tuition rate in the North Dakota University System. Scholars may receive the award for nor more than eight semesters or twelve quarters of full-time undergraduate study, or until the attainment of a baccalaureate degree, whichever occurs first. Scholarships will be sent directly to the institution the student is attending.

    Who is eligible for consideration: High school students who score at or above the ninety-fifth percentile among those who took the ACT prior to July 1st in the calendar year preceding the individual's enrollment in college will be considered for the award. Students will be awarded in descending rank order until available funds are expended or until the pool of applicants has been exhausted. Additional eligibility information is available in NDUS Procedure 500.2
    How to apply: Take the ACT Assessment prior to July 1 in the calendar year preceding the student's full-time enrollment in college. No separate application is required.

  • HopelessinNorthDakotaHopelessinNorthDakota Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    edited March 21
    @AroundHere @eandesmom We have already begun the process on trying to file it, but our tax preparer came back with news saying that our 2016 income was somehow higher than 2015. My dad retired from the military almost 10 years ago, but found work on the railroad, which, thanks to the lack of oil, he's been furloughed for the last 3 months.

    Summer is the only time when there's full-time employment offered to people my age. I didn't look into a gap year, but this is something I have heard around the community.

    It did say on my ACT scoring sheet that I scored in the 97th percentile in the state of North Dakota.
    Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
  • eandesmomeandesmom Registered User Posts: 3,099 Senior Member

    It is NOT hopeless. You have options. You have good grades and test scores and they really really do give you options that many do not have. PLEASE please consider calling a suicide hotline. T1.800.273.8255. there are free resources for you and shelters if you need to get out of the house, perhaps friends or family or church you can stay at.

    If you are at the 97th percent, you should recieve a full tuition award from North Dakota (or any school in the state).

    PLEASE call the financial aid office at North Dakota tomorrow. Find out if the full tuition award is stackable with the other state awards. It does not say they cannot be combined. They will help you. State schools want state kids and they want high stats state kids, that's what the money is for. Apply for the academic scholarship listed

    You have the potential to qualify for

    North Dakota Scholars Program $8137
    University Scholarship -$2,500
    North Dakota Academic Scholarships $1500 this you NEED TO APPLY for.
    North Dakota State Student Incentive Grant Program - $1950 as long as you listed your ND HS on your FAFSA you should qualify for this one.

    These, combined with the federal student loan available, if they can be combined would more than cover your full cost of attendance regardless of whether the FAFSA appeal goes through. I know it's not your top choice, many many kids cannot go to their top choice because their parents cannot afford it, but you have a very very solid chance at being able to attend. It is a better option than many kids will have.

    Even if they cannot be combined, you should be able to get the full tuition offer based on the published information and your full federal loan. That would leave you short about 3K for the year. Talk to the office about work study and on campus employment, you may well be able to cover that with an on campus job.
  • DiotimaDMDiotimaDM Registered User Posts: 997 Member
    edited March 20

    If you have a GPA to match, your 30 on the ACT will get you full tuition at some of the schools at the link above. Some of them have deadlines that have passed, but some offer rolling admissions that are open until May or June.

    Examples: UA Huntsville, UA Birmingham

    Comb through the list very carefully, checking each listing.

    More examples: the application deadlines aren't listed for Alabama State or Florida A&M, but your stats might be worth a full ride.

    Also, with your father out of work, *definitely* discuss that with the financial aid office at any school you think you might attend. They will re-figure your financial aid.
  • collegedad7collegedad7 Registered User Posts: 28 New Member
    edited March 20
    Good evening!

    Okay - the world feels like _____ right now. I get that. Hold on a second and let's turn that anger somewhere useful.

    First, Reply #11 above, is almost too much to read - but I've read it carefully and it is full of great info. Can you take it apart in pieces? It is worth the effort.

    Second, if you defer a year the colleges will almost certainly defer their financial aid offers. You need to call them and explain... they are just real people trying to find best matches for kids and colleges.... treat them like a friend and they will be. To be clear, you'd have to re-submit for financial aid, but the colleges can explain if they see any reason that those aid packages would not come through.

    Third, congrats on the ACT score and pushing yourself on the academics. Be proud of that - don't forget you did that. Congrats at your acceptances. Seriously.

    Fourth, do you have any other family members you could live with for a while? Sometimes, it just helps to get some distance to work all this through. Not saying to move out, just a little time to heal... and to realize your parents wish they could do more.

    Fifth, the way that financial aid works, and guessing a little - I doubt that the 2015 and 2016 income difference is enough to really matter. Don't let that news from the tax attorney stop you.

    Sixth, do you have a teacher or counselor at school willing to work with you to call these colleges? And / or, can you drive to talk to the admission officers (I realize it's quite a drive in some cases). If you meet them, present yourself well, that personal connection can sometimes really matter. Whether you figure it out for this year, or need to defer - the personal connection will help. (But not if you are so angry you can't keep it positive - if so, don't visit.). If you do go - call ahead, make sure you have an appointment.

    Seventh - go yell and scream at the world a bit, but don't stop now - sounds trite, but you've done a lot to get here. If you do have to defer it sounds like a future closing - but it is not. It is only a year - just don't give up your plans because they will get you on a different, more productive path for the rest of your life. It will be easier to walk away. Don't. Choose not to. Stay on path.

    Finally, I have a nephew who had little options but to join the military - turned out the best thing for him.. he got some great training, got a lot of education paid for, is now a private contactor for the military making more than I do... loves his work and loves the travel.

    Keep us up to date on your progress. Okay?
This discussion has been closed.