‘I Was Grateful, But I Also Sort of Thought It Was a Given’
We’ve invited readers to share their stories of financing education. How did you pay for your education, K.?
I grew up overseas, and went to international schools where income differences weren’t apparent. There were tons of school trips, vacations every six weeks, and people always were travelling — nobody stuck around for the summer time. Most expats’ private secondary school fees were covered by their companies, and my family’s was, too. I never grew up feeling ‘rich’ — there were always more ostentatiously rich people (usually rich ‘local’ kids whose parents actually fronted the bill).
It was only when I got to college that I realized the huge gift I had been give (and how weird it was to grow up in such an economically monotone — but culturally rich! — environment). I ended up going to my first choice school, a private, expensive liberal arts college in the Northeast. My family paid for it all. I knew my father had been saving for this since I was born and of course, was grateful, but I also sort of thought it was a given.
In addition to tuition and room and board, I got an $1,000 “allowance” per semester and a credit card linked to my parents’ account for emergencies. I got a job second semester of freshman year and worked throughout college on campus as a research assistant. It wasn’t much by any amount, but it was $250 extra dollars every two weeks and allowed me to save up for summer and for study abroad.
By the time I was a junior, it was 2008 and the middle of the financial crisis. My dad works in a major bank, and though he wasn’t rendered penniless, I still couldn’t help but be concerned. I figured out that I had enough credits to graduate early; I told my dad, and he encouraged me to do it. To say that he “forced” me would be incorrect, but I knew I couldn’t justify making him pay $25K for a final four-month hurrah of college.
We struck a deal that he would pay for my first year of rent in New York. I graduated early and immediately got an AmeriCorps VISTA position, which at least covered my living expenses. I ended up getting a proper job (401k, healthcare, dental, the whole monty) nine months later. Within a year, my parents took me off their credit card line and made me start paying for my cell phone bill.
My father is an incredible saver, and immediately after graduation opened an IRA account for me and insisted I transfer a certain amount towards it a month. I also, at his insistence, contribute 5% of my income to my 401k which is 100% matched by my job. My parents watched Girls and thought it was hysterical — they saw a lot of my (and their) experiences in the show. However, they don’t regret it and do believe it was a good investment.
It is sort of part of this weird American dream ideal — my father’s parents were very middle class, children of immigrants, and still provided and paid for much of my dad’s undergraduate and graduate degrees. He truly believes it is part of his job as a father to reciprocate this privilege. I’m applying for business school in a year and they have told me they will 100% will cover that too, which is incredible and amazing. It makes me immensely grateful, and I want a career that can provide for my hypothetical children in the same manner.
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