How Our Son Ended Up At College

I'm so far behind on All Of Life at this point, that I'm just now talking about taking the boy to college last weekend. Let's start at the beginning.

Four years ago, our nephew moved in with us. We choose to call him our son, because when you care about someone that much, they're your kid regardless of whether or not they were born to you, or adopted into your family, or they simply carried a dresser across the field and claimed stake to half a bedroom in your house. This son of ours decided, just a few months ago, that he was going to attend college this fall. And by "a few" I mean that literally. As in, I think, 2 months ago. This is the way we roll here.

In that 2 months of time, someone pushed the fast-forward button in my life, and I haven't had time to do all the college prep things that I should have, as a mom. I figured that he was a responsible young man and could take care of things himself, and he pretty much did, because he's an incredibly responsible young man. We do nothing if not teach responsibility around here. I'm not even tooting my own horn over that; it's a survival skill for the kids. I'm not going to hold their hand until they're 38, so they'd better figure out how to do things on their own. In fact, by the time they're 15, I'm pretty much going to be done holding that hand in the figurative sense. (And let's be honest, in the literal sense as well. Unless I feel the need to punish them for something in public, in which case hand holding by mom is a great punishment.) If they can't make their own phone calls or think ahead to check things off a list of to-do's, they're not going to succeed in life. Life skills. We teach them.

So that's how we ended up on the public lawn at college last Saturday evening, crying onto the shoulder of the dean of women.

Turns out, I should have done a bit more hand holding than I did. Or at least checked the to-do list to see what else needed done. Or perhaps even took some initiative and figured out how college was going to be paid for. The boy's other aunt helped him fill out the FAFSA, because she had 2 kids that had already done the college thing and was experienced with that. (Check! Right off the list.) He had a grant that was being applied for a portion of the fees. (Check!) And there are student loans to cover the rest. (Done!) (Except not.)

We arrived at the college later than we should have on Saturday, which was totally our fault. We let our oldest two boys drive themselves 700 miles to visit some very dear friends of ours in St. Louis, with an overnight stop in Indianapolis on the way to say hello to relatives. Sam, Luke, Micah and I met them at the St. Louis residence and we spent the night before heading to Springfield, MO the next morning. But we slept in.

Arriving late on freshman registration day is going to have perks, such as not having to stand in line to register. It's also going to have pitfalls, such as needing to be in the finance office at the very same time you're called to schedule classes, after waiting for an hour doing absolutely nothing at all but waiting. Finance said to schedule classes and they'd catch up with us later, and they did. It was late, and Sam took the other boys to eat dinner while Quincey and I sat in Mr. Bob's office and replied to the question of "how are you going to pay $1,000 per month" with "student loans." Sounds reasonable, no? I mean, that's what college is all about, right? Accumulating so much debt that you'll never see the end of it during your entire working career? I had a handle on things.

Except I didn't, because I didn't do any parental things such as checking into how one pays for college.

Mr. Bob said Q only qualifies for one student loan, and it was already applied. And how were we going to pay $1,000 per month? (He asked, as he smiled at us.) The answer, my friends, is to simply gather your dignity around you and leave the office, because the other answers of maiming staff or screaming really aren't acceptable ones. I left after about 4 rounds of this fun question, and each time the answer was a bit more bleak. At the last, it was very much implied that $1,000 per month would need to be paid by us, or we'd just be better off driving on home in the morning with our son and his packed car in tow. Let it be noted, however, that even Mr. Bob agreed that $1,000 per month was a very impossible payment for a college student to make, or even the not-parents of a college student who still have 4 other kids at home.

This is how we ended up crying onto the shoulder of the dean of women on the public lawn at college last Saturday evening. Sam met us there with plates of food since the cafeteria had closed, and we were trying to not discuss financial events because I really just needed to just cry and pray, in private, before trying to figure out a solution. Everyone at college is over the top friendly (even Mr. Bob, if you can count his constant habit of smiling at you while delivering bad news as friendly), so when one of these kind smiles walked our way and asked how things were going (when it was pretty evident that things weren't exactly going well), I simply said, "good." And then followed that with, "we ran into a bit of a financial snag, but I'm sure it'll be sorted out." We started talking about job openings in the town and the student work study program, and one thing led to another and pretty soon we were both crying and it was just a hot, soggy mess right there in public.

We like to make a great first impression on the entire student body like that. But that's not enough, because the entire staff was pretty much impressed with us as well. In a roundabout way, phone calls and contacts were made, and friends who weren't even there got balls rolling that we didn't know how to do. Suddenly, we were the family that staff sought out. I'm not going to lie, it was both weird and wonderful.

Long story short, I learned that Q can indeed pay for college with student loans (shocker to nobody) and when I revealed this very thing to Mr. Bob on Monday morning, his phenomenal reply was, "yes, but they've got such high interest rates that I don't recommend them unless you can get someone with a good credit rating to co-sign, in which case you can get the interest rate lowered considerably. But I don't recommend co-signing because if something should happen to you (God forbid) then that person would be responsible for paying back your loan. That's not a good idea." (He said, as he smiled at us.)

So Mr. Bob really just doesn't want Q at school for some very odd reason, and everyone else really, really does. "Everyone else" includes college staff who heard him drum in the talent show and are now greatly anticipating his skills joining their music ministry, most  of his family, friends both old and new, the bank teller who shared her phone number when he opened an account, and the band director of the very large church we attended Sunday who wants him to audition to drum this coming week for one of their many praise teams.

At one point, I'd questioned Mr. Bob about what would happen if we left Q there, and drove 14 hours back home, only to find out that he couldn't afford the monthly cost of college without loans. Mr. Bob simply shrugged his shoulders, smiled warmly at us, and waited for us to figure it out. We did. We left our son at a college 1/3 of the way across the nation, and cried a bit on the way home because we're so ridiculously proud of that boy and all he's accomplished to get there. Dropping a class helped lower the payment to something reasonable enough that a second student loan wasn't even needed anyway (Mr. Bob will be happy, even though we set that up with Mr. Jason instead) and the job that Q has already secured will more than pay for his monthly bills.

God smiles on that boy, and that, too, made me cry a bit, because 14 hours is a long drive home and a lot of time to think about things like how amazing your kids are and how much they're growing up.

1 comment:

Carma Poodale Allen said...

Congratulations on getting your boy into college. I know how scary that can be. My ma kept having panic attacks over sending sissy sarah to college. It wasn't the fact that she was leaving the house, it was the fact of how they would pay for it.
Sissy convinced ma that she was taking a year off and saving the money to help pay for her college since they had already been saving but then dad went and did something that made ma blow her top.
He took $8,000 out of his retirement fund to pay for the first semester of college. Now the weight sits on sissy shoulders because if she doesn't apply herself and get good grades, she won't have a 2nd semester. The pawents can't continue to take the additional money out of dad's retirement to pay for her to go to college.
Ma has had to start doing monthly s/n clinics to earn money and she is trying to find a part time job that she can do (considering she is disabled) just to help pay for college.
Its not easy helping them to further their education without going bankrupt to do it.
Best of luck to all of you!