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mirza's avatar

What can my friend do to get help?

Asked by mirza (5042points) August 24th, 2007

SO here is his story (its long) :

“_I am currently slated not to go to college. I have no help from family, and the financial aid department at NEU won’t help me.

I need your help, now. Here’s my story.

I’ve always lived in a household that wasn’t very conducive to my well-being; my father was never a very positive person in terms of my accomplishments; no matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. That I can live with. It’s his own preference for what he considers “good.” What I couldn’t live with was his attempts to keep me out of college.

Once I had determined that I wanted to go to Northeastern, it was early April. And, of course, deposits are due May 1st to let the school know that they should save me a seat. My father’s reaction wasn’t helpful, but it was ultimate: if I didn’t have a loan secured and in-hand, he would not let me make my deposits. He ordered the bank to ignore any attempted withdrawals from me on my savings account and left me to figure it out. He had no intention of helping me pay, cosigning, or really let me go to college at all, as it turned out. As April drew to an end and deposits were almost due, I confronted him and let him know that, until I turned 18 in June, I couldn’t even be considered for a loan. Obviously, the Catch-22 was that if I couldn’t get a loan in-hand, my dad wouldn’t let me make my deposits, and I wouldn’t even get a chance to go to college this year.

He told me, “Too bad. Get a full-time job, because that’s all you will be qualified for.”

Shortly after, my school principal offered to pay the deposits for me with her credit card. It was the first major obstacle, and that small gesture of aid meant the world to me. I was back on track.

No sooner did my father find out, he told me to call the school and unregister. This was on a Saturday, so I used the weekend as a time to think it over, and on Monday I called the school and told them my story.

At that point they helped me stay a student. They made a note on my file, “Do not withdraw this student under any circumstance.” When I refused to unregister, my father, who was away for work at the time, called the school, as I expected, and tried to withdraw me himself. The school fought for me, and his efforts failed.

From there, he changed to physical abuse. As school drew to an end, he began sending me out into the field at 6 a.m. to rake grass clippings in the sun; our field was big enough that by the time I was done, he would go back and mow it again and I would start again. Any time I caught up, he sent me out to dig trenches instead. Now, this isn’t necessarily the worst, even when these “chores” lasted until 8 p.m., only interrupted for me to go to my part-time job. The bad part is that I get vascular migraines during long periods of physical exertion; even with my medication, I was completing these tasks with my head pounding and my vision blurred.

Needless to say, I fled that house on June 28th and took residence with my high school physics teacher, which I am vastly grateful for; not only would I have continued that vicious lifestyle had I stayed at home, my father would have expected $250 a week in rent. That day was the deciding moment in my life, and suddenly I was much healthier, and on the way to being a much stronger person.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. The only loan company that offers student loans without a cosigner (as I have no credit score, having been 18 for less than two months) doesn’t offer the cosigner-less loan (, PrePrime loan) to Northeastern University students. I was left at a standstill; without a cosigner, I was not going to be able to bridge the gap between my financial aid package, which was mostly based on my father’s income, and my tuition costs.

So, yesterday I called the financial aid department at Northeastern and they told me that they would not give me any further help; my gap was too big. If I might quote Robyn Shahid-Bellot, the counselor I spoke with, “The University would lose less by having you not attend than by writing a check for the aid you need.” Basically, the University doesn’t consider me a worthwhile investment.

That’s why, in my most desperate hour, I seek the help of anyone who would give it. This upcoming Tuesday is the day I have to make my final decision about whether I can attend or not; I have not yet severed my tie with the University.

My total tuition bill, sans financial aid and scholarships, is $21, 299. The minimum due to attend first semester is $10, 549. I have $5000 to my name, which is all I have left in my savings account.

———Marshall R. Brennan
(603) 496–2260”

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14 Answers

mdy's avatar
@mirza Your friend might find helpful ideas at the Financial Aid Podcast at
Hawaiiguy's avatar
your friend really needs to drop his plan for university, there are plenty of great community colleges out there, it is a waste of 40k for him to spend on an associates degree when he can get one for 4-5k at a community college. During that time if his grades warrent it he will be eligsble for grants for university. Amd save himself at least 40k. Life lesson 101 spend wisely
gailcalled's avatar
Try the state university system; U MA is much cheaper than NE (even they do provide work-study) and they have ancillary branches (Boston, Lowell, Dartmouth MA.)..... other than the flagship campus at Amherst. I am assuming that yr friend lives in Mass. Also are you emancipated at 18 in MA? Can you separate yourself legally from your father's income (like an emancipated minor can)? If worse comes to worse, get a job for this year and reapply. Cost examples; @Hawaiiguy's advice excellent.
gailcalled's avatar
PS. Your friend writes really well; if I were editing, I wouldn't red pencil a single thing. That should be useful if he wants to work for a year.
zina's avatar
your story is similar to mine, with the details different, but the overall sequence and timing very similar. unfortunately, i had the same outcome at your stage -- unless you can legally become orphaned before turning 18 (not just run away, but do it legally), your financial aid will be based on your parent's financial situation, whether or not they are willing to help. [i learned that the day i arrived on campus, exactly a week after my 18th birthday.] at least that's how it was 7 years ago, and my college couldn't help. but you could look into that to be sure it's right. in your situation, i would consider...... 1. calling the financial aid office again, hopefully speaking with a different person. likely there is more than one. tell them the story as succinctly as possible --- that you are extremely committed to the school, that your financial aid was based on your parents income, that your father is unwilling to pay anything, and that in fact due to the difficult circumstances you have had to leave home. again, you are very committed to the school, and want to find any way possible within your means to attend. [make sure to be very confident and expect that they will help you -- perhaps adding examples of how others have helped you could be very useful -- i think your school principal paying your deposit is a great indication of your standing (as a student and a person). if there's some significant achievement you can name (a high GPA, a recent honor, a special skill/knowledge base that's likely to receive recognition in the future), likewise. this all helps build your image and is very attractive to the school. but think about a lot first, maybe even write it out -- this is about tastefully presenting yourself well, not being arrogant. also, it may be helpful if you (or someone else) can get your dad to put that he's not willing to support you financially in writing. sometimes this can change things.] ask if they have ANY ideas --- a way to base it on YOUR finances (and change the FAFSA to get a government-subsidized loan?), a departmental grant, an alumni scholarship, a more obscure or specific merit/talent-based or ethnic/gender/etc-based scholarship that you might qualify for (sometimes there's a separate office for this at the school), any possibility of adding work-study (could be part of your financial aid package, or just school employment that you take up while there - there's often cafeteria work, modeling for art classes, and other miscellaneous jobs for around $8-10/hour), etc etc etc. remember that almost anything is better than a loan. ask about other options for a worst-case scenario - if you can defer for a year, if you can reapply next year with your own finances, their policies for transfering from another school, etc. thank them profusely for any help they can provide, even if small, ask if there's anyone else they recommend you speak with at the university or elsewhere. 2. go into a Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and other big banks and ask about student loans. i wouldn't be surprised if they have offers that are unrelated to credit -- i'm about to start graduate school, and was offered tons of student loans without them knowing anything about credit or age. that said, loans can be VERY difficult. make sure to get ALL the details. as someone said above, you would be going into significant debt. really think about whether you want to do this. you are not just paying back what you borrow, but THOUSANDS MORE in interest. i know that at your stage i didn't fully grasp how bad debt can be, and have seen many friends suffer by taking lots of loans, credit cards, etc. this is a major decision, with major implications for years to come. not to scare you, but just reflect on it, talk to mentors, think about your expected income in your field, what your vision is for you life over several years (if you can), etc. 3. look into community/city/state colleges. if you attend a year or two there and transfer, that could save you a lot of money and you will still do your upper level coursework at the university you've chosen (with the courses you are interested in, professors, friends, other contacts, all of it), and you'll get your degree from there. i have seen people do this with success. 4. consider working for a year. if you can defer, your spot at your school is secured (you won't have to re-apply), but even if not, you can re-apply. ideally, get a full-time job in the/a field that interests you. if not, get a 3/4 or full-time job in something relatively high paying (but ethical and good on a resume, hopefully), and try to pursue your interests on the side - a part-time job, an internship, volunteering, an informal mentoring arrangement or a huge reading list, workshops/conferences/summer program/or other short things, or whatever is appropriate to what you do. this will earn you money to save up for school, give you experience in the work world, give you valuable time to reflect on your interests and strengths (and/or weaknesses), give you a strong reference (hopefully) and overall improve your resume and applications for reapplying or in the future (and possibly for scholarships for next year)...... and more. in any event, work part-time during the school year or at least during breaks, and definitely over the summer. there are some jobs that are great intensive, sporatic ones (to earn some money in short, irregular amounts of time) -- babysitting, canvassing, language instruction/tutoring, teaching swimming, massage, yard work (probably not your favorite), temp work (through an agency or or private assistance projects like you might find on craigslist (someone needs 30 hours of help organizing a room, typing things, or whatever) ..... all depending on your skill set. you can find advice on this. developing something like this (a specialized skill) was one of the best things i did to make it through college. i knew i had something to count on in the breaks over the years. i'm sure there is plenty more to say, but i have to sign off. all the best wishes for your hard work and success!!
zina's avatar
whoa, i don't know why all the returns disappeared. yikes!!!
glial's avatar
A State University is the way to go; as mentioned earlier two years at a community college then transfer to a good state university. Is that 21,000 for a year or semester or what. I suppose either way, that amount is wildly expensive. I know Northwestern is a great university, but in reality 5 years after graduation no one will care where he went, just THAT he went. I have yet to see a job ad that said "must have degree from "this" university". Hell, many jobs just ask for a degree in some broad field. 4 Years at a good State University cost about 75% of my first years salary.
gailcalled's avatar
It's Northeastern, in downtown Boston. It is known for all its work/study programs and the ability of the students to try out careers while studying. Northwestern is in Evanston, ILL and the equivalent of a midwestern Ivy. Very costly. And you are absolutely right about 2 yrs at a CC and then a transfer. Good universities love getting successful community college grads who enter as Jrs. And if one wants a fancy degree, it may (and then again may not) matter for a graduate degree.
mirza's avatar

heres Brian’s reply:
“At Mirza,

I checked that, and the responses (particularly the incredibly long one) were very helpful, and if you can, let them know that I did read it. That was a great idea, for sure”

and heres his website (if anyone would like to help out)

voodoo's avatar

I’m going to recommend what others are saying. I work at a private university, and often when students aren’t able to make ends meet, and don’t want to take on loans, it’s possible for the student to either go to a state school (UMass was a good recommendation) or to a community college. Both kinds of school will give you financial aid. It’s a good way to transition to a four year school, and you should really consider it.

Ultimately though, my advice is, no matter where you wind up going, never lose sight of your goal: a college degree. Pedigrees from big name schools don’t mean much, it’s how one changes/transforms/grows where he/she is that makes a difference. Best of luck to you, Brian.

BTW: If you don’t like what a counselor said to you, you can always escalate it. Do it. For someone to make you feel like you’re not a worthwhile investment is unacceptable. You are every bit as important as the scholarship student. Trust me.

jgoose's avatar

This is an awful situation, and unfortunately I can’t think of anything to suggest to immediately solve it. Getting a job might not be a bad idea, save up and make it happen next year. Northeastern will still be there, and alot of students work before they go to school, especially if they are doing it themselves. Also, the suggestion of a state school is not a bad one, your friend didnt mention what he wants to study but UMass has many programs that are stronger than Northeastern, especially Amherst. If it is the city that he wants then there is UMass Boston, where he can go for a few years to get credits out of the way then pay more for Northeastern in his last years so thats the name on the degree.

mdy's avatar

The Student Scholarship Search website just published an eBook that may be helpful.


“Scholarship Search Secrets is a 35 page electronic book (eBook) about how to use popular Internet technologies like Google web search and RSS to find scholarships.”

It’s free if you register.

Response moderated
Evian's avatar

So sorry— this is rotten! Try
Also don’t give up ever on your goal of a degree. Just because you don’t do it in the regular sequence doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it . All of these obstacles are learning opportunities, which will make you stronger and smarter in the end if you persevere. Hang tough!

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