I Had to Turn Down My Dream College Because I Couldn’t Afford It

Ever since I was in middle school, I was dead-set on finding “the perfect college for me”. One that I could thrive in, get an amazing education, have lots of opportunities, and become a better version of myself. I remember in both 7th and 8th grade, there was a week where our school counselor would come in and talk to us about college, and how we needed to start getting prepared then, because “it comes up faster than you realize”.

Of course, as most middle school students would, my classmates participated in the week’s activities, but quickly forgot about it. Not me- I started researching colleges right away. I used a few different websites to look up colleges, and I made lists of the ones that sounded interesting to me- majors, prices, locations, student life, I looked at it all.

I eventually found the one– the college that was perfect for me. I visited John Brown University (JBU) the spring of my junior year and fell in love with it. It had seemed amazing online, but actually being on campus made it that much easier to decide: this was the college I wanted to attend when I graduated high school. The location, the atmosphere, the classes, campus, majors- everything was just what I wanted.

Growing up, adults always said that if you work hard in school, do extra curricular activities (“They look great on college applications!!”), get good grades, and be a decent person, you can go to your dream college! Once you get in, that’s it, that’s where you’re going!!! I had a good ACT score and great grades, so I of course got in to JBU. I didn’t even apply to any other schools- this was where I wanted to go. I knew that already, and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind.

However, JBU is expensive. I was never blind to this fact, and I wasn’t dumb- a private Christian school is going to cost a lot of money, money that my family just doesn’t have. However, I was determined. I worked hard applying for almost every scholarship I could find. From the beginning of my senior year up to the last month, I spent all of my free time in my classes finding and applying for scholarships. In January, I attended a scholarship competition at JBU, knowing that if I won the top scholarship, I could attend the school with no problem. I was anxious but excited in the possibility, and I continued to work as hard as I could to make sure I could attend my dream school.

A few weeks later, I got the call that more or less changed everything for me. I did win a scholarship- $13,000 a year, which was great, but not even close to what I needed to go to JBU. I cried once the phone call ended. I realized that I might not be able to go to my dream college after all. I was crushed, and cried multiple times over the course of the next few days. I didn’t give up, and I continued to apply for scholarships, but I also started looking at other colleges that I could afford and apply for last minute, since I didn’t apply to any other schools other than JBU.

As the months went on, my friends were getting scholarships left and right, and I was still left with nothing. I eventually had to be honest with myself and give up on my dream school. Going there wasn’t worth going into debt that would take forever to pay off, no matter how much I wanted it; I signed up to enroll at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) for the fall semester and said goodbye to my dream of going to JBU.

I was heartbroken at first, because I had always believed that if you worked hard and did good in school, you’d get to go to college where you wanted to go. That’s what happened to everyone- in movies and in real life. All of my friends were getting ready to go to their top college choices, getting four or five of the scholarships they had applied for, and here I was, having to turn down the opportunity to go to JBU because I couldn’t afford it. I got one of the thirty+ scholarships I applied for. It was hard. It sucked. It broke my heart and tore me down.

But now, I’m in my second semester of MSSU. It may not have been my top choice, but I’m glad I’m here now. It’s a great school, especially the communications department. I just joined band, have met some really awesome people, and am working towards my goal of being debt free when I graduate. My boyfriend is joining me here in the fall, this town is a great place to live, and this school gives me a lot of incredible opportunities. Everything may not have gone as I had originally planned, but that’s okay.

Something I’ve realized is that sometimes, we can dream big and work really hard for something, but it just doesn’t work out. This doesn’t mean that I am any less of a person. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t deserve it, or that I didn’t “work hard enough”. My worth is not wrapped up in the amount of scholarships I received, and it is not based on what college I attend. I am still working hard to achieve my other dreams and goals, and I will not let this one broken dream define me. For those of you who are personally experiencing the same thing, remember this: It may hurt now, but do not give up hope for the future. There are so many opportunities out there for you, there are dreams in your heart that are waiting to be achieved, and you can keep on shining no matter where you are.

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