During high school there was no other option: I was going to college. But my dreams were thrown into confusion during my junior year of high school, when my father was laid off. With him being the only working person in the house, my college dreams began to slip away. But I stayed determined and hopeful that he would eventually find a job, so I kept my grades up, had good ACT scores and worked my butt off.

Entering my senior year, after all the college applications were filled out, my dad was still jobless and the reality of college slipped further and further away. My mom told me to keep doing what I needed to do and eventually everything would work out.

Just before graduation, my dad found a job in South Carolina, taking a 10 percent pay cut from his previous job in Wisconsin. We had a family meeting to discuss how to pay for my college–I had already made up my mind to attend Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa; I just didn’t know how.

Financial aid forms arrived with the early estimates, using the information I’d supplied two months before my father lost his job. There was no way we could afford our estimated portion. Thankfully, we were able to discuss our “special circumstances” with financial aid counselors. Ultimately, more than half of my tuition was paid for through student aid, with programs such as the Perkins Loan, a grant from Buena Vista, Federal Work-Study, Stafford loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) and the Merit Award. Without all of these grants and loans, I would be unable to attend Buena Vista.

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