I’ll Just Be a Beach Bum in the South of France

I hit a hard place. I’ve been trying to file for Financial Aid to go to school in the UK. My mom, Hell bent that because I’m a British citizen that happens to reside in the US, decided to reopen the case of how to get residential tuition for Durham. I went back and looked at my application in UCAS, and noticed something that might have been of some importance: For some reason, I had answered “no” on both questions asking if I or my parents had lived and/or worked in the UK.

I wrote to UCAS, alerting them to the error, which they happily changed, and then wrote to Durham, who was more than happy to let me know that I qualified to be reevaluated. After a lot of gathering of information and scanning it all into the computer (and I do mean a lot of information) and sending it off, I was informed that I didn’t qualify for residential tuition because it had been more than three years since I’d lived and worked over there.

I’m hung up on the loan system over here in the US. I can’t do it. I can’t pay the amount of interest for student loans. I can’t do it. I’m working 70 hour work weeks so that I can get out of debt, and I don’t want to keep being in the amount of debt with impossible interest rates just so I can get a piece of paper. This is part of the reason I stayed out of college to begin with! I can’t do it, and I just don’t wanna!

So my options are this:

  1. I suck it up, and take the US loans
  2. I move to the UK, hope I get a job that pays £18+ an hour and work 40 hours a week so I can save up for one year’s worth of tuition
  3. Move to the UK and live and work there for 3 years to get residency and reapply to universities, hoping that my AA from the community college is still applicable, and be able to apply for scholarships and British Financial Aid
  4. Apply to schools in the US so I can qualify for scholarships
  5. Apply to European Universities which offer free or greatly reduced tuition
  6. Scrap the whole idea and just move to Europe anyway and eat cheese and speak French

I won’t lie, I’m mostly leaning towards option 6, except for the part that I’ve worked so hard and come so far in my education. However, if I did that, I could just gain residency in the EU, and while it wouldn’t help me get the British tuition, it would help me get a reduced tuition (from what I’m eligible for currently). However, again, it would be a matter of potentially waiting another three years. But then again, it would really strengthen my re-application to be fluent (which I think after 3 years in France or wherever, I’d be damn near fluent) in a second language.

These are the things rolling around in my head. I think perhaps a lot of my uncertainty of what to do boils down to my exhaustion. As I mentioned, I”m working 70 hour work weeks. I took sick days this week because my back and hip is so messed up from my coffee warehouse gig–and those are the first days I’ve had off since May 1st (that’s 25 days of working, for those of you wondering).

Plus, I’ve had the carrot of l’Ecole Normale Supérieure dangled in front of me, which is a University of a higher ranking than Durham in Paris, where I could study philosophy in French–and that is quite a tasty looking carrot. However, I know that in order to get into such a school, I’d have to have a lot more fluency under my belt than the one college year of French. But golly! What a fantastic dream it is to have…..

FAFSA for Overseas

I was reluctant to start applying for financial aid until I heard back from all of my schools. I finally got tired of waiting and told the final school I was waiting on, Exeter, that I wasn’t interested. I gave a firm yes to Durham, and applied for financial aid.

I did this through FAFSA, and was able to select the school I’m going to. It’s been a very confusing process so far. I did this back in March (maybe February?) and they only just got back to me a few days ago.

The email was from Durham, but I think the loans I’m applying for are from the US. It’s very perplexing. They sent me an Excel spreadsheet to figure out how much it’ll cost for me to go to school and for what loans I’m eligible for. The spreadsheet covered everything from tuition to a new computer and printer to toiletries. Since I plan on working while I’m over there, I put down zero for the cost of everything except for tuition. My total translated to $25,245 for the year.

I qualify for Subsidized loans (up to $3,500), up to $6,000 in Unsubsidized loans, and the rest for Parent PLUS loans.

Now, I had no idea what this meant, so I had to look it up and have a co-worker in the Writing Center help me out.

Subsidized Loans are loans that don’t begin accruing interest until after the student graduates.

Unsubsidized Loans are loans that begin accruing interest right away.

PLUS Loans are for parents of dependent students and graduate students.

The latter doesn’t apply to me, since I’m nearly 30, making me far too old to be dependent. The other two loans just simply scare me. Part of it is because I’m working 63 hour work weeks and suffering regular back pain (I’m having sciatic nerve pain as I sit and write this now) so that I can crawl out of debt before I go to University. The other part of it is knowing that I’ll be adding 4.5% interest on $6k right away, and another 6% interest on $16+k right away, and that’s just for one year. It’s kind of terrifying.

I emailed the school and asked what my options were. They suggested looking into Sallie Mae, which I have yet to do. The email said:

If the Parent PLUS is not an option for you, you can try Sallie Mae private loans. We don’t advice students on private loans, so you would have to check with Sallie Mae directly the eligibility. Most likely as an Undergraduate student you would need an endorser to apply for loans but it’s worth to check exactly. Sadly, there is very limited support available to international undergraduate students.

This wasn’t particularly helpful, as it raised a few questions:

  • If Sallie Mae is private loans, that why am I being recommended to go through them but also advised not to go through private loans?
  • What is an endorser?
  • How do I become endorsed?

I’ll try and find out what I can from this Sallie Mae deal, and go from there. It’s all very quite perplexing.