1. Having your parents take out a loan is not “paying for school yourself.”
Paying for school yourself is working 40-hour weeks, and maintaining a 3.5 so you won’t lose your scholarships. Paying for school yourself is sometimes sacrificing your grades because you did the night shift at your second job last night and didn’t get up on time this morning, or you had to choose between getting your payroll sheet in on time and getting your essay in on time. Paying for school yourself is counting out every. single. cent. before the semester starts, and not having the luxury of straying from your plan—if you’re going shopping every weekend and going out to eat every other day, we have different definitions of “poor” and “doing it yourself.”
2. We really can’t go out tonight.
Or, most likely, any night. We’re not avoiding you, we’re not dull or boring, and we do know what we’re missing out on. But we just can’t afford it. And it’s really hard to tell you that.
3. We cringe when you say “Well, some of us aren’t lucky enough to get financial aid.”
In a snide way, or when we see you acting as if that is a huge burden, but you are so brave and noble for taking it on. Whether it’s a façade because so many college students love playing the game of who-has-it-worse, or that’s how you honestly feel, there is nothing that causes more eye-rolling, finger-twitching, “Did you really just say that?!” resentment than that. Everyone has struggles, but in this area, we’ve got you beat. Count the blessings that we’d love to have, instead of making us feel guilty for “taking a handout.”
4. We will work harder than anyone you’ve ever known.
We are determined. We are motivated. Sometimes, we’re desperate. Whatever it is, it gives us a competitive edge. Sometimes that works in our favor, and sometimes it pushes away friends and rubs classmates the wrong way. It’s never personal.
5. It’s something we have to focus on a lot, but we don’t actually value money.
In relationships we’re looking for loyalty, open-mindedness, and good hearts. We don’t care what brands are in your closet, what year your car is, or if we exchange gifts on holidays. Authenticity, caring, and substance go a much longer way to impress us. In some aspects, money is everything to us…but in a way that can’t really be explained, that shows us how it really doesn’t matter at all.
6. We do not want to ever be anyone’s charity case.
Make no mistake: the fact that we don’t participate in the next round of shots or pay for the t-shirt that the whole club ordered doesn’t mean you need to do it for us—it probably means we’re saving our money for something that we need more, and we don’t need to feel bad about that. There’s a sense of responsibility and self-sufficiency that comes with making your own way through college, and some people misinterpret that as a front or mistake it for having too much pride. Trust me, it’s not. You can help by understanding, not by writing a check.
7. For those who are luckier than us in the financial department: we don’t hate you.
We don’t hold it against you. We just want you to see that there is something nice about being able to stay an extra year if you need to, being able to come back to school regardless of fluctuations in your GPA, and being able to choose where you apply your money. When it’s coming out of your pockets, or from a private lender, there’s no one to say “this grant is too big” or “you can’t stack these scholarships”, picking and choosing on your behalf and leaving you with barely anything in the end. We know that having more money doesn’t necessarily mean you can study abroad five times or major-hop all you want, and we respect that. Some wealthier students are even at the mercy of their parents because they’re dependent on them financially, and that’s one thing we’re glad we’ll never experience. However, if you’re looking for someone to complain to about the fact that your parents only put 500 in your bank account last month, we are not that someone, period…but we’re here for all of your other problems!
8. Despite what you might think, in an attempt to flatter yourself or otherwise, we’re not jealous of anyone.
In the end, poor students win because they are learning the lessons that you can’t get from the classroom. We’re learning how to always aim higher, how to give tireless effort, how character matters more than grades. We’re learning how to manage our finances, budget, save, gain interest, compile emergency funds, and choose banks and accounts based on what they offer. We’re learning time management skills and professionalism that will lay the foundation for amazing futures. We’ll have a sense of confidence and an experience in independence that make graduation into a hell-yes moment rather than an oh-god-now-what freakout. Ultimately, the things we get from struggling through these years have value beyond monetary measure–and there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that those are the only things that truly matter.