This week was my Leaversary! 40 years ago at the age of 18 I decided I needed to leave the Bruderhof and struck off on my own with one month’s rent and $50. I had started tech school in Pittsburgh and had arranged for financial aid so that was covered. That first weekend I walked to the nearest intersection and got a job at Penguini’s Pizzeria washing pots. I was cut off from my parents, childhood friends and the life I had known where I thought I would live out my days. It was exciting, scary and very lonely. I had to create a completely new life with different values and culture – music, movies, TV. I was suddenly exposed to all of the 60s and 70s rock and roll in a single day! Wow!! I watched a lot of bad sitcom reruns and learned some of the wrong things. It took me three years to kiss a girl and immediately confessed that I loved her! It was our first date and she never went out with me again. I have to laugh at that now. It took a few more years and plenty of mistakes but eventually I met the right girl, went back to school, became a doctor, had children, paid my debts and now am able to reach back and help others navigate the same path. Cheers to everyone willing to risk it all and strike out on your own. I and many others are here to help if you just ask.
Use your story. What you have done with your life thus far is a remarkable feat, and admissions and financial aid will view it as such. Don’t be scared to go straight to the top – ask to speak to the Dean, for example, if the underlings aren’t able or willing to help you. I got my financial aid family contribution waived by a yearly meeting with my Dean, where she checked up on how I was doing and reviewed my case.
Your story may sound fantastical to white bread America. If you find people disbelieve you, there are plenty of us willing to vouch for the hardships you have gone through to get to where you are.
Community College can be a nice way to get your feet wet, if a larger university and its expenses seems intimidating. Take as many core classes as you can and when you discover your area of interest, transfer those credits to a different college or university. When you do this, make sure your second school will accept ALL your previous credits. Some Community Colleges have good relationships with nearby Universities, this is a good quality to keep an eye out for while applying to colleges.
There’s nothing wrong with state universities or colleges. When all is said and done, it only matters if you have a Bachelor’s degree, not where you got it from. Be aware of student loans, it is better to apply to all other financial aid and scholarships and use that to get you as far as you can. One member of Afterhof says “I took out a student loan the first year after I left. But, because we were never taught about finances at all, or about credit and its impact on your entire life, I ran into trouble. Try to avoid it if you can, and have someone help you learn about how the credit, banking, and financial world works. I was just VERY fortunate that two wonderful girls I was rooming with, took me under their wings and explained everything to me, but I did run into issues with paying back the student loan which has affected my credit ever since”
Speak to the Student Aid department. Any financial aid you can get the better – use loans only as a last resort. Find people who will be able to write a letter on your behalf to the Fin. Aid Office – many of us who share your background can do this. It has proven useful for many in the past. It is much cheaper to go to college directly from the hof. If you work for a while first your income will be held against you when you start college. Meanwhile if you have no income and are essentially homeless or they use your parent’s hof based income, you may fare better with financial aid.
You probably have a better education, a better work ethic (from hoeing beans etc) and know more about nature than most people you will meet. Have confidence in yourself, dream big, be willing to take a long time to reach your goals and to delay gratification (you are good at that too) while pursuing those goals.
Going to school for something you are interested in is a lot more fun than working for a living in a job you hate. If there is some career that you are interested in, there is likely another leaver who is already doing that and can mentor you. Ask around.