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Weighing The Cost Of College

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By: Sayre Quevedo

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Photo Credit: BRETT MYERS/Youth Radio

One day last year I skipped school to wait for acceptances from colleges. It was the final day that letters or e-mails were supposed to be sent out.

I sat in front of my laptop by the front door for at least three hours, listening for the mailman while eagerly pressing the refresh button on my inbox. I admit, at one point, I checked my neighbor's mail. Getting my house skipped on the mail route was one of the less crazy hypotheticals I imagined while waiting.

The college responses I had already received were pinned up on a cork board in the hallway so everyone in my family would pass by them on the way to the bathroom.

After my 300th click I finally got it; my rejection e-mail. It was just 2 paragraphs: we're very sorry, such-and-such many applicants, etc. etc. Sure, I was upset. But, I thought, at least I still have the other schools on that corkboard.

A few weeks later, I got my federal financial aid notice or FAFSA. It estimates what your family can pay for college, and how much federal aid you can get. I knew the minute I saw those little black numbers it wouldn't be enough. My mom was still paying off her college loans and I had already spent more than I could afford on high school transcripts, applications, and the ACT test. Tuition at my top school was 30 thousand dollars a year and I was going to be on the hook for two-thirds of it.

The same night I got my FAFSA, I got an e-mail from a college site I subscribed to. The subject line read: "Can you Really Afford College?" For the first time, I was seeing the price tag of my dream and realizing it was way out of my budget.

I had spent months telling my friends about my plans for the next school year: Journalism and Anthropology classes on the East Coast, taking the subway, and going to poetry readings. That all changed after the financial aid letters. Now I'm attending community college, working two jobs and I'm still trying to figure out next year, and how much debt my college dreams are worth.

Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

This story is a project of Youth Radio's New Options Desk, supported by the New Options Project and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Youth Radio/Youth Media International (YMI) is youth-driven converged media production company that delivers the best youth news, culture and undiscovered talent to a cross section of audiences. To read more youth news from around the globe and explore high quality audio and video features, visit Youthradio.org