College was the first time I was away from home for an extended period, and I left home with a heavy heart. Just as I submitted my Colgate application on New Year’s Eve, I received a call from my mother asking me to rush home from the Prep for Prep brownstone, where I had been locked away with the rest of my contingent-mates for a week trying to bang out the rest of our applications. She broke the news that my father had been laid off from his job at Frito Lay after almost 17 years with the company. A million thoughts went through my head, especially since my mother’s pay had just been reduced a few months earlier.
Will I be able to afford to go to a private undergraduate institution? Will my parents be able to pay for the rest of my senior year at Nightingale? Will I be able to afford my diabetic medical supplies if my father’s health insurance is taken away? However, my father pushed me to still apply with the belief that we would tackle any obstacle that came our way.
As soon as I received my financial aid package from Colgate, I knew that the numbers I saw next to “Expected Family Contribution” were not possible for my family and our financial reality. Fortunately enough, the Colgate Financial Aid office was understanding of our situation yet, they could only reduce the contribution by so much. Regardless, my parents refused to let me work my first semester, with the intention of sending me money periodically because, “I needed to get used to what my life would be like for the next four years.”
With my body at school but my heart and mind at home, along with the struggles of adjusting to a new environment and newfound “freedom,” I was placed on academic probation for the first time in my life after my first semester. I knew I was not doing well in my classes; however, a 1.75 GPA was something I thought was impossible for me (yes…I got a 1.75). It seemed as though I was trying to fail. I was discouraged.
I knew that Colgate would send a letter home regarding my status, and I knew that I did not want my parents to read it before I got my hands on the letter. I quickly ran to the post office one morning to pick it up, with the plan to take my father to the local White Castle (there were always police officers for the homeless population) to discuss my probation. As I explained to him and showed him the letter, he said the words no daughter wants to hear: “I am not mad. I am disappointed.” From that moment on, I knew that, although my family has had other financial struggles since the moment my father was laid off with my mother being on disability since my senior year at Colgate, my academics should not be an additional burden. My parents have done all they could for me and my education since the 7th grade, and the least I could do for them was get the grades they knew I was capable of achieving.
Since that moment, I had the honor of getting Dean’s List four semesters in a row, and every time my parents received the email detailing my accomplishment, I realized that the academic probation was the rock bottom that is sometimes necessary for someone to become fully aware of their true potential. I ended my time at Colgate with a 3.42 GPA in Sociology and a 3.38 GPA in Spanish, and although that may not be reflected in my 3.01 cumulative GPA due to the probation, it is something I am still truly proud of compared to where I started.