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Eyes on the prize

How to balance the needs of today with your goals for the future?

Our elder cautions that it’s a lot to juggle. Weigh your options carefully.

Dear EWC:

Hello. I’m a 21-year-old girl who has been attending community college for the past three years and working to support my parent and sibling at the same time. Thanks to the flexibility of the classes (my school offers online and hybrid options), so far I’ve managed pretty well.

I work 32-36 hours a week as a pharmacy technician at the moment and would like to be a full-fledged pharmacist someday. But in order to do that, I have to transfer to a university next year and complete my bachelor’s so that I can apply to pharmacy school afterward. All the universities that I looked into unfortunately require physical attendance for the majority of their courses, and most students at these schools take 4-6 classes every day.

Having a schedule like that would definitely decrease my ability to balance work and school, and I honestly cannot compromise my job as I’ve finally found one that I really enjoy and would like to stay in for a long time. I know it seems like I’m asking for too much by wanting both worlds, but I value both very much.
Is it normal for students to take loans to cover living expenses? Are there ways that I can support my family while making sure I do well academically? Thank you in advance for any advice!

Maryanne replies:

What an impressive young woman you are! You go to school and plan for your future. You work and take care of your family. You are a shining example.

Going to school and working is a challenge in itself. You have a job that you like in your field of interest. But you might have to give up the job so that you could complete your schooling. As there may be other options, I would suggest that you make an appointment to talk to someone at the school to see exactly how many courses have to be completed on site and how many credits they will accept towards the degree that are not completed on site.

In addition you should try talking to your boss and explain your plans for the future. They may be willing to mentor you; is there some way to cut your hours and still keep your job? The path to finish your education, if you continue to work also, is a longer path than if you were just going to school. As long as you reach the end it does not matter how long it takes. It may be difficult to give up a job that you like and is in the correct field. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to give up things in the present so that we can have what we want in the future.

While many students take out loans, I do not suggest loans unless you have a specific goal because loans do have to be paid back. As you do have a goal, and given your circumstances, it would be reasonable to consider a loan to help you obtain that goal. I am not suggesting that you take a loan so that you can support your sibling and parent. I admire you for wanting to do that but I do not think that is your responsibility. Once you are able to make a good life for yourself and have a job you like that pays well, at that point you will be in an even better place to help them out.

You have a lot to think about. I would suggest that you do not make any quick decisions but rather consider all your options carefully. It has been a pleasure to read your letter. I admire you greatly and wish you the very best in life.

School
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