I’ll explain why full-ride is in quotations soon, but first, let me start by saying, college is a unique experience that is different for everyone. By no means am I encouraging anyone to drop out of school. That being said, you’re probably an adult, so you do you.
When I was in high school I went to a technical school part-time alongside regular school during my junior and senior year. Something happened to me my junior year that turned me into an over achiever, because I was also taking college level Japanese and Chinese classes. I was in a culinary arts and pastry program, and I gained a certificate of completion alongside my high school diploma. It was a great program and during it, I joined the competition team during my last year in the program.
I spent nearly every single day of my senior year practicing for a competition where I would have to compete against the others in my program and from others all around the state. By the end of that program, me and two other girls had made it into the final big competition. I barely made it in, a friend and fellow student stepped down and I took his place. The preliminaries were harder than the main competition, and I theoretically didn’t make the cut. I was devastated for all of about two hours until my teacher pulled me into his office to tell me that my friend gave up his spot for me. I couldn’t believe it and the guilt that I have from this situation still stays with me.
So I moved up, and I kicked ass in that competition. And so did the other two girls with me. We each got full-ride scholarships to culinary schools of our choosing. Not to mention we made our school look fantastic; three teenage girls kicking ass at a ‘manly’ competition and taking the top three spots to the top three prestigious culinary/pastry schools in America.
I moved to Denver, and I went to culinary school for an entire year and racked up a considerable amount of debt. Because $40,000 to a private school is nothing. That was the yearly tuition and that’s all I won. That’s why full-ride is in quotations. They split my scholarship up into $10,000 increments to be paid out on a yearly basis provided I kept my GPA at a certain point (I can’t remember what it was). My housing alone was just shy of $11,000; this was insane. Mind you I was attending in 2009, just one year after the economic crisis that literally devastated my family. I think my grand total of debt from that school year with housing and food included is around $36,000.
At the end of my freshman year, I was fed up. It was everything I expected and at the same time it was the opposite of what I wanted. Yeah, they had some notable chefs to go through that school but was I going to be one of them? Hell no. I realized quickly how badly I hated the pastry industry and what it had become because of the economic crisis. All people wanted were cupcakes. Towers of them. Why? No one could afford a real cake or sugar/chocolate sculpture anymore. I did learn a lot though; it’s hard not to learn anything when you’re trapped in kitchens 6+ hours a day for a year. I gained some skills from that school — I can make one hell of a beef bourguignon.
In the end, my GPA was sitting just high enough to keep my scholarship and I could have kept going but I chose not to. I moved back home and went to community college for a couple of years and worked multiple retail jobs. Because being far away in a school that could have cared less about me made me care more about myself and my family who could barely stay afloat at the time. I had options, I exercised them and I would do it again and again. Because I wound up here, writing, studying astronomy (I am a huge nerd), and I love my life. I wish that the debt was erased, and I wasn’t struggling with financial aid every semester. But, I can’t erase what I did and I’ve embraced it since it got me to where I am today.