How to find job/ pay for college
March 17, 2010 9:17 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to make life easier on my family and i? (were broke)

About a year ago, my mom lost her job. It's been hard on us, and it just keeps getting harder. My family has never been rich, but at one time we were doing really well.
I have three siblings who are all just out of college and pretty much on their own except that my parents are still paying off student loans. And me, I've been the most expensive child- I needed braces for an impacted tooth, alot of mouth work done, and I've been to the ER alot for freak things like intestinal spasms and broken bones. Also, I really want to go to the Art Institute of Houston next year for college because they are the only school remotely close to me that has an animation major- only problem is the tuition is $22,000 per year, and Texas Tomorrow fund won't cover near that amount. I have been scouring the internet for scholarships, signed up for a few and awaiting responses. I am white, which eliminates me from so many potential scholarships (not meant to offend anyone). I have a 3.6-3.7 gpa and do 2 sports in school but all academic scholarships seem to care about is class rank, which is so-so.
Also, another issue is me finding a job. I have applied so many places, have job experience, good personality, and a good record, and nobody will hire me still. It's hard because I'm on my own now as far as anything but groceries and absolute necesities, and i cant afford clothes or gas, even, which my boyfriend insists on paying for.
I know there are many people that have been affected by the economy, but is there anyone who can give me good, honest advice about how I can pay for college/ find a job at 17?
posted by xopaigexo to Work & Money (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it's weird your parents are paying all of your siblings loans. That can't really be helping out the household situation too much.
Your parents issues are theirs though so I guess the better you can look after yourself the more it can help them and you.

Keep up the scholarship hunt...every little bit helps. You should apply for FAFSA which should be able to help out quite a bit.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:28 PM on March 17, 2010

The part about getting job was cut out...I was just saying I don't see what type of jobs you have had before or what you are applying for now but anything is better than nothing so go lower on the totem pole if you haven't already.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:30 PM on March 17, 2010

Your siblings may qualify for loan deferment based on hardship or unemployment. I would recommend that your parents contact the lenders and see what can be done. It generally involves filling out a form and presenting some small amount of proof. In my experience, student loan officers are the easiest to deal with when it comes to people you owe money to.

As for finding a job, what kind of things are you looking for? You might have to lower your standards and take what you can get. Sorry if that's not the advice you were hoping for.
posted by lexicakes at 9:36 PM on March 17, 2010

Why are your parents paying for your sibling's student loans? That is seriously not called being on their own. I'm probably going to graduate with the amount of loans of your siblings combined (tuition/room and board for me is around 50k/year) and I will be working to pay that off on my own.

You ought to convince your parents to completely cut your siblings loose because their lack of finding gainful employment in order to pay off college loans is on them and not your parents. They've done enough by putting them through college. Tell them to buck up and stop slacking off so that they can pay off their loans. How is it fair to you that your siblings are not willing to take the responsibility for their loans? I mean, they're grown!! They ought to be taking more responsibility for their actions, but I guess given the cause of our current economic slump, I suppose people like your siblings are in the majority.

As for jobs, apply everywhere! Everywhere meaning all sorts of retail, restaurant jobs, odd jobs like babysitting, etc. Don't think any job is beneath you when you need the money. If you have computer technical skills, look into nearby universities (University of Houston, Rice, etc) for computing jobs. Universities usually have spots open for those jobs and they pay decently. Since your GPA is decent, perhaps look into tutoring jobs? Or teach kids how to draw/be artsy since you're wanting to pursue an animation major! think about what jobs your skill set would make you absolutely great for.
posted by astapasta24 at 9:52 PM on March 17, 2010

My advice to you would be to NOT go into $88k debt for a four year degree. A better option would be to move out on your own, get a part time job, and go to a community college for a couple of years. At that point, your financial aid will be based on your (tiny) income instead of your parents combined income so you will be more likely to get more financial aid. As this economy shows, having a degree is no guarantee you will get a job and the last thing you want to do is bury yourself in debt before you have even reached your 20s.
posted by MsKim at 9:56 PM on March 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

Even before the internet you should have contacted the admissions/financial aid department at the college you want to attend. Are you sure the Texas Tomorrow fund wouldn't cover tuition there?
posted by jacalata at 10:04 PM on March 17, 2010

Your parents should not be paying for your siblings' student loans. Your siblings should be paying for that because it was their education. If they can't currently cover the loan payments, they can get deferrments very easily, especially if they are government loans.

At 17, in this economy, it's going to be tough to find a job because all of the "crap" jobs that normally would have gone to high school students are now being filled by college students and even college graduates who can't find jobs. The problem with high school students is their availability. They're not available to work during school hours, plus they have all the extracurricular sports and marching band and crap to make them look good to colleges, so they can only work like 6 hours a week. Hiring them is not worth it to most employers these days.

I used to work at an art university, one probably very similar to the one you want to go to. It was $20K a year plus housing. It's more expensive now. The work load on students was VERY heavy, such that almost no one had time for a job to earn money to pay tuition. If you really want to go to that school, see if you can go part time and get a part time job. Or go to community college to get all the non-art stuff out of the way for cheaper and then after a year or two you can go to art school.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:20 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I will agree with MsKim about trying a community college before you go into a four year program at a university. You can get your prerequisites out of the way for far less money than you would be paying, and the education is (in my experience; I know, anecdotal) usually just as good. However, I don't think your FAFSA qualifications will be based only on your income until you're 24. Until then, your parents' income will still count. I could be wrong about this, so if anyone has further information, please correct me.
posted by lexicakes at 10:27 PM on March 17, 2010

nthing what everyone said about the FAFSA. My family's financial situation has never been that hot, and I've been using money from the FAFSA (called a Pell Grant) to pay my tuition. I'm graduating this semester, debt-free. My parents didn't pay anything to the school. Granted, I go to a state school, so tuition isn't that high.

Have you talked to the school you are interested in, to see what your options are?

As for jobs, you said that you wanted to study animation, so I'm guessing you have a strong artistic side. Take up graphic design as a side job. All you need in terms of capital is Photoshop, at least, maybe InDesign, and you're good to go. I've been working as a freelance graphic designer for about three years now. I've never had a "real" job. But what I make from designing is enough to pay for my (un-extravagant) shopping trips, extra groceries, presents for my little bros, etc.

And I didn't pay anything to get trained. I just spent HOURS everyday on the internet, reading design blogs, hanging around design forums and networks, and gleaning inspiration from inspiring people. There are a lot of places on line like PSDtuts, NETtuts, Smashing Magazine, Behance Network, Tutorial9 and many, many more that are full of info for newbies.

Graphic design is the perfect side job for me, because I can work any time, I don't need a car to get to my job, I don't have annoying co-workers, no office drama, etc. You can find clients on the net, as well, in places like Etsy, Artfire. Ask around your city. A lot of places will want websites put up for them or promo packages made, press kits, stuff like that. Join design competitions around campus. You will probably have to do a few jobs for free at first, to build up your portfolio, but the portfolio is the most important thing, as it shows future paying clients what you are capable of.

Photoshop is an expensive program, though, so see if you can find it on ebay or from a friend, buy it secondhand. You'll find a way to get your hands on it, don't worry.

good luck~
posted by joyeuxamelie at 10:49 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd have to agree with others on a lot of fronts - if your parents are having a hard time making ends meet, paying your siblings' school loans seems like a lot of extra burden. It's probably time for your siblings to step up.

Definitely fill out the FAFSA and explore options with the college you're interesting in attending. I'd also agree with the sentiments about exploring a community college before a four-year program. The tuition is cheaper and you'll clear up generals. Another advantage is that it gives you a little more time to be positive that you're choosing the correct major. It's not uncommon to change majors and college isn't cheap, so if you're able to "waste" fewer credits, more power to you.

What's the job outlook for animation? Not to dissuade you from your dreams, but definitely make sure that the jobs are out there. Nothing sucks more than being good at what you do and having to compete with 100 other equally-qualified people.

Jobs? Keep applying and follow up with the hiring manager. Don't forget to follow up!
posted by bucko at 10:53 PM on March 17, 2010

The art institute schools are a waste of time and an extreme waste of money. I basically had to repeat 2 years of college because I went there. Find a state school that accepts community college credits and has an illustration major. Even if you just have to major in general fine arts you'll be way ahead.

Honestly, I was extremely lucky in that my parents paid 100% of it, but I have to say going to an Ai school was likely the biggest mistake of my life.
posted by tremspeed at 11:10 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

(Whatever you conceive the source of the Universe to be, whether a Christian's God, or a Flying Spaghetti Monster, or anything equally unlikely,) love you, child. You've been born to bad times, and maybe, some immediate heartache.

Not every American child gets to follow their dreams, direct from high school, regardless of a good GPA and lack of a felony record. There is no shame, at 17, in not having money of your own, with which to pursue your dreams. There is no shame in dreaming something for yourself, in the future, no matter how unattainable that dream may seem, now. There is, however, or will be, a lot of shame, if you pursue a course of risk, in education or business, on borrowed money, and fail in your attempt.

Regular, 40-hour-a-week-jobs-with-benefits are scarce as hen's teeth almost everywhere in America, these days. Going down the economic ladder, to accept part-time work, and no benefits, may be better than nothing, but it's not much better, if you can't save money doing it. It's not clear from your post whether you could live at home, while not going to college, and work some part time, low wage, no benefit jobs, to save some money, yourself. If you could, fine, go with lexicakes advice.

Otherwise, look into making your own job. Perhaps you could sell Avon. Or Amway. Or, perhaps, advertising for your local paper, radio station, or TV station. A lot of sales jobs take the form of an independent contractor approaching a local business, with a plan to bring that business additional revenue, on condition of being appointed an agent of that company. One of the most successful radio advertising sales people I ever employed began with me and my station partners when she was 18, and quit when she was 22, to attend Vanderbilt University, on commissions we paid her for selling radio ads on a 3,000 watt Class B FM station, in the mid-1970s, to the local Food Lion, dairy, and hardware store, and used car lot, in Pulaski, TN. And the late 1970s, as you certainly don't recall, were, in many ways, an equally challenging time in the history of American economics.

Last I heard from her, she was teaching communications in the SUNY system, writing a book on adoption, and preparing for the arrival of her first grand child.

You should do so well, from such an inauspicious starting point as you here describe, while waiting a few years, to attend college. I say this as a person who did not complete his B.S. until age 53, and yet, strangely, has mostly enjoyed his life, and seen others succeed while doing so.
posted by paulsc at 11:18 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seriously, SERIOUSLY go to community college to begin with, regardless of where you want to get your degree from. You will pay less than half as much per credit hour, and be taught (in most cases) by an actual Ph.D. in a class of less than 50, instead of by a harried TA in a class of over 200. If nothing else, research the prereqs for the classes you actually want to take at art school (including general ed and distribution requirements) and get them out of the way for cheap. There is no point to paying $22K a year to take Comp 101.

Houston Community College even offers a 2-year program in 2-D and 3-D animation, for $57 per credit hour, or about $2200 a year. Ten percent of the AI cost!
posted by KathrynT at 2:09 AM on March 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

Lots of people over the years have traded the military 4 years of their life for college. You could look into the state schools(Texas A&M?) that have a graphic arts program and check out what ROTC might be able to provide.
posted by COD at 5:34 AM on March 18, 2010

DO NOT GO to the Art Institute school. LISTEN to the folks up above, they know what they speak of.

I agree with those that say start with community college. They are absolutely correct.

PS I went to a very well regarded art school back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (Ringling School of Art.) I didn't finish but I am in contact with quite a few that did. There is a rather large percentage of very talented folk who to this day struggle employmentwise (even tho others have done very well for themselves.) Even the ones who are well employed-let's just say very very few have their dream jobs. And these were cream of the crop people.

Get your feet wet at a cheaper school. Get your prerequisites out of the way. See how you shake out....there will always be a later time you can go to a school of your dreams. A lot of people I went to school with were older students, going back to do just that.

And PS it is incredibly true that if you go to an art school there is NO spare time for a parttime job. You WILL be pulling allnighters to do projects.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:25 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone above about community college....

But, let's ask the question: Do you have any recognized talent? Has anyone shown interest in your animation and drawings? Good/developed talent can go a long way towards landing a scholarship, especially at schools like MCAD in Minneapolis that have an awesome animation major.

My advice is to go to a community college for a few years to get your pre-reqs out of the way. If you're lucky, you can find one that has a competent set of teachers for drawing and graphic design, who can help you develop your talent to the point where you will shine when you apply for a 4-year program at a good art college.
posted by camworld at 6:32 AM on March 18, 2010

lexicakes, you are correct about the FAFSA. Unless you are married, have your own children, homeless, an emancipated minor, or have other extenuating circumstances, you will have to report your parents income on the FAFSA until you are 24 or until you complete your first bachelor's degree.

Your mom's unemployment status can actually work to your advantage. On the FAFSA, one of the questions is "Is your parent a dislocated worker?". Because your mom lost her job, she would be considered a dislocated worker. This information will be used to calculate your financial aid eligibility.

In regards to finding a job, when you complete the FAFSA, you are applying for grants, loans, and also something called work study. If you qualify for work study, you'll be able to get a job on campus (maybe working as a receptionist or in the library or the cafeteria) and the money will go directly to you, in the form of a check, instead of being credited to your tuition, like most financial aid is.

There are scholarships available for students in your field who are not ethnic minorities. Here's one, at least:

I suggest setting up an account on with School Soup. It's a little spammy at times, but it generates a customized list of scholarships (actual *scholarships*, not gimmicky contests, like FastWeb) that you're eligible for for.

Also, if you haven't done so already, check with your high school counselors to see what community scholarships are available.

Lastly, like other commenters have said, I would search for other alternatives beside AI Houston. Proprietary institutions have come under fire recently for charging students high tuition and leaving them ill-prepared with low job placement rates and astronomical debt. You can get the same quality of education at a community college or an in-state school for a much lower cost *and* you're more likely to receive institutional scholarships from these schools than you would from The Art Institutes.

If you have any questions, feel free to MeMail me. I'd love to help you! Good luck!
posted by chara at 6:41 AM on March 18, 2010

I worked at a NYC animation studio for five years, and met lots of people who came to the industry from a wide variety of backgrounds. An important thing to keep in mind with animation is that while certain, well-connected schools can fast-track you to a job at an elite studio (CalArts comes to mind, particularly) and any decent program will teach you some valuable skills, the animation industry puts much more emphasis on your portfolio, skills and experience than your college degree. Several of my coworkers at the studio didn't have degrees, and others held degrees from completely unrelated programs at unremarkable schools. This usually had zero impact on their ability to get jobs. In the end, what mattered was the strength of their work and their relationships with other people in the industry. Those who benefited from going to animation school did so largely because of the connections they had formed there. But my boss, the creator of the show I work on, came to New York with no connections at all and just worked very, very hard to get internships and low-level production jobs and learn as much as he could.

Which isn't to say that you shouldn't bother trying to to go school, of course. But if, for whatever reason, you can't make this particular situation work out right now, that doesn't mean you won't be able to have the career you're hoping for. If you're motivated and work hard, you can teach yourself all the skills you'll need to know, and your dedication and talent will impress the gatekeepers of the studios you're trying to work at.

I'd second those who're telling you to get out, find a job, and take some classes at community college if you want to start working toward a degree. If there's a particularly subsection of the industry that you want to be working in, focus on getting to the point where you can physically move there, if only temporarily, so that you can get involved with the community and start making the rounds at the studios. I got my first internship by showing up at the studio I wanted to work at with my portfolio and asking them if they needed any interns. Then I worked really hard to prove I was worth hiring on full-time.

Most internships are unpaid or have very small stipends, but they also tend to be flexible in terms of scheduling, and many producers/production managers will work out a part-time arrangement with you if you're up-front about it. I worked retail during my internship. Friends of mine worked through a temp agency that seemed to go fairly well for them. If you have friends or family you can crash with or pay a reduced rent to in the city you want to work in, even better.

Best of luck to you, whatever you decide to do!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:01 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

FastWeb is a good scholarship finding tool. Build a profile and it suggests specific scholarships. From specific schools, even.

File the FAFSA. You'll qualify for something, even if only loans.

Or.. find a job and work for a few years and save. When you are 23, spend a year traveling around on your savings. Then file the FAFSA as an independent student with an income of zero. You'll get paid.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 7:50 AM on March 18, 2010

Do not go to a for-profit school. They are a waste of money. $22,000/year is absolutely ridiculous. Go to a community college for two years and then transfer to a 4 year university.
posted by desjardins at 8:29 AM on March 18, 2010

there are a ton of fantastic suggestions here. nthing all the suggestions to NOT go to AI. my mom went to the AI of atlanta and that's why she refused to let me go to an art school, she called it the biggest waste of money in her life. instead, i graduated from a highly regarded public uni (which was SO much cheaper) with an art and english degree and beat out a bunch of art school grads to get my current (art) job. the community college suggestions are good ones. also, with community college, it's pretty standard that you can transfer to a well regarded public uni if you have stellar grades- quite a few people i knew at my (hard to get into) public school had done 2 yrs of community college and then 2 yrs at my uni and probably spent a LOT less on their education than i did, and got the same degree.
posted by raw sugar at 10:41 AM on March 18, 2010

A lot of good advice has already been given...
Nnthing the FAFSA and other financial aid. You are not required to pay back loans until 6 months after you get out of school and then if you are having financial issues they are very nice about giving deferrals.
Talk to the Art Institute of Houston and see what they can tell you about any financial aid there and if there is a way they think you can make it. They know all the ropes. Carnegie-Mellon University is another college you might consider. It is the best as far as an animation program and they have had some money for scholarships given to them in the past year.
Community college may work for you, but maybe, in your heart, that doesn't cut it. What do you think? A lot of people follow that route.
The thing is that a lot of doors open when you ask questions and knock on them. If you just "assume" certain things you can be wrong. The old addage, "You'll never know unless you try," is often true.
You have a good heart... and dreams do come true sometimes...
posted by srbrunson at 4:53 PM on March 18, 2010

nthing the anti-AI sentiment. I have a friend who attended, and while she's done quite well for herself with a government job, most of her friends from college are unemployed or working at UPS. The art institutes don't even require a portfolio to get in; this is not a normal art school situation, and from what she told me, the quality of students and professors is generally pretty low.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:16 AM on March 19, 2010

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