Want to start school and get our life on track, but how?
August 26, 2010 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Want to start school and get our life on track, but how? I've made some mistakes in college by not showing up an entire semester so my GPA is 1.05, even the lower university's here in TN like austin peay won't take me because my grades suck. I live a hour away from the two community colleges in my area. I also have to figure out how I'm going to give my family a place to live, I lost my job in missouri and moved down to TN with my mom.

Ok so lets break this situation down so I can get some advice;

Me and my wife are still pretty young, we are both turning 21.

I used to work up in Missouri for a company called Service Master, but I lost my job when they had found I lied on some paperwork. I was being selfish and lazy. They asked about it, I told them what I did and I told them it was very selfish and I apologized. They ended up letting me go and I don't blame them really. It was a poor decision and a mistake I've learned from.

The problem is I had to move to TN with my mom... I have a wife and child. The accommodations are very cramped and tiny, and my sister is staying here with her 3 y/o son too; she just went thru a divorce. My mom is manipulative and we are starting to butt heads already. She is trying to tell us how to parent our child and so is my sister. It's all very stressful and frustrating.

My mom is currently giving my wife a job working at her daycare, I still don't have a job. This is great, but my mom likes to use it against us often to get her way. My wife is only making minimum wage. Our 4 mo old used to get to stay at the day care for free but now my mom takes out $55 a week from my wife's check. My wife is also breastfeeding and my mom is pressuring us to go to formula. We are strong believers in breastfeeding and we don't want to use formula if it's not needed.

We are currently working to get rid of some small debts and pay off any doctor bills related to the birth of our little girl. We are trying to become and stay mostly debt free. We want our own place and we want some privacy.

I want to go to school and get my degree so I can better my life and make more income for my family. My wife also wants to try to obtain her degree. My gpa sucks it's a 1.05, I have about 14 classes of straight ZEROS! I stopped going to class in the beginning of the semester when my wife got pregnant. We are both really frustrated and we feel lost and directionless. I feel like we are stuck in a giant mud hole. Is this what adulthood is supposed to be like!? We are starting to fight often over the small stuff and our marriage is being stressed. We don't want to be like this! We want to be successful and responsible adults.

We both are in the national guard and our unit is located in Missouri so we have to drive up there once a month to drill. We like our unit a lot and don't want to move units. I don't know if we really even want to be in TN right now. I can't really figure out what state or place we want to be. It's all really confusing.
posted by anonymous to Education (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you can use academic bankruptcy to remove your bad semester's grades from your record. You should talk to your adviser about it.

About the rest: It sounds like you can't afford to go back to school right now. You need to get a job -- any job -- and quickly get out of your mom's house before it gets worse (and it surely will).
posted by fritley at 1:50 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fort Campbell is very close to you. Maybe with your record in the National Guard you could get a job there?
posted by Mouse Army at 1:52 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: I want to go to school and get my degree so I can better my life and make more income for my family...

Understood, but from what you describe, here's what you need to do right now to better your life: get a good, solid job, and act without laziness or lying so that you can keep that job and move up through the organization. This will give you a better life and your family more income faster than going to school will, although the ceiling on your income will be lower. It will also allow you to move out on your own much, much faster -- although I recommend staying in the area so that you can leverage your mother and sister for childcare when you need to, and so that your wife can keep her job.

To answer your question about what adulthood is supposed to be like, I'll answer thus: Being an adult means not lying on your job application/paperwork. Being an adult means following through with your commitment to school. Most importantly, being an adult means deferring your dreams in order to focus on current realities. For you, that means stay in the location you are, get a solid job, get to the point that you make enough money to get out from your mother's roof, then reassess where you want to go from there.

Oh, and for what it's worth: I don't have a college degree, and you don't need one to succeed. You have more urgent priorities, and you need to address your more immediate shortcomings (lying, laziness) more than you need to pursue a degree.

Note: this is intended as tough love, nothing personal.
posted by davejay at 1:53 PM on August 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You need to get a job, plain and simple, so you can get back your independence (These two videos might help you get started) or else you need to start a business offering some product and/or service.

When you get back into college, I highly recommend that you study something you think you'll enjoy and that you have a talent for versus something that you think will be lucrative. It makes going to class sooo much easier. It's not hard work if you're enjoying it.

You'll be in a better place eventually if keep your head on your shoulders, just keep going and keep trying.
posted by Theloupgarou at 1:56 PM on August 26, 2010

What about joining military? I dont know how that works with National Guard but they might pay for college too.
posted by Busmick at 2:03 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Yep, I'd say that college is not going to improve your situation much in the near term. Get a job. Any stable job where you have the ability to learn something.

Right now the shortages are in skilled trades and nursing. There are programs to train you for these jobs that last two years or less and I believe vocational schools are used to working with those who are less successful at standard academics. Seek certification in nursing (bonus for elder care) and you'll have your pick of jobs, most likely.

Meanwhile, get a job as close as possible to one of these fields. Try to find work for a plumber, welder, A/C repair, etc. even if it's just stocking parts or carrying stuff around. See if you can use some contacts and find a place that needs help enough they're willing to train on the job. That's the way lots of skilled professions used to work anyway.

Give up the idea that college degree = better job. It's just not so true anymore.
posted by cross_impact at 2:07 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Put your priorities in order. For example:

#1. Get job.
#2. Help wife get better paying job
#3. Figure out daycare.
#4. Move out on your own.
#5. Take one or two courses that will allow you to be sure of the direction you want to take in your studies, but ones that will count towards a degree as well.
#6. Research how to get rid of your bad GPA, or if it even matters.
#7. Reward yourself for taking these steps.
#8. Plan how you and your wife can both go to school. Take turns? Alternate semesters? Half online? etc.

Remember each of these steps take time. If these were your priorities (I am just guessing), I would estimate this to be a 5-7 year plan. Commit to that time.
posted by Vaike at 2:09 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

The time estimate includes college time, not just planning for it.
posted by Vaike at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2010

Yeah, your priority has to be increasing your cashflow. Have you spoken to anyone in your chain of command about this? They should point you in a good direction in terms of career assistance and possibly counseling. You also have educational benefits that can be used in open-enrollment institutions.

But anyway, gainful employment comes first.
posted by SMPA at 2:15 PM on August 26, 2010

NB also, you may be able to take courses, esp at a community college, without a stated intention to get a degree. Once you get a few more better grades, you might be able to talk your way into a degree program.

Down the road, that is. Meanwhile - job.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:15 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Once you get to the point where you can think about paying for school, you can try some distance education classes. There are some specific programs for people in the armed forces as well, though I'd caution you to try and find a branch of a brick-and-mortar university instead of a for-profit college. These are available in many fields, from technical to college prep.

You can improve your GPA by doing well in community college classes. Colleges you apply to later on will probably see your earlier difficulties, but (speaking as a former admissions person) the ability to improve and make a change is very impressive and a great sign for the future. It's never too late to start.
posted by Madamina at 2:18 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

No, I think the general consensus is to get a job/think about career. Then move out when you are stable. Then go to school when you are able to manage everything else in your life.
posted by Busmick at 2:21 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So the general consensus is that I need to move out?

Read back through again. The general consensus is that your first priority is to get a job, any job, and to work hard at it. Practically everyone who has responded puts this ahead of moving out, and quite a few put other things ahead of moving out too.

Getting one job doesn't stop you from getting another better paid job if one comes along, indeed not havng a job could well prevent you from getting a better job if one comes along. Find something and stick to it. If you can get a bit of funds together it widens your options, allowing you, for example to move out or away, either to Missouri or a better job. Pay for college when you can afford it and you can be sure you won't be wasting the money on courses you will lose interest in.
posted by biffa at 2:28 PM on August 26, 2010

Won't delaying college really hamper our future?

Not as much as being in this downward spiral situation with your mom indefinitely will. Nthing job now (I particularly like the idea of apprenticing/getting in on the ground floor with a skilled labor situation, such as plumber, welder, mechanic??, etc). If you are serious and want to learn, someone will teach you. Good luck!
posted by hansbrough at 2:30 PM on August 26, 2010

Being a part of a community who's values you like can help--church or even volunteering somewhere--helping other people out can lead to a job or someone who can give you a recommendation--or skills that translate into a job.

It takes time to live a new direction.

Good luck!
posted by vitabellosi at 2:30 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: >Won't delaying college really hamper our future?

Absolutely not if you're the type of person who isn't a good fit for college! In fact the opposite could be true.

There are TV commercials on all the time, blabbing about "get a degree and get successful" and all that, but it's all meant to make you PAY money.

You will have all the time in the world to think about college later. For now, you've got too many other sacrifices that you need to make, to add college to that list.

I know lots of people without college degrees who make $100K+ per year. Sure, they didn't start out at $100K, but a college degree does not equal money.

(Still, if you want to get a college degree, be sure to give it another try when the time is right)

Job, job job job.

When you get a job, keep looking and interviewing for other jobs. Don't stop climbing. Keep a job notebook of all your ideas for places to ask, people to meet, etc.
posted by circular at 2:31 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh...also, it sounds like you're geographically far from colleges---but some people get jobsat a college so that they can take classes for free. It can take a year or two to qualify for the tuition benefits, but these are often extended to anyone working there, even if it's a minimum wage job.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:34 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: I'd just like to mention that as a National Guard Member, you have access to 100% tuition assistance. It's money that you're entitled to, and if you don't use it, it goes away.

If you don't have your AA, there's many online schools that will gladly take your TA and allow you to pursue that online, while you're working. Most Community Colleges also have a lot of vocational degrees that take less time and provide you with a shorter path to getting 'a real job'.

The other opportunity available to you, being in the Guard, is volunteering for deployment. Yes, it sounds scary, but having been in very similar circumstances, it's what worked for me. You're talking about what is most likely three or four times the income you're making right now. Throw in the free health insurance for your family while you're gone, and it's even more. Come back in a year, with money in the bank, and you'll be standing on much firmer ground to move forward from. But, you know, YMMV.
posted by Risingfenix at 2:34 PM on August 26, 2010

Also, having a good job history is good practice for succeeding at school. In addition to, you know, making money, you can build diligence, confidence and focus in whatever you do, whether you're an auto mechanic, a receptionist or a burger flipper. You can get people you trust as work supervisors to serve as references for college admission as well.

So that's a really good priority to start with.
posted by Madamina at 2:40 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Sorry if I came off as talking down to you. You are right its hard to find a job with no education and hard to get an education with no job. But you seem to have the right attitude and motivation now (wife, kid) so thats a good start. You have to first sit down and decide what you want to do with your life. Thats a hard adult descision but you need to pick a direction (but keep in mind you can change in the future). Research as much as you can and try to move toward that career or job.Is there anything you are good at or do well? Anything you learned in the national guard that might appeal to you? If you like cars you might want to look into how to be a mechanic as an example. In the mean time you can go to an oil change place an get a job, or you might even need to work at McDonalds while you figure it out. The point is to get out there and pick a direction, keep working and keep your eyes open. It will take time (years not weeks).
Thats why I recommeded the military. Its something you know and they will give you discipline, direction and a paycheck. Keep in mind im not in the military so I can give experienced advice. Good Luck and don't give up.
posted by Busmick at 2:42 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, I'm not in the military.
posted by Busmick at 2:58 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: "basic teenager jobs" still make money, which you can apply towards a deposit on an apartment, paying for college courses, and creating a stable life for your baby. Here's how I see the order:

1)Get a job immediately - any job, minimum wage, whatever. The only real alternative I can suggest to minimum wage is to join the military, which could really help you in your educational goals if you're willing to consider it. Work hard at this job, don't lie, show up and be the best walmart stockboy or whatever. By showing you're a hard worker, you will begin to make connections and start being on people's mental list for who should get the promotion to manager, or hired for a new job with better advancement possibilities. This is part of what people mean by networking.
2) Save up some money as a safety cushion (absolutely necessary with a baby)
3) Save up for enough money to get your own apartment (security deposit, first and last, minimal furniture). Move out at this point, but I would recommend staying local for the time being)
4)Think about what you want to do for your career. Suggestions for nursing or working a trade are great options, but this is something you'll have to think about for yourself. Once you've thought long and hard, you can try to get an entry level position
5) Acquire college degrees/academic credentials as needed part time for the advancement of your chosen career.
posted by fermezporte at 2:59 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sorry to (almost) double-post here, but you asked this question: How do you start a career without a[n] education[?] I'm not really qualified for anything but the basic teenager jobs.

Here's how my partner did it.

1) Overnight shifts at the Handi Mart/gas station.
2) Hardee's.
I may have the order mixed up.

3) He used to hang out at the local record store with a guy who then got a job at this place that did market research by messing with commercial placement during cable shows. Doug got him a job at this place, again doing overnight shifts. It wasn't bad, particularly because he could read or do other things in between the commercial breaks -- and he could blip a commercial out on command, such that he could tell his friends to watch for it and say that he did it. Kinda cool :) He worked there for about six years.

Through this time, he was a gigging drummer in bands that played all over the Midwest and the US. So he still had time to do things for himself, and he gained some skills.

4) Then he started working at a phone/telecommunications company. He worked his way up through what could have been about three jobs, mainly because his team kept getting reorganized/expanded/bought out. But he kept learning things and sticking with it, so he could do a whole bunch of things and work in different areas. He became known as a reliable guy with a good knowledge base.

Somewhere along the way, he started community college. He took a college track beginning in about 2006 and got his associate's degree two years later. Had he not run into some family issues, he would have completed his degree at a major public university two years later. He got mostly As and learned Spanish quite well. He says that starting college later was great because he'd matured and didn't feel the need to screw around; he could enjoy the material more and connect it with what he wanted to do.

5) He took a pay cut to take a job near his lady friend [that would be me], but it also meant moving from telephone networking to cable and DSL. So that's another skill set he now has as he finishes his degree. through an online program.

Note: most IT people I know don't actually have bachelor's degrees. They started with a little bit of coursework and got most of their knowledge (and professional connections) through working at a help desk or some other kind of low-end, even student hourly job.

Granted, he's not ultra-driven. He likes to keep a low profile; he probably could have pushed a bit more and gotten better jobs here and there. But he had a lot of people who liked and respected him, and that has gotten him some great experience, a lot of friends, a solid work history and a job that could be useful anywhere. And a decent paycheck, too. The important thing is that he focused on being a good, dependable person and paying attention to every experience around him.

Not bad for a guy who thought that his future would involve 40 years at the Quaker Oats factory like his mom, eh? You could do it, too.
posted by Madamina at 3:00 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "I feel like we are stuck in a giant mud hole. Is this what adulthood is supposed to be like!?"

Sadly, yes. It's a big part of it. Being a kid means you make mistakes and your parents ground you or you have to stay an hour after class in detention instead of playing with your friends. Eh, no biggie. Being an adult means actions have real life consequences.

You've dug yourself a deep hole and it's only going to get deeper until you stop screwing up and start taking responsibility and working. Luckily, it sounds like you totally get that, and I commend you! This, to me, spoke volumes: "They ended up letting me go and I don't blame them really. It was a poor decision and a mistake I've learned from." Bravo! It sounds like, mentally, you're already on the right track now.

Picture the life you want to lead as if it's a ladder. There's only one way to climb it: One Step At A Time. That's good though, because it makes it easier to focus on what you need to do.

My advice: Take the suggestions people are posting here and jot them down on a sheet of paper. Use them to map out a long term plan for how you'll get out of the mess you're in and eventually build the life you want. The long term goal is probably to have a nice place to live and a career (or at least a well paying job so you can comfortably support your family). How do you get from here to there? One step at a time. College will probably be one of those steps, but it's not the first step. Probably not even the second. You've got to get your life and living situation together first and building a solid work history would help too, especially since college is expensive!

Have a long term goal.
Make a plan.
Climb that ladder step by step.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:10 PM on August 26, 2010

Here's another tip that could help you, your wife and your baby: READ.

It can be free (reading on the Web or with books from your library), and it'll help your baby's development so much. And the more you read, the more you'll learn about good writing, good grammar, all that. Even if you're just writing an e-mail to a friend or, say, posting on this forum, having good grammar, spelling and punctuation can help people have more confidence in you. There are many resources on the Web and in your library to help you.

It doesn't even matter what you read. Stephen King, picture books, Charles Dickens, Harry Potter, local newspapers, something that won the Pulitzer Prize, Dan Brown... Reading, even reading out loud to your wife, can help you get closer with your family while building your own skills. If you don't like one thing, read another. Don't pay any attention to how slow you're going; just get in the habit.
posted by Madamina at 3:15 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sit down with your mom at a non-stressful time and say something like this:

'Mom, Wife and I are extremely appreciative that you're letting us stay here, especially with Sister and Nephew. We're especially thankful that you're employing Wife and letting Daughter attend daycare at a reduced rate.
Wife and I are really focused on getting our stuff together. I'm going to work to save as much as I can to get money for a security deposit on an apartment. I also am going to start learning a trade.

In the meantime, we would really appreciate it if we could all (Mom, Son, Wife, Sister) work on treating each other with more respect - as adults, as coworkers, as parents. For example, Wife and I appreciate that you and Sister are so concerned about Daughter, but Wife and I are her parents and we put a lot of energy into our parenting decisions.
In the meantime, if there are things that you'd like Wife and I to change (doing dishes/cleaning/laundry/whatever), please speak to me about it because I want to make more of an effort to be a contributing member of this household.'
posted by k8t at 3:16 PM on August 26, 2010

I agree with those who say the military might be a good option for you. If you were deployed, your wife and child could continue to live with you Mom, and you guys could bank a whole lot of cash. By the time your service was done, you could've saved a lot of money, and developed the discipline to make college work for you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:56 PM on August 26, 2010

Is going full-time AGR with the Guard a possibility?
posted by lullaby at 4:47 PM on August 26, 2010

Almost everyone I know right now in this market has networked to find jobs, through friends and family. Use some of your connections in the Guard, too.
posted by annsunny at 4:50 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: You can work AND go to school. Both my parents did it. I did it. (At one point, my mother was pregnant with my sister, teaching full-time and working on her master's at night. We still don't know when she slept.)

Remember: Progress begins with the belief that what is necessary is possible.

You have the right attitude. You want to care for your family and build a future. Look, just about every company offers tuition reimbursement nowadays. My Circle K guy (local convenience store) works during the day and goes to school at night.

Look at places like UPS, FedEx, your local governments (generous benefits for you and your family!!!), telecom, the cable company or other utilities, grocery stores (the larger companies like Kroger, Publix, etc. all have tuition reimbursement.)

Good luck!
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 4:53 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: I have gotten awards from the 2 star Adjutant General of Kentucky and the SGT Major of Kentucky

When you go out and apply for jobs, make sure this is on every single application you complete. This is a big accomplishment, and says a lot about your work ethic (despite recent setbacks).

I left school without a degree. I spent several years waiting tables and picking up any degree-not-required job I could get. The jobs basically sucked, the hours were erratic, the pay was low, and I was frustrated and felt like I was behind the rest of my age group. Finally, I got an office job as a secretary, so regular hours and regular paychecks, and by then I wanted to finish my degree more than anything else. So, I went to school at night and worked during the day. I paid for school in cash (which hurt). And I finished.

You can do this, too. All is not lost, but you need a longer time frame than "immediately." Make a 5-year plan and a 10-year plan on how to reach your goals, and you will get there.
posted by Houstonian at 5:15 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: FWIW, I have attended community college for 4 years while working full time plus 10 hours commuting. I finally just graduated. One campus is an hour from my house, the other a more reasonable 30 minutes. I took some classes online as well. I took a year off after the birth of my son, or I would've been able to do it a little faster.

I'd for SURE find a job, pretty much any job at this point, and skip starting school this semester. Aim for the spring - that way you have hopefully found a job and are getting the hang of how much energy and time that sucks up. Take a couple classes year-round - I just finished up a summer class.

Don't give in to your mom's desire to feed your kid formula. It seems like a thin ploy to keep you so broke that you're forced to live there forever so she can keep close tabs on her grandkid (or have her around just for affection).

I had to live with my in-laws for 4 months after my son's birth while our house was under construction, and it was a bit much. I feel your pain. Especially since she didn't really understand why I was breastfeeding and wanted to feed my son rice cereal at 2 months. But luckily she was pretty respectful when we told her no.
posted by kpht at 5:23 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Keep in mind that school = money going OUT of your house. Going to school drains your funding (even if you get any kind of financial support, it'll do that to some degree) and limits your ability to work. And if you only go to school part-time at a CC, that may take you a LOT of years. I don't mean two, I mean four or six or ten years of part-time college/school. I have seen a lot of people take CC classes for a lot of years before they move on to a 4-year school, so you may be in CC for a long time once you start, since you can't devote 100% of your time to finishing in two years.. If your wife wants to go to school too and you're trading off who goes to class and who watches the baby, it'll be even longer for the both of you. (I hate to say it, but when you get around to schooling with a kid, it might just be easier for one of you to go to school at a time.)

That's why we're all saying get a job and move out now. Given how difficult your mom is, the longer you two live with her, the more stressful marriage with kid is gonna get. Even if all you are qualified for is teenager jobs, well... that's what you're gonna have to deal with. One step at a time. College isn't a guarantee of better paychecks any more anyway, if you've seen how many people with degrees are just as out of work as you are now.

(And for the record, not every college gives employees freebies and discounts to attend them. Colleges are good places to work at, but that's not a guaranteed thing everywhere.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:56 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: If you're within driving distance of Nashville State Community College, I'll recommend you look there for assistance, as my life story isn't so much different than your own, except that mine played out 40+ years ago, when NSCC was Nashville State Technical Institute, and I was there trying to learn something more about electronics, than I'd already learned at Maplewoods Community College in the Kansas City, MO area. Community colleges are all about helping adults learn, and recover from previous life mistakes. There are few barriers to entry, intentionally, and lots of support/help/resources to be had within most such institutions.

I went to that school when it was still NSTI, some 40 years ago, and what I learned there helped me get a better job, first as a control electrician working on vacuum tube controlled welding equipment in Ashland City, TN, and then later, through some part time jobs as a radio engineer (because NSTI training helped me get my FCC Commercial radio license), as a full time TV/Radio engineer for several commercial Nashville stations.

My young family didn't survive the effort I put forth, then, but my wife of that time pursued her degree (and her Masters) in social work at UT Nashville, and made a life for herself in that area in social work, and later, in private adoptions. And I, 35 years after leaving NTSI, got my bacholers degree at another institution, simply because I'd promised myself I would, long ago, in the parking lot of NSTI on Whitebridge Road, in Nashville.

What I'll say to you is simply "Keep trying, particularly among people who understand trying." You could do a lot worse than to try again at NSCC...
posted by paulsc at 6:49 PM on August 26, 2010

Memailed you.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:49 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: I work at a university and I can tell you: you can *always* go back to school at some point, and the older and more settled you are, the better you might do. When I was a teaching assistant, the older students were far more motivated, willing, and able to put in the work required, because they had figured out what they wanted to do and put their minds to it.

So it's not a necessity to go immediately - in fact, I'd suggest taking some time to investigate what you wanted to do with your life while working and improving your immediate situation. That way, when you finally do go back, you'll have a target to aim for and a plan to follow.

And, as someone pointed out above, I also have successful friends without degrees. In fact, the guy I know who's making the most money of all of my friends right now failed out of two different college programs. He worked his way up to his current situation instead of getting the head start of school.
posted by telophase at 10:40 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

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