My life is a tangled mess...
August 16, 2012 10:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 20 year old college student and I was recently cut off from my parents. I have literally NOTHING -- no health and car insurance, no money, no extra clothes other than the ones I ran away wearing, no car, no phone, and etc. Please help me get my life back together!

I'm attending a community college in southern California and am finishing up my last year before I (hopefully) transfer to one of my dream universities: UCLA or UCBerkeley. Until a couple days ago, I lived with my parents and was totally financially dependant on them. Tensions were always high between my father and I due to his anger problems, and my mother always failed to protect me to the point of enabling his behavior because "they had to keep a unitied front". My childhood consisted of watching my father rage uncontrollably, seeing him punch holes in the walls, furnitures flying everywhere, dishes thrown out the window, shattered glass, watcing my mother and sisters crying hysterically on the floor, and beatings.

What fucked me up worse was when I watched him tear down a shelf that had hit his head falling down that caused him to bleed profusely. He turned towards me and screamed that it was all my fault and then proceeded to splash blood all over the walls... all because my 14 year old self didn't want to clean my room.

On Monday, he demanded to know who I'm sleeping with and threatened to kick me out if I didn't comply. I told him that I'm an adult and that it was none of his business, so he charged at me with a closed fist. I wasn't going to take his bullshit anymore, so for the first time in my life I physically assaulted him back. The sheriff was called and upon seeing both of us scratched, bruised, and bloody, he threatened to arrest us both or nobody at all because I had hit back and "it should be handled within the family."

So that is why I'm here. I got thrown out with literally NOTHING -- no health and car insurance, no money, no extra clothes other than the ones I ran away wearing, no car, no phone, and etc. I'm going back to my parents' house escorted by a sheriff and a couple of friends to get my important documents and countless other belongings this weekend. Please help me get my life sorted out to meet my educational goals this coming year!

I already found a place to live ten minutes from my community college because my aunt so generously took me in for free, which eliminates the need for shelter, a car and car insurance. She's estranged from my parents so that is a super plus. In addition, FAFSA granted me enough money to cover my tuition for the next year and gave me $4k in excess. Now I need to figure out the rest and this is where I'd love your input.

1. FAFSA 2013-2014
My parents made it crystal clear that they refuse to provide their information for next year's FAFSA in an attempt to screw me over when I transfer to university. I am working with my community college to give me an exception to this rule by providing documents to prove emotional and/or physical abuse.

2. Loans
If FAFSA doesn't cover all my tuitions, how am I going to get loans? I'm totally fucked. I have no credit and nobody to cosign my loans. Not just for university, but what about medical school!? Which leads to...

3. Building Credit
As soon as I get my documents, I'm going to sign up for a credit card to build credit. Am I starting too late? Will I build enough in time so I wouldn't need anybody to cosign my loans?

4. Health Insurance
I'm totally fucked on this one too. I've been running around with no health insurance for two years because they priced me out for a suicide attempt.

5. Prepaid Phone
I've been doing my research and I think I'm going to settle for T-Mobile's $30 a month prepaid plan with 100 minutes (for emergencies), unlimited text and unlimited internet (the first 5GB is on 4G and the rest will be on 2G). Did I overlook a better deal during my research? Do you think this is too luxurious for a student with no job or their parents' support?

6. Important Documents
My list consists of: social security card, citizenship, Chinese birth certificate (I'm an immigrant), passport... what else? I want to take them all in one swoop so I don't ever have to contact my parents again for the unseeable future.

7. The Extra 4k
1k will go to an EMT class I want to take next summer. How do I make the remainding 3k stretch for the next year? It's not a lot to live on. :(

That's all I could think of for now. Feel free to give me other advices about dealing with this tangled mess that is my life. I feel alone, abandoned, and scared for having many more "adult" responsibilities than my peers. Thanks MetaFilter for helping me untangle the mess that is my life.
posted by squirtle to Education (40 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I am so sorry, buddy.

Here is something I hope will help: not all of these things are emergencies that need to be handled today or this month.

1. FAFSA 2013-2014
2. Loans
3. Building Credit

4. Health Insurance

At whatever UC you go to, you will be able to buy into the student insurance plan.

For now, what about this?

5. Prepaid Phone

You need a phone. $30 a month sounds fine.

6. Important Documents

Do you have any kind of drivers' license copy that they have at your home? Grab that, of course. Student loan documents, too.

7. The Extra 4k

Do you have a savings account? A checking account? Get your credit report at (it's free) to see if your folks have accounts in your name.

You can't live on $250 a month if you are buying food and gas and, you know, shampoo or possibly insurance. You will probably need to get a job. What about work-study employment or an AmeriCorps community job (NOT a VISTA program job, but a state AmeriCorps program that lets you work part-time)?

If you can get your aunt to sign something saying that she does not pay for your food or share food with you, you will probably qualify for food stamps. This shouldn't be too hard to do.

Separately, what are you doing for your own self-care? Therapy would probably provide good support and you may be able to find it through your school.
posted by liketitanic at 11:03 PM on August 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

Please talk to both your current school's and your target school's financial aid centers now. Explain to them that you have an abusive situation that requires you to be financially emancipated from your parents before the insane FAFSA age of 24. They will often help, especially when there is a police record of violence from your parents.

Go in person. See the highest-ranked person you can see. Do this after Labor Day because the decision makers are out of town right now. Send an e-mail documenting now your request but don't rely on it to lead to resolution.
posted by SakuraK at 11:08 PM on August 16, 2012 [25 favorites]

Having a place to live, you are really not in bad shape. Relax.

The most important thing I can say is to get a part-time job. This is perfectly easy to manage around you class schedule. If you're frugal, you could probably manage to to live on that $3,000 since your housing is covered. Save what you can. Getting a job now will also allow you to start saving up for any future school expenses.

Regarding your specific points:

1) While generally FAFSA requires your parents' information, you should be able to get an exception to this. With your lack of personal income, you will definitely qualify for the max amount of loans.

4) There are plenty of people who don't have health insurance. I have mandatory health insurance now for school and it is costing me much more yearly than the several years I went without.

5) That sounds like a good deal, take it. I don't think a phone is a luxury, though opinions may differ. There are practical reasons for having a cell phone, and that's less than mine is on a family plan.

6) Past tax information. You may need this for next year's FAFSA as well.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:11 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

You need a job. That is the long and the short of it. With a job comes money, independence and self-respect. Whether its part time or full time, whether you continue your education or take a break while you get financially back on your feet, are up for grabs. But you need a job. Now.
posted by unSane at 11:33 PM on August 16, 2012 [8 favorites]

As others have said, check out the health insurance with your school. When I went to Community College I found that it was automatically part of our tuition and that I could get $50 back a semester for showing I was insured in another way.

As an aside, you mentioned the sheriff, but did you go to the police about your dad (in some states they're two different things, I guess)? I don't know why anyone in their right mind would arrest someone for self defense. Also, you would have it on record if your control-freak dad decides to follow you or something.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 11:35 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Many student loans, especially if you're taking out relatively modest sums, are issued directly to the students, even if they have no cosigner and no credit history. Don't freak out about this too much--you have to get through this year first, and it sounds like you've already got that handled, right? You can deal with the rest of it when it happens. There are grants and scholarships to investigate, as well. This is not a crisis.

Health care is super awesome and everyone should have it--but you haven't had it, from the sounds of things, for two years, so nothing has actually changed. When you transfer to a four-year college, they'll have a health plan you can (or, likely, will be required to) get on. Right now, though, this is also not a crisis. You can live for a year without health care.

The phone sounds like a good deal to me. You need a phone, and that sounds reasonable--plus, if you can get even a really basic smartphone on that plan, you could put Google Voice on the phone and have effectively unlimited minutes for that price.

Documents: If you've got school transcripts lying around, you might want to grab those, too. Any financial documents--savings bonds, bank accounts, checking accounts. If there's an account of any sort that's in both your name and a parent's name, get that, or at least a copy of it. Get your tax information, too.

You don't need to make 3K stretch for a year, you need to make it stretch until you get a job, which you can totally do. This might mean you have to change around your school schedule--night classes or online classes might give you greater flexibility in the job market. Alternatively, you might be able to find work at your school--work-study programs are a thing, and some schools maintain extensive networks of tutors, etc.

It's time for you to be financially dependent on yourself now. Your aunt's offered to help, but I'd suggest that you not rely on that indefinitely--situations like that seem to sour both faster and more frequently than you'd expect. (As a way of reducing risk there, you might want to ask if your aunt would accept some sort of nominal rent payment, a hundred bucks a month or something.) It's possible that you could cruise along for a while on grants and loans, but I assure you that doing this will bite you in the ass eventually. Nothing else is at crisis point, but this is. You need a job.
posted by MeghanC at 11:39 PM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Before the opportunity passes; get a little something in writing from the deputy who escorts you home. You might need his or her name and a bit of testimony/affidavit from them when you apply for emancipation.

Summarize in writing what he or she can attest to easily, i.e. "On August 17, 2012, I escorted Squirtle to his parents domicile at 231 Elm Street to retrieve personal belongings subsequent to domestic incident 12354". Make such an affidavit simple, short, and factual and the deputy is likely to help you out. An incident number is very important for this sort of thing.

Chin up, shoulders back. You're going to be OK.
posted by Kakkerlak at 11:44 PM on August 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

Get a part time job stat! Try the university or community college first.
posted by roboton666 at 11:48 PM on August 16, 2012

Yes, you will most likely be required to purchase health insurance through your university at one point or another, so looking into this now through your community college would be a great idea. Otherwise, you're really actually in very good shape. Getting documentation from the police is also most likely going to help a great deal, so definitely get in touch with your current and future financial aid departments and ask them what they think you'll need to pursue independent status for the FAFSA.

You're doing great-- good luck.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:50 PM on August 16, 2012

I took one class at El Camino College in Torrance last semester and I had to pay a mandatory, but very small, fee for basic insurance coverage.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:55 PM on August 16, 2012

You didn't leave with nothing--you kept your dignity and self-respect. Congratulations, your life gets better from here on out.
posted by LarryC at 12:03 AM on August 17, 2012 [45 favorites]

See if you can apply for food stamps ASAP.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:13 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just wanted to comment - cheers to you for your courage to get out of the abusive situation. It took a lot of guts! Remember that if you got through that, you're going to be able to get through everything else.
posted by xmts at 12:33 AM on August 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'm sorry this has happened, but please have faith in your own strengths. You sound like a bright person and you have your priorities in order. And you're asking all the right questions.

Play it right with your aunt. Free housing is a truly big deal as you finish this last year at the CC (I also attended one in SoCal, and transferred into the UC system). Make absolutely certain you're working closely with an academic adviser and strategically completing every single credit you need for that GE stamp on your transcripts AND for the transfer to a UC school. You don't want to have to take a single class at UC that you could have taken at CC prices.

Your aunt's support may also be helpful as you strive for financial independence from your parents. I helped a young student do this years ago when it became evident that her parents' years of tax evasion would damage her ability to get financial aid. We worked with the aid department, I wrote a letter for her, other mentors did the same, and she won independence in terms of financial aid application, meaning all decisions were based solely on her own ability to pay. It wasn't difficult, but it took time and cooperation with the right authorities. It sounds like you are already on track to achieve this.

And yes, get a part-time job or several. Best to find one or more on campus, now and after you transfer. On campus is easiest for proximity and schedule flexibility. I worked several small part-time jobs as a full time UC student (two on campus that worked around my classes, one weekend-only job with down time to do homework, and one restaurant job that I could do at night and brought in decent tips). Go after jobs that come with perks, like free food during your shift, and the opportunity to take home extras, or lots of down time that allows you to study, or a gym where you can also work out. Is there any chance you can do Chinese translation work? (I have a friend who made a business out of translating for patients in doctor's offices. Just one thought).

I cannot stress enough the value of low-cost housing. Your aunt's help is wonderful, but after you transfer consider renting a room in someone else's home. Not fun partyville, but a safe quiet place to crash in someone else's home. Not a house of roommates, but a room in a house shared with the homeowner(s). Lots of them rent a room to bring in a little extra income. The housing office will have these options, so will craigslist, and you can also post your "housing wanted" ad. You'll be so busy working and studying that you'll spend so little time there anyway. The pros FAR outweigh the cons if your priorities are in order. Such a situation already comes with furniture, kitchen use, laundry facilities, parking if needed, and an in-house local connection to help you get oriented to your new town. And sometimes you get to enjoy pets in the deal. It's generally more stable and reliable than roommates, and doesn't usually require any kind of lease. And it can cost close to half of what you'd pay in other situations. You can socialize and party at your friends' places. (For a time, I shared a home with a 70-year-old woman who was a real kick and became a surprisingly great friend. She was also a fabulous resource to me when I was new in town and didn't know where to find things).

Re: Building credit. Awesome that you're thinking of this. Making an on-time loan payment every month is critical and will help build credit. If you can get a regular credit card, use it for everything possible, but always ALWAYS pay it off every month. Use it to pay your cel bill with automatic payments. You don't have to think about it, and you build credit. Get a couple of small store credit cards (e.g. JC Penney, Sears), use them when you need to make very minor purchases, and pay the bill in full immediately. This also helps.

Re: all the rest
Phone sounds like a decent plan and the price is reasonable. You need one, so do that. Or see if your aunt will allow you on a family plan. Avoid texting to keep your expenses down. If you are healthy and can avoid insurance right now, I would. After you transfer, then your student fees will cover the use of a good student health center. In general, get your clothing at thrift stores. See if you can avoid having a car; this will be even more doable once you transfer to a place that caters more to the student population. Get a good lock for your bike...using your Sears credit card.

Good luck, you'll do great because you're thinking ahead. I'm glad you're in a safe place. Now focus everything on YOU. And to tag on something totally random: Don't forget several times a week to get some vigorous exercise that really gets your heart pounding. You're under a lot of stress and exercise is the best medicine for that.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:33 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing paying the credit card bill in full each month. Credit cards aren't instant extra money.
posted by brujita at 12:45 AM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was worried about your credit question.

Why do you need to "build credit." Do you realize that credit card companies ABSOLUTELY prey on college students to put them into delicious and profit-building-for-them DEBT, at the student's detriment??

I notice a lot of drama from your previous AskMe's.

Don't trade one abuser for another. You do not need credit cards, nor to build credit. That's all bullshit.

Live on what you earn. Pay your bills on time.


Now that my husband and I are established with steady income - post college and the stupid mistakes of youth - we have multiple Amex cards that we use for daily expenses and to pay bills, cards that give points and rewards. WE PAY THESE OFF ENTIRELY EVERY MONTH AND DO NOT CARRY A BALANCE. Humorously, this hurts our credit score slightly, because we don't carry a balance. They need you to carry a balance and accrue interest in order to make money off of you.


Forget this. It is a non-issue.

Go ahead and look at other relationships in your life that aren't inline with your well-being, but are sold to you as being so. You'll find many. Resist playing games that are stacked against you.

Having school loans and paying them off MORE than boosts your credit score. I used to evaluate credit scores for a living. I know this is true.

That. And making enough money.

Since you don't have income, don't seek out credit beyond your school loans. Period.


Thus ends my bluntness!

Beyond this you are on the right track!! Keep going. Pace yourself, this is a marathon - not a sprint.

Many kids who grow up abused try to bite off more than they can chew when they get free of abusive parents, and this leads to mistakes.

Pace yourself, embrace your mistakes as learning experiences. Accept you will screw up, learn, and recover. You'll then do better. Every time, better than last time.

And thus will you move past your past and heal.

Best to you!
posted by jbenben at 1:40 AM on August 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

I realise you're upset but you need to calm down. You have a roof over your head and paid tuition for now; this is not actually an emergency.

As soon as I get my documents, I'm going to sign up for a credit card to build credit.

This is a terrible idea. What you need to do is get a part-time job. If you are unable to get health insurance through your community college, then you can go without. I understand it isn't ideal but there are literally millions of people in the same boat.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:57 AM on August 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Phone-wise, depending on your usage, I happen to go with T-mobil's straight prepaid plan on an older phone. $100 gets you 1000 minutes, which for me lasts quite a long time for me (months). You might use more and the $30/month would be better.

If it's any consolation, I lived for a year on 30-ish hours a week at $.25 above minimum wage with roommates, rent, 1/4 bills, etc, but very similar situation. It was tough, involved busses a lot, but in the end it was a beneficial experience in which I learned somewhat about self-dependence.

Good for you, and I hope one day you can assist your siblings.

Also, don't be afraid to contact Child Protective Services or similar for California if there are minors still in the household you are leaving. It's drastic, but may be for the best.
posted by efalk at 2:06 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

You seem smart, you'll be ok.

Go to the nearest legal services organization. Some are domestic violence specific. With their help, petition the court for a no contact order/restraining order/ order of protection (or whatever Cali calls it) against your parents. These facts are more than enough for that. If you request it, it is likely you could get a police escort when you go back to the house for your things. I wouldn't go back without one.

Also, documenting the abuse in one form or another will help in getting an override from FASFA. IANYL.

Don't spend 25% of your money on an EMT course unless you get a job.
posted by murfed13 at 4:22 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Didn't see you already had an escort- but I stand by getting the restraining order for your own safety and as evidence when you file for an override. IANYL.
posted by murfed13 at 4:42 AM on August 17, 2012

Lots of good advice here, especially to find a job. You might consider a job at a restaurant -- waiting tables supported me for a few years when I was your age. A job like that offers:
1) Daily cash
2) Daily meals
3) Some flexibility in schedule
Good luck, dude. Sounds like you're pretty focused.
posted by LonnieK at 4:59 AM on August 17, 2012

Expanding upon what jbenben says about paying off credit cards in full, if you get a credit card, always get a receipt, and enter as a deduction from your checking account. This way, you'll always have the money available to pay off the balance each month. Reference the check (or transaction number) to that entry once you pay it, so you can resolve any errors later on.

Shame on the sheriff for leaving it up to the victim to resolve the abuse she gets from her dad. Best wishes to you. You sound bright and determined to have a positive future.
posted by SillyShepherd at 5:45 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I sent you a memail.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:51 AM on August 17, 2012

If you're going to look for a job, lemme tell you that at any time in my life I worked as a cook, my food costs virtually disappeared. You always get a ridiculously awesome discount on your restaurant's own food to take home with you, especially when you cook it yourself, and you're not tied to the menu and throughout an 8 hour shift I'd kinda constantly snack and keep myself full.
posted by el_yucateco at 5:57 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Congratulations! Feels good doesn't it?

nthing get a job. Working is THE BEST!

Also, once you get it together, with a job and everything, I do recommend that you give your kind aunt a token payment of rent. Make it regular, every time you get paid, pay her. She's awesome for taking you in, but it does cost her something. Even $25 a week will pay a utility bill or cable or whatever.

I did work-study on campus AND I did weekend shifts at Jack-in-the-Box. It didn't cut into my study time too much and I was able to make ends meet. Since my dorm didn't serve meals on weekends, the Jack-in-the-Box gig made my budget go a bit further.

Do look into any benefits you may be entitled to through the state. Emergency food stamps, becoming emancipated, and any of the other excellent suggestions listed here.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:32 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Additionally, you may want to see if your college has a counseling center. Many offer therapy at no cost for students--you are going through an incredibly difficult time and it might be good to seek counseling.

It sounds like you are in good shape. Congratulations on getting yourself out of a terrible situation.
posted by inertia at 6:36 AM on August 17, 2012

First off, I'm so sorry.

1. FAFSA 2013-2014: Congratulations! You are now financially independent and don't need to list them anymore (I think. Check with the financial aid office at UCLA and/or Berkeley to be sure. I guarantee you are not the first person who will ask this question under similar circumstances.)

Don't worry about 2 & 3.

4. Health insurance: you should be able this through your school. Unless you have a chronic condition that requires maintenance meds, you should be fine waiting.

RE: EMT class: is there a reason you need to do this right away (i.e. after this one class, you will be able to get employment)? If not, I would postpone.

At the very least, talk to a school counselor. There may be services you qualify for that will provide additional support. Good luck!
posted by smirkette at 7:10 AM on August 17, 2012


"The phone sounds like a good deal to me. You need a phone, and that sounds reasonable--plus, if you can get even a really basic smartphone on that plan, you could put Google Voice on the phone and have effectively unlimited minutes for that price."

As I understand it Google voice actually makes a phone call--to an access number, not to the number you dialed, but it's a call and it uses your minutes.

You can install something like GrooVe IP to set up VOIP and then you'll only be using data. There may be some loss to reliability, I don't know. I have the same t-mobile $30/month thing and do that for longer calls from home, and haven't had a problem with it.

And as someone else says if you don't need the mobile data and aren't a heavy caller, you can get the cost down to under $10/month with t-mobile's prepaid thing (about $.10/minute with a $100 initial investment).
posted by bfields at 7:33 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

First off, your parents are shits and congratulations on being free of them. Secondly, don't get a credit card until you have an income, and maybe not even then. I might be wrong, but you can also build credit by paying the electric bill, cable bill, etc. Credit card is trouble not needed right now, especially with your papers in the air and all.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2012

Health Insurance for CA Community College students I remember seeing those leaflets for student health insurance when I was attending a CA community college. I don't know how good it is but I do urge you to have at least a bare-bones plan of some kind just to cover catastrophic costs.

No credit cards. You won't need a credit card at all for a while. Concentrate on your immediate financial needs and this means a part-time job. One on-campus would be ideal as would one that had perks such as free food.

This domestic violence safety plan has a list of important papers and items that you will want to take with you when you are escorted back to your parents' house. Obviously "diapers and baby items" won't apply to you but there is a list of documents you will need.

Safe Horizons also has a link regarding domestic violence legal services. As murfed13 recommends you want to get a lawyer to settle emancipation issues and any other legal issues arising from your situation. You are a domestic violence victim so you are (most likely) entitled to access domestic violence legal services.

Some links for you:

Legal Aid Southern California

California Domestic Violence Services

Southern California Counseling Center (it would be a great idea to get some therapy once you have your necessities settled)

You may (but don't count on it, though it doesn't hurt to check) be able to get food stamps. Eligibility requirements here and the website shows how to apply.

Good luck! Even though it wasn't under ideal circumstances you are far better off without your parents in your life. I'm very glad you have your aunt to help you. Good luck.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Much as I hate credit, I didn't get a credit card in college and it turned out to be a VERY VERY BAD IDEA for the rest of my life. (I have zero shot of ever buying a car or house even though I am a credit union member, that's how bad it is not to get credit until you are over 30. And here I thought I was being smart.) So yeah, now is the time to get one--it sucks to try after college. But only one. Use it to pay your cell bill or some recurring thing and pay it off every month, and don't use more than 30% of the amount you can use. It has to be a stupid token thing you maintain and only have for emergencies, rather than something you can use to live above your means. Because if you ever say, need a motel room in an emergency, there's issues if you pay for it with a debit card vs. a credit one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:46 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you ever filed taxes? If so, all of your tax documents are something you should be picking up at your parents' house. This will make your life much easier later!

Any transcripts (I'm 26 and just used my high school transcript yesterday, believe it or not) or certificates are also important.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:04 AM on August 17, 2012

I hope you realize that you have your sh*t together exceedingly well for someone who has gone through what you have gone through. I think you will come out of this just fine.

nthing get a job. Once you have one, run a budget and see what you can figure out to offer to your aunt for rent. If she refuses to take it, make absolutely sure you're contributing to the house (groceries, cleanup, etc). Try to have a goal to be living on your own/with roommate by next summer at the earliest.

$30 a month for cell phone is a pretty good deal. Lean on text messages for communication as much as possible (shouldn't be a problem with fellow students, etc). Try to do talk business on a land line at home (or I bet there are phones somewhere on campus that you could use).

Finally, before you go back to your parent's place, make a list of the things you want. You'll probably be somewhat emotionally fraught, so having a list that you made when you could think objectively will keep you from forgetting anything.

Good luck!
posted by sparklemotion at 9:09 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Firstly, congratulations! You've escaped a very abusive situation and the rest of your life will be brilliant. I'm sorry the police officer did not respect the gravity of domestic violence, but it's great you got out okay and you are way more prepared than many people might be.

Regarding FAFSA, your school should have someone in the Dean of Students or Financial Aid who can help you through the FAFSA process as an independent student. I would look into that ASAP, just call the Dean of Students or equivalent and explain that you're recently separated from your family and need to change your status to independent and you don't know how. Also, yes, counseling. This is a major transition and you need all the support you can get.

Re: phone, that plan will work if you think you really need that amount of minutes/texts (which you might, as you have a lot of arrangements to make). Otherwise, you can easily spend less if it's just for emergencies, just buy a bunch of minutes and try to use them slowly.

Re: documents, you will also want tax documents and any medical documents you might have, especially if you have any ongoing health issues or you received care in your former country and it would be hard to get copies. In particular, vaccination records can be very important. Transcripts might be helpful but you can always have the school reissue them if you can't find them. Information on your current insurance plan might be helpful for canceling/transferring coverage but isn't necessary.

A job will help a lot for future references, as well as income.

Good luck!
posted by epanalepsis at 9:19 AM on August 17, 2012

I agree with jenfullmoon. I think there are many people out there with the ability to pay off credit cards in full every month, and it seems a little presumptuous of everyone to assume you are not one of them.

I also think there are a lot of people talking about the importance of a job, but fewer talking about scholarships. I would recommend taking an evening or weekend afternoon each week for a few months to apply for scholarships. There are a ton of them out there and a lot of people do not apply for them. You seem like you would have an interesting perspective for the main mode of getting scholarships (essay writing), and you write pretty well. You can find scholarships that are specific to your race/ethnicity, the county you grew up in, or the career you hope to pursue.

With scholarships you can spend a few hours writing an essay and have it pay off with a $1000 or more scholarship. Not infrequently you can reuse or retool the same essay for multiple purposes. I used these in medical school and I won more than half of the scholarships I applied for, and it kept me from having to take out private loans. Definitely worth keeping in mind!

Regarding important papers, I agree with vaccination records and any other important medical records, although if you had a primary care doctor in the past, you can probably request a copy of the records from their office. Essentially I think you should try to collect anything with an account number - whether it be financial accounts, Frequent Flier accounts, whatever. If you go by a different name than the one on your original paperwork, you should get any and all paperwork related to the name change issue.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:28 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get your individual paperwork first (ID, Birth, Social). Everything you need to do (loans, apply for credit, get a job, later - rent a house, Etc) , will require paperwork

I worked 56 hours a week, lived on my own with 3 roommates, had no car, and took a full load at a community college. Also, I had no phone. Google voice might work for awhile? Check it online at school for a bit before jumping into the phone thing. Everyone else has phones, use theirs while out, people love showing off their phones.

And sorry, if your healthy, I wouldn't be freaking out about health insurance. You're poor, you live in California, that's what medi-cal is for.

If your parents make good money and claimed you on their taxes last year, it is going to screw you on your fafsa, look into appeals processes now so you're not blindsided when it happens.

Also, contact, the student affairs office, councilors, deans, VP of instruction, etc to get help. Many colleges have tons of programs to help student, but they are often hard to find out about.

The college library migth have reserve books, you can get your book for a couple hours or something to study (or shhhh. xerox copy the chapters from)
posted by couchdive at 10:14 AM on August 17, 2012

Couchdive's post reminded me about some tricks and tips to save on textbooks when I was a broke CC student in California. I swear the textbooks cost more than the classes sometimes!

- For things like novels (for English classes), sociology or anthropology classics used by a lot of profs, books that stay the same year after year and are not textbooks with frequently updated editions - I haunted used bookstores and often found my books dirt-cheap. For instance, I needed copies of "Huckleberry Finn" and "Sense and Sensibility" for an English Lit class and found them in a used bookstore for about 50 cents apiece. I've never suffered for not having a fancy-schmancy "annotated" edition.

- Those textbooks updated every year are expensive (and, I'm convinced, done that way specifically to turn huge profits for the publisher on the backs of students. Phooey to them!). I've gotten last year's edition for cheap or even free (by asking nicely!) and mostly it was OK. My profs would usually say something like "There are some updates and changes but you can always go to the library and read just the updates." I got on fine with old textbooks + library copies.

- For some classes you really do have to get the new expensive textbook. Be sure to ask the prof if this is really the case. In these instances, sometimes you can buy the textbook for less from someone who is dropping the class - you will have to wait a week or two and do some catch-up reading but there is the library for a stopgap. Also find out how much that expensive textbook is really used - ask someone who took the class last semester. If the answer is "not often" then read the library copy. And go to class every day (don't skip unless you really are sick or have a bona fide excuse!) because I have found that attending class and taking notes vastly cuts down on the time spent reading expensive textbooks.

- Only splash out on textbooks when you absolutely, positively, have to have the newest most expensive edition and you find you are going to be studying from it most days and you need to access more than the library copy.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:34 AM on August 17, 2012

Although it was mostly my doing, a few years ago I found myself suddenly cut off from parental support, with no place to go and no money, job, clothes, food, or ID.

I was terrified, to put it lightly, and even started seeking out exes in the hopes that I could weasel my way back in their lives to put down the gnawing fear of being homeless and cut off from any financial backing.

However, none of my plans worked out (thankfully). Left with no other option, I just took one hour at a time, and made what little progress I could in whatever area I could drag myself out of my depression to work on.

I took care of first things first, the same as you have already done, which is to obtain "free" housing and at least a good chance that I wouldn't starve to death. Next, as some people have mentioned upthread, is to get some form of income. 4k is nice, but for me, I probably would have blown that in 3 months.

Prioritize and do whatever small step you can to make progress, even when you don't think it will help, or are too exhausted to want to.

Lastly, as a child of an abusive home, and the trauma bonds that are often formed there, be aware that regardless of what your parents have said-- my parents cursed me, and would refuse all contact regarding me getting my clothes or documents except to call the police and try to have me arrested, and strongly swore they would never see me again--your folks may extend an olive branch (or as I call them "tendrils") at some point. Obviously, that choice is entirely up to you, but from your description of your relationships, it might be best to establish yourself elsewhere independently and approach that cautiously and with the assistance of a therapist if and when that arises.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:41 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Considering what has happened to you and how well you've dealt with this so far, I suspect you're going to come out of this okay. Others have noted that building credit, etc., is not really a priority for you right now; perhaps you should explore continuing school on a part-time basis so that the costs are not as high and so that you can work part-time (I say this as someone who went to community college while working 2-3 part-time jobs to pay my own tuition, so it can be done even though it sucks.)

If possible (not sure where you live) you will want to find a job that does not require you to drive, and if possible you want to stop driving if you have no car insurance. In the short term, call on friends and your aunt for your transportation needs that cannot be covered by public transit (again, something I did for four months, and I pay forward to this day) because (a) you don't want to be busted for having no insurance/stuck with a huge amount of money to pay for an accident, and (b) it will show your aunt that you're being responsible, which will make her more inclined to continue assisting you.

So, you have a home and you have food, and you can try to minimize your risk (driving without car insurance) and maximize your ability to move forward (reduce college costs and raise available cash by switching to part-time college and part-time job), and that's more than enough to get you through the next three months. You can also consider skipping school for one year and working as many jobs as you can, perhaps even a full-time job so that you have health insurance. Oddly enough, this experience may very well set you up better for your professional future than finishing college on time will, depending on your preferred field.

Ultimately, you can do this. I did it, but it didn't feel insurmountable because I chose to do it (live on my own and try to pay my way through college without support), so I felt more in control than you feel right now. But you *can* do this. You're a survivor, you've already proven that, so now just concentrate those survival skills on establishing a baseline for your life so you can move forward. Without the daily distraction of your family, you may be surprised how easy and...well...BORING this effort will turn out to be. In a good way. Life -- even a difficult life -- can be surprisingly straightforward if you don't have someone actively abusing you on a daily basis.
posted by davejay at 2:26 PM on August 17, 2012

First off, good for you for getting out. That's the first huge step to leading a normal life. You have every reason to be proud of yourself.

Secondly, my understanding is that Federal Student Aid is based on need, not credit. As long as you haven't defaulted on other federal student loans or committed a felony (and I'm not sure about the felony conviction) you will be eligible to receive federal loans. If you're not paying for housing or transportation, you're already a long way toward being where you need to be financially.
posted by cnc at 3:21 PM on August 17, 2012

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