‘I Was Lucky Enough to Pay for My Education Myself’

We’ve invited readers to share their stories of financing education. How did you pay for your education, Cail Smith?

I was lucky enough to be able to pay for my entire Canadian undergraduate education myself. And I do mean lucky. I grew up knowing I was going to attend University and that I was expected to pay for as much of it as I could. My parents had paid for their educations—undergrad, master’s, and for my father, a doctorate—without going into debt.  But that was the 70s and 80s, and they let me know they didn’t expect me to pay for everything.

I started saving money for school in grade four and never stopped counting pennies. I’ve lived like a student all my life. I buy my clothes at Value Village, choose the cheapest thing on the menu and have avoided all addictions (especially a five dollar latte habit). I learned about the concept of merit scholarship early on, and I started pushing myself to get A’s as soon as they started giving them to us. 

I did get some scholarships, the biggest from my parents’ union, but that only paid for about a year and a half of school. To earn money to pay my tuition, I did all the normal things like babysitting and getting a part-time job at a laundromat during high school and my first year of university. Early in my university degree, I lucked into a union job at the library which paid well and allowed me to work between classes. Even when I thought about going somewhere else for my last couple years of university, this job was one of the reason sI stayed. I loved the staff, the work, and the pay.

I also stayed at that university because I was able to live with my parents. They didn’t pay for my tuition, books or clothes, but they said if I stayed in school and lived with them, they’d cover my rent and keep the fridge stocked. Paying no rent and having a well-paid job during school is amazing, and I’d highly recommend it. It’s the reason I left school with significant savings rather than debt, and I’ll forever be grateful to my parents for that.

Right now, I’m saving money for grad school. I still live like a student, except now I pay rent for a sketchy basement apartment and work at a non-profit. I’d really like to go to Portland State’s Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Planning, but even with my savings, I won’t be able to afford the program. I don’t know how anyone is really expected to pay for grad school without scholarships, savings or debt. I wish going to school internationally wasn’t so expensive. If you know of any good scholarships for Canadian students going to America to study urban planning, let me know! I’d really like to be lucky enough to pay for my education again.

How did you go to school? (Or, support yourself after high school?) logan@thebillfold.com

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