Dream School Meets the Real World

Dear Harlan: I’m a senior in high school, graduating this fall. I finally decided that I want to go into animation rather than architecture. However, as the end of senior year draws near, I keep having doubts about whether I should attend community college or the university that I have chosen. I earned a scholarship that will allow me to go to this community college for free! All I would have to do is buy some books and go five minutes away to complete the required credits before transferring to my dream school two years later. It sounds obvious that I should take this opportunity, but the reason I am having doubts is because I am having family issues that cause me to feel stressed out and unproductive. I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand living at home for as long as I have to. It’s a great community college, but animation is most likely not a big part of their programs. I can still learn the essentials, but it probably won’t compare to going to an actual art school. Basically, I’m stuck. If I go to community college, I can get a job while finishing my credits and save my family (and myself) a ton of money. I also can go to an actual art school afterward by saving the money from what we should have been paying if it weren’t for the scholarship. On the other hand, if I go to the university, I can have a good college experience and have some space. This way I can make new friends and gain some independence, but it would take a lot of money. So, what advice do you have for me?

— Stuck

Dear Stuck:  Graduate with $120,000 in debt, and you’ll really be stuck at home. Here are my suggestions: (1) Celebrate that you have a scholarship and a plan to attend your dream school in two years or sooner. (2) Call the university that accepted you and speak to a financial-aid counselor. Let this adviser know you have a scholarship at your local community college, and share any award letters you’ve received. See if they have more money for you (it can happen). (3) Talk to career services at the community college and at your dream school. Explain your interest in animation and identify part-time jobs. Work as an undergrad doing work you love. You can work on campus and in the community. Start working NOW. (3) Plan on going to the community college, and have an alternative living plan if your home life gets bad again. You can stay with a friend, other family members or rent a room. (5) While in community college, identify other colleges where you can pursue animation. Once you identify more schools, use financial-aid services to explore scholarships, grants and work-study programs. To sum it up: Plan to work in animation NOW. Plan on going to community college (if you can’t get more money). Plan to move out if things get rough. Plan to identify at least three other dream schools. Plan to talk to people at the schools you want to attend and find out how they paid for it. Find your people. Find your places. Create a plan. This is how you get wherever you want to go.

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Comfortable with the Uncomfortable ≠ Suffering

Dear Harlan: My daughter loves overnight camp, but it’s exclusive and there are a lot of mean girls. However, some are very nice. She can’t give it a year to adjust because overnight camp is only two months. She has a choice next year: She can go back to overnight camp and face the uncomfortable, or stay home and hang out with her school friends. She is struggling with the decision. She doesn’t seem to want to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. What should she do?

— Too Uncomfortable

Dear Too Uncomfortable:  She doesn’t need to spend eight more weeks and thousands of dollars to be tormented by mean girls. She should find girls she wants to be around. Have her identify three other camps that look interesting. Suggest she talk to people at these camps who can answer her questions (the director, counselors, CITs or campers). If she absolutely loves the camp from last year, but not the mean girls, suggest she talk to the professionals who run the camp and see if there are other cabins or options. The reality is that mean girls go to lots of camps. She needs a plan and people in her corner. Changing camps isn’t quitting; it’s using her past experiences to help her find the right people and places next summer. Facing the truth and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable takes strength. She should feel nothing but pride. Tell her I said so.

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Virgin needs help dealing with pressure to lose it

Close Up Of Beautiful Shy Woman Smiling At Her LoverDear Harlan: I’m 19 and have not had sex yet. Everyone expects you to have sex when you’re dating someone while in college. How do you deal with the pressure if you’re in a relationship and don’t want to have sex? – Virgin

Dear Virgin: Who is “everyone”? The horny guy you’re dating? Being a virgin can be very hot.  You can be sexual without having sex, intimate without losing your virginity and passionate without penetration. Set boundaries. Be proud of your virginity. Make it clear that anyone who dates you must respect boundaries. Be honest about what sex means to you and when you’ll be comfortable having it. In the same breath, make sure you emphasize that you’re sexual – you’re just waiting to have sex until it’s the right time for you. There are a lot of partners who will be happy to wait for you – it’s just that most of them don’t understand that waiting to have sex can also mean being intimate, passionate and sexual.

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Happily Dating Girlfriend is Tired of The Marriage Questions

Man hiding his wifes eyes to offer her an engagement ring for aHi Harlan, My boyfriend and I have been together for six years. We have lived together for three years. We are in a healthy, loving relationship, and we both feel a lot of pressure from our peers to get married! We are part of the Catholic community, and so many of our peers have gotten married before deciding to move in together, and haven’t been together for as long as we have. Since my mother died in 2010, my dad is getting back in the dating game, and also is thinking about marrying a woman he has been with for less than a year. My boyfriend and I don’t want to get married, or even engaged, until we are both finished with our undergraduate degrees, and until we are more financially stable. Even though it has been six years, we look forward to marriage when the time comes, whereas our peers seem to be under the impression we aren’t willing to commit by tying the knot in a hurry. What is the huge rush in getting married? And why is it so seemingly unacceptable to want to graduate and get settled before jumping into marriage? I am sick of all the, “So, when are you guys gonna get married?” questions every time a new anniversary hits, or when we are asked how long we have been together! Happily Not Married

Dear Happily Not Married, So, when are you not going to get married? Trick question. I don’t really care if you get married. Doesn’t impact me (unless you’re secretly dating my wife).   The bigger question — why does this question bother you this much? When an innocent question becomes a big problem, the problem isn’t the question — it’s the feelings triggered by the question. Maybe you secretly do want to get married. Maybe you’re afraid of getting married because you’re scared it will ruin what you have. Instead of blaming people for asking you an innocent question, figure out why you have such a big problem answering it.

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