Contributing Toward Someone’s Education

I was terrified by the thought of attending college. I would be the first person in my family to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and thoughts of failure kept plaguing me. As you can probably deduce from the numerous times I’ve mentioned college on this blog, I ended up completing my degree thanks to the incredible support of my family. And as a result, education holds a special place in my heart.

It was this passion that prompted me to set the goal to “contribute towards someone’s education.” If you’re like me, hearing that goal might conjure an image of a Daddy Warbucks-type benefactor throwing money at someone’s schooling, so I decided to confront that misconception. Sure, there was a small chance that I’d win the Powerball (if I ever got around to playing it), but the most likely outcome would be me finding creative, non-financial ways to become an educational contributor. Ultimately, I was able to help a dear friend with her education in a few different ways.

First, I guided my friend through the labyrinth that is college admissions. It helped that I used to be an admissions counselor, so I was able to take deep dives into various universities and program options with my friend who had yet to complete an associate’s degree. There was a lot to uncover, but by asking many of the questions I used to pose to high schoolers, we were able to make quite a bit of headway. By the end of many discussions, my friend had settled on a university, picked out her preferred program, and had determined how long it would take to complete a degree.

Next, I dusted off my tutoring skills from college to assist my friend with the daunting tasks of learning APA formatting and writing thought-provoking papers on a wide range of topics. I was thrilled that my friend chose to study Psychology since that was my major in college, and the shared interest allowed us to connect over the classes she was taking.

Finally, I was a cheerleader—I apologize if you are now picturing me in cheerleading attire. Returning to school after taking time off will always come with a unique set of challenges and frustrations, so being there to listen to the issues my friend was experiencing meant a lot to her. This was the part of the process I enjoyed the most because it was thanks to the encouragement of my parents that I ever completed my degree. Being able to do the same for someone else felt like I was paying it forward in a small way.

I don’t recount this story as a 600-word treatise on how great I am or to announce plans to change my blog title to The Most Generous Person at the Table; rather, I say it because I want to encourage you to think of non-financial ways to contribute to those around you. There is often a dangerous fallacy that the most helpful thing you could do to assist with someone’s education is to give them money. Sure, that can be immensely helpful, but it can be just as impactful to have those initial, sky’s-the-limit conversations and to be there when things get tough.

My friend is now nearing the end of her associate’s degree and is looking forward to starting her bachelor’s shortly thereafter. I couldn’t be prouder, and I hope that in the future, she’ll be able to do the same for someone else to continue the chain of helping people pursue their educational dreams.

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