I thought we were over the major college hurdle when I wrote my last post. After all our daughter had chosen to attend UNH this fall. We could relax – right? Wrong – so wrong! It turns out getting into college is just step one, choosing which college to go to is step two. The first deposit check is the beginning of steps three through infinity.
I know there are kids out there who are super smart with extreme financial need who may get a full ride to college. There are some families for whom tuition payments are no problem. I of course don’t personally know any of families like that, but I image they exist in the stratosphere of the 1%. Then there is the rest of us. Our kids may qualify for some financial aid and scholarships from their chosen school, some of them may get merit based grants and aid, but it is rarely enough to cover the entire cost of college. So once the choosing and being chosen part of the college process is over it’s time to figure out where the money will come from.
We can help a bit, but we won’t be able to fund everything so my focus for the last several weeks has been to look for scholarships and grants which Isabelle won’t have to pay back*. This has meant filling out endless forms, all of which had to be in the correct order. We started with the forms which told colleges how much our family could afford. In between filling out those forms we scurried to our accountant to try and get our taxes done in January. She of course laughed at the thought of being able to file in the first month of the year (when you’re self-employed like we are). Many of the forms needed for our various tax schedules don’t get released until late February or March. It doesn’t matter that a different part of the government (the one who would decided how much we could afford) expected us to file our taxes by the third week of January. She took pity on us she came up with a draft of our taxes so we could (sort of) move on.
Turns out there were some scholarships we’d already missed the deadlines for. I guess instead of taking Isabelle to visit colleges last fall I should have put her on a bus while I spent my time searching out potential scholarships. Amazingly, even with our late start of January there were many different scholarships out there. You just have to fit their criteria.
In some cases it is about your GPA and SAT scores. For other scholarships it helps if your parents didn’t go to college. I found a bunch of grants for kids who grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, but since we’re from Whately Isabelle couldn’t apply to those. Certain scholarships correlate with intended majors or specific colleges. Others are awarded to left-handed people whose parents immigrated from the Land of Oz. (Ok, I’m kidding about that last one) It’s mind-boggling what is out there.
Of course just because you find a scholarship which matches your kid it doesn’t mean the scholarship committee will choose your offspring. There are still essays to write, recommendations to get, plus you’ll have to make copies of everything from your family’s federal returns (with all social security numbers blacked out), to your kid’s official high school transcript, along with your dog’s vaccination records, and a pint of blood. Ok, I’m kidding again, but I bet we could find a scholarship where they wanted those last two things. One of the more challenging parts is adhering to the various directions. They make the directions tricky because it is an easy way to eliminate certain applicants. Put your SAT scores before your extra-curricular activities? Bing we won’t consider you. Did you remember to staple everything together? No? Bing another application in the trash. Remove all staples , mail in a 10″ x 13″ envelope, scan to a pdf, with a photo, without a photo; hand written essay, typed essay, or in some cases both handwritten and typed essay. The variations are endless.
Which may make you understand why I’ve been eating a lot of food these past few weeks which is both comforting and needs no elaborate instructions. Barely a step up from baby food some might say. The original recipe I’ve been rifting off of came from my friend Jessica. She ate a lot of this while going to graduate school on a very tight budget. Since she was living in the middle of Amish Country, there were wonderful markets to go to where she would buy chipped beef. She would make a glorious creamed chipped beef on toast though sometimes she got fancy and served it on a baked potato. Since chipped beef is hard to come by in western Massachusetts I’ve been substituting all things green for the beef, though occasionally I’ll use chopped up ham and peas. I am usually too last-minute to ever think about baking a potato so my creamed whatever is always served over toast. It is comforting, it is cheap, and it is fast. The perfect antidote to all these forms and applications.
Creamed Greens on Toast
Like I said there really isn’t a specific recipe. You’ll either need to experiment a bit or if you want to you can come over to my house and I’ll whip you up a bowl while you staple (or unstaple) pages together for yet another application.
1 or 2 pieces of bread
1/2 small onion, chopped (optional)
1-3 Tablespoons butter or margarine or olive oil
handful of flour
kale, spinach or swiss chard, stems removed if tough, washed and chopped
spoonful of mustard, grainy or dijon
cow, goat or rice milk
salt and pepper
While your bread is toasting sauté the chopped onions, if you are using them. Once they are translucent or the butter/margarine/oil is heated make the roux (which is just a fancy name for white sauce) by adding the flour. Stir everything around until the flour is cooked a bit, but not burned. Add your main green ingredient along with a spoonful of mustard. Then whisk in the cow or goat or rice milk. Start with a little, you can always add more. When the roux is thickened and the greens are cooked taste for seasonings. Pour it all over the toast which you’ve plopped into a bowl and dig in.
Of course if you can find chipped beef where you live by all means try it with that.
*I am aware that kids can take out loans for college, but starting off life with huge amounts of debt is its own challenge. We’re trying to make it so there isn’t a mountain of debt, just a small hill.