My father died in a car accident when I was eight years old.
A decade later, when I graduated from high school, I found out he’d set up a trust fund for my education … about $7,500.
I was really surprised because my family had never talked about paying for college. I’d had no idea the money was there. College was cheaper in 1991, so it should’ve been enough for two years of in-state tuition, as long as I lived at home.
And that’s exactly what my father had intended. I was supposed to use the money to go to school near home at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.
What I didn’t realize is that I wasn’t ready for college. I had no idea what I wanted to study when I was 18. I’d never talked to either of my parents about what I wanted to do when I grew up—that just wasn’t how my family was.
I’d also never had a job. Heck, I’d never even had an allowance.
Then, I got the entire $7,500.
Trouble From the Start
I paid for my first two semesters of school and books, got an on-campus job that paid a little more than minimum wage and registered for core classes. Basically, I took the minimum load of classes required.
I didn’t read the syllabus for my classes closely enough to understand that attendance was part of my grade, and the classes were boring, so I only showed up for the tests. As a result, I flunked every single class because of my attendance (or lack thereof), even though I got A’s and B’s on all the tests. I was really disappointed. Second semester wasn’t much better: This time, I showed up, but I didn’t take the homework very seriously. All I can say in my defense is that I was 18 and didn’t understand the importance of a college degree at all.