I have received a few e-mails from Pitt regarding scholarships and grants that are available for disadvantaged students. One of them is a scholarship for nearly ten thousand dollars, and another is a nursing grant of an unknown amount. For both, a short essay is required explaining why I should be considered for these scholarships.

The term “disadvantaged” is not a term I like to use. The connotations are enough to turn me off from using that word to describe myself, and then when I look back on my life I don’t think I was disadvantaged. I had a great childhood! I had a mother who loved me, took care of me, treated me well. I had extended family who visited and who I was able to spend time with. I always had a home, food in my stomach, clothes on my back. I went to private school! I attended a wonderful liberal arts, private, college.

But am I technically disadvantaged? Yes. Growing up, I didn’t have money. My mother lost her job, her life savings, her retirement, and her mental health. We lived on her social security disability, which is not exactly a comfortable amount of money. When some of my friends were getting cars for their sixteenth birthdays, I was shopping at the thrift store with my mom for winter clothes.

But. But. Here I am. I’m comfortable, happy, well-educated. I had a mother who fought for me to have the advantages I had: private school, financial aid, scholarships. I do not look at myself as disadvantaged. But. Here I am, going back to school full time. Living on one income, with immense debt. School debt, life expenses debt, debt out the wazoo. A huge personal loan to pay for Alex to attend daycare while I go back to school full time for a year.

As a young, unmarried, mother, I suppose I am “disadvantaged.” I haven’t had any income since 2007, and that income was from my job in college. Even though Zach has a perfectly reasonable income, we struggle every week to pay our debts on time while still keeping food in the house and gas in the car. I still don’t like that word, though. We are fine, not disadvantaged.

But, I’m still going to apply for these scholarships.

And I hope that Alex never has to apply for these types of scholarships. More importantly, even if he does, I hope that as an adult he looks back on his life and thinks, I wasn’t disadvantaged, even if maybe, according to some, he was.


10 thoughts on “Disadvantaged?

  1. I totally understand. Now in my life I’m not considered ‘disadvantaged’ obviously (hello new big house and two incomes! heh) But growing up, we definitely were. But… we weren’t really though. Financially, we certainly didn’t have money (my closet now? LARGER THAN MY BEDROOM in that trailer as a kid, the one I shared with my sister for 15 years.) and we wore hand-me-down clothes. But our parents loved us and we had a (relatively) stable family. So while by some definitions we were considered ‘disadvantaged’, I didn’t really see it at the time (and not even really now)

    That being said… take advantage of any help you can get, girl!!! πŸ™‚ You deserve it, you’re working SO hard and any assistance you can get is awesome!

  2. I’m with @jayesel. Take what you can get. You’re working your ass off to put yourself through college, and you have to be willing to accept whatever help you can get. Who cares what words get attached to it, y’know?

  3. I know PA used to give money for college to unwed mothers (although it may have been teenage unwed mothers). You might want to look into it and see if you can get $$ from the state. You’re a taxpayer and entitled to the advantages that come with it. πŸ™‚

  4. I often feel the same way you do. But honestly? I knew a girl who took advantage of all of those scholarships and then just failed out of school. You, on the other hand are going to use the scholarships for good things. So while it’s tough think of yourself as “disadvantaged” at least you’re bettering yourself with it.

  5. It’s hard when you’re scraping the barrel like that… but you find a rhythm… and there can be something beautiful about it, for sure. My struggle/journey has taught me a lot…. and, as I’ve written before, I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.

    What I’m battling with now, though, is a strange sense of entitlement. “I put myself through Smith College, damnit! AND GRADUATE SCHOOL! … don’t I deserve the job of my dreams?! One that will help me pay off my loans before I’m 50?!”

    Patience, I remind myself, and humility. Must have them both.

    But here’s a great quote that I feel matches my sentiment about this… this… journey…

    A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
    John Steinbeck

  6. I was in the same boat when I went to college. You need this money and you are getting it for a good reason. You’re going to use it to help people. you are not mooching off of anyone . . . you are getting the help you need.

  7. You’re right: in a lot of ways, you are richer than a lot of other people. Me too. But cute kids and adoring partners don’t always help one pay the bills. πŸ™‚

    So you apply for every ounce of aid you can get. You are working so hard to better an already rich life. You deserve the help you can get.


  8. The reason the term “disadvantaged” is used is strictly political. It implies that you are without advantage because you are low income, and you are low income because you have not pulled yourself up by your bootstraps (no matter what those bootstraps made me made of). It is the way our country convinces people that it is their own fault that they are disadvantaged, not because of the enormous structural differences that exisit in this lop-sided society. By the way, you have never been disadvantaged; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

  9. I say go for all of it. I remember signing up for a bunch and one was like daughters of something or other group and I didn’t even know what it was but wrote the essay anyway…think I finally got a graphic arts scholarship for a picture I did.

  10. My parents made that their goal for us, worked their asses off, and made it come true. So I’m sure that you can too. There’s no reason that little boy will ever think he isn’t loved or cared about, so I’m sure he won’t ever think he’s disadvantaged, no matter who thinks he is.

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