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Student caught between college and helping family

Dear Harlan: I’m the oldest of four kids in my family. I’ve started my first semester at a community college near home. I was offered a scholarship to a four-year university away from home, but couldn’t take it because my family needs me. My mom’s a single parent and she needs me to help with my brothers and sister. I also pay for some of the bills. I get that she needs me. I don’t want to be selfish, but I want to go to school and get my degree and become a doctor. Any suggestions?

— Stuck

Dear Stuck:  You’re amazing, smart and caring. This is your path. It might not be the path you envisioned, but it’s a path. You’ll get there. You will. The most important thing you can do is find your people. Find heroes who can guide you and support you. Find doctors who come from a similar background (turn to clergy and career advisers for contacts). Find teachers and advisers who can help you and guide you. Talk to the department head and get advice. Explain your situation to these people. You might discover that there are options available. There could be community-based programs. You might be able to get a higher paying job and save even more money. You can find a school close to home where you can get your undergraduate requirements out of the way. Help your mom see how you can all manage the short-term inconveniences so you can get the long-term gains. Eventually, your siblings will be old enough to help out. Then you’ll be ready to go to med school. I know it might seem far away, but find the people who can help you identify a path and get there. It’s closer than you think.

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