I’m sorry. I’ve been there. I’m just paying off my student loan debt (~55k government loans for undergrad and masters/~77k total debt). So some insights for you based on my path.
My parents did not contribute to my or my siblings college costs.
In my case, my older siblings received government financial aid because they qualified based on my fathers salary and the number of dependents (# of younger siblings aka my existence). Regardless my parents didn’t contribute anything but at least my siblings had some government support to offset costs.
By the time I went to college, my dad was still at the same salary, but as the youngest there were no other dependents to help in my favor (older sibling privilege). My parents also had acquired an investment property. So while my dads salary would have allowed me some nominal government financial aid, this fine print around additional investments owned by my parents, disqualified me. Regardless, like I said previously, my parents didn’t contribute any financial resources for my or my siblings college costs.
To make matters worse, in undergrad, the school noted my lack of government financial aid, offered me school sourced aid (woo hoo), but then when I shared I won a scholarship, they took it back(boo hoo). Essentially nulling the additional scholarship funds I was awarded. Which in retrospect, I should have been more assertive and involved the scholarship committee because there had to have been something legally wrong there. A scholarship should be financially advantageous. Be assertive.
It was a bitter time, since so much stuff was stacked against me, as much as I tried. And it was hard to see other friends with financial aid living more comfortably.
Anyways, I remember this stuff caused me major anxiety for some time. Not worth it. Invest in your mental well-being and be mindful of your financial planning in a realistic way. Literally you can define this as a short term problem or a long term one. It all relative anyways.
First, find a co-signer. I used my siblings in most cases. If your trustworthy and dependable someone will be willing to sign. De-risk by showing your commitment to where you’re going and believe in yourself/be confident. Anxious people are risky. You’re an adult. You can do this. You can even pitch a business case to your dad to be a co-signer.
Next, be realistic about costs. I regret being on a hyper budget in undergrad. Materials and housing are your basic necessities to do well in school, that’s like a nonnegotiable. You’ll most likely need the private loan, unless I’m missing something here. Add a little extra cushion for emergencies as well. You sound like you are on the cautious end, good. But be a little forgiving and realistic too, especially while you’re in school.
An insight I had along the way, is in school you’re competing against everyone, and the kids that have their own perfect housing, unlimited food, supplies, self care spending, therapy spending, recreational spending, etc. will likely preform better in your classes than you. Set yourself up for success. Setting such a strict budget that you fail your way through classes from the stress, defeats the purpose. Obviously don’t spend your money aimlessly on eating out and vacations.
I’ll end with, don’t be resentful towards your parents about this. It sucks. It truly does. But when you come out of this, you’ll be stronger, independent, and financially self sufficient. Which are aspects of maturity that some people never reach. Plus like you, as much as my parents didn’t help, end game, if shit hit the fan and I needed someone to pay for stuff, I know my parents would have come through. That’s a privilege some people don’t have, since their parents have nothing financially to give, which is truly tragic. And unlearn what your parents are doing to you for your own kids. Learn to be unconditional, while encouraging healthy independence.
* down the line, don’t do grad school if you are lost and are struggling for a job, do it only if you have a clear vision and understanding of how it will enhance your journey. Or a full ride scholarship. Be devils advocate before saying yes. Grad school was right for me, but I see too many people reaping in debt in a lost way. If you’re really lost and apprehensive to join the job market, I always recommend an extra year of undergrad to explore a minor instead, it’s cheaper usually.
* pick a degree that will translate well in the job market
* when done, don’t be disheartened by a low starting salary. I started at 40k (22) post undergrad. I now make 3x that, a handful of years out. My internships set me up for a stable salary down the line.
* consider living with family, friends, or in a low cost of living period to crush debt. During covid, working remote, I contributed 60%+ of my paycheck towards paying off my loans since I didn’t pay for rent. Although for some of my quality internships in years past, I was paying a lot for rent but it was worth it. Be strategic and have a plan. It’s easier to budget when you’re younger and just out of college, than scaling back later.
There’s a path forward! You got this!