By Molly Wright

There’s one thing every senior in high school is thinking about… college. We take our SATs and ACTs, write our college admissions essays and countless scholarship essays. Over the course of my senior year of high school, I applied for 12 scholarships independent of the university I planned to attend.

Honestly, it was grueling. I was a machine pumping out desperate answers for why I needed the scholarship, my financial situation, my dreams of becoming a prominent broadcast news anchor for a multi-national network. As I received emails back from the scholarship donors, all I had to do was take one look at the first line, “we regret to inform you,” and I knew what the rest of the message would say.

We regret to inform you…

We regret to inform you…

My family falls into that perfect medium of genuinely needing financial aid, but not needing it enough (apparently) to receive substantial help. I’m an only child with two college-graduated parents. They aren’t paying for other children in college. They didn’t serve in the armed forces. My parents are civil servants balancing a mortgage, car payments, and debt from when my mom lost her job during the 2008 recession–– a financial loss we’ve never fully recovered from.

In the end, I won one scholarship out of 12. I walked off the scholarship battlefield, waving my white flag in surrender. After this I realized something fundamental about money: middle class families like mine are often left behind. We live in the perfect bracket of subsistence.

As a sophomore in college, I’m still enduring the actualization of this truth. I’m always weighing the opportunity costs between fun experiences or my bank account, sometimes between school and work. I want to be involved on campus, but I scarcely have the time. I sometimes assess which homework assignments I can turn in late or put less effort into for the sake of picking up a few more hours at my job.

It feels like the stress of this back and forth often goes unconsidered by educational institutions and professors. However, about 70% of students are employed in college. It’s especially difficult when those around you can afford to spend $80 on a Friday, but you cringe just at the cost of dinner.

Currently, internships are weighing heavy on my mind. This summer I’ve secured an internship in Washington, D.C., but the high cost of living is going to put a serious strain on my savings. I’m giving up a summer of working for a blurb on my résumé. With internships you receive no fringe benefits and there is such a supply of students, wages don’t rise above market equilibrium. Thus, in the fall following my internship I’m planning on working 4 days a week to make up for the money lost.

When faced with these financial choices, I think I would regret missing out on opportunities more than the money lost towards them. Opportunity cost is always on my mind and how certain choices will affect my financial stability. That’s just life as a middle-class college student.

Wright is a sophomore at the University of Missouri, majoring in journalism.