Pay it Forward icon 1Pay It Forward

Mandy Urwiler

Now is the time quite a few people are going back to school. If you’re anything like me, when you start college, you will think “I can totally take on 12 credits without help!” and you may even choose to take those 12 credits online. I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to ask for help, and you may not want to take those 12 credits all at once and online if you have any responsibilities outside of school. If your case manager says you’re taking on more than you can handle, they’re probably right. I’m not saying this to discourage you; I’m saying it based on my own experience.


In spring 2013, I took my first ever quarter at North Seattle Community College. I asked my case manager at the YMCA, Paula Carvalho, for help to enroll in classes. At the time, I had two jobs and a three year old son named Nicky. I told Paula I was going to take 12 credits, and I was going to do them all online. The quarter started out pretty well; I was getting my work done on time for the first couple of weeks. Then, Nicky NEEDED all of my attention, so I gave it to him instead of doing my homework. I started failing to do my work because I didn’t have the help I needed and I had no time to look for help while trying to be a good parent and work two jobs. It only took a week of failing to do my homework before I couldn’t catch up; soon after, I lost my financial aid.

If I had any advice to give you, it would be that it’s ok to ask for help, don’t overload yourself, and it’s ok to take fewer classes than are required for full time.Now, I am planning on going back to school in the fall quarter with a new plan. The biggest advantage of doing this now, is that Nicky is also starting school this September. I need to help Nicky thrive in school so that he can be better than me and have a better life than I did. I will now follow three important rules to succeed: I will never take math online, I will not overload myself with courses, and I will take classes I am passionate about.

I know I can’t succeed without help! When I first tried to get into school, I got a LOT of help from the YMCA’s Independent Living program with filling out academic forms, scholarships, and finding classes. Now, I’m using Seattle Education Access (SEA) to help me fill out forms and get tutoring. Some of the financial resources I used were the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), Education and Training Voucher program (ETV), and the Passport to College Promise (Passport) scholarship. There are more scholarships available, no matter who you are or what your biological family’s income may be. Additionally, I plan to use the tutoring centers on campus this time and sign up for work-study so that I can succeed.

If I had any advice to give you, it would be that it’s ok to ask for help, don’t overload yourself, and it’s ok to take fewer classes than are required for full time. You can still get financial aid for less than full time while keeping the required minimum credits to not have to pay out of pocket. It’s better to take longer to finish your degree and do well than it is to finish your degree quickly while not doing as well in the classes. 

Financial Resources

Passport to College Promise


Other Resources


Tutoring Centers: Contact your preferred college for more info

Work-Study: Contact your local college for more info

Seattle Education

Independent Living

Trio-SSS: Ask your preferred college for moreinfo

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