Many students feel guilty for going to college while their family is struggling. Making it worse, their family constantly reminds them of how bad they are struggling and how they feel abandoned and like the student doesn’t care about them anymore. Then when the student comes home for the holidays, everyone says “you’ve changed… you talk different, like a braniac… you talk about all this success your having at college, but we are out here working for real… you need to get a job… you need to be here more often… why are you wasting your time in the books?” Anybody ever hear something similar?
A perfect example of unwarranted family pressure comes from a pre-med student I worked with a couple years ago. She was a bright student, but she was sabotaging herself so she was struggling in the classroom. Her self-sabotage was in the form of living at home and commuting to school. The problem with her living situation was that her commute was almost 2 hours, and on most evenings and every weekend she would help at her mom’s “salon” (her mom would style people’s hair at the house).
I told her that her academic problems could easily be fixed by simply moving near campus, which would create 4 additional hours of study time daily, and by not helping her mom do hair, which would free up her evenings and weekends for studying or even just recharging. She was adamant that she couldn’t do this because when she proposed this before her freshman year, her mom said she needed her to keep the business alive (GUILT TRIP). I explained to her that her mom was being short-sighted and exaggeratory. I asked her, what is the most your mom has ever made in a month doing hair at the house. She asked her mom, and her mom said about $3,000. Honestly, I was shocked it was that high. I said her commitment to her family was admirable, but severely misplaced and I launched into a discussion of the economics:
$3,000/month = $36,000/year (assuming mom maxes out every month)
With this current income, 5 people are living in a 2-bedroom apartment, everyone is helping with the “salon”, everyone is stressed and the entire family is living from hairstyle to hairstyle, forced to go without if it is a slow month. Not exactly what we all picture when we think of happiness.
I then explained that the average salary for a college graduate is $50,000 (time.com).
So, even if she didn’t go to medical school, but she just stayed in school and finished college… And at graduation she wasn’t exceptional, she was just an average college graduate… then her income only would be $14,000 more than what her whole family is making doing hair. That is a 30% increase! Therefore, single handedly she could elevate the status of her whole family and simultaneously everyone else in her family could stop working. Her mom could essentially retire, and the family living situation would be improved.
Then say, she went on to become a doctor and was making $150,000 as a primary care physician as a low estimate. That’s almost 5 times what her family is making doing hair. To put it another way, her income from 2 years as a horribly paid physician would take her family 10 years to make. What if she chose a high-paying specialty and made $300,000 annually. Then she would earn almost 10 years’ worth of family income from just one year’s salary.
For those of you reading this, you must remember that loyalty and commitment to your family can be shown in a variety of ways, and it is not always the way they may want. It is like when as a child your parents said, “I know you are mad now, but when you are older you will understand that I was doing what is best for you.” Well, now that you are an adult, you must say the same thing to them. They may not understand the value of school and bettering yourself, but YOU DO. Don’t worry about getting them to understand. They will get it when you are getting hooded at your medical school graduation and have the potential to earn massive income and more importantly are an expert that is respected in the community and around the world. They’ll shower you with hugs, tell you how proud of you they are and how they always wanted this for you (wink, wink).
Check out my article What It’s Like to Graduate Medical School.
If you are struggling to keep up in the classroom, check out my study course The 5 Pillars of Studying Less & Getting Better Grades. It will allow you to perform your best and suck the stress out of studying while creating more free time to spend with your family.