This is a really important question. There aren't any guarantees in life but it's critical to assess your opportunities wherever you are and whatever you are doing throughout your life to achieve your dreams.
Your question is complex and it also shows that you can think deeply about issues on multiple levels.
It is important to be realistic about what you can afford in terms of college and to create multi-year budgets to project costs as well as how to pay back what you borrow. Map out multiple scenarios. How does the career you have chosen compare to the cost of college, especially since you are financing it yourself.
There are so many different ways to achieve success, measure success, map out your options, and to realize your dreams.
If your ship doesn't sail into the harbor, swim out to your ship (repeat this to yourself every day).
What do I mean? When you have a dream or something you are passionate about, you figure out a way or multiple ways to achieve this goal. As you become an adult, you will be more in charge of your decisions and options. Hard work, networking, strategic thinking, scholarships, and assessing your options will pay off.
Mentors are also important if you are the first one in your family to go to college or you are the first one in your family to pursue a specific career field. Volunteering in a variety of areas can help you find mentors and fields you might not have considered before. The bottom line is you are becoming the master of your own destiny.
Focus on the positive things in your life and research career options carefully. One suggestion might be to consider STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) because these careers tend to pay more on average. There are 4 million jobs in STEM careers right now that cannot be filled - you will always be able to find a job and be in demand. Google STEM and google images STEM - there are some great graphics that show you all the amazing careers and opportunities.
Think about your dream in the long term and see if you can image different paths to your dream.
Some possible examples:
If you can do really well at Community College this will allow you to apply for scholarships, open doors, introduce you to new career options. Community colleges are fabulous places with professors who are practitioners in their fields. There are also options to get your core courses and then transfer to a four year college. They are very affordable and an excellent way to boost your GPA in a cost effective way.
If you can do really well at in State College, you can get scholarships to grad school, find new career options, network with the alumni association, and launch your career. Take advantage of all the opportunities but be sure to do well by working with counselors, tutors, and professors. Don't get lost in the crowd - find ways to make the experience very hands on and personable - you might join a club or pursue a specific interest that focuses your experience. Keep your eye on the future at all times.
Other options include:
You do work study or scholarships to complete undergraduate at public or private college.
You balance work off campus with class on campus and pay for school as you go. Balancing requires good organization but it is possible. Mentors and advisors can help you figure this out. Some schools allow you to participate in cooperative education: this is where you go to school but someone else, like a future employer, pays for it. Sometime students go ROTC in order to pay for school - if you select this option be very clear about what the commitment will be, for how long, and what is covered. In other cases, if you work for a company that has tuition reimbursement the company will help pay for your education as one of your benefits (be sure to see how much and what the limitations are. if you work for a business organization, they might only fund business degrees.)
You figure out a way to go to Stanford for Graduate School or for a specific major, online, or work for Stanford and get a tuition break. Sometimes by saving up for grad school or getting scholarships for grad school you can make the experience more affordable. Everyone's situation is different which is why the budgets and planning is so important.
You go to Stanford for a certificate program for a semester or a shorter time period. You find an exchange program. You find an online certificate program..
You figure out what you like about Stanford and replicate it in Hawaii or other locations in California.
You network with Stanford Alumni in Hawaii and see how networking might help you get to Stanford or if you discover other dreams along the way.
You will figure this out and I am excited about your journey. The most important thing is to leverage all the things you learn along the way. If someone can't help you, thank them and ask them for 3 contacts or 3 ideas that can help you achieve your goal. Your experiences and hard work make you who you are and pave the way for the contributions you will make in the future.
I hope you will keep us posted on your progress.
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