To reach the Ivy League after growing up poor seems like hitting the jackpot. Students get a world-class education from schools that promise to meet full financial needs without making them take out loans. But the reality of a full ride isn’t always what they had dreamed it would be.This is a subject on which I have some expertise, since I attended an Ivy League school with scarcely a penny in my pocket. This certainly did matter; I knew people who regularly popped down to New York for museum exhibits or concerts or just to hang out, and I only managed to make it to New York once during my whole time at Yale. In fact I hardly ever left campus at all, except on long walks. I wasn't able to take an archaeological field school because I worked all summer. I worked 10-12 hours a week at various menial jobs. I sat silently while people talked about skiing or compared European vacations. Various rich people treated me snootily. Etc.
Here at Columbia University, money pressures lead many to cut corners on textbook purchases and skip city excursions routine for affluent classmates. Some borrow thousands of dollars a year to pay bills. Some feel obliged to send money home occasionally to help their families. Others spend less on university meal plans, slipping extra food into their backpacks when they leave a dining hall and hunting for free grub through a Facebook network called CU Meal Share.
“If you want to have some sort of social life, you have to pay for that, too,” said Lizzette Delgadillo, 20, a junior from Los Angeles. Her father is a trumpet player in a mariachi band, her mother a housekeeper. “New York’s very expensive. I’m happy. But financially, it’s pretty hard.”
But, you know, too bad. Life at a top American university is an extraordinary experience, a cocoon of beautiful architecture and powerful ideas. Just to be at such a place is to know what privilege means. If that isn't enough for you, too bad.