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tough love -- college decisions
Old 02-07-2018, 08:57 PM   #1
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tough love -- college decisions

Looking for reassurance or corrective action.. My second child is graduating high school and college decision time is upon us. His grades were OK, but he still blows mid-terms or key projects pulling his entire grade down 1 letter. This results in about a 2.8 overall GPA

As a result of years of this pattern, he is now faced with limited choices for college and no scholarships. DW and I have debated holding him back every year since about 4th grade to allow him to mature and catch up to his peers. So here we stand facing our final influence, and have told him that despite getting into a few state schools in the middle of the heap, we will only support the community college, or a gap year overseas school.

The gap year foreign school is truly based on the belief that he isn't ready, and this is the best option for him. It would give him the year to rise to the occasion, and if he failed to get going give him another start the following year.

DW & I think that the overseas experience will make him more desirable to employers even if he comes back and enters a US institution in his second year. We also believe that if he doesn't like it and stay on for all 4 years that he will have a chance to apply and get into a higher level of school, maybe top 50. There are over 700 US companies with a presence in this country, including many of the big boys like Honeywell, J&J, & Medtronics to name a few. His time in country would elevate him as a desirable candidate for these companies in particular.

He is upset with us and though he liked the country when we visited is a bit apprehensive and doesn't want to go, preferring the local university (not the community college), which was his last choice when we started the application process. The local university has a low ranking in the country over all and is considered a party school by the locals, and had even made it into the #1 spot years ago according to US News.

We stacked the deck in favor of the overseas school including a requirement that he be out of the house for 44 hours a week if he chooses the community college route. For an INTG I'm sure this is painful, but the social piece is another reason we don't think he is ready.

So because we love our son and don't want to make him suffer, we are second guessing our tough love, which is forcing him out of his comfort zone, in the hopes it will spark the desire and drive to play the game.

So any thoughts about:
1) Will the overseas degree, assuming all four years, make him a more desirable candidate or hinder him?
2) Are we really ruining his life by forcing him to take a gap year if he comes back after a year?
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Old 02-07-2018, 09:43 PM   #2
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More info needed. Overseas where? Also what specific state school? Just about all colleges have ability to party and its effects on school grades performance, it is the student that controls the partying.

My opinion is that the school reputation can help get your first job. After that it becomes more what have you done. In other words, you have the degree, but what skills do you now have that an employer will seek you out.

I realy don't think overseas school time will make much difference. Some good co-op or summer job relevant to the degree will be better.
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Old 02-07-2018, 09:48 PM   #3
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My oldest son ended up with a mid 2s GPA and would have had more school choices and more college baseball teams to choose from. To be honest I didn't think we would get through the first semester and he would be home. It was a rude awakening for him as he was cross country and had to figure things out. He told us after the first year that the best thing we did for him was to send him away from home as he had to figure things out.

Of the 4 other kids he graduated with that signed to play college ball who were close to home all flunked out and came home because they were struggling their college life and the tie home. They are all working at min wage jobs and doing their community service repaying their debt to society. Tough love is a good thing sometimes but let him pick the tough situation then if it goes tits up you can say "wow that stinks that your choice want good. How are you going to fix it?" For us the goal is to give them latitude to make mistakes but not life altering mistakes.
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Old 02-07-2018, 10:57 PM   #4
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I went to college with some people who weren't ready and just took a year off before starting freshman year. They seemed to have a better perspective and better understanding of the goals of a college education. Maybe it was because they saw what life was like for a year before college. Maybe it was just because they got another year of maturity by waiting. Gap years are getting more common and for some kids they are really helpful.
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Old 02-07-2018, 11:21 PM   #5
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What you're doing is uncomfortable, but I don't think it is "tough love". If you pay, you make the rules. It's only "tough" if the recipient believes their desires should be superior to that of their parent/boss/benefactor.

I have a HS junior and have been talking with her for the past 18 months about college choices. Starting to narrow it down, and the big question is the major and potential career paths. A few thoughts on your situation....

1. No way would send one of my kids overseas to school if they weren't cutting it academically. If they weren't getting it done in HS, why would I think being thousands of miles away from the structure of home would improve their academic performance? Too many ways to get distracted and have to rely on the US Embassy to clean things up......

2. As a graduate of a public "party school", I have no objections to them per se, as long as the intended program of study is reasonably good. The social aspects of college life were important to me - met late DW there, and have life-long friends from that experience. Career-wise, I left my field of study after 3 years, had some professional success along the way, but really didn't hit my sweet spot until I was 38 years old. My view now is a degree in a specific field, from a particular school, matters less than what you do after you graduate. That's a generalization, clearly there are some fields of study and professions (medicine, law, certain finance sectors) where the education pedigree means everything.

3. I think there are few better places to go to school than in a college town in the southeast or midwest, many of which are "party schools". Giving a young adult an opportunity to grow up and explore their limits in an environment that is built around them is a good thing to me. Gainesville (Univ of Florida), Athens GA (UGA), good. Coral Cables (Univ of Miami), no way. Would send mine to my alma matter if out of state tuition weren't equal to an Ivy.

4. Consider shifting the discussion to "what do you want to do/how will you support yourself". This has been helpful for me, although the answer is still "I don't know, but this looks interesting". Current plan includes additional course work/dual major suited to her interests and aptitude. The idea is to increase her options if teaching doesn't turn out as she expects as a 16 year old.

5. The other element I preach to my kids is they want to find the thing(s) that they like, are suited to how their brains work, and they can do better than most people. Figure if they meet those 3 criteria, they will be happy enough with their work and can find a way financially to have the life they want.
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Old 02-07-2018, 11:27 PM   #6
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On the one hand, it is ultimately his life. I don't think you can force him to do anything including a gap year. What you can do, though, is say what you are willing to pay for.

When our son graduated high school we did not feel he was ready to go away out of town to school. We said we would pay for community college. Ultimately he transferred to the university and did graduate. I was never sorry that we made the criteria we did.

Having said all that though I am puzzled by the two options you lay out. Community college or a foreign school.

Community college was great for my son for a variety of reasons. One reason was that there was more hand holding from the instructors. Also, classes were smaller than at the university and it was a more personalized experience. Also, DS didn't have great executive functioning and having him at home allowed us to know what was going on and help him with scheduling and learning how to meet college expectations.

That all went really well. But, it went really well because he was living at home and we could see what was going on and there was still some supervision going on.

I am a huge believer in CC for kids who aren't ready for the demands of college in terms of executive functioning. The things you say that your son has difficulty with are things that indicate issues with executive functioning. So, living at home and going to CC seems reasonable.

Going to a school in a foreign country seems just the opposite. Going away to school in another country requires more executive functioning and maturity than going away to school nearby. If he can't handle going away to a university in the US, what makes you think he can succeed going away to another country to no supervision whatsoever? Particularly since he will have to deal not just with college expectations but with different cultural demands. That makes no sense to me at all. If he can handle going to a foreign university by himself then he can handle going to a US university. If he can't yet handle a US university then I don't see how he can possibly handle school in another country.

I am not against the concept of a gap year to help with maturity. But, I would think in that case you would choose a non-academic gap year. There are gap year programs that you can look into.

I would also say that there is no magic in one year. What do you think will happen in a year that will make him more ready than he is now? I know that for my son it took longer than a year. (In his case, it was different as he was under 18 when he started college). When he wanted to live away from home to go to school we set some criteria that he had to meet before we would agree to pay for that. It wasn't just time based.

Think about what he would need to do to prove to you that he was ready and set that criteria. I wouldn't just make it about time. In that regard, I would look at why you think he blew mid-terms or projects. Did he have difficulties with time management? Did he misunderstand instructions? Was he over-confident so he didn't put in enough effort on the projects? And so on. I would be looking at that to determine what criteria he would need to meet. (I assume you have already looked at and ruled out ADHD).
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Old 02-07-2018, 11:56 PM   #7
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I don't have an answer but I will provide my experience. Two kids. Both just under perfect on their SATs. I tell you that so you understand at least according to that test, they were both fairly equal in whatever SATs measure.

The easy one. Self motivated. Graduated near the top of her HS class. Graduated a top public university in 3.5 years due to getting course credits from tests. Great grades. Currently has a respectable full time job with great goals and direction.

The one I worried about. First year of high school was dismal. After investigating how to motivate him, sent him to military school. He concurred with the choice based on conversations with a counselor and his own initiative. At his new school, grades changed to near perfect. Got accepted to a state technical university. At university, grades were a little better than the public HS experience but he dropped out early in his sophomore year.

Our conversation stopped being about the need for doing well at university and turned to his need to find a job with all of his new found time. He did find a respectable job. In the meantime, he purchased a house and found roommates to help pay for it. To make a long story short, his second job landed him at one of the most respected companies in the country where he continues to work and do well for over 10 years.

I tell you this story as I never would have predicted it for the child 'I worried about'. I expected his lack of a degree would have been a terrible hindrance. (There was a 12 month period or so where HR was putting pressure on employees to get a degree but that changed somewhere along the line and is not an issue. He did pick up a few credits in the meantime).

Both of my children are independent and doing very well. The track they followed was very different.
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Old 02-08-2018, 01:49 AM   #8
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Community college was great for my son for a variety of reasons. One reason was that there was more hand holding from the instructors. Also, classes were smaller than at the university and it was a more personalized experience. Also, DS didn't have great executive functioning and having him at home allowed us to know what was going on and help him with scheduling and learning how to meet college expectations.

That all went really well. But, it went really well because he was living at home and we could see what was going on and there was still some supervision going on.

I am a huge believer in CC for kids who aren't ready for the demands of college in terms of executive functioning. The things you say that your son has difficulty with are things that indicate issues with executive functioning. So, living at home and going to CC seems reasonable.

Going to a school in a foreign country seems just the opposite. Going away to school in another country requires more executive functioning and maturity than going away to school nearby. If he can't handle going away to a university in the US, what makes you think he can succeed going away to another country to no supervision whatsoever?
I agree with everything Katsmeow posted. Community college was a great idea for our kids for all the reasons she mentioned. Research shows young adults brains are still maturing to age 24 or later.

Going to a foreign country or being told to be out of the house 44 hours a week seems like harsh alternatives for an introverted young adult. Community college plus encouragement to get a part-time job dealing with the public might be a better start or suggestions to get involved in clubs, sports or volunteer work. Some classes or videos on how to make friends might also help.

One of our kids was shy as a child but is quite the extrovert these days. I used to make lists of clubs, volunteer opportunities and activities and say you can choose which ones you want to do but you have to pick a few to get involved in. Sometimes it was just going to hobby club meetings with DH but it got him out of the house, off the computer and experience in social situations. A volunteer docent job at a museum was also really helpful because that required talking to people for hours each shift.
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Old 02-08-2018, 03:36 AM   #9
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We donít have kids but I agree with the comments in favor of a local Community College. I would also insist that he get a job working 20 hours/week. My neighborís son wasnít motivated initially in college. He dropped out for a while and worked in a blue collar job full time. After a couple of years of doing that and paying for his own apartment, he realized that getting his education might be a better path forward. He moved back home, finished undergrad, got married, and now has a young baby and a good job at a bank. Living on his own and doing hard manual labor work helped him realize college really was a better option.
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Old 02-08-2018, 05:16 AM   #10
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On the one hand, it is ultimately his life. I don't think you can force him to do anything including a gap year.
In our experience, he will not succeed at something he is not motivated and willing to do. I also do not think employers will care much about a foreign experience, only a degree. A gap year may just get him out of the practice of being a student. Of the options I would say CC is best.
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Old 02-08-2018, 05:49 AM   #11
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So any thoughts about:
1) Will the overseas degree, assuming all four years, make him a more desirable candidate or hinder him?
No, I don't think so. And there's no reason to believe that he'll suddenly get organized and motivated if sent overseas. Probably quite the opposite. Students get good results at foreign programs if they are motivated to explore the new culture and have the maturity to balance that exploration with a continued devotion to their studies. Your student sounds just the opposite--he's not motivated to go overseas in the first place, and already has problems with setting priorities. I don't think the overseas time will be valued by most employers (unless he's applying for some type job involving that foreign country, international relations, etc)

CC is a good option, but I'm not clear on why you are rejecting the local state university out of hand. Money doesn't seem to be the issue, or you wouldn't be pushing the study abroad option. It sounds like you don't like the school's reputation as a party school, and I admit that is a concern, but that's a fairly broad brush. I'd dig a little deeper, some of these state schools offer special structured programs (more handholding, built-in study groups and follow-ups on progress toward completing assignments by peers, faculty, etc). Schools that are not top-tier are being forced to make accommodations for the increasing number of students who arrive at college with low levels of maturity, inability to delay gratification, short attention spans, poor study and writing skills, etc. It is a new day, and today's "average" college freshman is not the same as the "average" college freshman of 40 years ago.

Faced with other options he doesn't like, he may be willing to enroll in the state school and into one of these special programs rather than take the other options offered. If he sees the State U as "his choice", rather than an option you forced on him, he may be more motivated and have a higher stake in doing well. I'd present it in a way that encourages this ("well, we have some concerns about 'Local State U' and your readiness to do well there, but you've indicate this is where you'd like to go to school. We can help you do this, but here are the requirements if you'd like our support: ")

Other ideas:
Be prepared to pull the plug after a year, or even after a semester, and let him know your expectations up front (course load, grades, a concrete plan leading to a degree in a set time, etc). Grade inflation is rampant, and it is no great achievement for a student to achieve a 3.0. At some colleges, over 50% of the grades given are in the "A" range.

Introversion: I wouldn't mix that into this whole issue, and would avoid trying to force him into social interactions he doesn't want to have.
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Old 02-08-2018, 05:59 AM   #12
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1) Will the overseas degree, assuming all four years, make him a more desirable candidate or hinder him?
2) Are we really ruining his life by forcing him to take a gap year if he comes back after a year?
Neither of these make any sense to me. And the time to lay down the rules was before high school, when your son could have learned to apply himself more rigorously toward his own goals.

In my opinion, parents should make it clear ahead of time what they will pay for, and what they won't. Parents should help their child learn what options are available and what they will cost. Then the child must make their own decision and live with the consequences.

I would never force a child to take a gap year. But then I don't see any real value in gap years anyway.

Depending on what "overseas" means in your case and what kind of job you are imagining for your son, I don't see how that makes a job candidate more desirable.

In the end, your son will go as far as his own ambition and motivation will take him. That's not something you can impose externally.

Based on what little you wrote, I would talk with your son about community college versus local university. I would talk about the relative costs. And I would talk about what you will pay for and what he would be responsible for. Then I would support your son's decision wholeheartedly.

When I was young, I knew that I would have to pay for my own education. And I knew that once I graduated from High School, I had to either go to college or get a job. It took a few false starts, but eventually I figured out what I wanted out of life and got the undergraduate and graduate degrees that made it possible.

When our sons were young, we told them they could be anything as long as they were a college graduate. We would pay or their educations, but they would pay for everything else. We helped them explore the possibilities when they were still in High School. One chose a private university and the other chose a state university. The older son graduated in 4 years, the younger in 5. Both are now doing extremely well in their lives.
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Old 02-08-2018, 06:07 AM   #13
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Looking for reassurance or corrective action.. My second child is graduating high school and college decision time is upon us. His grades were OK, but he still blows mid-terms or key projects pulling his entire grade down 1 letter. This results in about a 2.8 overall GPA



As a result of years of this pattern, he is now faced with limited choices for college and no scholarships. DW and I have debated holding him back every year since about 4th grade to allow him to mature and catch up to his peers. So here we stand facing our final influence, and have told him that despite getting into a few state schools in the middle of the heap, we will only support the community college, or a gap year overseas school.



The gap year foreign school is truly based on the belief that he isn't ready, and this is the best option for him. It would give him the year to rise to the occasion, and if he failed to get going give him another start the following year.



DW & I think that the overseas experience will make him more desirable to employers even if he comes back and enters a US institution in his second year. We also believe that if he doesn't like it and stay on for all 4 years that he will have a chance to apply and get into a higher level of school, maybe top 50. There are over 700 US companies with a presence in this country, including many of the big boys like Honeywell, J&J, & Medtronics to name a few. His time in country would elevate him as a desirable candidate for these companies in particular.



He is upset with us and though he liked the country when we visited is a bit apprehensive and doesn't want to go, preferring the local university (not the community college), which was his last choice when we started the application process. The local university has a low ranking in the country over all and is considered a party school by the locals, and had even made it into the #1 spot years ago according to US News.



We stacked the deck in favor of the overseas school including a requirement that he be out of the house for 44 hours a week if he chooses the community college route. For an INTG I'm sure this is painful, but the social piece is another reason we don't think he is ready.



So because we love our son and don't want to make him suffer, we are second guessing our tough love, which is forcing him out of his comfort zone, in the hopes it will spark the desire and drive to play the game.



So any thoughts about:

1) Will the overseas degree, assuming all four years, make him a more desirable candidate or hinder him?

2) Are we really ruining his life by forcing him to take a gap year if he comes back after a year?


Youíre getting some great feedback. Based upon our personal experience, we have found our kids do best when they engage in and take responsibility for the decision. We have been very clear in what we are able to pay. As a manager who has hired people throughout the years, I donít think the foreign experience would make a huge difference in getting a job. I look more for the sum of experiences that someone has had, and what they have done with those experiences. We have found that our kids have made decisions we would not, but as they grow, this is what they are supposed to do. It helps them become their own person.
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Old 02-08-2018, 06:15 AM   #14
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Your son sounds quite a bit like my brother and some other young men I've known. I recommend against sending him anywhere that's going to cost you or him significant money for a while - it may take until his early 20s for him to get his bearings on what he wants to do, and then you can help with a degree, trade school, etc.

He sounds like he doesn't quite know what he wants to do with his life yet, and that's OK. You can't force that epiphany, but setting some clear boundaries along how long he can stay at home, what type of education you'll pay for, etc., can nudge him towards it.
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Old 02-08-2018, 06:15 AM   #15
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I think a year off to work entry level employment and grow up is a good idea. A college education will open many doors, but you have to want it. This worked for me and it worked for my oldest son. As for the overseas education issue, I would suggest a semester of study overseas, which many colleges offer and promote.
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Old 02-08-2018, 06:44 AM   #16
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A few years in the military were the key to jump-starting adult life for me and many members of my family. Among other things, the military provides clear goals and instructions on how to achieve those goals. As an 18 year old, I didn't have to guess what was required for success. The military defined success as "X" and told me directly "The better you do X, the more successful you will be." After a few years of that external direction, a young person eventually will develop the maturity to define X for himself and the self-discipline to achieve it. Going to school after that experience is likely to be much more fulfilling and productive.
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Old 02-08-2018, 06:51 AM   #17
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I think a year off to work entry level employment and grow up is a good idea. A college education will open many doors, but you have to want it. This worked for me and it worked for my oldest son. As for the overseas education issue, I would suggest a semester of study overseas, which many colleges offer and promote.
Also working your 1st year along with taking a couple of CC classes would be a good idea imo. Would be an easy way to slide into college. I took a min full time load at a jr college and worked part time my first couple of years. Really helped in making the transition to a state university. One of my nephew's took a different approach as he attended a local university for one full semester and then signed up with a program that allowed him to take the next semester off and work full time out of state. That job was at Disney World in Orlando. Not a bad gig and something nice to add to his resume. He was very immature and it really helped him.

So lot's of ways to ease into college. But as others have said....it comes down to him being on board with your ideas.
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Old 02-08-2018, 06:58 AM   #18
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Have him join the service. It will give him time to mature, get money for college and possibly set him up with a great career.
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Old 02-08-2018, 07:28 AM   #19
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Some great feedback thank you all. Some more information:
The overseas school is in Ireland, and we have friends that live about 2 miles from the school, or I agree it would be too much. There are direct flights, and a bus from the airport to the door of the Technical Institute.

He is pretty confident he want to be a Mechanical Engineer, and shows the skills to make it happen. He doesn't really like school per say, but does like building things and has shown great work in his physics classes that require hands on projects.

We have been talking about college for years, and watching and driving grades etc.

A lot of it is social maturity, and we look at Ireland as a new beginning. Where as at the CC he wouldn't have the same need or opportunity to build social networks.

We first explored having him work for a year, or take a formal non-school gap year, but his HS guidance advised against it. Leaving us with a chance to rise to the occasion in Ireland or CC. The State school we think will be more of the same. Aiming low and hitting the mark.

The reputation of the school in Ireland. It is difficult to say. Our friends say it is very good, and he would hire engineering graduates from the school in a minute for his company. The school has a very strong hand holding environment with peer assisted learning which is mandatory. This is much different from tutoring being available. One of the biggest issues we are trying to get him to learn is that when he doesn't understand something he needs to go to the teacher after class to show effort and ask for help.

He has held a part time job since turning 16, and will continue to do so.

Several have suggested that working before college, or going away will drive the maturity. Several others have said continuing to micro manage his academic performance at the CC is the answer.

I'm surprised that the few hiring people didn't see it as a positive to have lived over seas for some or all of their college.
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2017 dry run spending: 2018 accelerate debt elimination: 2019 RV procurement & 1MY begins: 6/19 DW last month went early: 9/19 start cross country loop: 1/20 first reinforcements arrive. 6/20 sell business or shut doors. 9/20 begin globe trot: 4/26 401K reinforcement.
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Old 02-08-2018, 07:35 AM   #20
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Of course though not most important is the money.
CC= free
Ireland =20,000
State University=$28,000
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2017 dry run spending: 2018 accelerate debt elimination: 2019 RV procurement & 1MY begins: 6/19 DW last month went early: 9/19 start cross country loop: 1/20 first reinforcements arrive. 6/20 sell business or shut doors. 9/20 begin globe trot: 4/26 401K reinforcement.
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