A Week At A University In Detroit, MI, That Costs $30,000 A Year

Welcome to Money Diaries College Edition where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a public health major at a university that costs $30,000 per year who spends some of her money this week on a cupcake.

Major: Public Health with Pre-Med
Age: 21
Location: Detroit, MI
University Size: 25,000
Yearly Tuition Cost: $30,000 (I am on a full merit scholarship that covers my tuition, housing, and meal plan)
Current Student Loan Total: $0
Salary/Allowance: I work as an MCAT tutor, which pays $25 an hour (I work three hours a week) and as a peer mentor for my university, which pays $10 an hour (our hours were reduced to 10 hours/week due to COVID)
Paycheck Amount (Every two weeks): $275
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Housing Cost: Covered by scholarship (I live in a four-bedroom apartment on campus, which would be $1,285 a month without scholarship)
Spotify/Hulu: $4.99 (student premium)
Netflix: on parents’ account
Cell Phone: on parents’ plan
Car Insurance: on parents’ plan

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, and as I was valedictorian and did very well in school, it was clear that I would go somewhere I had a full scholarship.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
They taught me how to spend money properly and how to save and to ALWAYS avoid debt. My dad took the role of educating me and took it very seriously.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
A soccer referee at age 14. I wanted my own spending money and my parents raised me to earn it myself. I have been working since then with various side jobs.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Do you worry about money now?

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
18. Yes, my parents would take care of me for sure, and I have a good savings account.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
No, unless you include my full-ride scholarship.

5 a.m. — I wake up from a fitful, restless sleep and check the time. I can never sleep well when I am anxious about something. I have been waiting for this day for two months and deeply anticipating it for the last two weeks. My MCAT score is coming out at 11, and I’m antsy. I mess around on my phone for a bit then try to go back to sleep.

7 a.m. — I can’t toss and turn anymore, so I get up. I check my phone and scroll through social media, then text my friend N. to check-in. I’m on vacation with my family so we haven’t spoken in a while. We FaceTime and catch up while I get ready for the day. I put on a cute blue tie top bikini and throw on a T-shirt and shorts, then do my morning skincare routine. I wash my face with the Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser, and then use the Body Shop’s Tea Tree Toner, followed by Derma E Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid serum, Fountain of Purity’s chia seed oil, and facial sunscreen. After we hang up, I go to the kitchen and have eggs and bacon with my parents. They ask how I’m feeling about my score, but I don’t have much to say.

10:30 a.m. — I try to go for a bike ride with my mom but turn around after a few minutes because the nerves are overwhelming. I’m applying to medical school this cycle and the pressure put on the exam is unmatched. I go to my room and FaceTime my boyfriend, K. He is in a different time zone visiting his family but is waking up to be with me when I get my score. He has been immensely encouraging during the MCAT process and helps with my self-esteem and confidence so much. After a few minutes of shaky hands and extreme stress, I gasp with relief at the 512 in front of me. An 85th percentile score, with a perfect score in the critical analysis section! K. and I exchanged words of excitement and I go to tell my parents.

2 p.m. — My parents are overjoyed for me and we decide to go for a bike ride around the island to the beach. It is very pleasant out and we bike about 10 miles. We go back and have a gourmet lunch of pizza rolls and fresh cherries and then go to the pool to take a swim. I meet some older ladies at the pool who work in health insurance, and we get to talking about medicine. I get the happiest feeling thinking about the fact that being a doctor could be a reality for me now.

7 p.m. — After calling into some work meetings, I shower and get ready for dinner. My dad received a fifty dollar gift certificate to a restaurant near us, and my parents want to take me out to celebrate. I throw on a Brandy Melville skirt, tank top, and hoops, and we quickly go there. The portions look huge, so my mom and I split a seafood pasta. I don’t drink often in front of my parents, but I turned 21 right at the beginning of the pandemic, so I haven’t had much of a chance to order a drink. I decided to get a cosmo, mainly because they are served in pretty glasses. My dad covers dinner, but I convince him to let me pay for my drink. $18

8:30 p.m. — We put on our masks and walk around the plaza. I stop in a souvenir tourist shop to look for a present for K. and my parents help me pick out a hat for him. My parents are very traditional and were not born in America and their usual instinct is to tell me to focus on school instead of boys. So the fact that they like K. and he respects their traditional values makes me very happy. $12.83

8:30 p.m. — My mom and I get ice cream from a little shop ($4), eat it, and head back to our condo. $4

9:30 p.m. — I get back and quickly hop on my laptop. I have a lab report due at midnight for my analytical chem class. COVID-19 has forced all summer courses online and canceled many plans. I was supposed to be studying abroad at a medical school in China this entire month, but instead, I find myself taking extra classes since I have the time. I crank out the report in time and FaceTime my roommate and best friend, G., to catch up on her past few days, then call K. before I sleep. I fall asleep around 1 a.m. with a smile — it was a good day.

Daily Total: $34.83

Day Two

8 a.m. — I wake up naturally and lounge in bed for a bit scrolling on my phone, then I do my skincare routine and get ready for the day. We pack up our things and head to the beach for the day.

12:30 p.m. — We go to a nearby restaurant to split a pizza and catch some A/C. As we wait for our food, I check my email and see that my school has sent its official COVID-19 announcement. They announce we’ll be going back 20% in person, 40% online, 40% individually worked out by the professors. As a public health major I, of course, understand and vouch for the health of our professors, students, and faculty, but as a selfish extrovert, my heart sinks knowing that many people will choose not to live on campus now. My scholarship covers my housing, so I still plan to live on campus. Based on the new system, two of my classes will be online and three will be in person. K. texts me that all his classes are online and he’s not sure if he will return to campus. COVID has definitely changed how my senior year is shaping up, and while I’m grateful and understanding, I’m still coming to terms with it.

1:30 p.m. — After lunch, I’m in a bit of a daze contemplating the fall, so I go for a walk to a nearby cupcake shop. I order one ($5.04), eat it, and try to hype myself up. I sit and text K. for a bit and then head back to the beach. $5.04

4 p.m. — We pack up from the beach and go to a restaurant for happy hour. My mom and I split an appetizer, and my parents pay. We then go down to the beach again to swim and watch the sunset.

8:30 p.m. — My mom starts getting tired, so it’s time to head back. I’m a little hungry, so I order some sushi for myself ($13.63). After I eat I go to my room to do my nighttime skin routine and call K. I fall asleep before midnight. $13.63

Daily Total: $18.67

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up before my parents and go for a bike ride. I take a pause on the beach to read for a while.

10 a.m. — After reading for a long while, I decide to take a dip. The water is calm, and I suddenly see a dolphin break through the water! I audibly gasp and look around me for other people, but I’m by myself. I keep watching and it happens four more times (people eventually notice and gather), and it is actually magical. I get out of the water and read a bit more before biking back.

1 p.m. — My parents and I make lunch. We throw everything frozen we have on a sheet and put it in the oven since we’re leaving tomorrow. I snack on taquitos and pizza rolls while watching Queen of the South with my parents (newfound obsession).

4 p.m. — After swimming in the pool, my mom and I go for a bike ride. I am still kinda wet from the pool so I throw on shorts and just go in my bikini top, which of course results in honks from various men in trucks. The first time two guys in their late twenties hang out the window and yell something, and my sweet innocent mother says, “Were they saying hi? Do you know them?”

6 p.m. — The ride is super enjoyable, and after getting back, we both shower and get ready for dinner at one of our favorite spots on the island — a small authentic Italian place. On the car ride there, I check my email and see I have to sign up for COVID testing since I’ve been living in my Detroit apartment full time. I grab a spot for next week.

8 p.m. — Dinner is spectacular. On the way back, we stop at a Walmart so I can get a souvenir for G., and I pick out a nice mug ($8.91). You can never have too many mugs in college. $8.91

11 p.m. — After getting back, I hang out with my parents for a bit. It’s nice to have had some time with my parents. I go upstairs, do my skincare, call K., and go to sleep.

Daily Total: $8.91

Day Four

8 a.m. — Our flight home is today! I wash my face, whip up some bacon and eggs with my mom, and go to the pool.

12 p.m. — We head back to the condo to pack up and head out. I pack my bag with the sole desire to make sure the mug is surrounded with enough soft materials that it won’t get crushed. We return our keys, say bye to the condo, and drive to a restaurant by the marina for lunch.

2:30 p.m. — I eat a grilled Cajun tilapia sandwich with fries, which is delicious. My parents cover lunch and then we walk around a bit before heading to the airport. We completely mask up and glove up and have a bunch of spare masks and thankfully distancing seems to be observed. I appreciate how far they sit people apart — Delta left rows open and my parents and I have a whole row to ourselves.

11:30 p.m. — Landed! We drive the hour home from the airport to my parents’ home in the suburbs. My mom and I share a 10-piece of Wendy’s spicy nuggets (she pays). I get home and fall asleep in my clothes on top of my covers immediately.

Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7 a.m. — I wake up and it takes me a second to remember why I’m in my clothes and in my bedroom. I shower and do my skincare routine. I try to unpack a little, but it is mildly overwhelming, so I go and sit with my mom and sister instead.

1:30 p.m. — I get ready for my cousin’s graduation party with my sister. I’m excited to see my family and interested to see how they plan to host the gathering with COVID safety plans in place.

3 p.m. — We arrive and help set some last-minute things up before people get there (chairs are all ten feet apart and we’re wearing masks). My cousin looks beautiful! It’s great to catch up.

6:30 p.m. — I feel pretty exhausted and so does my sister, so we decide to go to the Starbucks drive-thru. I use the money loaded onto my Starbucks card to get myself and my cousin drinks (total is $9.54, covered by card). She Venmos me $5 for hers. I quickly gulp down my tall iced white mocha and then head back to the party.

11 p.m. — Still at the party, I received a Venmo request for $10 from a friend I have plans with tomorrow. We are going to check out a café that is partnered with an animal shelter, and you can play with the cats while you have coffee. I pay her quickly. Around midnight, we decide we need Taco Bell so we go to the drive-thru to grab tacos. I Venmo the $5 my cousin sent me earlier back to her for the tacos. We sleepover at my cousin’s house and fall asleep around 2 a.m. $10

Daily Total: $10

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm. Since taking the MCAT, I have vowed to let myself enjoy summer while maintaining my classes. This means I often have to combine hang out time with school. My chemistry lab final exam is at 8:30, so I take the exam while everyone is still sleeping, get a good enough grade to maintain my A, and finish up my final lab report.

11 a.m. — I chat with the girls as they wake up and then get ready to go meet my friend for the cat café. On my way to her house, I swing by Starbucks. The mocha yesterday really hit the spot, and I’m craving another one. I reload my card ($20) and get the same order as yesterday. My car’s A/C is broken and the fix would be a light $2,000, so I’m dependent on the high-tech windows-down cooling system. I stop at her house and pick her up then drive us to the café. On the way, I stop for gas, just to use up the remaining $7 I have on a gas gift card. Pro-tip for college kids: always ask for gas gift cards for birthdays or Christmases from family. They always come in handy. $20

1 p.m. — We are a bit early to our reservation for the cat café, so we stop at a nearby cookie place that is famous in the area. I just get one cookie to snack on ($2.91), and my friend gets a dozen for her family and boyfriend. We then go to the cat café where coffee/treats are complimentary. After an hour of playing with kittens, we get back in the car, and I drive her home. $2.91

6 p.m. — I head back to my apartment and work on some things before getting ready. I’m meeting two of my best friends from high school for dinner and drinks. I put on a silk tank top and shorts, pull some of my hair back, and swipe on some mascara. We decided to meet at my friend, S.’s, house and go from there.

7:30 p.m. — We get a round of drinks and order some chips and guac and truffle fries. The drinks are great and the conversation is better. I am grateful the restaurant seemed very COVID aware — all the seating is outside. S. also informs me that she tested negative for COVID yesterday. We get a second round and my mojito is incredibly strong. I am quickly feeling it, and S. tells me I’m free to stay at her house if I don’t feel sober enough to drive home. We pay and head back in the direction of her house. $31.36

10 p.m. — I quickly decide to spend the night, so I borrow some of her clothes, and we settle in with seltzers and blankets to watch a movie. She points out that it has been half a decade since we had a sleepover. That makes me so nostalgic! I fall asleep cuddling with her puppy.

Daily Total: $54.27

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up, dying for water. I hate the feeling of waking up without brushing my teeth, especially after drinking. I scroll on my phone and watch TikTok until S. wakes up. We chat for a bit and finish the movie I fell asleep during. Her sister comes down, and we all talk for a little bit.

10 a.m. — S. and I decide to drive to the Tim Horton’s near her for breakfast. I get a sausage, egg, and cheese croissant ($3.71), and we go back to her house to eat and play with her puppy. After we eat, I head back to my apartment. $3.71

2 p.m. — I finally unpack. I have two different work meetings, so I tune into those.

5 p.m. — I have some chicken out defrosting, so I decide to make my go-to chicken meal for G. and I. I’m happy to be back in my apartment kitchen. I brown some garlic in butter, then add chicken stock, heavy whipping cream, and rosemary, and let it thicken. Meanwhile, I brown the chicken and then add the sauce. I make some rice with it as well. Super easy and SO tasty.

8 p.m. — I missed G.! We sit together and I work on some more paperwork things for my peer mentor job. I FaceTime K. for a while and we make plans to see each other before the weekend.

10 p.m. — I settle in with G. on the couch to watch Dating Around. We cringe at some of the awkwardness but appreciate the realness of the interactions and decide it is a good show. Around midnight, I wash my face, shower, and fall asleep in my bed for the first time all week.

Daily Total: $3.71

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