When I got too sick to continue working, I signed up for grad school online. I did it for the financial aid money. I am a single mother and I needed it to survive and feed my kids.
I was in school part time, but I received enough financial aid money to pay all my tuition and still have money left over to pay for our rent, food, and living expenses.
I was not really well enough to handle school, but I did the best I could with it. I took unscheduled classes online.
I have a lot of fatigue and cognitive problems. Some of my papers were not coherent or readable and some of my grades were not very good and some things I turned in late. But I did manage to at least pass my classes.
My condition was getting worse and I was seriously considering withdrawing, but I was very close to graduating, just two classes away, I thought maybe I could push myself to do it even if it made me sick. Then I met with a disability lawyer. He told me that if I got a graduate degree while in the process applying for disability, I would definitely get denied. After talking to the lawyer, I knew withdrawing was the right decision.
I contacted the school and told them I had to leave for medical reasons. The school sent me an email that I was taking a medical withdrawal. Getting a medical withdrawal was easy, but the financial aid part was complicated. They had already given me financial aid and when I withdrew, they wanted it back. I had to make a special request and prove it was a medical necessity. I sent letters from my doctor and filled out forms. It worked out in the end.
For my disability appeal, my mom helped me. I never wound up hiring the lawyer. We wrote down that I took a medical withdrawal from school. We printed out a copy and sent them a copy of the official letter from the school stating that I had a medical withdrawal. We also collected all my medical records and special forms from my doctor.
After we sent everything in, I was approved for disability two months later. Social Security changed my onset date and said that I just became disabled recently. That is why I didn’t get backpay. I don’t know if they did this because I was in school.
So far, I have not been asked to pay back any of the financial aid or student loans because I am too poor. I signed up for income-based repayment and they said I owe $0 per month.
My credit got really screwed up when I first got sick, because of hospital bills and emergency room visits. I have been trying to get it back on track, and I was worried about the student loans, but it turned out to be no problem at all. I literally owe $0 per month, and since I literally pay $0 per month, I am all up to date! I am not considered in default.
I hope to recover someday and go back to work. When that happens, I plan to start paying back the loans, and I don’t mind that, because the loans really helped me when I needed the help.
Hibiscus was also in school while applying, but her story turned out a different way: Hibiscus Applies for Disability While in School