Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Sister's Past Influences Reader's Future

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am in high school, and I don't want to become like my big sister. She is my only sibling, and she turned into a party girl in high school. She now goes to a nearby college and commutes. It was her only option after getting dismissed from her first university. I want to continue my athletic career and hope that, in a few years' time, I will be good enough to receive a scholarship for a private university that my family can afford. My sister loves to chime in with advice, but I honestly use her as the poster child of what I DON'T want to be. What do I say when she asks me how my applications to community college are going? -- Not Like You, Denver

DEAR NOT LIKE YOU: Start by talking to your guidance counselor at your high school to get a sense of what your options are for college. Tell him or her your intentions, and learn which schools typically offer scholarships for athletics and academics at your grade point level. Ask for specific guidance on how to search for scholarships that match your profile.

Talk to your parents about what they can afford. Ask them to be forthcoming so that you are clear about what you will have at your disposal. Also find out if they would be willing to co-sign student loans for you if you need additional support.

With all of that information, you can speak confidently to your sister. Without being dismissive of your sister's behavior and subsequent academic limitations, outline your plan when you answer her. Explain the research you have done and the subsequent path you are following. If she continues to ask about community college, tell her that you will apply there if you find you need to do so.

FYI: Many students -- including academically solid ones -- choose community college as a first step because it provides an affordable leg up on the path to higher education.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: I don't like to tell people how I get my weekend gigs. I originally got started through a job website, but now I travel through recommendations. I typically work with setting up and serving through parties, and make a few hundred bucks for the day. I have stayed mum about these jobs except to a few friends who evidently told the world. Now, I have acquaintances who are strapped for cash contacting me. This is my own hustle. I don't have to tell them where I started, right? -- My Niche, Atlanta

DEAR MY NICHE: Rather than sharing your specific resources, why not tell them your general process? There should be enough work around that you don't have to hide your good fortune. Recommend, too, that they think of what they can do well and then search around on the internet for a match.

In the future, don't talk about your creative work options if you don't want others to know. As you see, telling one person can easily mean telling all. One other note: If you have an individual friend who you think you can safely recommend to your personal network of employment, do so. But be mindful that your reputation is at stake each time you give a person your seal of approval.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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