Berrak Sarikaya always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. In high school, she threw herself into mock trial and debate. The oldest child of Turkish immigrant parents, Sarikaya understood the gravity of getting into a good college and the necessity of scholarships to fund that schooling. “One of the biggest reasons that we came to the US was for me and my brother to get a good education and have better opportunities,” Sarikaya, 37, says. “So there was definitely that pressure of if I don’t go to college, then all of it will have been a waste.”
When it came time for higher education, Sarikaya’s hard work paid off. She enrolled in her dream school, George Washington University, and lived at home. Her freshman year was enjoyable, she says, but grueling, with full days of classes, studying, homework, and working at a grocery store and a bank. By her sophomore year, however, the sheen had worn off. Her classes weren’t challenging, and she wasn’t feeling fulfilled by the coursework. What’s more, tuition jumped, and her parents took out loans to supplement her scholarship.
By this point, Sarikaya was working at law offices and she felt this experience provided her with more real-world training than sitting in a classroom. Though college was the thing her family and society “expected” of her, an achievement many young Americans also feel pressured to attain, Sarikaya dropped out of college.