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Okay. I won't panic. Even though I graduated high school in the top 10 percent of my class and managed to gain acceptance into my preferred college, I still have my problems. My main problem is that I have nowhere to live. Call me crazy, but a roof over my head is not something I can do without. So, get a house, you say. Sure, that might be easy for those of you with steady jobs, but as a poor student, my monetary resources are limited. How can I manage a job and still make the dean's list while forging relationships with my professors that will help me secure the job of my dreams? And, with the closest affordable apartments to my school six miles away, I'm going to need a bike.

So, I have no job, I need 12 grand a year for a closet of an apartment, and at least $250 for a bicycle and a helmet. The helmet is pretty essential, as I can't afford medical costs. These costs don't include all of the luxuries I was used to in my former life as a high school student, such as food and cable.

I guess I am just going to have to get a job. But what about minimum wage? I'm headed to school in Massachusetts, and, luckily, the minimum wage is the same there as it is in California -- $6.75 per hour. So, once you add the money for shelter, transportation (the bike), $25 for the helmet, and divide by the minimum wage, I calculate that I need to work about 230 hours a year. Well, that's not so bad...only about four hours a week, actually. Sure, I'll be dead from malnutrition, but that's only a small worry. Lesson learned: if you don't eat, living on your own is manageable. -- Anne Baker, Carlsbad H.S.

Having lived in Southern California for my entire life and in the San Diego area for 16 of my 17 years, I am attached to our unique, weather-perfect little town. Steep housing costs notwithstanding, I am determined to eventually live here on my own. To be more specific, I've got to live in (or very near to) my hometown of Poway. A search at rent.com reveals that the cheapest apartment I could hope for in Poway costs a bit over $900 a month. I found one-bedroom, one-bathroom accommodations at Scripps Poway Villas in this price range...for a unit measuring 640 square feet. How does that compare to my parents' house? Sounds like roughly a third of the size. Yikes, that's tiny!

I've already got a car: a nice, blue-green '97 Mazda 626 named Fred, for which I paid $2300. My insurance for it amounts to about $1400 a year. When I calculate my necessary expenses, such as gas and electric, food, phone, cable, Internet, gas, laundry, car maintenance, and cell phone, the minimum amount I would need to live for a year comes out to approximately $19,200.

I plan to go to college and be prepared for a well-paying job before I live on my own. I intend to find a position teaching high school English. After I consider taxes, a $40,000-a-year starting salary will allow me sufficient extra money to save toward a house of my own as well as to continue my guitar-playing, movie-watching, concert-attending, and music-buying habits. -- Michelle Diaz, Poway H.S.

When I am ready to move out of my family home, I will have to find a job making at least $10 an hour so I can afford an apartment with a price range of $600 to $800 per month. I am surprised that there are many choices in the Pacific Beach area. They are all one-bedroom/one-bath apartments or studios. After sharing a room with my little sister for years, I don't want a roommate. I will have to work for a month just to get the deposit, which is one month's rent. I will pay for all my food during that month to get an idea how much money it will take to live on my own. I also currently use the family car, which I won't be able to take with me. So, I will also need to find an inexpensive used vehicle and get insurance, which will cost another $100 per month. I will be responsible for the gas, which my parents often pay for as well.

I am starting to realize that it is not as easy as I thought to step out from under the family umbrella. I will need an Internet connection, and I am used to high-speed cable ($30), cable TV ($50), and cell phone ($40). I'll have to wash my own clothes, cook my own food, work, and go to school. I wonder if I will have any time for my friends and some fun.... I think I will put this idea on the back burner and enjoy my family for a little while longer. It is not so bad after all! -- Angel Sonada, Academy of Our Lady of Peace H.S. grad, 2005

Fast forward. I'm going to school in New York City, and I live in an NYU dorm. I'm not paying for my tuition, but I still have to survive. I see myself working maybe at a Starbucks or in retail, part-time. I would not be able to afford a tiny apartment with too many roommates and cockroaches. With apartment rates in the thousands (per month), I doubt I would be able to afford a month's rent in a slightly shady neighborhood of New York. Maybe I could live with my money-making cousins who live in studios and one-bedrooms in Manhattan. They pay several thousand a month. Shall we rethink New York? I will live on cereal and cookies and take-out. And some days I think I might starve. I will apply for an internship at the New York Times, but I wouldn't get it for a couple years. I will be a coffee-pouring, paper-filing journalism slave.

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