Student overcomes obstacles to attend Columbia College

Cellist Joseph Ford with his mother.

Applying to college can be exciting and stressful. With so many colleges to consider and deadlines to meet, daunting might be an understatement for the work ahead.

Joseph Ford, 18, is a cellist who writes and performs his own compositions. In 2014, he was accepted into his top choice, Columbia College of Chicago as an incoming freshman in the music department.

Ford had to defer a year due to lack of money for tuition, books, rooming and board.

Ford has spent his year of deferment attending Georgia Perimeter College taking core classes to reduce his overall tuition costs at Columbia. He also has been applying for scholarships. “This isn’t just my dream” he said. “I feel like I was born to do this.”

Ford said he has studied music and played the cello since first grade.

While in the seventh grade family members bought him a cello from Ken Stanton Music for about $1200.

As a student a DeKalb School of the Arts for two years, Ford performed in two orchestras.

“It was nice just to get to play in high school and not just being so focused on school work,” Ford said.

He added, “It’s a big balancing act because you have to choose between practicing and doing well in classes.”

Due to a chronic illness Ford had to withdraw from Dekalb School of the Arts but continued playing the cello while being home schooled.

At age 17, Ford told his mom that he wanted to start applying to colleges.

Ford said he found Columbia College and visited the school.

He said the process of getting accepted into Columbia College of Chicago took months.

“It’s changed everything. Before I got in I wasn’t exactly sure where I would go to school or when. At the time I was just going to go to Georgia State University, but instead I ended up going to Georgia Perimeter to take general courses.”

He added, “At the moment, I would love to go to Columbia but the end result is just basically me producing music. Whether it be for movie soundtracks or just as a career. Whatever I do in school is just networking to help me have an easier start at doing that career.”

He said his mom has inspired him to follow that dream.

Ford said when he was younger his mom told him how she had to pay for school on her own and how she earned a master’s degree in art.

“I thought it was the coolest thing. I was like wow you did that all by yourself,” Ford said.

He added, “As I got older I realized that it’s actually a pretty difficult thing to do.”

Ford said his advice to his peers is “Stick with what you think is going to work for you first, but have a backup plan. Get work experience, find a job; because you’re going to need one, but regardless of what you end up doing workwise, you need to just stick with what you think is right for you.”

Ford is now slated to attend Columbia in August of 2016 but needs an additional $30,000.

One of his approaches to paying for his education is by setting up a GoFundMe account.


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