Tag Archives: college

group of graduates

10 Money Tips for New Graduates

When I graduated college (over 10 years ago – oy!), I had about $10k to my name – $8k of which went into buying my first car (for cash, used.) While I was very fortunate to not have any debt, I also moved far away from home to one of the most expensive regions to live in the world. Over the last 10 years, I have increased my personal networth to nearly $400k. While my path requires a significant amount of privilege, I’ve learned a lot about money along the way that anyone can use – whether you’re in debt or out of debt. Here are 10 Trips for New Grads to kickstart your path to financial freedom: Continue reading

Game of Thrones: An Allegory of America’s Class Warfare

downloadOne of the best shows on TV today – Game of Thrones – is successful not only due to its typical onslaught of T&A HBO is known for (which is has plenty of, mind you), it’s because the show itself is an allegory of the age-old problem with societal inequality. Specifically, Game of Thrones walks the fine line between showing different families and individuals at war for wealth and power in a fantasy world, and one where us modern folks can relate by looking at what we’d sacrifice for the success and longevity of our own families.

I’m not the only one who sees the underlying commentary of humanity as a whole in the series, and beyond all the humping there’s a warning for us all: as long as wealth remains within families, there will always be conflict and violence. Peace is not possible, even for the peaceful.

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How to Be a Good Role Model?

My sister is depressed. She’s seven years younger than I am and working on her final internship prior to college graduation. I feel like it’s my duty to be a good role model for her, to somehow be able to say that it all gets better, that life is hunky dory, that our parents didn’t f us up so deeply that at 30 I still need weekly therapy and spend hours lost in introspection over how much I suck at just about everything. But I can’t, because I’m no good at lying, and I’m not sure that would help either.

In terms of how we got to our depression, our stories are quite different. Our parents were the same, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. But as much as they told me on and on that I was not working up to potential (and thought I was some genius who clearly was not performing to my own abilities to spite them), my sister had a learning disability and therefore was lauded for every tiny achievement while also overhearing many discussions regarding her inability to succeed. Both of us, needless to say, grew up with confidence issues and major anxiety problems.

Listening to her go on about her own insecurities is a frightening reflection of my own. We both struggle in relationships with other people. She’s good at memorizing data and organization while I’m good at writing and being somewhat creative. She’s an ISTJ and I’m an ENFP — polar opposites with similar problems. I’m worried for her. I’m worried for her because my parents will support her staying in the house should she not be able to obtain a final internship or job. While I don’t at all want her forced onto the street, having such backup is not at all motivating to just do something. But it’s having parents that don’t require you to work growing up that lead to this, where one graduates from college with only a few hours of work under their belts at best, and nothing to show for it.

She needs one long internship to graduate from college, as all of her coursework is complete. I’m trying to help her apply for programs but ultimately she will have to complete the interviews, should she be called for any upon her application, and she’ll have to be able to convince someone else that she’s the right person to hire for the internship role. But without any confidence (and a sincere disinterest in working with people or leading anyone) her opportunities are greatly limited. Especially due to her major which has to do with, well, people. (Long story that I shall leave out for reasons of anonymity.)

But the frustrating part is that she does have a lot of abilities, it’s just challenging to align these with a role – internship, job or otherwise – as many of the types of positions she’d be suited for (such as research) require masters-level credentials. She really doesn’t want to have to get on the phone and talk to people, though, as she suffers a severe case of social anxiety (I guess mine is only minor compared to hers — though my backlog of voicemail would say otherwise) and what makes it harder is she has problems speaking properly due to her jaw placement. She’s definitely a little strange in that she isn’t the typical enthusiastic young employee, but she’s super smart and I believe in the right role would excel. Again, she’s best suited to research, but even that requires some level of interactions with other people. What can I do to help her — esp when I’m dealing with my own level of feeling like I’m not good enough for any role, and I’m past 30?

Like me, she’s seeing a therapist. But I know therapy alone won’t get her out of the funk. She needs a lucky break, to find a job where she really feels like she’s doing something productive and is seen as an asset to an organization, versus someone who doesn’t belong. And she needs the opportunity to meet other people her age who are not complete alcoholics to become friends with (unfortunately her few high school friends decided to defriend her because they’re assholes, but that’s another story also.) I really want to be the good big sister I never was but I just feel helpless. She knows I’m there for her. But that can’t kick her ass out into the big bad world. She’s deeply depressed and I know what it’s like. I’ve never really escaped my depression but it goes in waves. There are some days I know EXACTLY what she feels like. How can I tell her that it gets better?

All I can think of to tell her is that making money is important. She can live at home for a while but eventually she has to pay for her own life. To be happy, or somewhat happy, she’ll need her independence, which requires moving out. I’m helping her apply for internships away from home. She lived away from home for college but spent the whole time focused on studying because she struggles academically due to her learning disability but is an amazingly good student. She didn’t have time for friends, but now she’s home from school, moping around, lonely, and, well, moping around some more. My parents who have constant shouting matches are no help. I don’t know what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously Serious About Grad School

I’ve put off going to grad school until my 30s because I wanted to wait until I was ready to make the commitment. Given my interests are so varied it has been difficult to determine what exactly I should pursue in further education, especially as I’ve moved up the corporate ladder and, without an advanced degree, started to make a six-figure salary. So right now it isn’t about the money. I don’t expect to make more by earning a graduate degree. What I expect is that I will open all those doors that are tightly shut on my face right now that I desperately want to open.

For the past 10 years, I’ve wanted to go to graduate school for human computer interaction or interaction design. While my ultimate goal is to become a VP of Product, I’d rather approach this from the more scientific and design side over the business side. I know people who clearly are the right type of people to get an MBA, which was, until recently, another option I was seriously considering. But as much as I’d love to better understand how a business works, I have no aspirations to be in charge of business operations at a company. If I ever want to be in charge of a business it will be in a very tiny startup that I founded and I learn more about how to manage this type of business by spending my time in actual early-stage startups. So I think this is the right decision.

My goal is to somehow score well enough on the GRE to get into a graduate program in fall 2014. I think this is ideal timing too because at this point I will have been in my current role for over 4 years (if I can make it that long) and I don’t think anyone would hold it against me for wanting to shift career paths. I still have a few goals to accomplish in my job today, such as working closing with a colleague on a project where I am getting some product management experience, figuring out how to iterate on our website so I fully understand a/b testing aligned to generating quality leads, and honing my semi-executive presence over the silly person I really am.

But it feels good to have a goal again. I could easily just keep plowing along as I’m doing today, and finding jobs in marketing/pr, but this would never make me happy. I value my experience in this field, as I think it’s always good in product to have a solid understanding of not only your customers but also how the overall market would respond to your story. I wouldn’t give up this experience for the world, even though had I gone to grad school 5 years ago I might already be in a senior product role by now. It has taken me a long time to accept that life is not a race and there really is no destination for the journey. There are many things that come up along the way that you don’t expect and the best you can do is let life teach you its lessons while doing some soul searching in determining what makes you happy.

I’m pretty clear on what makes me happy — building a product with crazy good user experience from the ground up with a team of people who care about the experience as much as I do, but who bring their own unique ideas to the table so we can collaboratively kick ass. I like to build products that help people, whether that be improve efficiency, make it easier to learn new things, or help people lead healthier lives. I could see doing my graduate thesis around education and social user experiences, possibly somehow tied to wearable technologies.

I’m fascinated by the future of mobile devices — while google googles are terrible from a design perspective — the future is a connected one, where we measure so much more than we do today about our daily lives. I’d be very interested in designing learning experiences for children with ADHD which are designed to capture a short attention span and help these students memorize information. Some tie in with psychology, learning, and computer interaction. This is my passion and this is what I’m going to do. I have no idea how I’ll make a career out of it, as I don’t want to end up in the R&D wing of some giant corporation slaving away at projects that never see the light of day — maybe I’ll have to start my own educational technologies business. Who knows. But it all sounds extremely exciting, compared to spending the next 30 years begging reporters to give my company a smudge of virtual ink.

The real challenge, the biggest challenge, perhaps the ONLY challenge, is getting a high score on the GRE. I don’t know for sure if I could get into my top program choice, but there are a lot of good HCI/Interaction masters programs out there and I’m very confident with my experience in technology, even on the business side, I’ll be able to get into a good program as long as I can achieve reasonably high scores on the GRE. Easier said than done. Despite being a writer and philosopher of sorts, I’m a terrible academic. Studying has never been my forte. So I need to somehow come up with a way to motivate myself to learn and retain knowledge. It’s crazy how I’ve never really learned anything in my life past basic verbal skills and arithmetic. Or, I should say, I’ve never been taught anything. I always figure things out for myself. It’s pretty crazy looking back on my education and realizing that I never let myself actually be taught anything. The good thing about graduate school is that I’d be taught about things I’m very interested in, and a lot of it is about teaching yourself and doing your own projects/research, which is how I learn.

Needless to say, I’m very excited about this plan. It does put a huge damper on my $50k per year savings goals, and any trace hope of early retirement, but I don’t really want to retire early, I love working, and I’m miserable when I wake up in the morning with nothing meaningful to do. I need to work on that as well (doing nothing is ok) but ultimately right now I know I need to set myself up for a career that is going to fulfill me not just for a few years, but for the remainder of my professional career. Design-thinking product management, especially in the area of learning technologies and connected devices, is most definitely it.

America’s Most Stressed Generation

In today’s latest bit of depressing sociological discovery by The New York Times, reporter Catherine Rampell highlights what personal finance bloggers have been saying for years – college degrees are the high school diploma of years ago, but the cost for the degree isn’t fairly matched with the proper career and salary.

The article features a law firm in Atlanta that has a policy to only hire employees with college degrees, even for the $10 per hour “runner” job that really shouldn’t require a college education to perform. Due to diploma inflation and weak job markets, it’s easy to make the cut off for consideration in any role a degree. The firm agrees the education isn’t really necessary for the positions, but the social life gained in college to joke about school sports teams is. How sad.

In 2005, when I graduated college, the job market was better than it was today. I still had a very hard time finding a job, but refused to settle for an administrative position which took the four years of schooling I had just completed and rendered them useless. Luckily, I had the fortune of changing jobs frequently early in my career and moving up with each transition. These poor college grads working at this law firm are loyal to a fault, and are excited for small raises being promoted from one position that shouldn’t require a college degree to another. These are the same people who need to go back to school to get an MBA or professional masters degree in order to make any sort of reasonable living. The bachelors degree just gets them a very basic job. Continue reading

10 Key Pieces of Advice for College Students

Not everyone has to go to an Ivy League school or the equivalent to be successful. However, there are some simple steps you can take to financial success in the next 5 years of your life, and they start now, when you’re in college. Here are 10 things I wish I knew when I was in college, that I’ve learned over the years:

1. Get Work Experience Now, Not Later

The number one key to success is being able to get your foot in the door. I learned this the hard way after graduating from college with a few internships under my belt, where I received great experience, but none of them were impressive enough for an employer to pull my resume to the top of the pile. After college, it was challenging to get an internship as most were unpaid and required “college credits” to obtain. I finally got my footing with a journalism internship that didn’t have those requirements, but I also spent six months after graduating college working under minimum wage to build up my professional experience. I’d recommend getting as many internships as possible while you’re in college, ideally in a company where you won’t just be doing just the dirty work. Internships are also one of the few opportunities you’ll have in life to build up a solid pool of references who can say wonderful things about your work ethic despite only three months on the job, and no one will question your short tenure – because that’s the point of an internship. Continue reading

Obama’s Student Loan Debt Repayment Program

According to the Washington Post, total outstanding student debt has passed $1 trillion, more than the nation’s credit card debt, and average indebtedness for students is rising. While I’ve often written about whether college is beneficial in modern society (where some of the most successful and wealthiest entrepreneurs are college drop outs), for many there is proven long-term fiscal value of a degree. But not everyone can afford to pay outright for skyrocketing tuition costs.

  • Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,990.
  • Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $27,293 per year in tuition and fees.
  • Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,713 per year in tuition and fees.

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Should Everyone Go to College?

My alma mater, a private midwest college with a strong arts program, recently announced that it is raising tuition to $30k a year. While this is quite high, other private schools in the area also announced tuition hikes… The University of Chicago raised tuition to 4% to $55,416 for 2011-2012 and beyond.

At least the students at The University of Chicago have high odds to earn back their extremely high tuition fee… but what about the others of us who are not Ivy League material? Is it worth it to pay $100k – $250k for a college degree?

We were raised to think YES, but some are now arguing the opposite. In The Atlantic, Professor X returns to further on his original controversial article “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: University education for everyone is a destructive myth.” Professor X is a professor at a “college of last resort,” he calls it. In 2008, he wrote:

“I wonder, sometimes, at the conclusion of a course, when I fail nine out of 15 students, whether the college will send me a note either (1) informing me of a serious bottleneck in the march toward commencement and demanding that I pass more students, or (2) commending me on my fiscal ingenuity—my high failure rate forces students to pay for classes two or three times over.

What actually happens is that nothing happens. I feel no pressure from the colleges in either direction. My department chairpersons, on those rare occasions when I see them, are friendly, even warm. They don’t mention all those students who have failed my courses, and I don’t bring them up. There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass.”

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Are Certificate Programs Worth it?

My career counselor (who I’ve seen twice so far) wants me to take a class. She recommended an extension program based at a top University where I could take courses in business and marketing, and possibly complete the certificate program. The program is expensive and not something I want to invest in unless I’m sure I would complete it (I’ve been known to start things and not follow through, working on that as well.)

I could get a certificate in marketing or business administration, which would give me a solid pre-MBA education… more to see if I really want to pursue an MBA than help me obtain one (though it might help.) Each course is $600-$800 and then there are the text books. I realize graduate school is even more than that, but it’s hard to justify spending that amount of money for a certificate. Especially when I could just buy the textbooks and read them on my own, if I was able to combat depression & ADD and muster up some motivation.

Have any of you ever done a certificate program? How much did you spend on it and was it worth it?

Preparing to take the GMAT in 2010

I decided today that I am going to take the GMAT in October of 2010. It’s too early to even sign up for a test date, but I’m going to start studying for the test. Worst case scenerio I decide to retake the GRE instead and my math skills have improved, or I end up in a job I love and I have no reason to go to grad school right now or ever, and I know a bit more about grammar and Algebra II.

But where do I start? I made a very strict study plan for the GREs (noting how many new words I needed to learn each day) and that lasted about a week before I threw myself off. With the GMAT, there is no date I “need” to take it, but I’d like to aim for October because that should be enough time to study — really study — without waiting too long that I’ll just procrastinate and not study at all.

I’m not a smart person. But I’d like to see if it’s possible to do well on a formulaic test without a high IQ.

Have you ever taken the GMAT? What study advice do you have?