Tag Archives: graduate school

Fantasizing About Graduate School

It’s time. For almost nine years I’ve been in the workforce, far away from academia, exploring a multitude of careers and learning more about myself while saving nearly $300k. What I’ve learned is that in order to be happy, I must have a day job that satisfies much of my fundamental needs:

  1. Enables me to be a SOCIAL, collaborative creature, interacting with the same people on a regular basis, over the course of multiple projects.
  2. Enables me to work on PROJECTS as opposed to ongoing, never-ending, headache-inducing programs. I need a sense of completion. My brain requires the structured chunking of time in order to be most productive and content.
  3. Enables me to APPLY CREATIVITY. I do not want to live a life where creativity is the end goal. The creativity should be a means to accomplish a very clear problem that has been identified via patterns or an examination of problems that are likely to arise in the near-term future. Continue reading

Graduate School… Costs a Fortune Before You Get In

Forget the cost of tuition, room and board, the cost of applying to graduate school is fiercely staring at my quivering piggy bank like an angry honey badger ready to pounce on an unsuspecting snake long before I’ve even scribbled a sentence of my application essay.

To get into a top masters program — MBA or otherwise — you need to stand out for more than just your GPA. When your GPA makes you stand out for the wrong reasons, you’re far behind the curve. It isn’t clear if it’s possible to run really fast and hard to make it over that hump (ie pay expert consultants a lot of money to teach you the right speed to run and how your feet should hit the ground every step of the way) but the consultants surely will tell you that without them, you’ll be sitting down where you started, exhausted, looking up at a giant insurmountable lump of your future.

The cost for a live or online GMAT study program is somewhere around $1000 – $1400. There are cheaper programs, of course, and plenty of ways to get some books and study on your own, but many advise to take one of the classes if you’re the kind of person to underachieve on standardized tests. But for the candidates who really want to do well, you can pour hundreds or thousands of dollars more into private tutoring… just so you’ll break 700 or 750.

Consulting by admissions experts for the top programs is even more painful. One program I was examining the other night cost $3500 for a full package of help and edits to apply to just one school. Plenty may argue that putting $5000 – $10,000 into preparing yourself to apply for a top ranked program is worth it because on the other side of the hill… long after the field trips and late nights getting intimate with statistics… there’s a miraculous salary increase that will improve your overall lifetime earnings by, well, something around a lot of money, give or take a decimal point. But that’s IF you get in. All the coaching and test-taking advice in the world may never be enough. It’s a gamble either way. And if you can do it on your own (obviously there are plenty of people who have got into top MBA programs without draining their savings on outside help) then why seek out an expert?

Looking at my semi-healthy bank account, I can’t fathom draining my cash or stocks for this kind of coaching. And maybe that’s why I’ll never be an MBA student or even masters student. I figure, if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. And, meanwhile, am somewhat jealous of the people in the world that can afford such coaching, and their Harvard / Stanford / Wharton / Kellogg / Haas / Ross pedigree.

Clashing Long Term Fiscal Values in a Young Relationship

My boyfriend and I have been together four years. I quickly fell in love with his kindness and calm nature, which contrasted with my oft-anxious and somewhat self-centered relationship with the world. Mostly, though, I found that after dating a law student for two years I felt much more comfortable in a relationship with someone who had less motivation than I did than more. With the lawyer, who had an Ivy undergrad education and a JD from a top-10 school, I could never equal his level of success (or so I thought at the time) with my average schooling and internship salary.

Thus, dating a guy who wasn’t striving to become the next Joe Jamail was a refreshing relief. With the attorney, I always felt like he looked down on my choices and with that my depression over uncertainty, my 21-year-old lack of clarity. Enter my current boyfriend with his lack of concern over professional title or climbing up the corporate ladder, and I felt safe. With him, I felt comfortable moving up my own corporate ladder. It’s not that he is stupid or anything, he too has a degree from a top school with a high honors mark on his diploma to boot. So intelligence is not the factor here, more so, it’s the fundamentals of what motivates a person.

Four years later, my boyfriend and I still have little arguments about money. He doesn’t like discussing finances – which, fair enough, is not something two people dating oft discuss prior to marriage or at the very least engagement. After being unemployed for a year and not applying to jobs, he eventually landed a low-paid, part-time internship (one that I had completed earlier) and after that found an hourly editorial job at a non-profit that paid less than I made at my first non-profit job. It was obvious he hadn’t cared to negotiate for a better starting wage, but mostly I was proud of him for finally getting out of his funk and getting a job.

The years go by… and neither of us are by any means perfect. I manage to get fired from… a few jobs… because I lack motivation when I believe my contributions would be better contributed by a robot. As I learned to force myself to do my job no matter what, I got laid off because that job was no longer needed. To my credit, every time I lost my job I managed to practically double my salary in my next position. I moved across industries and tried out a lot of different things to figure out where I would be fulfilled. I realized that I am, to some extent, motivated by money – not by having nice, flashy things, but by watching my networth increase… my maxing out my 401k… by feeling that I may one day have enough to afford a house, even in the Bay Area.

My boyfriend, on the otherhand, spent those three years working at the non-profit. He did his job very well, followed orders, increased productivity in the company by making many of the processes more efficient. He never asked for a raise. His boss gave him a very small “raise” when he decided to work less hours and go 1099 contract instead of W2 hourly. He’s still making $20/hr, while I’m billing upwards of $80/hr on some of my projects.

This isn’t to say that I would judge anyone for working a job that makes $20/hr – there are plenty of jobs I respect out there that earn this. If you’re talking about $20/hr in Kansas, that’s also a very different income than $20/hr where the average small house costs over $1M. But this is where we always get into our little tiffs about money… I argue that before I have kids, I’d like to have an average yearly dual income of at least $150k. Long-term, I see no reason why that dual income can’t be $300k. And I would feel more comfortable in life, before deciding to have children, to know that we’d make that kind of income in our lifetimes.

My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I am. $150k for a family income is not unreasonable, but the majority of people in America live on much less than that – and many of them have healthy, happy families. I just look at my current spending – which could be more frugal, but is by no means extravagant – and wonder how I’d ever be able to save for retirement and pay for a house and potentially pay back graduate school loans, all while also affording children (I want two or three of them within the next 10 years.)

My boyfriend, who also wants to return for graduate school (either to become a teacher or psychology researcher) will never care about income above and beyond middle class. It’s not that he’d mind if his field paid more, he just will never be the type to push for raises or chose a job because it pays better. And as much as I admire that about him – as much as I feel safer in my own career journey knowing that my partner will accept me and love me if I make $30k a year or $200k a year, I still feel like sometime down the road this difference in fiscal values will start to hurt us a lot more than it does now.

There are times when I think of what it would be like to continue my search for my life partner, and I just can’t imagine being with anyone else. I love this guy to death, and again, I couldn’t be with someone who cared that much about money. If anything, I know that I’m most comfortable bringing home the bacon because then I feel I have more right to be in charge of the household finances. My mom is clueless when it comes to money and my entire life my parents have argued about how it should be spent. As my father was the one bringing home a single income (albeit over $200k by the time he retired) he never felt she had any right to be involved in financial decisions. If I was with a guy who understood finances more than I did… and made more money… then I might end up in that situation too. So I’d rather be the one in charge, making more money, and with a guy who maybe doesn’t care that much about his salary.

It just makes me nervous about limiting my choices later in life. What if I want to take a year off to spend time with my newborn child? What if I want to work part-time to be able to go to my child’s plays during the school day or drive them to soccer practice? On the whole other hand of this, I’m terrified of knowing I’m worth “$200/hr” or whatever my going rate would be at the time, and then deciding not work that hour because I want to spend it with my family. It would almost be easier to have less money, have a stable job, and never feel like my time is stamped with a dollar value. Or, at the least, have a partner who earns as much as I do, or around the same amount, so we could contribute to a goal income for the year… and enjoy the time we have off without the calculator in my head exploding over lost income opportunities.

Graduate School — Calculating a Reality Check

I’ve been doing a lot of daydreaming about graduate school as of late. If I can manage to get past the GMATs and possibly retake the GREs for a better score, there’s still one more overwhelming knot I must tackle: reward vs. cost of a graduate degree.

Today, I started a spreadsheet to attempt understanding just how much money over time each of my top-choice programs would cost me. I tried my best to fairly estimate how much it would cost for a year including tuition, room, board and other necessary costs. My top-choice schools range from $30k a year to $80k a year. Most programs are 2 years, some are 3. Some are MBA programs, others are in design research. My top choice is in both, and happens to cost the most when lost salary is added in (it’s a 3 year program.)

Based on my current income, I feel it is safe to say that I could make $100k average per year during the time I would be in graduate school. So to understand the total cost of school, I’ve added that yearly lost income. Granted, I could freelance and consult on the side during school or obtain scholarships and other work situations, but at this time I’m looking at the cost of graduate school w/ no work vs. working full time. And I can’t handle the results of my calculations.

My top choice school, which would grant me an MBA and a Design masters degree, will cost approx $500k over 3 years. (WHAT? A HALF MILLION DOLLARS?) It’s $160k total, give or take, without the income loss factored in. Quite frankly if I continue on the professional track I’m on now I can probably match any income bump I’d get from having an advanced degree.

Now, the thing is, I’m not going for my masters degree for a raise. I’m going because I want to give myself a fighting change to lead product management for an innovative company. That leads me to wondering, however, if I’d be better off investing that $500k in starting a company instead of going to grad school.

Even the in-state program that I’m interested in will cost me $260k over a period of 2 years including lost income. How can I justify this kind of spending?

This all comes at a time when my networth is eeking closer and closer to $100k. At the moment, that seems like A LOT of money. But when I look at the cost of these graduate degrees (and the cost of life in general), it seems like pocket change.

Looking ahead to the future I know I won’t have the luxury to save as much as I do now. I’d like to start a family when I’m in my early 30s. My boyfriend is also planning on going to school so will have loans as well. Once I go to graduate school my value will be entirely in the amount of time I work in life. These days I feel like it’s a waste of time to do anything other than work… all my freelance projects earn me additional income – why spend time outside at a park when I can be earning valuable cash to invest when the market is down and I’m still young?

Not that I’m complaining… life is going really well, esp given the current economic circumstances. I’m just trying to figure out how to justify graduate school to myself when on paper (eh, Google docs spreadsheet) it just doesn’t make fiscal sense. Then there’s this whole “having to get in” issue as well.

Mint’s "Goals" Depress Me.

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here because I’ve been so busy lately. Which is a good thing. I’m working a full-time job, spending some time on a side project, and not spending all that much money. All in all, I’m doing “good.” Heck, I’m doing amazing right now in relation to how I’ve done at any point in my life before – financially, personally, etc.

Yet I feel so far away from reaching any of my goals. Mint’s new Goals feature makes my future look terribly bleak. Especially given that my current salary — of about $120k per year, give or take — is temporary at best — and even WITH that salary I can’t save enough to reach my “goals.” At least according to Mint.
I made four different goals for myself…
Emergency Fund — I have my $8k in that, and it’s the only goal I’ll reach.
Save for Grad School — I need to save $110k, I’ve saved $1.4k. Yikes. At this rate I’ll go to to grad school by the time I’m 90.
Buy a Home? Yea, right. I need to save $207k for a downpayment. I haven’t really saved anything for a downpayment yet, but I’m counting my various non retirement investment as savings for a downpayment (which, it is if I ever want to buy a house.) Ok, so how much do I have saved now? A whopping $13k. Mint so nicely reminds me that I’m “4 years and 10 months behind” my savings goal. Granted, I wrote that I want to buy a million dollar house – but that’s not unreasonable where I live. That’s a pretty small house where I live. And I’ll never do it. Ok, so I’ll rent forever. Or I need to more to Kansas (I guess I’m renting forever.)
Retirement? Well, I’m doing OK on that goal. It doesn’t LOOK like I’m doing ok since according to Mint I need to save $6,362,665 by the time I’m 65 to hit my retirement goals. Yikes. Yea, so that’s giving me $80k per year in retirement income and I doubt I’ll need that much money when I retire, but I wouldn’t mind having it. I have $22.8k saved so far, at 26. You may say I don’t REALLY have $22.8k saved because that money will probably have to go to the down payment on my house one day when/if I want to buy one. Which SUCKS because I don’t want my retirement savings to go back to zero.
I know it’s good to be honest with yourself about your goals and how much you have to save, but really this is just terribly depressing. And as I contemplate seriously applying for graduate school next year, I am forced with knowing that grad school will make my goals even further from ever becoming a reality. It almost makes me want to give up. I’ll never own a house and never have enough for retirement. I’ll be lucky if I can buy myself another car when this one dies.

The Value of Each Second

I’ve been making an insane amount of money so far this year. I still owe taxes on my freelance earnings, but I’d guestimate I’ve taken in about $30k so far.

But I still feel empty. I’m not saying a job is supposed to give me my ultimate fulfillment in life, but I’d like to feel proud of what I do. I work for a very cool company but ultimately I am not a huge fan of the product I’m paid to promote. I’m given very little power to impact the product, so all I can do is work with what exists. And that’s not the easiest job. That’s why they pay me so much.

Still, I don’t know how long I can do this successfully. After less than two months in the role, I feel myself lost for what to do. My contract ends about half way through the year, so my goal is to make it that far. If I can do that, I’ll have earned at least the amount I earned for an entire year of work in 2009. Sure, I won’t make my $100k Net Worth goal by the end of the year, but I’d be doing ok.

I just want a job that I feel like I can DO a good job at. I like feeling like I’ve accomplished something, and it’s a lot easier to do this with a product that is useful. Ultimately, I think the only way I could ever really be happy in a work environment is if I have a say in the product and get to help make it useful. Not just to market whatever it is.

Ok, so I’m not destined to be a marketer. I’ve done a good job marketing myself and getting this far. But my introverted and honest nature makes me struggle with any sort of promotion. It’s even harder that my role requires me to be “honest” and seem like I’m not promoting a product. Instead, I have to actually like the product and talk about it like I use it all the time. That could be a lot of fun if it were true. The problem is that it’s not, and I can’t bring myself to flat out lie.

The good news is that I’m strongly leaning towards applying to graduate school for 2011. I see no reason to put it off any longer. I’m still terrified of the debt I’ll rack up (my top choice program is $33k a year for two years, not including room & board, yikes! so long savings!) and even more terrified that I’ll find out what I want to study isn’t right for me either. And it’s still hard to justify going to grad school when I could have $100k+ in the bank instead of -/~0.

But everyday I am anxious because I can’t do my job well. Because whatever my boss asks me to do, I am unsure how to do it properly. Because I’m not really good at my job. And if I’m going to manage to survive my life, I need a job I can be good at. Really good at. I’m looking forward to the day I figure out what that is.

Graduate School: Still an Option, But is it Worth It?

I’m not an academic. Since I was young, I couldn’t focus in class, I rarely completed my homework, and while I supposedly had a lot of potential and was at once point dubbed “gifted” by the public school system, academia was never my forte.

So why, now that I’ve earned a college degree and made a career for myself, still long to return to the Ivy Tower? And what would I return for?

I’m still torn between options, including whether to apply at all. On a pure rational front, I’d be best off getting an MBA if I could manage to score high on the GMATs. At this point I think my experience has a shot at canceling out my less-than-exceptional undergraduate transcripts, but the GMAT would be a toughie.

But does an MBA even make sense for me? I’ve worked with many people who have MBAs, and many who don’t. I’ve been managed by MBAs and I’ve been managed by engineers-turned-marketers and artists-turned-non-profit-owners-turned-business-women. I’ve been managed by people who get it and people who don’t, people who succeed by pure luck and others by pure talent, and others who fail for all the wrong reasons. So why get an MBA?

Partially, I want to do it for myself to prove I can. It would look great on my resume (if I go to a top 10 school which, again, is not exactly an easy feat given my overall credentials.) I’d spend two years focused on learning about business — and maybe I’d even learn something practical to apply in the real world. Mostly, I’d feel more confident in my experience as a marketer with an MBA under my belt. I don’t need one, but to really move up the ladder I either need to start my own company or get an advanced degree. Or have friends in high places.

The other option, still, is to go to graduate school for interaction design. I’d enjoy this more, but I worry it’s too focused in an area that has limited value if you don’t know how to program well. I could learn a bit of programming on my own or in school, but I’ll never be the programmer who moved into design. I’ll also never be the programmer who moved into business management. It seems I’m already in trouble, not being a programmer and all.

I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I need to make a decision on this. I’m 26 now, and I’m not getting any younger. I’ve had a solid 5 years of work experience in non-profit, start-up, and large international corporate environments. I’m still not sure where I fit into the work world. I feel awkward in marketing, as I’m not super creative, nor am I brilliant with numbers, and I’m also shy in a field run by the outgoing. Most of all, I dislike “marketing” as a field where you must produce lies to sell a product that isn’t as good as it could be, if the business was managed better and the consumers were actually listened to. Which leads me to thinking I really ought to run my own company. And I don’t really need an MBA for that. I need an MBA if I want to be middle management. And I don’t see myself as middle management. I know middle managers. They are great people, but a different breed of people. They are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their business targets. That’s what capitalism is all about. A little lie, here and there. Make everyone want what you’re selling, no matter how much it’s “worth.”

Is that where an MBA would lead me? I don’t know if I have the stamina to lead, though I know in the long run I’ll never have the heart to follow.

What do you think I should do?

Is Grad School Worth It? Financially Speaking.

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of applying to / going to grad school lately. Not for the earning potential post graduation, but for the chance to focus on an area of study and build up my skills so I feel like an expert in an area (at least until those skills are out of date.) But then I wonder… financially speaking, is grad school worth it?

Really what I need to look at is how much I will have when I retire. I figure I should have at least $1.5M in my bank account when I “retire” (although I plan to work at least part-time well into retirement, but at this point I want to be able to travel and freelance and not have to worry if I get sick and can’t work.)
At the moment, if I can live up to my quasi-frugal savings plans for the year and maintain my current job and occasional freelance income (say $70k per year pre tax) and save $20k each year, according to the compound interest calculator if I start with $30k today and save $20k a year for 30 years at a modest average interest rate of 3% I will have $1.052M in savings by the time I’m 56 and $1.65M by the time I’m 66.
It almost seems silly then to add in the cost of grad school, which will put me into debt and for many reasons, not guarantee I will make more than I am now later and certainly will not allow me to comfortably save $20k anytime during or after graduation from a graduate program.
Additionally, if/when I have children, it will also become increasingly difficult to save $20k per year, if not impossible. This variable could effect both the non-grad school and grad school potential scenarios. And since my 27-year-old boyfriend refuses to work a full time job or put an ounce of his occasional earnings into a Roth IRA, it’s likely that I’m saving for the both of us and our families. Which makes that $1.65M, esp with inflation, seem like a few dimes and a penny.
That brings me to wondering if I should just keep living like I’m living now for the rest of my life. No kids (they’re expensive.) Roommates. A small room. Living in an area where heat isn’t necessary. Cheap bills otherwise. Saving $20k per year. Cutting back when needed to make that possible. Retiring single at 66 with $1.65M (some of it would be taxed, of course, but that’s still not bad.)
Then again… why should I be living life to save for retirement? I can’t imagine ever wanting to fully retire — I see my grandmother at 80 spending her days in the casino and I think if I had the mental capacity she does at 80 I’d be working. I might be limited in my job choices but still, I’d be working because I don’t want to be the type who just sits around and “enjoys” retirement.
Going to grad school is probably an easier choice when you’re making $35k or less. But once you’re making $70k it’s a hard trade in. I’m looking more and more at MBA programs (my career counselor seems to decided that I should consider this path and is in awe of my knowledge of social networking and certain aspects of the tech business) but I don’t know. I don’t see myself ever really following an MBA path — working 100 hours a week, traveling more than I’m staying… I could do that maybe for a few years but not my whole life. How much more can I really earn with an MBA vs. 2 more years of experience that I can gain through my current or next job? Alas, these days I’m liking numbers a lot more than I used to… and I think I’d like studying applied math. I like spreadsheets.
The debt truly freaks me out. People go into debt all the time for school but I don’t know if I can. Partially its because I don’t know if it will actually be worth it for me to go to grad school. It would probably make more sense to give a loan to someone more focused than I am and more dedicated to getting a high salary, pay for THEIR grad school, and earn interest on that… then for me to go to grad school.
And, anyway, I read that in 25 years a dollar today will be worth $.32 which means that my $1.65M when I’m 66 will not be enough to get me through retirement (unless natural causes like stabbing myself help me reach those goals.)
How much are you saving for retirement? How much do you think we will need to retire in 2050?

Look for a New Job or Apply to Grad School?

A few days ago I wrote a post about how I’m going to take the GMAT in 2010, but I’m still unsure that’s the best idea. I feel like I’m ready for a change, and ready to focus on education right now. I don’t want to put grad school off much longer, despite being incapacitated by my fear of educational loans and debt.

There are still things I like about my job, but not many. Largely I just need like I’m not needed anymore and the few things I could do to help, I’m not allowed to do. I’m in a very odd spot.

I have a hard time reading my mind and separating out what I really want to do from my escapist tendencies. I’ve been in this job over two years now which is really good for me, but I feel really stuck. My biggest problem is that I have trouble marketing a product that is flawed in ways that it needn’t be flawed.

I don’t know how people separate their work from their emotions. I always, ALWAYS get emotionally involved in the work I do. And when things are imperfect I find it impossible to just accept that and ignore it and do my job.

But going to grad school ISN’T going to change that. There will always be people who don’t want to listen. And there will always be times when I’m wrong even though my gut tells me I’m right. I feel like at least with a graduate degree I’ll have a little more clout, or an opportunity to be in a role that has final say about something.

I don’t fit in with the culture here at all, but I’m not sure where I’d fit. If I go to grad school for the field I want to study I’d likely end up back in a company just like this. Maybe the culture would be slightly different, but designers as a whole seem to be faced with the problem of having engineers and the marketing team and the CEO alter their designs until there is no design left.

The reason I’m drawn to an MBA is that maybe I can be in charge one day. But I don’t really want to be in charge, I don’t want all that responsibility on my shoulders. I don’t mind running my own freelance writing “business” because if something goes wrong I’m the one who loses money… no the investors or coworkers because I don’t have any. I like that kind of responsibility. I’m terrified of being responsible for a business. And still having to convince people that my ideas are right.

So do I apply to grad school now? I kind of… well, I kind of really want to. I’m trying to think about why I shouldn’t and should…

Why I should apply…

– Time to study a field I’m really interested in and obtain skills that I didn’t get during undergrad
– Be in an environment where people are allowed to explore perfection without business realities (ie design school)
– If I get in, I can still decide not to go, but at least I’d have the option
– Have an “end date” to my current job that is set, so I can survive each day until I leave
– Open doors for myself that are currently closed due to my experience
– Shake up my life a bit, get myself out of this funk, move on to the next phase of my life
– maybe my boyfriend would be more inspired to apply to grad school if I did, and especially if I got in and had plans to leave town
– Explore new career paths that I’m not even fully aware of yet
– Make contacts and get solid faculty recommendations
– Secure internships in design that I can’t do as a non student
– To prove to myself that I can get in to grad school
– To prove to myself that I belong in grad school

Why I shouldn’t apply…

– I probably can’t get into the schools I’d want to go to with my GRE scores and GPA
– I struggle with consistency in academic work and I’m worried I’d fail, never get my degree but still be in debt from school
– DEBT. LOTS AND LOTS OF DEBT.
– Going to grad school doesn’t guarantee a good job after I graduate. It could even hurt my chances of being employed, though that’s unlikely in my field
– It’s possible to pick up skills by taking non matriculated classes nearby and to change professions without a masters degree
– A business degree might make more sense even though I’d rather be a designer than a CEO… but if I am the CEO at least I can have final say on design
– I’d have to ask for letters of recommendation from my current employers, so they’d know I’m trying to leave, and if I don’t get in that would be even more awkward
– If I ask for letters of recommendation from my coworkers and then I get in and decide not to go, that will also look bad
– Did I mention debt?
– I like living in the bay area and the grad schools I’m looking at are far away. I’d have to move again. I hate moving. I really, really, really hate moving.
– I will miss my boyfriend. A lot. We’ve been together almost 4 years now. It would be tough being away from him.

How long would it take to save $150k?

All of the graduate programs I’m looking at will cost about $150k for 2 or 3 years. Thus, I want to save $150k before applying. Is that possible? How long would it take to, realistically, save $150k?

If I cut out things I don’t really need… voice lessons, dance class, gym membership, etc, I could get my monthly expenditures down significantly. Still, $150k is a lot of money.

I don’t want to take out loans. I don’t want to graduate from grad school in debt. That seems counterproductive to fiscal growth.

I have $30k saved now, though half of that is my retirement savings. Do I want to touch my retirement savings? At least that doesn’t count towards my FAFSA AGI.

Ok, so to save $150k …

$12500 / month for 12 months (1 year)
$6240 / month for 24 months (2 years)
$2500 / month for 60 months (5 years)
$1250 / month for 120 months (10 years)

I bet I could save $1250 a month, but that means I won’t be going to graduate school until 2020. And by then, tuition will cost much more. So this saving up for my tuition seems impossible.

Right now I’m taking in between $3,000-$4,000 / month.

Cutting out all extraneous costs, $1250 / month would be possible to save.

But then… I won’t be saving for retirement in the next 10 years. I won’t be saving for anything else. And I won’t be living life. Oh, and I won’t be able to afford to have children. Which all kind of sucks.

How on earth does anyone justify graduate school (unless it’s all paid for?) How does anyone justify any education (I can’t believe how much my parents paid for my undergraduate degree!) Then again, at the time my dad was making over $200k / year, which, even after taxes, made it possible to cover my $120k undergraduate education. They really should have made me go to the equally–good state school that I got into that would have cost a lot less, but I’m glad they didn’t.

Now, looking at my future, I’m trying to balance how much my career is worth versus being in debt for the rest of my life. I realized that I missed the mark in terms of my undergraduate major, though even with the right major I lacked the maturity at the time to make the most of my education. Not that I partied a lot or anything, I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t know what I wanted. I felt like I had to be in college because that’s what you do after high school. I didn’t really know WHY I was there. To get a liberal arts education? To get a technical education? Yea, it wasn’t clear. I got a taste of a few different things, but now I really need some sort of focused trade-school-esque education to get where I want in my career.

Speaking of, I’m contemplating seeing a career counselor to help me figure out where that is. I went to my career counselor in college quite a bit, but he wasn’t much help. Maybe the ones that cost $100/hr are better? Apparently it’s normal for an INFP like myself to spend way too much time thinking about all the possibilities without ever acting on them. So I just need some guidance. An adult guidance counselor. I’m starting to think I need that more than therapy. I mean, I know my issues. And yes, I can work on them all my life. The daughter of an upper-middle class everything-is-fine-with-our-family sociopath and a narcissist is bound to turn out a little messed up, right?

I’m just SO TIRED of living my life afraid of failure in the eyes of my parents. I’m looking forward to paying for my own education because then, even if they look down on me for my choice, or roll their eyes at it, I know it’s coming out of my wallet. It’s my education to make the most of, not theirs. Not theirs to waste, either.

I went to a new therapist this morning… a first meeting intended to place me into a group for group therapy. I’m very interested in group therapy because much of my issues, especially those relating to my ability to succeed, are rooted in my complete lack of ability to communicate. It is painful because I know I come off like this conceited bitch because I’m terrified of giving compliments even though in my head 99% of what I’m thinking is a compliment and 1% is “you could just tweak this one thing and everything would be even extra special great.” How on earth do you say that without coming off like a suck up? Agggh.

Well, I know I’ve completely failed on the communication end in my current company. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes, yet I still make them, and no one really wants to hear my thoughts anyway. Because they are often inspired by a gut feeling more than solid research, so their standpoint is beyond fair.

I just have concluded that ultimately I need to be in a job where I am a problem solver. I am always bursting with solutions and to not be allowed to say them (even though I often do anyway, to the disappointment of my coworkers) is suffocating. I know my ideas are not always right, but I love to collaborate and throw ideas out, bounce off other people, turn an idea into a solution.

I’ve spent my free time this week reading about countless masters programs. MBA programs. HCI programs. ID programs. Design masters programs. With a foundation year for people who didn’t major in design in undergrad. International programs. Online programs. Part-time programs. Dual degree programs. Weekend and evening programs. Programs that can only be completed if you stand on your head and clap five times while hunting wild boars. (Okay, okay, I haven’t found that last one… yet.) I am overwhelmed by all the options and the potential cost of all those options. Any of those options.

All the stress is enough to have me retreat into the status quo forever. And maybe that’s what I’ll do. Or maybe I don’t need grad school to do what I want. Maybe if I can just believe in myself enough I can take a few design classes, get a portfolio together, and shift my career trajectory. I don’t know. I’m obviously more confused than ever. It’s the typical quarter life crisis. Except I kind of know what I want. Or at least I know I want to be solving problems. To be in charge of solving problems. Creatively. I’m most comfortable as a leader, not a follower, but I need a team of equals. I wish I had some realistic support. I won’t get any from my parents and my boyfriend doesn’t understand the financial consequences of grad school… his mother is going to pay for him to get a graduate degree if he doesn’t get a full ride (his undergrad education was much cheaper than mine, so it makes sense that his mom still has money left over for his graduate education.)

I just wish someone sat down with me in senior year of high school and forced me to take a year off and work before going to college. I wish someone explained why despite “liberal arts” magical allure, ultimately you should be using college to get the skills you need for a job. A job that you’ll actually like. Not just one you’re qualified for because you have a BA.

Anyway, that’s enough rant for tonight. I hate that I always sound so spoiled. I just want to pay my way through graduate school, work hard, and feel like I own my successes and my failures. I want to own… me.