ask.spoonah


on school vs. work
October 18, 2010, 9:16 am
Filed under: advice, career, education, financial, life | Tags: , , ,

Spoonah,
So I’m 24 and its about time I get my act together. I am little to no credits towards a degree because I have always been worried that If I don’t work full time I won’t be able to pay my bills. I’m really at a point in my life where I would love to work minimally and be able to dive into school full time. The problem at this point is that while I qualify for student loans, thats about all I qualify for. I know there are a ton of scholarship options I could look into but I don’t see anything being susbstantial enough to not have to take on full time work. I don’t qualify for private student loans on my own and don’t have a co signer and my federal loans are not enough.
Where should I go from here?

Thanks!
Wanna be educated

hey wanna be educated,

an age old question, one I have fielded many times. a tough one to be sure. the answer is not any gentler: you will probably have to keep working, or stop going to school.

if you do not have the ability to get private loans (which, by the way, I think are basically the devil incarnate and tell everyone not to get, even if it means it takes you 10 years to finish school), and no scholarships, your only option is to supplement federal loans with hard-earned cash. you can apply for grants or work study (typically you are entered for these when you fill out your FAFSA), but other than that, there isn’t much to be done. there is no real magic bullet, short of a sugar-daddy, that will pay your bills for you. if you want to go to school full time and not work, then you’ll have to find a school (and life) cheap enough that it can all be paid for with about $3500/year in stafford loans. if you find that, please let me know. I’ll be right there. otherwise, you’ll have to work.

every solution to this is a little different, depending on your situation. I’ll tell you a little about what I did to give you an idea. when I was an undergraduate, I went to school usually 3/4 time and worked part or full time. depending on when your classes are, you can sometimes find a job with flexible hours. I worked at AAA in the emergency roadside department, which is open 24/7, so I was able to work nights and weekends and save my days for classes. I have also found a surprising flexibility with employers in terms of hours (assuming it is the sort of things with shifts, such as retail or call centers) when you are going to school. now that I’m in graduate school, I supplement my loans and scholarship (which luckily, cover almost all my expenses) with petsitting and more petsitting. another nights & weekends gig, usually. check out care.com and sittercity.com to find dogjobs. they also have listings for child and elder care, housekeeping, stuff like that. if those sorts of things aren’t your deal, I recommend selling your body on the streets.

so all that said, I wish I had better news for you. now is a good time to think long and hard about your long-term goals. do you need to go to college to achieve them? could you do an apprenticeship instead? college is a very expensive way to figure out what you want to do in life (just ask my student loan companies). if you’re not sure you need it, put it off for the time being. if what you really want is to not have the job you have, or the life you have, college isn’t necessarily the answer. check out my previous post, on college, to see my views on this, as an overeducated and underemployed person. a word from the wise: I am just a few months away from my MBA, and I’m pretty sure I just want to move into the woods and make crafts and have some goats after I graduate. except I have $999999999999999999 in student loans, so now I can’t. let that be a lesson to you.

spoonah

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on going to grad school
September 11, 2010, 9:46 pm
Filed under: advice, career, education, life | Tags: , , , , ,

dear spoonah,

I finished my BA a few years ago and have a decent job, but am feeling unsatisfied with my life. I don’t make very much money and there’s no real room for growth in this job. I love working with young people, especially high school age people, so I have been thinking about becoming a teacher. I applied for an accelerated M.Ed graduate program and was accepted, and am supposed to start in a few months. Recently I’ve been feeling like maybe this isn’t the right choice, and that I am not sure that I want to be a teacher or even stay living in this area any longer. Am I signing up for a life of debt and disappointment?

-worried at work

dear worried at work,

it sounds to me like you are stuck in a situation that may not be all that bad, but is not where you want to be right now, regardless. my advice when you are stuck is to move in any direction, even if that direction is backwards (or feels that way). it’s like if you’re in quicksand, you can’t be picky about branch that pulls you out. the key is to get out of the situation so that you can see things more clearly, and make a decision without feeling bound to it. perhaps that graduate program really is what you want and will be happy with, but it sounds right now like you aren’t in a position to make that decision. if you go into it thinking you might be making a mistake, it will color your whole experience, and an accelerated graduate program is no place to be if you aren’t committed to the outcome.

my advice is this: do something that is nothing like what you are doing now, for a little while. maybe you want to move, try out a different kind of job, or travel. spend a few months to a year doing something you think you might want to do more, and find out. if your worst case scenario ends with you moving back and going to that program in a year or so, I think you’ll be fine. there’s no point in doing anything that intense (emotionally, mentally, and financially) while spending the whole time wishing you were working as a waitress in Mexico. I mean, you’d probably hate that, but at least you’d know.