Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

The Worst Idea I Ever Had….For Now.

on September 28, 2010

Idealism. It gets me into trouble every time.

When I started working, I was exposed to myriad nonprofit organizations around the world doing amazing things in the most desperate of situations. As I became exposed to more organizations, I realized I actually knew very little about how the world worked and how most people on this planet lived. Sure, I had been exposed to images of famine and war from remote locations, but I didn’t really understand how any of these situations developed and how they could be interrelated. This ignorance bothered me more and more to the point where I decided that I needed to understand all of these issues.

So, how does this all relate to this week’s money theme? I’m getting there. Despite swearing off any possibility of grad school, within a year of finishing my undergraduate degree, I was looking at schools in the NYC metro area that offered some kind of international studies degree. I knew I was going to work full-time and go to school part-time, so the program had to be able to accommodate that kind of schedule. I came up with 3 schools: Columbia, New York University and Rutgers.

I was immediately turned off of Columbia, for really no good or logical reason. It seemed snooty and pretentious to me. Rutgers didn’t have much information on their program. Being the mature adult that I am, rather than make an appointment to talk with someone, I just decided not to go there either (now, in actuality, I’m not regretting that decision. The campus I would be attending is based in downtown Newark – not necessarily a pretty place to be hanging out late at night). So, that left NYU.

Washington Square arch (image from nyu.edu)

I got busy working on my application, gathering recommendation letters and requesting a copy of my official transcript. Within a few months, I was accepted and slated to begin in January 2006.

In all the hubbub of researching schools, filling out FAFSAs and putting together an application, I seemed to forget to consider what a Masters degree would actually do for me. What career options would I have (ok, I thought I had a pretty good sense of that)? What kind of experience, in addition to a Masters degree, would I need? What kind of salary could I expect after graduating? And perhaps most importantly, what would all of this cost me, and would the benefits outweigh the costs? Seems simple enough, right? And I’m sure in my own way, I thought I had considered all of these options fully.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in the same job I had when I started grad school but have the added fun of some pretty decent student loans from attending a swanky private school. Well, that worked out well, didn’t it?

So, grad school turned out not to be my best financial move. But, if there is a silver lining to this expensive life experience, (see that idealism creeping in again?) it’s that it’s taught me to think a lot more now before making a big decision, financial or otherwise. I try to think more long-term when making a decision, and really weigh the pros and cons, rather than adjust the pros and cons to support a decision I’ve already made. It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting there.

And, just to end this post on a more positive note, I still think my Masters degree will come in handy at some point. I’ve found some interesting opportunities that I’m in the process of applying to that I wouldn’t be qualified for unless I had a Masters degree. One of these days, hopefully sooner rather than later, my worst idea will become my best idea. Hopefully, I just keep in mind the lessons I learned in the process.

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