Saturday, August 8, 2009

Get money for grad school

In the absence of thrilling developments (went to Toastmasters, ran some errands, etc.), I thought I'd talk a little bit about money*.

Over the past several months I was entertained by people's reactions to me going back to school. At work, for example, I had several elevator and hallway conversations like this:

Co-worker: "So I hear you're going back to school!"

John: "It's true. I leave in _____ weeks."

Co-worker: "And you're going to Yale?"

John: "Yes sir/ma'am."

Co-worker: "That's expensive!"

(Other common responses included "It's cold up there," "That's far away," or -- and I'm not kidding -- "I don't think you will be happy.")

To me, getting an MBA doesn't feel expensive, because it doesn't feel like I'm spending actual money. Dropping $100 on dinner feels expensive. Getting $144,000 in debt for an education doesn't.
This house is for sale in Dallas for $144,000, the price of a Yale SOM MBA.If I told people in Dallas that I was buying a $144,000 house (the listing price of the house in this photo), nobody would remark about the expense. And although it's a good investment, an education is a better investment for me, given what I was earning in newspapers and what I expect to earn in a few years.

But I can't pretend I was always nonchalant about borrowing $144,000. In fact it was the No. 1 stress I had right after being accepted, probably because the most substantial purchase I've ever made -- the only thing I've ever financed, in fact -- was a digital piano. (No, I've never bought a car.)

Fortunately, Yale was very good about making clear what needed to be done and when. It was basically a five-step process: (1) I filled out a couple forms, (2) I received word on how much I was eligible to borrow, which was the maximum possible, (3) I chose a lender basically at random, since they all seemed the same, (4) I filled out another form or two, (5) The money I asked for was credited to my online bill. It was 100 times easier than the process of registering to take a summer class in the Dallas Community College system, which was a 218-step process on par with taking a magic ring to Mount Doom, or wherever that elf was going. I wasn't really paying attention.

To clarify, I won't get access to my actual living expenses until classes start in a couple more weeks, so to anyone considering doing this I would suggest either having a few thousand dollars saved, or a credit card on which you don't mind charging a few thousand dollars. Grad students must live modestly, but so must 20-something newspaper journalists. I'm not expecting a big learning curve.

*I accept donations.

No comments:

Post a Comment