personal finance

How To Guarantee Grad School Is Worth Your Time & Money

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

 
should I go to grad school.png
 

I recently shared my super painful debt story on Chain of Wealth Podcast. This interview inspired me to create this series: Rise From Rock Bottom. It tells every story from my failure years - and how I overcame each one. 


After college, I struggled (probably more than most people) to find a job.

In fact, after achieving straight A's through college, I was rejected from every medical school I applied for, fired from my first job in a doctor’s office after only two weeks, and was swiftly sent an "unfortunately we don’t think you’re a good fit” email from every company I sent a resume to.

I decided to go to grad school to give myself a second chance at "getting it right" because I was drowning in my own depression, inundated in my growing insecurity and suffocating in my steadily increasing credit card debt.

Why Go Back To School At All?

I'm often asked how in the world (after my first trial at higher education was such a huge fail) could I go back to school and take on more student debt to get yet another piece of paper. 

Yes, I know. It doesn't seem to make sense.

There was no guarantee that the degree would get me an interview, much less a job.

Why was I so willing to take that chance? 

Because I wasn’t taking a chance at all. 

The first time I went to school because that was expected of me. The second time I went to school with a clear head, a clear motive, a focused outcome and a hell of a lot of research. 

In this post, I'm going to walk you through every step of my decision-making journey, and show you exactly how I decided on which industry to pursue, which Master's Program would be worth my money and how I planned to make ever dollar of my student loan debt worth it. 

 

The Research

I choose to go to business school to get a degree in marketing analytics after A LOT of research.

A few months prior to enrolling, I had stumbled upon an article about how big the data industry was growing. Exponentially. Which basically means the need in the industry for analysts was going from 1 Million, to 10 Million, to 100 Million very quickly. But there were not enough experienced people in the industry to fill all the jobs that were rapidly being created.

Then, I researched the salaries in that industry and learned they started off at $75K+ at entry level. 

That piqued my interest (a lot!) and I decided to do more digging before making a commitment.

Here's the research I went through before officially deciding to go back to school:

 

The Industry

I looked for an industry that was growing rapidly and undergoing a lot of innovation

 

Competition for Jobs

Your competition would be the other people fighting for the same jobs that you're applying for. Are there tons of people fighting for these jobs? Or are the jobs fighting for people?

Entry Level Salary

Will it be enough to cover your student loans? Will that salary make the time you spent in school worthwhile? How long would it take you to pay off your loans? Could you live a decent lifestyle while still paying off your loans?

 

The School’s Career Services & Employment Rate

When I left undergrad, I realized getting a job wasn't a cake walk like I thought it would be. To help with my post-college job search, I called up my school’s career services office. I told them that I was a recent grad who was struggling to get a job. The career services worker pulled google up and gave me a link to a job event in DC because they didn't have any school job fairs on campus. 

I could’ve done that from the comfort of my own home.

I decided right then and there that I would never attend a school that didn’t have an amazing career services office, with a great reputation and recruiters from top companies who visited the school frequently.

When looking for the school you'll be going to, ask yourself:

  • Is the name recognizable?

  • Do big name companies fight to come here?

  • How frequent are the job fairs? Which companies attend?

  • Do they have an active career services office?

Alumni Recommendations

Graduate school can cost A LOT of money. Many people have to take out tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt in order to afford an education.

Talk to alumni about their experiences. (Alumni will tell you whether their school did anything for them or not! I NEVER talk about where I went to undergrad. If someone happens to ask me about the school on their own, I tell them to RUN!)

 

The Program & Opportunities

The program you ultimately choose will be a huge decision point. Make sure that the coursework is comprehensive and covers all of the basic knowledge you'll need to start working right away after graduation.

Look to make sure that classes are taught by professors who also have working or consulting experience with large companies that you'd be interested in working for.  

Additionally, look through the website to find different hands-on opportunities that exist there.

Is there a way that you can gain experience while in school to show that you're proactive? Some school also offer opportunities to provide research or write your own white paper. These are great opportunities to show how your hard work can make an impact on a company. Look for a school that has a lot of these opportunities available to you. 

 

The Graduating Class Employment Rate

How many graduates get jobs when they leave?

 

With all of those things working in my favor, I was confident that a Marketing Analytics Master's Degree was the right investment for me. 

 

The Money

I chose an accelerated 9-month program which gave me two advantages: 

  1. The accelerated program cost less than the other program options. (It was $40K.)

  2. I would be out of the workforce for a shorter period of time.

 

I then turned my focus to other opportunities that I had to either save money or make more money:

  • I moved in with my Mother to reduce my financial burden.

  • I worked on campus in exchange for a stipend, which I applied to my student loans.

  • I worked as a freelancer while in school for a few hours a week.

I used my freelance money to pay my phone bill, transportation costs and for networking happy hours. Any additional freelance income was applied to my student loans. By the time I graduated, I only owed $25K on my loans. 

Side note: Networking is very important, especially if you're trying to switch industries. I ultimately landed my job because I clicked with someone at a networking event who helped me get an interview.

The Jobs

Before I graduated, I had over 10 in-person interviews lined up with top companies. (I had zero interviews before that... and they definitely were not with top companies.)

My first offer out of grad school was $75K. I lost that offer because of my bad credit.

My second offer was $65K and I was too afraid to negotiate any higher. I probably could've pushed for $70K, but I didn't want to call any attention to myself after losing my first offer.

Side note: No matter how afraid you are, you should at the very least ask for a raise, especially as a woman. The worst that can happen is that the recruiter says no and then you’re no worse off than what you were initially offered.

 

The Debt Payoff Strategy

I've been working for officially 2 years now.

I had $42K in loans when I started my job. $17K of that came from my undergrad that I was never able to pay off because I never made enough money. The remaining $25K came from grad school. In the first six months, I paid off my consumer debt and was ready to tackle my student loans. 

I had a 2-bedroom apartment with a $1600/month rent bill, which made it difficult to pay off my student loan debt. I took an opportunity to let my friend's grandfather who was visiting from Africa live with me for 6 months. He paid $500 in rent, which I put directly to my student loans. 

Once he moved out, I decided to use more drastic measures. I lowered my expenses by getting rid of anything I didn't need to survive: 

  • I sold my car (which meant no more gas, car maintenance or car insurance payments).

  • I moved in with an Aunt who charged me less than half of what I previously was paying for rent, and I didn't have to pay for internet or utilities.

  • I only allowed myself $150 of “fun money” to spend from each paycheck - everything else went towards my loans.

It's been 17 months so far, and I've already paid off $18K in student loans! 

I plan on paying off the remainder by the end of the year. I also have accumulated over $19K in savings and investments - while paying off my debt. I am currently $5K away from a positive net worth. (I started off with -$38K net worth in January of last year so this is HUGE!)

Related: How This 28-year-old Increased Her Net Worth By $20,984 in 13 months

 

Going back to school is a difficult decision because it's a large investment that can eat up your time and money (and possibly put you deeper into debt). However, if you do your research and make a solid plan, you can put yourself in a position to positively change your life forever. 

 

Ready To Accomplish Your Greatest Goals? 

  1. Start planning out your largest goals with the FREE Goal Planning Worksheet.

  2. Take a FREE personal development class on CreativeLive.

  3. Do you struggle with finishing the goals you start? Get clarity on your goals and the strategies to reach them with the ebook Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams.


takephoto.jpg

About Chantl

Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.

Why Ruining My Credit Was The Best Decision Of My Life

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

ruin credit fix life.png

I recently shared my super painful debt story on Chain of Wealth Podcast. This interview inspired me to create this series. Rise From Rock Bottom tells every story from my failure years - and how I overcame it.


 

In 2015, I was under a mountain of debt. I had about $15K in credit card debt and a $25K car loan on a Mercedes Benz. If that wasn't bad enough, I also had a luxury apartment that easily cost $1500/month. 

I was 25 and a single mom. #TheStruggle

Determined to maintain my credit score, I worked 3 jobs to put food on the table, pay my car note, my high-AF rent and continue making the minimum payments on my various credit cards.

I was under water, overworked, exhausted, and out of options.

If I stopped to take a breath at any moment, I would fall behind on paying bills, my rent would not get paid, there would be no food on the table. I was the epitome of paycheck to paycheck. 

Flash forward to today.

By the end of 2016, I landed a job for one of the top Marketing Analytics firms in the world, making triple what I was making with three jobs. My company that lets you work from where ever you want, have unlimited vacation, a robust retirement plan and values me as an individual.

Most importantly, I am happy.

 

How did I make this transition in one year? 

I made the hardest decision of my life: I stopped paying my bills... ALL OF THEM. 

I called all of my credit cards and informed them I would no longer by paying. I turned my phone off (yes, completely off). I did a voluntary repossession on my Mercedes Benz and bought a crappy car in cash. 

 

Lowering my bills meant I didn't need more money.

With over $2500 in rent, car payments and credit card minimums every month, I was obligated to work enough hours to cover my bills - EVERY SINGLE MONTH. That means before I could put money into my savings account, buy food or invest in my future I had to make $2500 that would immediately go out the door to pay for my earlier mistakes.

I only made $2000-$2200 each month as a receptionist, waitress and low-paid freelancer at the time. That meant that every month I was also spending MORE MONEY ON CREDIT CARDS. 

Deciding to stop paying my bills and move out of my apartment (and into my moms basement) meant that I would no longer need $2500 each month. Without working any harder, I would now have $2200 each month TO INVEST IN MYSELF. 

 

What did I do instead?

I made the decision to get masters a degree in a high demand, high value and growing field: Data Science.

I woke up every morning at 3am and rolled out of bed so I could wake up by the shock (and slight pain) of hitting the floor. (I was training myself for a war I intended to win.) I started studying for the GRE. 

Within a few months, I had scored well, applied to school and got into the state school near my parent's house.

Remember the crappy car I bought with I did a voluntary repossession on my fancy benz?  I sold it to pay for as much of my school fees as possible and minimize the amount of loans I had to take out.

Because I no longer needed the money, I was able to quit my receptionist and waitress jobs to go to school full time. I even fired all of my freelance clients and only kept the highest paying client.

After my nine month master's program, I walked across the stage just one year after starting this journey with an offer in hand - for triple what I was being paid before.

 

My life changed completely.

At this new job, I made $65K per year. That meant I finally would be able to pay off my debts and also have time for myself, my family and there would be money left over to save and invest in myself. 

I also learned the most important lesson of my life: Spend less than you make. (Crazy how long it took to learn that lesson, right?)

 

I sacrificed my credit score to improve my life.

I am not advocating for scamming your way out of paying for your financial obligations. I am a firm believer that you SHOULD pay your debts. However, that is a choice you CAN make. 

Without the bills, I didn't need three jobs.

Without the jobs, I didn't have to feel stressed every month about creating more income, working harder. I didn't have to burn myself out.

I could think clearly about who I was and what I really wanted out of life. With a clear mind, I put myself in a position to change my life permanently.

I made the conscious decision to take 10 steps back to (finally) propel myself forward. From where I'm standing, I made the right choice.

 

Ready To Accomplish Your Greatest Goals? 

  1. Start planning out your largest goals with the FREE Goal Planning Worksheet.

  2. Take a FREE personal development class on CreativeLive.

  3. Do you struggle with finishing the goals you start? Get clarity on your goals and the strategies to reach them with the ebook Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams.


takephoto.jpg

About Chantl

Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.

How To Survive (And Fully Recover From) Your Bad Credit History

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

survive bad credit.png

I recently shared my full debt story on Chain of Wealth Podcast. This interview inspired me to create this series. Rise From Rock Bottom tells every story from my failure years - and how I overcame it.


Two days after I got my first job offer, the recruiter told me that the company would not be able to hire me. I had too much debt and my credit was so bad that many of their clients would not allow me to work on their accounts. 

I knew when I decided to quit my three jobs and stop paying my debts to go back to school I would have some set backs, but I didn't think that this - my big break that I worked so hard for - would be taken from me in the process.... all because I had bad credit.

I had character references lined up to attest that it was extreme circumstances (not immaturity or lack of responsibility) that sent my finances spiraling out of control. 

That way not the first time I had to sacrifice something I wanted because of bad credit. In fact, in one year of bad credit, I has the displeasure of experiencing every single one of these.

 

You can't buy a car.

Well, you COULD, but it would have to be in cash to make any financial sense (and if you're here, reading this, I'm sure you have a fair amount of financial literacy). With interest rates up to 24.99% for people with bad credit, car purchases don't make sense on any level. 

 

How to survive -

Focus on living and working in big cities.  Large cities (like DC, Chicago and New York) have amazing train systems that can allow you to get around without a car while you stash cash away for that car purchase. Trust me, your future self will thank you when your monthly payments don't go directly to paying only the interest on your fancy new car. 

Make Uber and Lyft your best friends. Pro Tip: Use UberPOOL! This will save you extra money to put toward that car you're saving for. 

Buy an old, crappy car for pennies. If you find yourself in a position where you need a car (like if you happen to land your dream career... in a city with no public transportation) your crappy car will be your best friend. You won't have car payments and you can still get to far away places without the requirement that they be accessible by public transportation.

 

You can't get a credit card.

When you have bad credit and you reach a position where you're ready to start re-building your credit, you'll find it's nearly impossible for anyone to trust you with their virtual cash. It's not happening... so don't even think about it. You'll get rejected for lines of credit until you show that you can be responsible with other people's money - and that takes time (a lot of time).

 

How to survive

Do it that hard way. Start paying off your debts, one by one. Slowly but surely your credit score will rise and eventually someone will trust you with a credit card. You may get a card with a $5 credit limit, but we all gotta start somewhere.

Get a pre-paid credit card. If no one is going to trust you, show some initiative and trust yourself with your cash money. Put $300 - $500 towards a line of credit for yourself and start practicing some of those good money habits you know you have. Over time, your credit score will rise.

 

You can't refinance your credit.

I always thought it's hilarious that credit refinancing will look at your credit to determine whether you're worthy of refinancing.

The people with bad credit are probably the ones that could benefit the most from a lower monthly payment. Unfortunately, you have a history and (in case you don't get it by now) no one trusts you with money.

 

How to survive

See above. #SorryNotSorry

 

You Can't Rent A Car

Have you ever tried renting a car without a credit card? After being super frustrated with my debt levels, I turned off - and then cut up - all of my credit cards. 

My goal was to pay for everything in cash and if I didn't have the money that simply meant I could not afford whatever I wanted.

That was certainly not a smart decision for when I inevitably needed a rental car. Showing up for a rental car without a credit card is (simply put) a death wish. Some places will demand you show them a pay stub to verify your address. Many places will refuse to rent a car to you at all.

 

How to Survive

Rent from Dollar or Thrifty rental car. They will allow you to rent a car while placing a $350 hold on your car until you return the car. These are the only two places I've seen that will give you a rental car with very little (to no) hassle. 

 

You can't get a student loan.

When I decided to go back to school, I had to sacrifice a lot to have the time to dedicate to learning a new craft and start applying for full time jobs in my field. I finally knew what I wanted out of life and I wanted to channel the force of Hercules if I needed to.

I successfully got into a program, paid the fee (with the help of my friends).

 

How To Survive

Ask your family. My dad was able to get a parent loan for me (in his name) so I could get the remaining $5k to complete my education.

 

Sometimes (if you're really unlucky) you can't get a job.

At the beginning of 2016, I had a target number for the salary I wanted. Months before graduation I was offered a job at that target number.

I was blown away that all of my hard work had finally paid off. When HR rescinded my offer due to poor credit, I felt helpless. The one thing that could help me fix my poor financial situation slipped right from under my fingers... because of my poor financial situation. 

 

How To Survive

Keep this in mind while applying for jobs. I never met anyone that this had happened to so I thought it was an urban myth. Knowing that this is a possibility will help you manage expectations better during the application and interview process. It will also help you cope with losing a job offer.

Be wary of jobs with banks, financial services firms, government, and consulting firms that work with banks. Instead, look for larger firms rather than boutique firms. Even if these firms work with banks, they will likely be able to put you with another team that does not judge you based on your credit.

Stay positive! Cast a wide net and look forward to the journey. If you are offered a job, take the time to talk with HR and let them know your situation BEFORE they check your credit. Trust me, if they offered you a job, they WANT to work with you! They will do anything in their power to close the deal.

 

Yes, if you have bad credit America hates you! Understand it and get over it! With one foot in front of the other, you will walk right out of this bad credit situation and live to tell the tale.

 

 

Ready To Make Your Dream Goal A Reality?

Map out your dream goals and create your action plan with this FREE one-page dream goal planning worksheet.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

chantl author

About Chantl

Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.