Rise From Rock Bottom

How To Guarantee Grad School Is Worth Your Time & Money

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

 
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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.

Eight Powerful Lessons You Gain When You Lose Everything

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

 
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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 each one.


At the age of 25, I moved back home… into my mother's basement. I couldn't afford a bed so I bought a large blow-up mattress for $40.

Imagine a near-empty room, in a basement, no carpet, a blow up mattress and a computer desk.(Sounds, kinda jail-ish, doesn’t it?)  

I'm also a single mom so I shared that room with my daughter.

Just one year prior, I lived in a luxury (read:expensive) apartment in a great school district and riding around in my Mercedes Benz truck.

Talk about humbling...

I remember the first time I mustered up the courage to tell my friends that I would be getting rid of my fancy car. 

"But why!?" They asked.

"Are you sure?" They persisted.

I didn't have a choice. I could no longer afford my lifestyle.

First, I replaced the fancy car with a car that aligned with my income.

It was a ragged car and the trunk didn't close. A tiny string held the lid down just enough so that the truck appeared closed sometimes.

As I drove, the trunk would wobble up and down and other drivers would stop me to tell me that my trunk was open. Occasionally, the string would break in the middle of the street and I'd have to pull over to re-tie it.

Talk about humbling...

I eventually sold that car to help pay for school and began taking bus everywhere. (Also humbling.

I lived this lifestyle - in my mother's basement with my daughter - for nearly a year while I went to grad school.

That was the most transformative time in my life that gave me the skills, strength and flexibility to grow into the person I am today

These are the lessons I learned on that journey:

 

You can deflate your lifestyle and the world won’t fall apart

Lifestyle inflation hit me like a ton of bricks.

I didn't even realize that I was trying to keep up with social norms and expectations by moving to an expensive location (that I really couldn’t afford) so my daughter could attend "the good school."

I always thought that I was doing "the right thing" for my child, even if I was extending my finances too far.

When we did move out and she went to a school that didn't have a 9/10 rating on GreatSchools.org (that really means something to parents) SHE WAS FINE.

I realized that while looking for the “great school” and I completely discounted the work that I do at home as her parent. She still learns. She still gets a well rounded education. She’s still my brilliant little girl. She’s not defined by “the good school.”

 

Your Priorities

The quest to live on less to be able to discover my path meant that I would have to give up some things.

First, I gave up my car, then my apartment, then I gave up my outward appearance, then I gave up the obligations to others. Slowly, but surely, I realized that I had to de-prioritize things that didn’t matter to make myself a priority.

I felt more free every time I made the decision that something didn’t matter. For the first time in my life, my actions were matching up to my core values.

 

What you really need to be happy

You know, I really thought I needed that Benz to be happy.

I thought that having a luxury car (even though I had zero dollars in my bank account) meant that I was one of the elite. People looked at me differently when I pulled up in a Benz.

I was fancy. And I liked that feeling.

When I got rid of all of my car, I realized I love the feeling of not having a car. I love walking around in the summer and the cold breeze on my face in the winter. I feel refreshed and free.

You haven't lost anything

The second you start to give up on the "nice-to-haves" you start to realize that you can really live without them. 

The only things I gave up by not having a car were my car note, car insurance, regular maintenance and the occasional speeding ticket. To be honest, losing those things contributed more to my life because I was more care-free than ever before!

 

Your "real" friends

Some of your friends will start to remove themselves from your life (you know, the ones that only show up when it’s time to party). Once you stop spending money on things that aren't necessities, you may realize that you don't have as much in common with some folks. 

And that's OK.

You’ll also notice that there are your other friends. The ones that cheer you on as you start to pay off your debt. The ones that sit alongside you and study with you for the GRE. The ones that support you by showing up and being present in your darkest hour.

Your rock bottom is only the beginning for your strongest friendships.

 

You can rebuild your life the way you want

The most beautiful things about rock bottom is that you have nothing to lose.

You've likely suffered a fair amount of embarrassment. You've probably done all of the things you said you'd never do (like move back in with your parents). You may even have given up more times than you’d like to admit.

With nothing left anchoring you to who you were, you have the flexibility and opportunity to build the person you want to be. 

 

You won't do it alone

Poverty has a way of making you feel like you're the only one suffering. However, everyone's been through some sort of pain and suffering at some point. In fact, no matter how bad you feel there's always someone out there who has it ten times worse. 

Here's what will surprise you: Your friends and family will rally around you to lift you higher. (That's assuming you're a half way decent person and, therefore, have at least 1 friend.) 

 

You'll Learn To Love It

It can be difficult to make the transition to having a lot to having nothing. Change is hard.  

Maybe you feel bad for your predicament in the first week. But after a while, you'll start to notice a shift. You'll start to feel like yourself again. You'll realize that you can now move forward as who you want to be. 

You'll see that you're free to become you.

 xoxo

 


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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.

5 Things To Do Instead of Committing Suicide

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

committing suicide.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.


There was a bridge. 

I would pass it every day after leaving my luxury apartment, in my high end car. It overlooked the highway and busy cars filled the streets at all hours of the night.

And every day I would think to myself... "I wish I could just jump off."

My life had become something that only looked beautiful on the outside. I continued the charade with my delightful smile and playful demeanor. (I mean... I couldn't let anyone know how I was really feeling. It was unpleasant.)

Day after day, my daydreams would get more vivid until I could see myself walking around the gate and sitting on the edge of the bridge. My fingers would tremble when I grabbed the rusted iron and pull myself up. I would cry and think about my family while looking down at the busy highway below until I could muster up enough strength to...

jump.

That wan't an easy time for me (and to be honest it's pretty difficult to admit now) but I know it's a reality for many people. 

I didn't understand why I was suffering or what my life had become. I was broke. I couldn't afford to feed myself. I was a slave to my bills.

I believed there was no way out. 

I tried talking to a psychologist because I wanted to talk to someone that wouldn't judge me. On the first visit, I felt like she was judging me. I walked though my painful story (the parts I don't tell my friends about). I fought back tears and choked on my words but I got everything out.

Afterwards, her first question to me was "Do you want to hurt your daughter?"

HOW IN THE WORLD DID YOU GET THAT FROM ANYTHING I SAID. #Facepalm

She continued. I smiled. I nodded.  (Mostly because I was paying for the full hour.) I left her office believing that I must be beyond help. 

This time in my life was difficult, but there were a few things that were actually helpful for me to regain my strength and want to live again.  

 

Disclaimer: I'm not a licensed therapist (or even close). I'm just someone sharing my story on the internet and hoping I help someone. If you feel you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

 

Call Your Friends

The only times I would get depressed (or feel like dying) would be when I was stuck in my head. I would spend my time scolding myself. 

"How could you be so stupid!" 

 

Other times, I was genuinely confused.

"How did you get here?" 

 

I felt helpless.

"You'll never get out of this."

 

I felt unworthy.

"You're too stupid. You're useless. You're lazy."

 

I started to call my friends whenever I got a second alone. Even if I was in tears, it was nice to hear a friendly voice to push out internal one. 

It was a distraction from my own thoughts but I believe it was the right way to go for me. 

 

Visit Family

Family has a way of making you feel warm inside - even if you don't know what to do with your life.

During that time, I had a standing date with my grandmother. I would go to my moms house every Sunday and my grandmother and I would find something to watch together. She'd make dinner and I'd sit with my her and watch whatever she'd chosen for that week. 

At one point, we found a series to enjoy together that came on Sunday nights so we'd spend time before and after the show speculating about what would happen next. 

In those times, I could only think about how much fun I was having - and how much I appreciated those moments with my grandmother. 

 

Take melatonin to fall asleep

Melatonin is a hormone that helps your body regulate sleep. (I stole this legit definition from WebMD. I, on the other hand, heard it on a podcast and was willing to try anything.)

Since I was so disappointed with my life, I would spend the entire night awake wondering how I could pull myself out of this rut. I would think about things I could create, jobs I could apply for, different things I could sell. 

Some nights I would get stuck in a negative cycle and spend the entire night crying. 

I would end up with very little sleep, maybe an hour or so, before it was time to start my next day. 

That's when I started to take melatonin. Any night I realized that my mind was racing or thinking negative thoughts, I would take the recommended dosage of melatonin. 

It would help me get to sleep at night so I could finally stop worrying. 

 

Find A goal to work Towards

At this point, I was used to constantly failing and having doors slammed in my face. I was convinced at that point I as a loser. I didn't have the confidence or intelligence to sustain a long term goal

I associated my identity with failure.

Parenting was one thing I hadn't failed at (at least not yet). Plus, I could easily make the decision to be a good parent any time.... and I didn't have to wait to see the results. 

I would cook a new meal.. and see my daughter's face light up. 

We could bake a cake together.. and I could watch her learn something new. 

We would do crafts together.. and I could see the pride in her eyes when she created something beautiful. 

Instead of using my energy to beat myself up, I could give what little energy I had to my daughter. 

 

Do everything with other people... EVERYTHING

I realized quickly that my trigger for negative thoughts and crying was being alone. For better or for worst, I love to present a positive outlook on life to the outer world and I used that tendency to my advantage. 

I first asked my mom if my little sister move in with me. With someone else in the house that I could talk to at any time, I rarely ever had to worry about my negative thoughts.

On the weekends, I would spend nights at friend's houses. I found a workout buddy to go to the gym with every night. 

When I was with people, I didn't think about my pain or how I let myself fall that low or how I'd always be a failure. I could only think about enjoying this moment with a friend.... and my good fortune to have friends that would be there when I needed them most. 

 

This is my story. That means these may not work for you. It was perfect for me to get through hell and come out on the other side victorious (and alive) during my lowest point in life. 

 

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.