Taking A Year Off From School? Learn These Life Lessons During Your Break

Posted on September 25, 2014 by:

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Out here, you can definitely learn a few things they don’t teach in a lecture hall.

Last summer, I dropped my son at the airport for a flight to Anchorage, Alaska to embark upon a journey thousands of miles away. With a job lined up at a hotel in Denali National Park that included room and board, he began a year seeking an “alternative form of education.”

That is, he quit school.


If you paused your formal education this semester, you could be on a valuable odyssey. Spending time in the “real world” will teach you some lessons—and my son certainly had his highs and lows. Still, if you asked him if this experience was worth it, the answer would be an emphatic, “Yes!”

If you’re taking some time off now or thinking about doing so in the future, consider doing the following to gain some perspective on your experience.

Meet People With Different Backgrounds

During his time off, my son met all kinds of people. Some were in their mid-40s, stuck in “is this all there is?”-type jobs, due to their lack of a college degree. Others were permanent seasonal workers, trading low wages for a certain lifestyle. Then there was the guy who sat on his front porch, shotgun ready, in case some unfortunate soul accidently stepped on his property.

Ultimately, the world outside a college campus is full of people who didn’t finish college or even get the chance to go—try to talk to them about their experiences. Some people were very quick to tell my son that going back to school was a good idea. (This made a stronger impression coming from them than me, even if they weren’t holding a shotgun at the time.)

Consider Online Classes

When my son came back down to the “lower 48” last fall (to continue his education in knee-deep Colorado powder), I offered to help with his rent, if he agreed to take a few inexpensive online classes. Ultimately, the lack of face-to-face contact with his professor and fellow students made it hard for him to stay engaged. This motivated him to get back to an actual campus.

Still, taking a few classes during your time off offers a number of benefits. You can not only chip away at your degree, but you’re also able to learn on your own timetable, while possibly keeping the one-time, 6-month grace period for your student loans intact.

Deal With Adversity

While snowboarding in Colorado, my son broke his elbow riding a rail. (He was very glad this happened at the end of the season.) Since he was budgeting on his own, he was already painfully aware of the need for gainful employment. This injury showed him just how hard earning money can be when the unexpected trip to the ER happens.

With one arm in a sling, his job delivering sandwiches proved to be challenging; he could barely drive with one hand, let alone manage a GPS, ring a doorbell, and juggle change—especially with an armful of turkey subs and Diet Coke. Fortunately, necessity being the mother of invention, he found short-term employment videotaping his friends, riding the same rail that put him into a cast. (Go figure.)

Obviously, you can’t make the “unexpected” happen. But if you get a chance to face it during your time off, you’ll be better for whatever life throws at you—during school and after.

Have A Plan

If you are thinking about quitting school for a while, come up with a plan. Start with finding out how your school will handle your leave of absence. Then, talk to your parents. You don’t have to map out every minute of your time off, but if you leave everything to chance, your odyssey will not be all it could be.

Be sure to prepare for your return to the classroom, too. My son returned to school with a 4-week intensive program. Going from a part-time, online school to a fast-paced program was a total shock to his system. He managed to memorize 100 Latin plant names and everything else they tested him on, but it was clearly not easy to reintegrate as a full-time student.

With a little planning, this experience could be a life changing, alternative education. And it just may really stand out on your résumé someday.

Did you take a year off from college? What were some key things you learned that you couldn’t have been taught in a classroom?

(Photo: Nic McPhee)

“My MBA Has Influenced My Career Far More Than My Education Degree”

Posted on September 22, 2014 by:

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“If you don’t have a particular career path in mind, hold off on applying to grad schools.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? These are tough things to figure out—and, often, your first answer may not end up being the correct one.

Aaron Weber spoke with someone who dealt with her own shifting career goals. This person went from academic administration to marketing management, picking up two master’s degrees along the way. Check out what she had to say about her educational path and what it did for her career.


So, you’ve got a master’s degree?

Two, actually.

I have a degree in education management and also an MBA. The first one was practically free, because I was working at the university where I studied, and you could take a free class or so every semester. I learned a lot, but it didn’t bring me the career advancement I wanted. I thought about extending that into a Ph.D., but my university didn’t offer one, and a Ph.D. doesn’t include the business and finance skills that I wanted to build.

Instead, I pursued an MBA.

How’d you choose the school?

I wanted a smaller program, with a strong network of alumni in my city. I paid for about half with a scholarship and half with federal student loans. For the whole thing, it came out to about $20,000 for me and $20,000 in scholarships.

Did the MBA do more for your career?

My MBA has influenced my career far more than my education degree. While I had previously only worked in colleges, I interned at a financial services company during my time in school and moved on to marketing management in high tech after graduation. Post-graduation, my salary rose about 50%, which helped a lot in paying down my student loans, including the leftover ones from my undergraduate degree.

I also chose to pursue an MBA because it can apply to many roles across multiple industries. I learned project management, how to manage other people as well as function as a productive member of a team, financial forecasting and budgeting, operations management, all in addition to marketing, which is what I’m doing now. As a package, all of those things work together—and give me a holistic perspective of how my company functions.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known before you started?

If you’re thinking of pursuing a graduate degree, I’d recommend considering what you want to do in your career. You have to ask yourself, “Do I want to do something specific, or leave my options open?”

If you want to specialize, you should look for a program accordingly. Look for scholarships and paid internships, and make sure you know what you need to learn from the program to be successful in a job. That’s often different from what it takes to just get good grades.

If you don’t have a particular career path in mind, hold off on applying to grad schools. Take some time to work at the entry level and consider what you like or don’t like about the job. Ask higher-ups about career paths—most people love to talk about that kind of stuff.

For example, if you work in a doctor’s office and really enjoy that organizational vibe, then you might want to pursue a degree in hospital administration. But also consider other things you like about it that might be found in another industry. Maybe you like helping people and want to pursue social work instead. Maybe you’d do best in HR or recruiting, helping people find jobs and build careers. A lot of industries use the skills you have or will develop, in different ways.

What I mean is that you need to think about the difference between industry and function—and how that overlaps. If you like fashion and are good at math, would you be willing to be an accountant for a fashion label? You can work in video games without being a designer or programmer—every industry has HR, finance, marketing, and IT departments.

Regardless, you need transferrable skills. Right now, I work for a company that sells software to big businesses. But if I had to, I could sell banking, or medicine, or real estate, or almost anything else. It would be a stretch, and I like the job I have already. But if I had to, I could make another transition, and knowing that makes me feel a lot more secure.

How has your career path shifted? Did getting an advanced degree help or hurt it? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

How To Find Your Ideal Apartment On A Budget

Posted on August 18, 2014 by:

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Three windows facing New York City skyscraper and buildings

Wanted: room with a view, no broker fee.

Moving is always a pain. Doesn’t matter where you are. The fees, the packing, the sacrifices—they can scar a person. In NYC, though, moving is pretty much even worse. The rents keep going up, there’s a shortage of good places, and no space to put your stuff.

During my original move to the city, I fell into an apartment that a friend of a friend recommended. Now, going into my second year, I’ve taken a more hands-on approach. I am on a mission to find the perfect place—on a budget of course. If you’re starting your apartment search, here are a few tips I’ve learned to help you get your ideal spot.


“Find What You Love In An Apartment And Let It Kill You”

OK, maybe I butchered that Bukowski quote, but you get the gist.

What do you want in an apartment (other than good looks, a nice sense of humor, and brains)? Is it windows? A dishwasher? A nice location? Close to nightlife? Find the one thing that you can’t live without and make sure you get it. Don’t get distracted by other amenities that you could live without in the long run. Be strong and firm with what you want, and let the real estate agent and your future roomies know.

My priority looking for apartments is that every room has a window. I can sacrifice location, and even that dishwasher, as long as I get some air flowing.

Befriend Your Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents have their own priority: They need to make the sale. The more I talk to them, the more I realize that the client they’re most likely to help is the one who will sign a lease fast.

However, after chatting with about 15 real estate agents in the past few weeks, I’ve started to stick to a few—mostly the ones who were polite and didn’t blow me off when I told them my budget. The more I talk to them, the more they get to know me; the more they get to know me, the more they get a sense of me.

After showing me a few apartments that I didn’t like, the agents are now presenting me with more ideal options. They are starting to see what I want, and they know how I could get it. This won’t happen if you don’t stick it out, work with your real estate agent, and see the process through.

Watch Out For Extra Fees

Moving requires a lot of money up front. It usually goes first month, last month, and security. But some apartments have a broker fee, too. I had no idea these existed until I found a great apartment—then found out I’d have to pay 12% of a year’s rent up front to land it. I didn’t want it THAT much.

I’ve found a couple ways to avoid such fees (other than telling your real estate agent that you are not going to look at apartments that have a broker’s fee). First, look at apartments by owners. Second, move mid-month or in a non-peak month. For example, one agent told me that if I moved mid-August, I wouldn’t have to pay the fee. However, if I waited until September, the fee was going to be there and rent was going up. Yikes.


In the end, I’m going with the place that as soon as I walk in, I feel like I could make it my home. And in this crazy city, a place to go back to and center yourself can go a long way.

Got any moving experiences to share? Any tips on how to lower your rent?

(Photo: Wikimedia)

How To Survive Life At Home With Your Parents

Posted on July 10, 2014 by:

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baby with shirt that says "still living with my parents"

Living at home with your parents isn’t quite as cute as when you were younger.

Living with college roommates is tough. However, living with roommates who happen to be middle-aged and have given birth to you isn’t any easier.

This summer, I moved home after graduation. Living with my parents definitely has its perks: home-cooked meals, a live-in cleaning service, and luxuries I’d never be able to afford on my own (hello, 56’’ flat-screen plasma.)

However, being yelled at to “clean my room” 15 times a day, a curfew, and endless reruns of Lifetime movies also makes me feel like doing this on occasion.


If you’re struggling to get through a summer (or, *gasp,* a longer period of time) at home, check out these three tips. They not only might help you survive until you move out, but they also help convince your parents you’re a mature adult (*double gasp*).

1. Help Out When You Can

My parents never ask me for help with chores. However, after a few servings of cold shoulder at the dinner table, I finally realized that they just expect it. Since they’re basically letting me freeload, pitching in here and there doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

After all, if you’re a millennial like me, your parents may be getting up there in years. They can’t quite bring in the groceries as quickly as they used to, and house cleaning might take an entire day instead of a few hours. So, even though they’ll probably never ask for help around the house, give it to them anyway.

2. Clean Up After Yourself

Your parents will throw away your dirty stuff if provoked. There are no roommate problem resolution meetings with them. I learned this the hard way when my mom evicted some clothes that had taken up residence on my bedroom floor for a few weeks. (My mother is a sweet, ruthless woman.) But, hey, I get it.

Our parents have been cleaning up our messes (of all varieties, I might add) since the day they brought us home from the hospital. So, understandably, they may not be too happy when they see dirty clothes strewn around the floor, dirty pans in the sink, or really, dirty anything anywhere.

That stuff was OK in your college apartment, but not in Mommy and Daddy’s house.

3. Give Them Their Space

Your parents might not have immediately repurposed your bedroom for a hot tub, but after their initial tears, your folks were pretty psyched when you moved out for college. They reverted to their once glorious, childless social lives, and for the first time in a long time, they were probably fully enjoying themselves.

Then, like a human boomerang, you came back to them.

They’re probably pumped about this, because, you know, you’re their child and all. Still, a part of them might feel like this. So, just like you don’t want Mom and Dad ruining your social life, make sure you don’t infringe on theirs either. This past week, my parents went to a John Legend concert, and I stayed home and watched a movie. If that’s not role reversal, I don’t know what is.

Any more tips for surviving post-grad life with the parents? Let me know in the comments!

(Photo: neilcads)

How To Deal With All Your College Graduation Feelings

Posted on June 11, 2014 by:

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Girl making face at graduation.

Graduation is a blur. Enjoy the ride, but don’t bottle up your feelings!

A couple weeks ago, I walked across a stage, shook hands with a bunch of people in funny outfits, and received my diploma from Tufts University.

I felt nothing during the entire ceremony. No tears, no laughs, no gushing excitement or sickening nervousness. It felt like somebody put me on autopilot for the entire thing. Then, 6 hours later, alone in my empty apartment room, I bawled my eyes out.


College graduation is an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. Now that I’m slightly removed from it, I can look back at all the different feels of the occasion—and offer tips for future grads about how to cope.

And if you graduated with me, I’m sure you’re still figuring out these emotions, as I am. Hopefully, sharing our experiences will help with that too!

Before The Ceremony

The days leading up to graduation tend to be emotion-ridden. You’ll likely have that one friend who loves to remind you that this is the last time you’ll go out together, the last meal you’ll eat in a dining hall, the last time you’ll be in the same city …

That person bludgeons you with the word “last” so much that you can’t do anything without thinking about how everything is ending. While I’m sure you love him or her, tell them to shut up. Hug after you do it, but make them stop scrapbooking every second.

Treasure your last few days at school, but don’t think about how they’re the last few days; that will take away from the enjoyment they provide. You’ve spent years planning for your future—live in this moment right now.

During the Ceremony

Reasons you may not cry or gush during your commencement ceremony:

  • You will be sitting in the same chair for a very long time.
  • You will be wearing a long black gown, and it might be very hot outside.
  • Your commencement speaker might not say anything that resonates with you.
  • The combined stress of mobilizing family members, being at the right place at the right time, and not tripping on stage might eat up all of your available emotional energy.

Reasons you may cry and/or gush during your commencement ceremony:

  • You are the first person in your family to sit through one of these.
  • Your family started crying first.
  • You realize how much you’re going to miss this place.
  • You are still wearing a long black robe, and it is still hot outside.

Feelings during commencement vary from numb to overwhelmed. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, though, remember that this is a celebration. You survived college. If you’re crying, make sure they’re tears of joy: don’t be sad on your big day.

After The Ceremony

This is what killed me. After all the pomp, the circumstance got to me. The ceremony ended, the family left, and I found myself alone in a half-empty apartment. I think I had to be by myself for reality to set in.

I realized I had come to the end of a huge chapter in my life. The path from high school to college wasn’t easy, but it was more or less laid out for me. It was what I (and every other college senior) was “supposed” to do. I didn’t question that.

From here, though, it’s all up to us. There are a million different paths to success, and we can go down any one (or five) that we choose. The sheer potential both excites and terrifies me. I’m sure it does the same to you, too.

If college taught me one thing, though, it’s to not fear the unknown. After you’ve said your goodbyes, know that you’re moving into uncharted territory. Life won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, but it will be entirely your own. That, I think, is worth smiling about.

New grads: How are you feeling post-graduation?

(Photo: meegsnm)

A Parent’s Take On The “Worst” Graduation Advice From Parents

Posted on May 7, 2014 by:

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Baby covering her ears and yelling.

Does all this well-meaning advice at graduation time make you feel like covering your ears?

When it comes to new college grads, my generation is always good for passing along well-intended—but possibly less than stellar—advice (as Sasha pointed out last week).

I found Sasha’s post intriguing, not only because I’m a parent of college students who will eventually don a cap and gown, but also because I’ve hired interns. So, at the risk of providing even more unasked-for advice, here’s my two cents on the “worst advice” people told her.


1. “You don’t have a job yet? Better get ready to work at McDonald’s forever.”

This is not a happy thought for most college graduates, unless of course, you are a rising star in the hospitality field and land a great job at McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago. I’ve personally attended a seminar at Hamburger U, and I have to tell you, Micky D’s is a well-run outfit.

But as a new college grad, a position as chief McMuffin maker may not sound ideal. However, keep in mind that it might give you a flexible schedule—and a discounted dining option—while you seek a more suitable job.

This, I know from experience. Back in the day, I had my own job making French fries and milk shakes for the golden arches. (It was my first job ever; duration, 2 long months.) Let’s just say, my stint there motivated me to seek other employment pastures.

2. “Always wear business slacks and a blazer to job interviews.”

Sasha’s mom imparted conventional wisdom, and depending on the industry, she’s right.

I agree with Sasha’s assessment about “culture fit,” but you usually won’t lose points if you slightly overdress. Even companies with a blue-jeans culture expect interview attire to be one notch above the norm. This goes for women and men alike.

But, yes, no yoga pants—even if interviewing for a job as a yoga master!

3. “No one ever likes their first job—prepare to pay your dues.”

What’s not to like about getting your first paycheck?? While you may not absolutely love your first job, you will hopefully discover it as a growth opportunity.

I’d say: “No one ever knows what their first good job could lead to—prepare to stay for at least 2 years.” This was some of the best advice I got when I was a newly minted MBA, getting offered a spot at the low end of the pay scale—but at an awesome company.

Yes, I paid my dues, but I also managed to climb the proverbial ladder. You owe it to yourself and your new employer to commit to your job. Two years is respectable. When you eventually leave (if you do), you will have had a rich experience to build upon.

4. “Now’s the time to be truly independent.”

Being able to support yourself financially is something I will preach all day long to my kids. However, financial independence is a relative thing—and, realistically, it may come in installments.

In today’s world, with 25 year olds able to stay on their parents’ medical plans, and cell companies selling more affordable friends and family plans, it is not always prudent to become truly independent right away. Instead, set up a plan to gradually take on more of your monthly expenses, as your wages improve.

5. “Everything will sort itself out with your loans. Don’t worry about it.”

I agree—bad advice!

Any obsessive worry can make you crazy, but Sasha is totally right; your loans do not sort themselves out. Luckily, there is plenty of help for that on SALT™!

Any great or horrible advice you got around the time of your graduation? Tell us in the comments.

(Photo: Melissa Gutierrez)

Grad School, Careers, And Children: One Mom’s Decision

Posted on March 21, 2014 by:

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Working mom

It’s all about finding a balance.

Aaron Weber doesn’t know much about babies, so he asked an expert. Amy K. is a user experience designer and mother of two who faced career issues after starting a family and is thinking about going back to graduate school. After the kids were in bed, she talked with Aaron about the decision.


AW: How old are the kids now?

AK: My boys are 10 and 6, which means they’re on a more regular school schedule. But at this age, they need me even more than they did when they were younger—I have to manage schedules, coordinate babysitting, make sure they’re safe, make sure their homework is done. Any job I take has to be worth being away from those two kids for at least 40 hours each week. And even with adequate afterschool care, they only have one mom, so if there’s an emergency, I’m the one on call.

It’s a huge commitment, obviously.

That’s part of why I left my previous job, actually; it was just too far away. If something went wrong, or a kid got sick and needed to be picked up and taken home, I was 45 minutes away. Getting them to school on time made me late to work more often than not. I felt like every time there was a childcare problem, I was losing face at work. Even working from home wasn’t much help.

My employer was very understanding, but I didn’t like needing to sacrifice family time for work, or vice versa. I loved that job and the people I worked with, but it wasn’t worth the sacrifice.

The place I work now is just a few minutes away, and it makes all the logistics much simpler. I can take the kids to school and get to work by 9:00 a.m. If there’s an emergency, I can drop everything and come back to the office when it’s resolved. And I’m home for dinner and homework help every day. Cutting down that commute has made a huge change in my family life.

And that’s made it possible to consider graduate school?

Definitely. My employer has an education benefits package, so they’ll pay for a significant part of the cost, which definitely helps.

But even if they didn’t, a master’s degree in human factors would help to fill in the blanks in theory behind the work that I’ve been doing for the last 15 years. Many of the techniques taught today were actually developed by cognitive psychologists and computer scientists at DEC and IBM in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Going to school will help me understand why those methods lasted when other aspects of technology have changed so much.

Some of the topics I already know pretty well, like information architecture or usability testing. But in other areas, like design team management, I really need to improve, and having those skills will definitely be part of moving forward in my career.

How will you balance it with your family?

If I’m able to start next September, I’ll go as the kids head back to school. Most of my classes will be in the evening, so I will be missing some dinners with the kids, but not more than a couple times a week. And we can all do our homework together.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s still hard to balance everything, but I’m going to continue to try.

Do you have any advice for juggling family, work, and education? Share some tips!

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gilz99/3500810435/)

Answering Those Wonderful Parental Questions In Post-Grad Life

Posted on January 17, 2014 by:

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Carmen and her family

A gaggle of “geese.”

So far, becoming an adult has entailed dealing with a series of obstacles like, “How does one make rent again?” Oh, and, “Am I already facing a life crisis?”

I figured out those answers for the time being, but some questions I just don’t have any answers to yet. Some questions I never even asked myself before. These often come from my older family members—especially when talking about my post-grad life.


Explaining my career to my parents and family members has been harder than I thought. Apparently, “freelance” is not an easy idea to grasp.

My parents, being from the baby boomer generation, are used to structured careers, such as engineering or medicine. They understand working for a set company, with set hours, in a set location. As a result, they have a hard time getting the entertainment industry that I ventured into.

It’s interesting when they ask me where I’m spending my next birthday. It could be anywhere, honestly.

“What’s Your Career Path?”

I understand where my parents concern comes from. After all, I also have a hard time understanding what my next career move is.

During a recent phone conversation, I told my mom about a promotion I just received to an associate producer position. While she was happy for me, I noticed her confusion as to what exactly it is that I do. I explained the production process. Her response: “¿Pero para qué?” (“But, for what?”). So, I explained the final product: a TV show. And how I help put it together after it’s been shot.

I think she understood, but really, as long as I have enough to eat, she approves. Still, this inability to communicate with her made me question why I spend 50 hours in a post-production studio.

“So, What Is Your Life Purpose Then?”

When my family asks me “life purpose” questions, I get caught off guard. I tell them I don’t know what the future holds. But I also begin to acknowledge how amazing it is to be in this moment of my life.

I also don’t begrudge them for worrying so much and asking me such things. Keeping them in the loop has made me stronger in my process of life/career discovery. I don’t know if this is growing up, but I do know that I want to make them proud. I have to keep them confident that they raised me to be a good person.

In the end, a simple group message, email, or a call to the family never hurts—no matter what questions they unleash on me. In my 20s, I want to keep the best support system I have: my family. Who knows, they might be enough to keep me motivated and reach that next promotion sooner rather than later.

How do you answer those tough questions from your parents?

Grad School In My Late 30s: “The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done For My Career”

Posted on September 27, 2013 by:

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david b. riding in car

It’s been an interesting ride for David since graduating from college in 1990.

Everyone follows their own path for education, and some paths take more twists and turns than others. Not sure where your education is taking you? It can help to see how things went for other people who have been there.

When David B. was in high school, he wasn’t sure he’d go to college at all. Spoiler: He did, but it took a long time. When he was 38, he went back for more, and got a master’s degree. More than a few years after that, he shared his experience with Aaron Weber.


AW: So, what’s your academic story?

DB: I barely finished high school. I was in and out of community college for about 4 years until I was able to transfer to a 4-year college, where I floundered around for way too long trying this major or that major before I just ran out of money and had to quit.

Almost 10 years later, I went back to finish my BA. I enrolled at UC-Irvine and picked the major that would get me graduated as quickly as possible, which turned out to be social sciences.

I was lucky to graduate into a strong economy, and I had some design sense and computer skills, so I wound up as a graphic designer. I found work at the University of Southern California, which meant I got to take steeply discounted graduate-level classes. There, I discovered more or less by accident that RIT, way over in Rochester, NY, had an MS program in graphic arts and printing. At that time, it was the only program of its kind in the country.

I applied on a whim and got in.

How’d you pay for grad school?

I was 38 when I started, and I moved to Rochester from Los Angeles a year in advance to settle in, get a job, and save some money. It was important to me to work the whole time—not just so I could pay for it, but so I could practice what I was learning.

I paid for it by cashing in my meager 403(b) from USC, taking out a regular student loan, and borrowing some money from a friend. At the time, I still had undergrad student loan debt, which I deferred while in grad school. I managed to pay the whole sum off in about 5 or 6 years, partly through selling my house.

How did it work out for you?

The degree has definitely been the best thing I’ve ever done for my career. I work in print training and machinery management now—helping people set up and operate their giant industrial presses and so forth. These days, it’s a shrinking profession, and having the degree definitely has helped me stand out.

Right now, I’m 51. If I didn’t have this degree, I’d probably be a press operator looking over my shoulder and worrying about layoffs. It was a huge risk to move across the country to study when I was already pushing 40, but it went really well for me and I’m glad I did it.

Any parting words for younger folks leaving college today?

I’m so sorry that you are entering your working years in such a terrible economy. Take whatever work you can get that is within your threshold of dignity, but never below it. Save your money. Be kind and support each other. Do not suffer fools or whiners.

Did you go back to grad school later on in life? Share how it went for you in the comments.

How To Deal With Worst-Case Scenarios When Moving

Posted on September 11, 2013 by:

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Cute mouse

Sure, this guy looks cute, but maybe not so much if you found him sleeping in your bed.

I have moved enough times that I’ve encountered my fair share of moving dramas—probably more than any human being should. Moving is always stressful, unless you have the money to pay a crew to do everything, including packing, boxing, moving, and lifting. But even if you do, there’s a lot that can still go wrong.

I moved on September 1, and a lot did go wrong. Like, worst-case scenario “wrong.” If you face any of the problems I did, here’s how I dealt with them.


Problem 1: It’s Pouring Rain On Move-In Day

This actually isn’t the worst thing ever. Just have something on hand to wipe up slick staircases, and drape a good tarp over any furniture that could be ruined while it’s outside.

If you can, wait for the rain to pass. Since we were in a hurry, the rain actually helped us. It left us almost feeling a bit refreshed while loading stuff in and out of the truck, and since it was September 1, we also avoided some of the traffic caused by the people who waited out the storm.

Problem 2: The Previous Tenants Haven’t Moved Their Stuff Out Yet

Contact your landlord or property management to see what’s up—they’re supposed to have gotten everything out before you move in. In our case, we had to rotate with the old tenant, taking turns on the stairs.

Unfortunately, they left a giant pile of trash and discarded furniture behind. On the plus side, we found some treasures within it worth keeping.

Problem 3: Your Landlord’s Maintenance Crew Is Irresponsible

We shoved the last tenants’ trash into a corner and called maintenance to haul it away. Unfortunately, they also hauled away some of our nice stuff that was somewhat near the trash. Even more unfortunately, they left both our doors unlocked when nobody was home—the front door was actually wide open when my housemate came home. We stupidly didn’t check the back door, and my laptop got stolen 2 days later. I hadn’t signed up for renters insurance yet, so I think I’m out of luck.


Problem 4: Your New House Has A Severe Pest Problem, Such As Mice, Bedbugs, Or Roaches

Fortunately, this didn’t happen on this move (well, we have seen two baby roaches so far …), but I’ve experienced much worse before.

In college, my first off-campus apartment had a disgusting, severe mouse problem. They chewed holes through my clothing, and my roommate found one in her bed. Similarly, last winter I moved into a room infested with bedbugs—or something that bit me 15+ times the first night I slept there.

Here in Massachusetts, if there are two or more apartments in the building, then it is your landlord’s legal responsibility to take care of proper pest removal. Check your state laws. Report it to the city if the landlord doesn’t take action in a reasonable amount of time.

In both cases, the problem was bad enough that I chose to break the lease instead of continuing to deal with a landlord that did not address my issues. I chose to avoid the problems rather than exercise my tenant rights. If it happens again, I will probably take the latter course of action.


If you just moved into a new home that wasn’t clean or had a few broken cabinets, I bet I just made you feel a lot better. Actually, I’m in pretty good spirits myself. I really love my new apartment, and I’m not that sad about my computer. It’s just a material thing, I guess.

In spite of everything, moving this year was (in some ways) much better than other years …

What moving troubles have you encountered? Let us know how you handled them in the comments.

This document was prepared for informational purposes only and is not meant to be legal advice. Please see your legal professional for additional guidance.

(Photo: _ac99)