January 11, 2011 | File under: Advice and Lessons • On the Job • Schooling
For people who enter law school to secure a job at a law firm, those three years are really just an extended interviewing process. At least the first two years are, as many people enter their third year with a job offer in hand. And law schools waste no time: the search for a job begins practically the moment one enters their first year. From then on, it’s a nonstop parade of career fairs, campus visits, cocktail parties and fancy meals.
Of these events, the wining and dining ones are particularly illuminating. You can learn a lot about the Big Law Firm life by observing people sipping glasses of fine wine and munching on expensive crudités.
November 30, 2010 | File under: Schooling • Society and Pressures
Zero money down! No interest for two years! We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us to “buy now, pay later.” The concept of living life on credit has become so accepted, and to some degree, encouraged, in society that many people rarely think twice about purchasing items they would not otherwise be able to afford without the assistance of Visa or American Express. And given that our economy largely depends upon the constant flow of consumer credit, borrowing money even for non-essential goods such as plasma TVs or luxury cars has lost much of its stigma as irresponsible personal finance. So it is no surprise young people willingly take on tens of thousands, or even close to two hundred thousand dollars, in educational debt without as much as a second thought. I mean, that’s a necessity, right? Everyone is entitled to an education! But assuming such a massive obligation with no certainty as to future income is a huge mistake.
Social acceptance of consumer debt is but one of several factors that encourage people to sign over many years of their life to credit companies. There are also the common beliefs that one must earn a college degree to acquire the skills for respected jobs, that college is a rite of passage that every young person deserves to experience, and many other pressures that provide easy encouragement to sign on the dotted line. The debtor mentality provides the perfect rationalization: everyone else is doing it, right?
What happened to saving for college? Some people still do it, but in addition to the challenge of saving an amount of money equal to rapidly rising education costs, there is also a disincentive to amassing substantial savings because doing so disqualifies one for financial aid. Colleges dole out grants, or free money, to students demonstrating financial need. Someone coming from a family with an income equal to that of a student qualifying for aid will not receive an equal benefit if that person’s family made sacrifices to establish a college fund that qualifies as an “asset.” The student with no savings may live among many consumer good luxuries and enjoy frequent expensive vacations, but with no money in sources that colleges measure when determining need, they have an advantage over the student with a college fund that is reflected on financial aid forms. Why try so hard to save when free grants and low-interest loans are so plentiful? Why forego the luxury goods that everyone else enjoys? If you’re going to borrow some, you might as well spare yourself the hassle of saving money and borrow it all, right? “Go big or go home” is the motto many live by.
November 15, 2010 | File under: Advice and Lessons • Schooling
I went to a top five law school. Are you impressed? Well, you should be, or so I was always led to believe. Growing up, I was always enamored with the idea of attending a prestigious school. Harvard, Yale, Princeton —- the names are just saturated with prestige and command instant respect. Primary education reinforces the belief that attending one of these sanctified institutions provides a free pass to career success. And with career success comes happiness. Or so the myth goes.
October 11, 2010 | File under: Advice and Lessons • Schooling
It’s easy to get an education for a traditional career. Want to be a lawyer? Three years of law school is all it takes. Recognizable job titles correspond to particular courses of study and often lead to employment with well-known institutions under a common job description —- engineer, teacher, etc. The educational system favors careers that can be neatly packed into a box and summarized in college catalogs. But if you want to forge a path of your own in a non-traditional or entrepreneurial line of work, it’s not easy to find guidance in school. School teaches you to stay inside the box.