Deserting An Expensive Dream & Moving Back Home

Hi Judge Josh,

I love your website and read the articles almost every day. Not only are they fun to read, but they’re interesting and almost always relate directly to some part of my college questions.


If you have the time, I desperately need some advice (like everyone else):

I’m graduating from USC in 1 year with a degree in Cinema-Television Production. I tunnel-visioned on ‘SC since I was 12, and everyone from my small town wanted to see me go and achieve something big. I took a summer course there in high school and absolutely loved it. With all that support and excitement when I finally got in, I couldn’t say no. I turned down every UC, and a free ride to a state college in my hometown.

I hear ya. There’s an irresistible allure to the feeling of “going off to the big city” or what have you and making a name not only for yourself, but also for the little old place you came from.

It can feel really good, but in my experience, it also intensifies the pressure you’re probably already putting on yourself to do well. And when you’re struggling in some way, you find that you’re not only afraid of messing up your own career and life, but also letting everyone down back home. At least, if you’re like me. 🙂

Union rules -- can't work until the catered lunch is set up.

I’ve worked 10-40 hours a week since freshman year to pay for U$C, sacrificing the social life my affluent classmates take for granted. My parents and grandparents have graciously helped me with rent. I have taken all kinds of film classes, have twice interned for world-class production companies, and got to meet and talk with just about every famous filmmaker imaginable.

That’s outstanding. Hey, at least you’ve been sucking up all the knowledge and experience you can while you’re there.

However, I will have $1200 due each month in loans when I graduate.

That’s not outstanding. Ouch. I hope that’s on the standard 10-year payback.

I’m more mature, frugal, curious, and appreciative, (thankfully) than I was when I was 18, BECAUSE I’ve had the opportunity to live in a big city and go to a top university. But – my thoughts now are on paying off student loans the responsible way, and finding a standard of living I really enjoy.

I’m not sure what you refer to when you say you want to pay off your student loans “the responsible way” — you either pay them off or you don’t. 🙂 However, if you happen to be referring to the standard 10-year payoff plan vs. the more lenient payment plans, let me ask that you please consider those more lenient plans. $1,200 per month is going to be ROUGH regardless of what you do for a living.

The graduated and extended repayment plans let you stretch your repayment period to anywhere between 12 and 30 years. Yes, you will pay more interest in the long run, but at least that’s doable. Paying $1,200 per month for 10 years simply may not be.

Although I love my SCHOOL, I am sick of living in run-down apartments with 5 roommates and never having money for food/laundry/books/etc. I am chronically ill because the demands of filmmaking are too physically strenuous and time-consuming for me. Also, I do not want to live in LA. When I graduate, I do not want to work 16-hour days as an on-set grunt, hoping one day someone will notice me and make me famous.

Can’t blame you for any of that.

I never wanted to be a “famous director,” or whatever – I wanted to work in film or television, and I wanted the education that goes along with it. I thought I wanted to live in LA, but after having lived there for 3 years, I know I just can’t. Mostly, I cannot stand the thought of working odd/unpaid jobs as a grunt laborer on set with people who didn’t even go to college, when I have a pricey degree that could be put toward so much more.

Can’t blame you for any of that, either.

So, I feel like things could fall together: I am minoring in psychology, and I absolutely love it. Psychology is my other huge interest, and I’d like to work toward getting a doctoral degree. By the time I graduate I’ll have all the course prerequisites needed to go to grad school for a PsyD.

Well, let me stop you right there and play devil’s advocate with you, if for no other reason than to flesh out your reasoning. You have a minor in psychology — at USC, that’s six courses. That’s not very many courses from which to base a giant leap into the great abyss of “I want a doctorate!” To me, that’s analogous to going cliff-jumping with your friends at a nearby lake and immediately thereafter announcing your intent to shoot for a spot on the Olympic diving team. 🙂

However, it’s a perfectly fine amount of courses from which to hop into the, “I’d like to pursue psychology further” realm. For example, the bachelor’s in psych at USC is only 11 courses — five more than what you’re already going to have with the minor. Seems like you might be able to swing a bachelor’s in psychology, then, with maybe a hard summer schedule plus another one in the fall?

I recommend it, just because it gradually inches you into the field and gives you more opportunity to discover whether you’re going to be interested in it for the long haul. If you are, then great, but if not, at least you can duck out before entering the long slog toward a doctorate.

As far as I am concerned, I can move home with my parents, work at a TV station or something, and put money that would go to rent toward my student loans. I’ll have my own room, food, a working laundry machine, and can be with my family.

Hey, I’m game if you and your folks are. That’s another reason, though, perhaps, for grabbing the bachelor’s in psychology — you’ll have more employment options than a TV station gig (I don’t know what exactly you’d plan on doing there, but I assume it’s on the technical/production side). A bachelor’s in psych is sort of like a bachelor’s in English — there aren’t too many professions that actually require it, but there are tons of jobs across a wide number of disciplines/industries out there for which that bachelor’s degree is a perfectly acceptable prerequisite.

I can still keep my connections in LA (3 hours away) and pursue filmmaking in my free time if I want to.

Yeah, that’s another thing I was going to mention. You know this as well as I do if you’ve been in film school for the last three years, but the whole filmmaking business (and any business involving video production on any level) has changed a great deal in the last 10 years. The walls surrounding production have really begin to crumble, thanks to ever-more-sophisticated hardware (e.g., Flip HD cameras) and software (open-source and cheap video-editing applications). And of course, the distribution walls crumbled once the Internet was born, and even more so after YouTube became big.

My point is, if you’re good at what you do, you probably don’t NEED proximity to all your L.A. connections in order to do some filmmaking if you want to. And Internet video is exploding all over the place right now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you could carve out some video consulting/production work on the side if you wanted to.

I can work at a news station in Central California or something like that, and save money for 4 years till I can afford to begin a $100,000 PsyD. (I should be able to work, also, while I go to grad school).

I want to be a clinical psychologist and study effects of media on society, and contribute to media programs that need psychologists, rather than just being “a filmmaker” like I thought I wanted 3 years ago.

Well, let me point out a couple of things. I think the most likely outcome is that you’ll be doing one or the other — clinical psychology OR research. Both can certainly be full-time gigs. If you’re seeing a full slate of patients in a clinical setting (and your massive student loan payments will incentivize you to do exactly this — the more patients you see, the more money you make), the less time you’ll have to take on major research projects.

And remember, a clinical practice probably isn’t going to front you giant amounts of time and money to do independent research the way a university will. Then again, if you work as a full-time university professor with tons of time to research, then you likely won’t have the time or freedom to do a lot of clinical work, either.

And another thing about wanting to research the effects of media on society: understand that this is a topic that thousands of Ph.Ds have studied, studied, and studied to death, and published more papers and theses and dissertations about that you can probably imagine. And it isn’t just the psych Ph.Ds that have done it — communications, media and journalism types have done reams and reams of it as well.

Does this mean there’s nothing left to be studied? No — people will keep studying and publishing on the topic, for sure. I just want to point out, though, that to be successful in a research setting, you’re going to have to take the topic and go in a NEW, different and intriguing direction with it. No one will pay you (for very long, anyway) to do research that confirms what other researchers established years ago.

Now, back to the clinical business, let me get one more jab in for my incremental approach vs. your balls-out-for-a-doctorate approach. If the clinical setting is what ends up agreeing with you more than the research side, then you can take the additional middle-ground step of getting a master’s. An MFT (master’s in family therapy) or an MSW or a Master’s in Counseling, even, is something that you complete in a relatively short amount of time (read: it’s a shitload cheaper than a doctorate), and it opens all those doors to new, clinical-setting jobs right away.

So, you could start actually pulling in some decent money as a psychologist/counselor/whatever, pay those student loans down, and THEN, if you wanted to, get your doctorate incrementally if you still find that you want it.

Isn’t it okay to modify my “dreams” a little? Or is this totally ridiculous and naive?

Oh God, not only is it OK — it’s completely normal (remember “Everyone’s On Plan C“?). Our challenge with you here today is to try and stop you from a) living a life that makes you miserable while you steer your ship toward a different harbor, and b) not leave you utterly ravaged by debt before you get there.

My dad is cool with this, but my mom is going ballistic, which makes my dad upset too. She thinks I should graduate, pound the pavement for an entry-level LA job, and stay there till I “make it big.” I don’t WANT to “make it big,” and that is such an unrealistic goal anyway. I want to live at home for a few years, save every penny, NOT throw money away on LA rent, chip away at my student loans and go to grad school when the time is right. Besides, I can always go back to LA and look for a job if I change my mind.

Well, I can definitely understand how your mom feels, depending on how much of the bill she and your dad have footed for your college. I have a daughter, and though she’s only 5, I can imagine how I’d feel after spending many tens of thousands on a very specific degree only to find out she wasn’t going to use it.

However, that doesn’t make her right in insisting you live your one life in pursuit of something that no longer interests you. Shit happens. Some mistakes are more expensive than others, but you’ve gotta cut your losses sometime. There’s not really much more to say about it than that (unless it’s your mom, who probably would say a lot more about it).

However, one thing your mom and dad certainly can have some say about is the whole living-at-home part. It’s their house, and they certainly have the right to say yes or no to that. And they definitely have the right to charge you some rent and expenses if they do let you come back.

This is largely a personal thing between you and them, of course. Many parents these days are elated to have their adult children come back home for unexpected extra time, for as long as they want. These parents are more common today than ever before.

Others think it’s ridiculous. It’s one thing if a tornado wrecks your house and you need to place to sleep for a few weeks; it’s another thing altogether, they say, to assume that a years-long free ride at your parents’ house is something that should available to you whenever you want to ride out a career shift.

That whole thing is pretty much up to you and your folks to iron out. 🙂

Should I live a life of misery in a city I don’t like, working grunt film jobs in hopes I’ll move up, or stay at home and work so I can put my degree to a higher use by going to grad school later? Thank you so much for your time.


You’re welcome. If there’s one thing I’m unilaterally against, it’s misery. 🙂 I think my fingers are about to fall off here, so I throw you to the crowd, Kathryn. What do you guys think she should do? Move home, stay in L.A., get a doctorate, be a gaffer or a key grip? Let us know in the comments below.

25 thoughts on “Deserting An Expensive Dream & Moving Back Home”

  1. Not sure why the poster above started yelling, I think rational discussion can take place here, so anyway, I have to say that the value of an education is great, and with $1200 a month payments, perhaps some thought being applied to this a little earlier would have been appropriate. $1200 a month? a lot of people starting out are lucky to make that kind of income. And don’t laugh at that statement. It is true. Living at home would be about the only way you COULD make it and make that sort of payment. I can understand mom’s reaction to. Why should she tow the bill for you to stay at home rent free .. When you are the one that ran up the bill and then want to run up a bigger one by going to school for how many more years? Are you absolutely sure that this is not another pipe dream like the first one? What if you get a year away from graduating on the Psych thing and decide you don’t want to do that either? Now you have another $1500 a month loan payment and need to stay at home again for a few more years…. And if you were to want to get married, what man in his right mind would want to take on someone that has a $1200 and $1500 a month payments which have to be paid? I have to wonder if any of these colleges teach objective reasoning. Can you switch to something that will be a little easier and take less college time? By the time all is said and done, how long will you have been in college for? 8 to 10 years? Maybe you are thinking by the time you graduate the second choice you’ll just be finishing paying off the first choice, I suppose that could be a plan for sure. I don’t know, this is a tough one, but I’d say it’s not real fair to mom and dad. Obviously you are a daddy’s girl and mom has the head of objective reasoning here. She probably can appreciate the value of a $ more. LA is not exactly the cheapest place to live either. Maybe you should take some time off and decide what you really want instead of reaching for something you think you might want. If I were mom, I’d be wondering if you really were absolutely sure. You wanted the first choice since you were 12 you said…. now, after all that, you don’t. I understand mom completely. If you can afford to pay your $1200 a month payment and have money left over, offer a small rent payment to your mom, that is only fair.

  2. I think Josh is right on many levels (again). I’m enrolling in a PsyD program this fall to change my career, so it is possible to switch to psychology. However, I need to point out some inconsistencies and misunderstandings in some of what others have posted. There are two kinds of doctoral programs in clinical psychology: a traditional PhD and a PsyD. These are not the same doctorate and have different requirements by design.

    Without going into the history of these two models, a PhD in clinical psychology is the more traditional doctorate, which is based on a scientist-practitioner model. Those who get PhDs in clinical psychology spend hours (yes, 18 hr days are not uncommon, and it’s very, very grueling) in laboratories studying specific research problems, usually in collaboration with a professor. You become a part of a team working for your professor in the lab. When you’re done with your 6-7 year program (minimum), you will have a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in clinical (or counseling, depending on the program) psychology. This degree gives you ample preparation for a career in academia, as well as the ability to sit for licensing to become a practitioner. In most states, you must complete another year of supervised work as a therapist before sitting for licensure. The advantages of this model is that it is easier to find a post teaching and/or doing research than the PsyD, and PhD are almost always funded programs. Like Josh said, it is very unlikely that you are going to be able to do both full time (i.e., be a full time professor and have a full practice), but many people do a mix of both.

    The major disadvantage is that clinical PhD programs are notoriously hard to get in to. You need to distinguish yourself not only as a psych major, but you absolutely need to demonstrate research experience, get very high GRE scores (especially quantitative), and have stellar recommendations from psych profs (preferably ones that are well-known). It is not uncommon for many very well qualified students to re-apply 3 or 4 times before getting in, and this year has been especially cutthroat with the economy the way it is.

    A PsyD (Doctor of Psychology), on the other hand, is designed according to a scholar-practitioner model, which means that students are trained to be excellent consumers of research (you still need stats and research design coursework), but the emphasis is more on practice. This is often the degree of choice for those who know they want to enter clinical practice, but don’t mind if they don’t end up in academia or working for a famous research lab. PsyD programs typically take more students per year (usually around 25-30, compared to 5 or 6 for most PhD programs), but most of them are still highly competitive. There are also fewer PsyD programs out there. The big disadvantage of these programs is that they are almost all unfunded, so as you mention, you’ll be footing the bill (at least $100K) on your own. That’s no small consideration, given the huge student loan debt you’re in now.

    I think you need to decide exactly what you want to do and how much you have your heart set on research. If that’s “your thing”, spend the next year working for professors in your school who are doing what you want to do. Offer to be a research assistant, even do menial stuff (and yes, there will be plenty of that). If you can work for someone famous (and USC has a good psych dept), AND they give you a fantastic recommendation, then you’re in good shape. Then study like crazy for the GREs (how good are you at math?), get a score in the 1300s, and you might start looking like a possible candidate. Then you need to start finding professors you want to work with, contact them, establish a rapport. For a PhD, it’s all about who the professors choose to work in their labs.

    There’s a good forum for students going into the health professions called student doctor network (I think that’s the name). There you will find a plethora of messages from others who have gone before you. Browse the messages on applying to get a sense of what it’s like. There are also loads of books out there with lists & stats on grad programs in clinical and counseling psych. The APA puts out several. Read them.

    Finally, I must add a little bit of a caveat to what Josh and others have said about other counseling options. MSW, MFT, MA in Counseling, Master’s in Art Therapy are not all the same thing. Each tends to focus on a different approach to counseling and helping people. There are important differences between them, and you need to choose what the right degree for what you want to do, not which is going to be the fastest route. As a side note on the Master’s in Art Therapy. I love art therapy, am an artist, and got into one of the country’s best Art Therapy programs. After much deliberation and talking to art therapists and students in training, I decided to go for the PsyD. It just gave me more flexibility and I couldn’t justify the extremely high cost ($60K, no fellowship) for a starting salary of $25K at best. Keep in mind, as well, that you cannot practice as a counselor (and get third-party payment) if you’re an art therapist. You need more education (at least a LFT or MSW), which means more education and more $$.


  3. How can anyone know what they want to do with the “rest” of their life at 18!? However, based on your gungho attitude toward that doctorate with seemingly little info, I’d say you did the same with film. It sounds to me as if you need to think things through more. It sounds as if you need to “grow up” as well. Making changes is certainly something we all do, and I’m sure your parents want you to be happy, but just how much of that poor choice are you expecting your parents pay for?

  4. I feel as though changing careers paths, especially whil still in college, is absolutely acceptable. Many people have dreams of doing one thing or another justto find out that when they start studying it, it’s not EXACTLY what they wanted. I think that you would be happier doing what you WANT to do and paying off more debt, than doing what you THOUGHT you wanted to do and being a grunt and struggling.

  5. The idea of a college kid coming home again? Think long and hard about this! I personally have a daughter about to graduate and if she approached me with this idea…sorry, no deal! Why? Because when my daughter comes home, for the most part, I feel she thinks she can leave off where she left at 18. If I ask her to contribute to cleaning, cooking, etc…she gives me the look like, “What the….!” Since I am a stay at home Mom…I do not want to become her personal maid! I enjoy the freedom of not worrying about the hours she keeps, coming in late at night and setting our dogs off barking, making noise, etc. Kids just don’t get it! I don’t care if they are now a college graduate!!! If you are going to do this, make sure everyone know the EXPECTATIONS! And write it in contract form, if necessary. It may seem harsh, but it’ll save a lot of hurt feelings/misunderstandings down the line.

  6. I suggest Kathryn also look into the one field that combines both her love for the arts and psychology, and it’s RIPE for research now… ART THERAPY has been around since the late 50s, but in light of the recent advances in neuroscience, we are understanding more about WHY the arts help us heal. It stimulates bi-lateral brain function between the left-brain and right-brain, integrating emotional memory with our personal narrative.

    Very powerful, and your understanding of the arts, and that EXCELLENT CREDENTIAL of being a USC Film Grad, would really give you an area of special expertise that the field would recognize and appreciate.

    I don’t know where “back home” is, but I have to pitch the school I just graduated from (Master’s in Psych, emphasis on Marriage Family Therapy and Art Therapy – a 60 unit masters) Phillips Graduate Institute in Encino. Not cheap, but wow, what an education, and we grads consistently feel better prepared for the field than our peers at other schools. There are also Expressive Arts Therapies programs back east (Lesley Univ for example) that include more dance, performance, music, etc, as well as visual art.

    I’d be happy to be in contact if you want to know more.

  7. I am going into my junior year as a Bachelor of Science Psych major picking up more psych classes per semester, research hours and enormous amounts of tedious analytical paper writing. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had such a passion for the field, I would say that this is the pits. I intend to go for a PhD in research and sidestep clinical work altogether.
    Josh is right in many factors.
    Psych is one of the more involved of the behavioral and a natural science, so coupling clinical work and cognitive and quantitative lab work is nearly impossible-unless you log 18 hour work days. According to you, 16 hour work days are not attractive features for a career choice.
    You can’t jump into a graduate degree in psych without the full spectrum of undergrad psych classes and research hours. You will find yourself lost in the shuffle because the graduate courses are extensions of the undergrad work that is assumed you have already completed and comprehend. Upper level psych courses in undergrad require a proficiency in stats and research methods as well as knowledge and comprehension neural networks and plasticity as well as neuroanatomy. Minors in psych merely scratch the surface and hardly ever delve into these aforementioned courses.
    Psych grads have to make a name for themselves in the clinical or research field rather quickly during grad work and after; AND, with studies that are not diluted from an overabundance of research. Peer reviewed journals and so forth look for new ideas on old research or new ideas altogether; but, pioneered in a way that hasn’t been done in the past. Media and society is diluted and spread far and wide from sociology, psych, anthropology (cultural studies) and so forth. Something like this would land you in a pile of “been there done that”. Choose a study you would like to focus on in graduate school and study the heck out of it as an undergrad, like genetics and bipolar, something like that. Work with your Profs and make yourself known in the Psych department at school.
    I am not trying to discourage you; but, you should know that jumping into a PsyD program with your eyes closed is almost as dangerous as crawling into a dark bear cave with a bag of garbage. It’s not an easy subject, requires dedication, sacrifice of personal time, something you didn’t like in film school, tons of logged hours in the lab, and in your case for clinical work, many many hours of clinic internship time before you can get your PsyD and become licensed, and lots and lots of patience.
    Last, you need to have significant undergraduate background in psych, logged research hours and papers as well as a proficiency in statistics in order to be accepted into the majority of graduate programs. Work on getting the BA or BS then take the GRE Psych exam. See an advisor and work with him or her closely.
    Good luck!

  8. College Mom X 2

    It is always okay to change your mind about your future and in most cases, it is always okay to move back home. Many students are moving home after graduation, mainly due to financial problems. Most parents aren’t thrilled by the idea, and neither are the students, but it is only a temporary situation so everyone needs to bite the bullet and make it work!!

  9. Kathryn,
    I am 20 years old and live in a small town in Washington state. I also aspire to be a film-maker one day, but there has always been two sides to this dream… the realistic side-(financially) and the unrealistic side-(aesthetically). The problem was determining whether I was thinking realistically or unrealistically. Through much-much thought, I have decided to pass-up “Art School” and simply get my core education at Washington State University. I am quite comfortable with the decision. [If my decision seems to be unrealistic, feel free to correct me] 🙂

    Film is a wonderful art, and it has the ability to reach so many people, passing along messages and concepts that allow them to see life through different/beautiful perspectives. If you are much like me (and you seem to be), I believe you have the perfect recipe (film & psychology background) to help you achieve your goal of helping others. Whichever road you take, you will be assisting society to your fullest.

    I believe, through the research I have done on the topic of “Film&Finance”… you will be walking a smoother road by turning the wheel on the psychology career. By choosing this path, you will achieve TWO great things. 1)-You will be able to understand society by understanding the people OF society. In turn allowing you to grow on your perspectives… which is the core system of film-making. 2) -You will be making a substantial amount of money that can potentially be used in your films. (Budget, budget, budget).

    Don’t feel negated by the previous commenter. 🙂 You are a film-maker and always will be a film-maker no matter the path you choose. So don’t feel that you leaving your dreams in the dust. Your dreams will always be in your heart, wherever you go and whoever you turn out to be.

    Please feel free to email me on the subject, as I would LOVE to talk a little about the whole “LA” experience with you. Is the big-city all it’s cracked-up to be???

  10. I think that is great that you did what you wanted to. If film is your joy then do it. I believe that whatever you want in life you can have. YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR INTENTION WITHOUT ANY TENSION. PERIOD PLAN AND SIMPLE. THIS IS HOW YOU WILL PAY YOUR DEBTS AND EVERYTHING ELSE IN LIFE.

  11. This was a really interesting article for me to read. I’m in my third year of a Master of Fine Arts in Film and Electronic Media. I did my b.a. in Sociology with the original intention of going all the way through and getting my Ph.D in Soc. The decisions to go into film hasn’t been without any difficulties, but it was one of those things I knew I would regret for the rest of my life if I didn’t try it out. So I would say go for what you love, but put you undergraduate degree to use in the mean time. These days everyone has video production needs. Think outside of the box instead of considering just working at the local television news station. You may be able to stay where you are and get a nice paying job in your field or elsewhere. But you should know as a film student there are plenty of venues where you can use your knowledge. Even if you go back home and do wedding videography for awhile.

  12. Wow, thanks for the comments!… (I’m allowed to comment on my own question, right?)

    I definitely understand parents not wanting boomerang kids, and if I think establishing ground rules for kids moving back home is a must. I too would be irritated if I had a son/daughter who wasn’t respectful of the rules in the house I was paying for.

    JChaos76 – excellent advice. Yours and Josh’s advice about not blindly plunging into a doctoral program is, well, “eye-opening.” I’m glad I will HAVE to work a few years before I even consider applying to a program. I need to think about it much more over the next few years. Thanks!

    If I was vague, I definitely didn’t just sign up for a $200,000 education without knowing much about it (remember I said I wanted to go to USC since I was 12?) 🙂 It has been an excellent education in the sense that I’m doing what I enjoy as an artist, but I can’t see these 14-18 days on set being a worthwhile way to live because simply put, it is abusive and physically exhausting in a unique “Hollywood” way (if it was guaranteed that I’d move up, no problem! but it’s not guaranteed, which is very draining especially in this economy).

    Anyway, I don’t want to totally abandon the idea of filmmaking! cat, Ethan, and Kristen understand me in this sense. I know that no matter what, I will somehow incorporate media into what I do, it’s just not going to be “a movie director” like I thought when I was 18 🙂

    Also… I would NEVER call my education a poor choice. I still have to work when I graduate and may find an ideal media-related job wherever I am (maybe I will love whatever that is and won’t even WANT to go to grad school). If I could have done anything over again, I would have just double-majored (if any prospective film students read this… think about it). And although my parents certainly help me with my education and I am immensely grateful for it, I am paying the majority by working part-time and through loans. So yeah, expecting my parents to just let me take over their home when I graduate and pay for “poor choices” definitely wouldn’t be fair!

    Again – I totally appreciate the feedback! Thanks everyone!

  13. Kathryn,

    First, props to you for being honest with yourself and trying to figure out how not to get stuck in a job you hate. It´s actually pretty early on that you´re realizing that compared to many people who work in the wrong career for years simply because they won´t own up to the mistake or think it´s too late to change!

    At this point, I think it´s helpful if you can keep as many doors open as possible. You may change your mind about your career several more times, and that is fine. (Although hopefully each time won´t be so pricey.) Can you double-major in Psych and Film? I think your idea of trying to get several years of experience doing something in one (or both) of those fields is a good one, although I wouldn´t limit yourself to living at home if there are better options elsewhere. You may find that a decently paid job in, say, Portland, lets you pay off more loans than a poorly-paid job in central CA.

    Definitely do get some more experience in Psych (and hopefully add it as a double-major or major) if that is what you think you want to do. Experience in the field may also help you get funding if and when you decide that you want to pursue it for grad school.

    Good luck!

  14. As a budding psychologist, perhaps you will agree with this insight. . . if I read between the lines (a lot) I see someone who is about to face the “real world” and is a little afraid, and wants to put it off and move home and “be with family” and have “some kind of job at a TV studio”. This “some kind of job” seems pretty vague, and I have to argue with your idea that if you stay in LA it’s entry level grunt work but if you go home to Mom & Dad you’ll have a nice TV job available whenever you start looking. It sounds more like the world where you’ve been living has been hard and money scarce, and there’s a longing to return to an easier simpler time, and just relax and recoup for a while. Nothing wrong with relaxing and recouping – sounds like your health needs it – but making plans from a place of exhaustion and scarcity just isn’t a great idea.

    You don’t know that there’s nothing out there except grunt jobs until you’ve looked, and you don’t know that there’s a TV job waiting at home unless you’ve looked. There are federal loan repayment programs out there that tie your loan payments to your income – you should look into them. Paying your loans back “the responsible way” actually makes your parents responsible for taking care of you again – that’s not what adults do. You are on the threshold of adulthood, and maybe scared to take the step – especially seeing as how you’re worn out.

    I think a much more sensible plan than trying to figure out your next 10 years is to try to figure out how to live every day so that you get more of what you need in terms of rest and peace; you have a six-month grace period after graduation – take a month, sleep, rest, eat right, take care of yourself, in LA; start looking for work, or start making a movie – you owe it to yourself to take a stab at it. I don’t think you hate film-making, I think you hate the idea of long hours and hard work and starting at the bottom (at least that’s the way it looks from the post you wrote) . But if you’re working on a project you love, it doesn’t feel like that – and anything you do will involve long hours, hard work and starting at the bottom – that’s where you are in your life – beginning.

    You’ve worked super hard to get where you are – see where it takes you. If, in a year, all you’ve had are stupid, insulting, abusive, dead-end jobs and you’re still living with 5 people and eating rice and beans, THEN maybe you starting looking for a Plan B – and make sure it’s not because you’ve been sitting on your ass complaining about how hard it is, but you’ve really given it your best shot. Your parents have helped you achieve your dream – you owe it to them and to yourself to put some time and energy into it. Or do something else for a year -wait tables or work retail – give up on that $1200/mo idea, that’s crazy – and just take care of yourself, pay your own bills, put your life into the shape you want it to be. You may be surprised at what shows up. But really, Mom and Dad don’t deserve this, and you deserve better too.

    Just to give you a background on who I am, I’m a Mom with a son in college, back in school getting a doctorate at 48, going to school with a lot of people who have leapt from one college degree to the next and STILL are scared of what will be next and wanting to move home with M&D. In the end, you just have to close your eyes and leap. Best of luck!!!!!!

  15. In terms of following a possible film career, have you considered looking outside the LA/Hollywood area? I know Albuquerque, NM now has a sizable film industry and to my understanding a much lower cost of living. Working on a smaller production might give you more diversity in your work and living somewhere with lower rent will help manage money. I have no first hand knowledge, just what I’ve heard from some relatives in film and what I’ve seen living in Albuquerque. Make sure to do your research before making a decision and I wish you the best of luck wherever you decide to go.

  16. Okay, as a fellow Film student I have to say you’re info seems a little off. If you really learned THAT much about the film industry in your so many years at UC you would know how the Labor unions work in Live Action production. And since you don’t, if you had all these connections by meeting all these people then you could have got a job with the union and reasonable pay.

    Second, You want to be responsible and pay back loans? Then dumping your money into how many more years of schooling is the wrong way to go. Also, the ONLY reason it would cost you 1200 a month is if YOU planned on paying that much a month.

    I completely agree with the person who said you need to grow up. You think the whole “make it big” dream is unrealistic. Well thinking you can do a one-eighty after so much money and time invested is also unrealistic.

    You didn’t have passion for film/television? Then why did you not realize it sooner and waste the money in the FIRST PLACE?

  17. One thought I have about the subject is that if you are still interested in film making but do not want to live the LA life. There is an amazing amount of opportunity on the internet to show off your work on a website and get affiliate revenue or even merchandise. If you have some friends at home or a local theater club maybe you can throw together some online skits and videos and makes some money that way if you move home.

    Before you make any decisions for a doctorate you need to relax and get your head on straight. It is not good to make decisions in the heat of the moment because your first plan didn’t work out especially when it is throwing more money at the problem. I would tell your parents that you need some time to recoup before beginning your job search and that it would be helpful to temporarily move back. You have 6 months after graduation before you need to start paying back stafford and perkins loans (not sure about your other loans). Think about what you really want to do with your life. If it is film-making then decide what type of work you want to do and how you will go about doing it. If it is Psychology then do some internet research about it, volunteer or interview an active psychologist to see if it is a good fit.

    One more thing that may effect your decision is that often times the number of spots for Psy.D. are limited (about 10/yr at my school) and they will take the most qualified/diverse applicants. Your limited background in Psychology may be a hindrance in pursuing a doctorate and you will need to show a lot more commitment and knowledge in the field in order to be accepted into a Psy.D. Program.

  18. Having graduated with a similar degree (theatre), I can tell you that you won’t know for sure that you don’t want to do it until do you do it without the safety net of school to fall back on. After graduation, I ended up working for $1.50 an hour at my first professional job, all the while hoping that my temp agency would find me something I could do on the side that would make me some “real” money. Though I was living in a far cheaper city than LA, there were also far fewer opportunities than there are in LA. After working three professional gigs, I realized I did NOT want to do theatre for a living, and decided to look for work in other fields before spending my money on an expensive Master’s degree. I was lucky enough to find a job as a teacher’s aide. I loved it, and now am in a Master’s program for theatre education.

    However, I would never have known that I didn’t like professional theatre if I hadn’t DONE it first. Sure, you get some experience in the pro world while you’re in school, but it’s nothing like it is out in the real world. You may hate it now, but that may be because you feel (on some level) you have no control over your own destiny. My recommendation would be to get that degree, follow your mom’s advice and stay in LA for awhile, and try to get some film jobs. Try a few different gigs. If you still feel you hate it, then you can plead your case to your mom again. But, you may find–like many people, just not me–that you love it even more now that you’re a “grown up” with that degree!

  19. Hi!
    At first I thought Kathryn sounded immature, BUT as I read her letter I got a whole new perspective. She seems to be very mature.
    I would first suggest she makes sure that Psych. is what she wants to do. There is nothing worse than getting almost done with your courses only to find out you hate it. And in this case, she would have 2 degrees with no desire to use them. Maybe see if there are some college professors you could talk to about teaching/researching Psyc.
    I am not familiar with ALL colleges, but one of my professors told me that in order to be a university professor you have to have so much research and journal articles written and published. This on average makes up about 50-75% of the requirements to get hired. Only 25% (on average) is actually concerned with your teaching abilities.
    Also, is your mom against you moving back home? It is harder to move back after you have been on your own if you and your parents aren’t on the same page. I am only going to be home for 1 semester and they already are trying to treat me like a 10 year old again.
    Good idea on getting a job with your film degree if that is the best paying job you can get.
    Above all, think hard, pray much, then go for it with all you got!
    Good luck!

  20. Ugh, U$C. Does she entirely hate film altogether? Sure, it’s demanding. Most jobs are if you have to work from the bottom up. Grad school is a possible work-around to the grunt work at the beginning of a career, but it isn’t a guarantee to put you that much further up the ladder.
    Psych will require plenty of research hours, grunt work in a lab, and and for a PhD, tons of work as well.
    I say file the dream away for the time being and revisit it later. School is quite expensive. And if she’s still swimming in debt to U$C, but can get a job, any job in her related field, that is good. Really good. And rare, these days.
    ‘$C boasts about its ability to give the students in its professional programs connections to people in high places. It sounds like they delivered with her internships. Can she tap into those networks again? If she isn’t interested in making it to the top, what’s the harm in being an on-set grunt for a while (if it pays), until a better position opens up?
    And what DOES she want to do in film? She’s only talked about what she doesn’t want to do, but nothing specific about what she does want to do NOW, if psych is out of the picture for the time being.
    She seems to only have these two extreme views of what her future as is looks like — it’s a sign of a very normal anxiety that college grads/seniors tend to have. However, it’s not the difference between “settling” or “gunning for the dream” — look for the middle ground here.
    Separately, she shouldn’t be working herself sick — that is probably the worst thing you can do for your future right now, and that really worries me.

  21. Kathryn, while you are most certainly very articulate, I believe you are suffering from an extreme case of “college senioritis” — a very common phenomenon amongst college students just about to graduate.

    Essentially, you are scared — and not without reason. While you were in university, you had control over your life. You had some sort of stable hold on your finances (loan-based as they may be), each semester you were a ready consumer of interesting and engaging classes, and your role in the world — a hard-working and promising USC student was pretty glamorous. You felt proud (not without reason, either!) to tell people that you study film at USC.

    The moment you graduate all of that will be gone. You’ll be facing uncertain financial situation, and you’ll be losing your romantic status as a USC student. Let’s be honest, a “USC film graduate working a grunt job (and possibly some Starbucks on the side, too!)” is so much less romantic.

    The allure of relocating yourself somewhere — ANYWHERE that is more familiar, like, say, back home at mom and dad’s, or back into the tender embraces of more university, is overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that you’re willing to convince yourself that (1) you absolutely hate LA. Can’t stand it. (2) there’s no future for you in the career for which you are so superbly trained and connected (wtf??) (3) you want a doctorate and a life-long career in an area to which you’ve only had a short cursory introduction to.

    What I find even more baffling is how vehemently you try to convince yourself that you no longer want to be a rich and famous film person in Hollywood, but rather live with mom and dad and work a $40K a year job at a local TV station. Not only is that kind of work the epitome of “grunt” work, you’ll be working with (and for!) people who probably barely passed two years of local community college broadcasting program. Oh, and a salary at a local TV station will not let you pay off your USC debt. People who have USC debt must work the sort of jobs that USC can get them.

    My advice is — be brave. By getting your prestigious degree and by working hard to get the most out of it, you have placed yourself on the bottom of a ladder that leads very high. It’s going to be hard to climb, but all you have to do is take one step at a time. The first steps are easy — arrange for a slower loan repayment, send your resume and references to all those people with whom you’ve interned, make a few calls to make use of your connections, and set your eyes on a bright future and a satisfying and lucrative career.

  22. I am going through the same thing. I’ve recently completed two years at a four year university working towards my BA in Dance. I really just wanted to continuedancing and improve before auditioning for companies. But now I’m taking a semester off and moving home because I can’t affor to go to that school anymore, it’s hard when you’re paying for school solo. Now I’m having a change of heart and I’m thinking I don’t want to dance professionally but instead do fashion PR. I feel like I’ve wasted two years of school but the experience it’s self was amazing. It’s hard to go to school at a time in your life when you’re still finding out who you are and what you like.

  23. God will provide, College can be hard to pay for but scholarships are always out there, and working never hurt anyone.

  24. Judge Josh suggested taking some more classes before deciding to do you doctorate in Psych and while I think this is a very sensible idea, I have a cheaper solution of my own: volunteer. It sounds like you don’t have a lot of extra time to be giving away, but volunteering in your area of interest will give a great idea of what it is like to work in that field. There are two places in particular that I would recommend you look into volunteering at – a distress/crisis line and with a professor doing research.

    I have been volunteering at a distress line for a year and a half, and while I am an engineering student, most of my fellow volunteers are interested in degrees in psych like you, or social work. A significant portion of them were convinced that they wanted a clinical psych degree, that is until they spent some time on the lines. While they still found it to be a rewarding experience like no other, and they picked up some great communication skills along the way, they said that the experience made them realize that clinical psych is not where they wanted to be. For the others, it just reaffirmed their desire to be a clinician and gave them a great experience to put on their resume. Either way, it will give you a better idea of what being a clinician is actualy like.

    As for volunteering in research, find a professor that is working in the area you are interested in. Many professors have teams of grad students that will show you the ropes and give you an idea what research is like and are glad for the extra help. You will gain some great experience and also be at an advantage should you decide to pursue a more academic career. Additionally, you will get to know the professor you are volunteering for, who can be a great reference and help when applying for grants, jobs etc…

    Hope this helps! Good luck to you!

  25. One of my mentor’s told me yesterday, no matter what anyone says do what you love even if you don’t get paid for it. People will always tell you “you should do this”, or “I think you should do that”, but if you do not enjoy doing it, don not do it because it’s something your going to have to deal with for a long time after college.

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