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. 🙂
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.