Tag Archives: school

The Dark Side Of Schooling: Debt and Student Loans

the love shop etsy

Print: The Love Shop

Student loans are one of those things that most of us will have to deal with at some point in our lifetimes but nobody likes to talk about. And, I can see why. Money is a touchy subject for many of us, especially when the conversation shifts to debt and admitting how much we owe. Student loans can be a huge source of anxiety, shadowing us as we begin our post-college careers.

This weekend, after much focus and planning, I hit a personal goal: I paid off my student loan. In my case, the reason this was possible was because I made the choice to do my entire design program at a community college. Post-graduation, when I had a good month, I would double, triple and sometimes quadruple my payments. I wanted it to go away, badly. I don’t even use a credit card, yet the high interest rate on my student loan made me feel like I had one.

In 2010, total outstanding student loan debt exceeded total outstanding credit card debt in America for the first time ever. — SignOn.org

Society places so much emphasis on getting into the top schools and students feel the brunt of this pressure. If you have the chance, by all means, go for it and relish the opportunity. If you can’t though, please don’t compare yourself to your peers; this is your journey. School really is what you make of it, whether you have a top name splashed across your diploma or not. The truth is, if you are determined, you’ll find a way to carve out your path.

When I went back to school in 2006, my top three choices for graphic design programs were at well known art schools and universities but there was no way I could afford them. And when I tallied up the total cost of these programs in my head, I knew the only way I could take this route was by racking up massive student loan debt. Honestly, I just couldn’t stomach it. So, I enrolled in a two-year limited entry graphic design program. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I made. I still got a great education, a great internship and I still found a great job post-graduation. What I didn’t have a chance to learn in school (two years goes by fast), I eventually learned on the job.

If I’d had the opportunity, you bet I would have chosen a top art school. But because I knew it wasn’t an option at that moment, I made a choice. Everything turned out okay. I loved my teacher, I loved my program and I loved my college. And in comparison, the debt I incurred was minimal. Just because a school is expensive and well regarded doesn’t mean that it’s the best fit for you — for your learning style, for your goals or for your budget. No matter where you choose to go, your heart has to be in it.

I’ve heard so many students say, “I’ll worry about my loans once I finish. Right now, I just want to have fun.” That out of sight, out of mind mentality can really come back to haunt you, though. Remember, that’s real money with real interest you’re borrowing. Read the fine print; those interest rates on private loans are high. It adds up fast. And forking over a huge payment every month post-graduation is a harsh reality.

Since 1999, average student loan debt has increased by 511%. — SignOn.org

To me, it’s really upsetting when you’ve done everything right, earned an education and are left with mounting debt with an interest rate as high as some credit cards tacked on. There’s something really wrong with this country and the predatory lending practices when it comes to student loans.

All I’m tying to say is, give your choices some thought. Weigh what feels right for you when it comes to your education. Know what the interest rates are on your loans. Be aware. And always remember that If you want something out of life, you’ll find a way.

• Are you or someone you know struggling to pay back your student loans? Please consider supporting this petition. You can make a difference.

• Learn more about the student loan debt crisis through these infographics: The Roadmap to Repayment and The New Deal for Student Loans.

One Year Out of Design School: 10 Valuable Lessons

I graduated with my graphic design degree last June and since it’s been almost one year, I thought I’d share the 10 most valuable lessons that I’ve learned so far.

In the beginning, it’s okay to take on low paying jobs. During school, I did a ton of freelance. I took on nearly every job that was offered to me including work from Virgin Records and followed that up with some small logo comissions. If you feel that there’s some valuable portfolio pieces and knowledge to be gained from a lower paying job, by all means take it. I wouldn’t recommend working for free though. Your schooling and talent should be worth at least some compensation!

The connections that you make early in your career will take you far. I still keep in touch with former classmates, teachers and even people who’ve reviewed my portfolio. Every person that you meet in the design industry knows someone else and you never know when an opportunity will arise.

Never feel like you’re too good to take on smaller jobs. There’s always something to be gained, even in the most minute task. Even if you’ve had a high powered job and end up at another employer later on in an entry-level position, use that time to demonstrate your work ethic. Set up some time to bring your portfolio by the art director’s / owner’s desk after you’ve been there awhile to show them what you’re really made of. Perseverance pays off.

Never be afraid to ask for help. If you can’t figure out how to perform a design task or how to work the printer, it’s always better to ask for help than to screw up. Most designers were in your shoes once and they are usually more than willing to give you a hand.

Work on something design-related every day. Whether you have a design job or not, make the time and put in the effort. I wake up before 7 a.m. every day and read design blogs, work with type, do freelance and blog. It keeps me fresh and up on current happenings.

Do design because you can’t imagine doing anything else. Don’t do it for the money.

Turn negatives into positives. If you can’t find a design-related job right away, do the research and start your own business. If you get terrible feedback on a project, redo it and prove the nay-sayers wrong. You are in control of your output. Make it the absolute best that you can.

Don’t burn your bridges. If you have a bad experience with a client or a job, never share it publicly. Everyone gets burned during their careers but it always pays to take the high road. The design community is way smaller than you think. Get the negativity out of your system privately with someone you trust and move on.

Unpaid internships can be valuable. If you get an amazing internship opportunity but it’s unpaid, consider the trade-off. Is the experience that you gain worth your time? Can you afford it? In the case of my internship, I was also working full-time and living on my own, so I was upfront about my situation. In this economy, it’s going to be much harder to find paid internships, but it never hurts to ask if monetary compensation is available.

There’s no way that you can possibly know everything right out of school. You’ll make mistakes. Sometimes, they’ll be big ones. You’ll get embarrassed. It’s okay. Apologize, learn from them and move on. It’s not the end of the world.