I’ve been wrestling with the idea of going to grad school. In fact, last week I made the decision to go back and start the early stages of the application process, but when it came time to actually start those early stages, I found myself shying away from the task. I’m doubting if this is the right decision.
Since re-dedicating my life to my faith, I’ve become aware that my knowledge of the Catholic Church’s catechism is woefully sub-par. It consists of the little I learned in my history classes growing up and the highlights touched on in my RCIA classes, which, together, are about the equivalent of a second grader’s. I researched a few items I had questions on, but what I really wanted was to be able to learn the ins and outs of the Church from an actual human, in a setting in which I could ask questions and engage in dialogue. Thus began my entertaining the notion of going to Saint Leo University for my Master’s in Theology.
At first I was concerned that my desire to go back to school was a phase I was going through. I am no stranger to phases in my life: in 3rd grade I begged and begged and BEGGED my parents to sign me up for karate after seeing a classmate’s big-ass Tae Kwon Do trophy during Show and Tell. When they finally acquiesced and I started taking classes, I found out that I hated karate and no trophy, no matter how big, was worth giving up my Saturday morning cartoons for. Similarly, I tried out for the cheerleading squad in seventh grade because I thought the outfits were cute. After going through the “boot camp” leading up to the try-outs in which we learned the cheers and dances, I knew I was not cut out for, nor had the desire for cheerleading. So naturally this sudden desire to go back to school gave me pause. I was not going to go through the process of applying and subsequently taking out student loans and committing myself to a two-year program for a phase. But after some reflection and prayer, I was confident that the reasoning behind this desire, which was to learn more about the Church and grow deeper in my faith, was sound and not some fleeting idea. This was when I definitively made the decision to go back. At first, I was at peace with my decision. Now I’m not so sure.
Quite frankly, I’m scared that I could be making the biggest financial mistake of my life. I was fortunate to have gotten my Bachelor’s degree without having to take out student loans. But if my early research is any indication, this might not be the case with grad school. I’ve estimated that my tuition alone would be around $10,000. Considering how much other programs cost, this isn’t bad–in fact, it’s less than my car loan. But it doesn’t take into account fees or books. And I’m terrified of doing the math, and then finding out that my calculations were wrong and it’s actually some exorbitant amount, like $30,000 and then it’s too late to back out. And then I’m stuck paying off loans for the rest of my life. What if this jeopardizes other dreams that I have, like traveling abroad? Buying a house some day? Funding a wedding without having to ask my parents for help?
It’s maddening, because I want to know exactly what’s going to happen up front before I even start the application process: if I’ll be able to get scholarship funding; if so, how much; if not, exactly how much my student loans will cost. I pray and obsess over it daily. And the conclusion I keep coming to, which is even more maddening, is that this decision will have to be made on faith. For example, I don’t know how much scholarship money I will get unless I start applying for scholarships. But in order to apply for scholarships, I must first apply to grad school and commit to going. And if I apply to grad school and commit to going and apply for scholarships, it’s not guaranteed that I will get anything. Same thing with loans: I won’t be able to work out an exact amount for student loans if I don’t apply and commit to going. It all keeps coming back to faith. If I make the decision to go to grad school, I have to have faith that God will guide me through the rest. I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, trying to decide whether or not to jump and trust that God will catch me. And I hate to admit this, but I don’t entirely trust that He will. Not yet, anyway.
EDIT: So I just did one of those cost projectors online, and while $10,000 for tuition alone isn’t bad, the ENTIRE cost for the full program, with fees and books tacked on, is $29,498.04. LOLROTFLMAO. Yeah, no. I can’t justify taking out that much in student loans for something that is a personal interest. I will just stick to reading books and looking up stuff online. Good one, higher education. Ya got me.