Next Up in Anna’s* $500k Student Loan Nightmare: Law School
When I finished my undergraduate degree I owed a mere $10,000 in student loans. Don’t get me wrong, $10,000 is a lot of money. I could do so many things with $10,000 right now: make needed boat repairs or cruise frugally for a year if I anchored the boat out rather than living in a marina.
But in the shadow of my current student debt burden, $10,000 seems like nothing — a trifle, easily manageable.
It’s hard not to imagine how the trajectory of my life could have been so different if only I had worked in the real world and paid that small debt off rather than continuing my education and letting the debt mount. But hindsight is always 20/20.
I only hope others can learn from my mistakes.
After a year of waiting tables after college, I moved across the country and began graduate school in a top-25 doctoral program in philosophy
Student loans funded everything. This included tuition, books, rent, living expenses, transportation, eating out, entertainment — everything.
My undergraduate professors had always encouraged me to attend graduate school, whether in history or philosophy.
I could see myself fitting in well in academia. I imagined myself teaching, publishing, continually learning, and living my life in jeans and Birkenstocks.
I studied the philosophy of logic and mathematics. But apparently, I failed to apply any logic or arithmetic to the cost-benefit analysis of a Ph.D. in philosophy.
It turns out — and no one had bothered to tell me this, nor had I bothered to ask — that there are no jobs for philosophers and very, very few jobs for philosophy professors.
I spent a year in the doctoral program, increasing my student debt by $35,000. Although the program offered me funding for half of the next year’s studies, I opted to leave.
Then, I waited tables for another year and did what so many liberal arts majors short on options do: I applied to law school. At the time, I only knew one lawyer, but he was rich.
I had never seen The Paper Chase — that 1973 film about the hell that is law school. Honestly, I had no idea what law school or life as a lawyer were like. I only knew that there was allegedly a large pot of gold at the end of the law school rainbow.
So I figured that whatever I borrowed for law school would be easily paid off with a six-figure starting salary.
I knew I was “selling out.” But I was determined to enter a field where I would make money, pay off all my student loans, and not have to worry about where my next meal was coming from.
As with philosophy, I didn’t dig in and research what life in law school or law firms was really like. I naively trusted the barrage of law school admissions and career placement office fluff that, in hindsight, was fantasy. I took the LSAT, submitted my application, and off to law school I went.
Stay tuned for what happened to me next.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.