I’m getting an MBA for less than $2,500 and so can you

It happened again. Just like it always does. It doesn’t even phase me anymore, but it is a bit embarrassing. It might just be just part of being me. Or part of being a millennial, who grew up being told she could be literally anything in the whole goddamn world and that if I follow my passion the money will come. I’ve already determined that advice is bullshit.

But as a result of my upbringing and INTP personality type (MBTI, anyone?), I am sporadically passionate. Usually confused. Always learning, always changing, and rarely following through with any one thing in full. I read somewhere that the average millennial changes jobs 7 times before picking a career, and that even then, we are changing careers faster and more frequently than any other generation before us. Why? Because we can.

As a prime example of that kind of millennial behavior, I must admit it’s actually kind of awesome because I know a little about a lot. I’ve tried on so many jobs and careers (and majors, back in college) that I have this really well-rounded set of experiences and skills. I’m a master of none, except maybe Excel because Excel is life, but I’m starting to be almost ok with that.

So, as per usual, this week I changed the course of my sails and jumped ship on getting my Master’s in Positive Psychology. (Am I mixing metaphors?) The last few months I’ve been very hot and cold with the decision, but ultimately I concluded that getting a decidedly useless degree–however fascinating the subject matter–is not a wise investment. It’s a personal expense.

What got me hooked on the subject was my continued obsession with MOOCs. The Internet is filled with free educational opportunities. The incredible Positive Psychology Specialization from Coursera served its purpose and my reading list expanded as a result, but I don’t see any solid reason to continue my studies in the field with formal education. Especially at a $15,000 price tag. The return on that “investment” just isn’t there. Do you have any idea how little low-level psych workers/group coaches get paid? It’s almost not worth the time and gas to go to work.

Plus, it occurs to me that being a career psychologist or therapist or counselor or anything up that alley that would actually use this degree would basically drive me to a new level of Hell (hence my coaching occupying only a small fraction of my week). I don’t relate to people’s emotions very well and I internally lose my patience faster than I let on. Psychology is interesting on a self-reflective and personal level, but I can’t pretend fascination in wanting to apply it outside my immediate interests. So pragmatism won out. No psych degree for me. Guys, wtf was I thinking?

But yesterday I took the GRE because it’d been on my calendar for months and I’d already paid the nonrefundable two hundred something dollars (ouch). Between signing up for the test and taking the test, I studied exactly zero times. I stressed about studying, thought about studying, and one time I even Googled what the GRE is all about, but in the end, I couldn’t be bothered. I’m a historically excellent test taker, as long as the answers are multiple choice and it’s timed, such that the questions are invariably easy enough to solve in about a minute. Right?

In 2010, the year I should have graduated from college but instead found myself 5 months in the Navy with an other-than-honorable discharge on the way because of how much military life sucked my will to live, I had this sweaty and tense experience where I took the College Algebra CLEP exam with a false sense of security. I took AP Calculus at 16 because I loved math more than social interaction, so I have this awful habit of assuming I am still capable of doing basic Algebra as an adult. I walked into that CLEP exam thinking myself some kind of mathematical genius–did you know I took Calculus as a teenager?–but quickly realized what it means to “use it or lose it.” I scored a 54 on that fucking test, and I needed a 50 to pass. I answered “C” for the last who-knows-how-many questions because I ran out of time and I recalled reading somewhere that “C” is statistically more likely to be correct on standardized tests. No clue if that’s true. But that factoid came in handy yesterday!

Not learning from this fumble but instead clinging to the fact that I did technically pass that CLEP exam, yesterday I arrogantly walked into the GRE and simultaneously scored the worst I ever have on a standardized test and high enough to barely get accepted into a few of the easier Stanford graduate programs. I say this quite proudly because I’m from the Standardized Test Generation, where I was taught to understand that my worth is inherently tied to my test scores. So I need to be clear that I do, in fact, still have it. My above average GRE scores prove it. So glad my top skillset includes sitting still and taking 4-hour tests. Should come in handy in the real world.

For the last few years, and especially this year, I’ve been stuck between thinking an MBA is a total waste of money that doesn’t pay off and thinking that with my unfocused liberal arts background and limited work experience outside of entrepreneurial pursuits, maybe it’s exactly what I should do. After all, I do want to move into W-2 employment and out of the 1099 hustle.

Earlier this year I actually applied and got accepted into the MBA program from my alma mater, but I backed out last minute because it didn’t seem worth it. I think education should be free (read: millennial entitlement?). With access to the Internet, there is no reason studying business or any other basic subject that doesn’t require in-person interaction or special equipment should cost anything. Coursera and EdX already give it all away. So why pay?

I just couldn’t justify the hefty cost, especially given my track record of changing my mind all the time (again, why did I think that psych degree was a good idea?). What if the MBA didn’t financially pay off? It would surely have some application for my future and be an actual credential for something business-related (isn’t that everything?), but what if it turned out just to be a very expensive line on my resume?

uoplogo

Then I found University of the People (UoP). I actually found it several months ago, but I recently “refound” it. It’s an accredited(!!!), tuition-free online university that partners with other universities like Yale, Columbia, and UC Berkeley. In other words, it’s legit and carries some weight in certain circles. What! Yes. I paid the $60 application fee, received my acceptance within 24 hours, and I’m confirmed to start in February.

And they don’t care that I recently borderline almost rocked the GRE. They don’t need undergraduate transcripts from the 5 universities I attended to see that I care about my grades and that I once took a class in coastal fishing. They don’t need me to write a flowery essay about how important education is, or what my 5-year plan is, or why I’m applying. They just need a pic of my degree to verify I’m a college graduate and my commitment to show up and do the work. That’s basically it.

From what I can tell, UoP has managed to strip itself of all that bullshit bureaucracy and false red tape most schools have. Do programs like the Positive Psych program I applied to actually deny people? I doubt it. Their GRE requirements were literally to score below average. Yet I had to submit 3 letters of recommendation, attach my resume, write a 3-page essay, send official transcripts from every school I’ve ever attended, forward GRE test scores, fill out a lengthy and redundant application, and then wait 3 fucking months to be accepted (did I tell you I got accepted?). All for the privilege of then paying $15k over the course of 10 months for a degree that has no practical value in the real world. At UoP, if you are willing to put in the effort and time, you get the degree. That simple. In my opinion, that’s how it should be.

So that’s the plan right now. After all the testing/proctoring fees, which are inevitable with any legit online program (trust me, this is how I finished my BA), the total degree will cost less than a couple months’ rent in the SF Bay Area and I’ll have something a little stronger than “BA Liberal Arts” to fall back on.

In the meantime, I’ll pour my energy into my part-time position with the local nonprofit I work for and see how Bay Area real estate treats me. Tyler graduates from Chiropractic college in September 2019, so I feel like I have at least until then to sort out the rest. I’m currently obsessed with learning data and business analytics, so who knows, let’s see how long this one lasts… perhaps this MBA will come in handy after all.

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