An over educated white chick—a different drumer called me to the beat!


I have slightly altered this, but the message is still the same…. find your passion, don’t wait. Just plunge in.

I didn’t go to college right after high school.  I learned to groom dogs,   left home when I turned 18 and started making a living.

This worked well for years.  I didn’t really budget or plan that well, but I always managed to save and live frugally.

After I got divorced, and I was turning 30, I  realized that life wasn’t a dress rehearsal.  I wanted to go to Africa and see wildlife, as I knew it was disappearing due to human population growth.  I  asked a trip operator where to go, and he told me I’d see the most wildlife in Tanzania, but nobody went there because the infrastructure was so bad.  So, of course, that was where I went.

There are so many awesome things about Tanzania, but, aside from seeing all the animals, one thing that struck me was that the Africans I met were so well educated…but they were so poor.  If education is the way out of poverty, why was that?

I decided to go back to school because I wanted to ‘help’ them not be poor.  I thought I  would have to design my own program, but in the end, anthropology was the way to  start learning about how people make decisions and support themselves.  It was a great choice.

An even better choice (for me) was taking the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams and getting 2 years of college credit for life experience.  I could have gotten more, but I only took some general education tests.  That saved me from having to spend so much money on prerequisites.

I wanted to go to Northwestern, but just couldn’t afford it, so I went to Northeastern Illinois University, which was close to my house, and paid cash for school—and worked part time grooming dogs.

Then, I got an assistantship to  grad school at the U. of Illinois in Chicago—the School of Urban Planning & Policy.  They paid me about $500 a month—but they took about  1/2 back in fees, books, whatever.  Because I had rental income and a roommate, it worked out.

I have never been employed as a planner.  I am not an architect, a civil engineer, an  accountant, or a visible minority—or bilingual Spanish, but at least I have no school debt.  I also have a somewhat marketable skill.

My niece took a slightly different route.  My sister & her father never saved a dime.  Lauren  went to community college and got her Associate Degree in accounting, and worked at a bank part-time, where she met a mortgage broker who taught her that business.

When she got her Associate’s degree, she  transferred to Northern Ill. U. & got her B.A. in Political Science.  Thing is—a 4 year college is more expensive than a 2 year college, but she paid for the first half of her degree at the 2 year college, so she was a bit ahead. She then went to law school, where she incurred her greatest amount of debt.  Upon getting her J.D., she went into the practice of  real estate law.  She and her husband bought and fixed up HUD homes, and that’s how she paid off her school debt.

I would adviser anyone who doesn’t know what they want to do with their life to either attend a community college or take the CLEP exams.  Those are both a great bang for the buck.  I would also  strongly urge you to learn to do something that you enjoy.

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