I've spent the last several days writing, writing, writing and dishing out money to universities all over Chicago. I always assumed Northwestern and the University of Chicago were out of reach for me, given the state of my high school transcripts, so I set my heart on Loyola from the get-go, with DePaul as a close second. In the beginning, my search was based heavily on the best school, but after checking on the cost of tuition for all of these places, I'm leaning more towards the best bang for my buck instead.
It looks like it will run me anywhere from $14,000-$18,000 per semester at any of the schools previously mentioned, but only $5,000 per semester at the University of Illinois (Chicago campus). I made the mistake of banking on the myth that after getting my Associate's Degree, I would be able to enroll as a junior in whatever university I was accepted to. Sadly, though, that's just not the case. I could be looking at 3+ years left of school, and the prospect of graduating $70,000+ in the red is weighing heavily on my mind. The idea of getting my degree from a public university and coming out in the green, on the other hand, is looking pretty good.
I guess I should expound a bit on what I would like to go to school for. Maybe that would put things in perspective...
I'd like to pursue a career in secondary education. As someone who's made her fair share of mistakes, I've developed a wealth of compassion for kids struggling to keep their head above water. To say I misspent my youth would be putting it mildly, and because I've had to claw, scrape, and climb to accomplish what little I have thus far, I think I'm in a good position to help others like myself. Too many of my teachers, growing up, were worn-out and uninspired. It's often said of the profession that it's much harder than it looks, and I truly believe that, but I think I have the mettle to weather what challenges may present themselves.
I'm not telling you all this to stroke my own ego. I wanted to make the point that if I were going to study law or medicine, or even business, then it would make sense for me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on getting into the school with the most clout. For the career path I've chosen, however, I run the risk of educating myself out of a job and racking up loans that will take decades to repay. My aunt has been teaching for many years now, and with her master's degree, she doesn't have a lot of career mobility because it's cheaper to hire a couple of kids fresh out of college than it is to pay her for her credentials. What that says about the state of our education system is another entry entirely, but I think you see where I'm going with this.
I'm just hoping, if I do choose the affordable route, that it will be the work I do that makes a greater difference in my job prospects than the name of the university I attend. But I guess all of my quibbling is rather preemptive, considering I haven't heard back yet from any of the schools I've applied to. Feel free to let me know if there are any rampant rationalizations going on here.
Oh, and knock on wood. If I get six rejection letters in the mail, I'll know I've jinxed myself.