Archive for the ‘college’ Category

Changing My Major

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I’ve been seriously thinking about changing my major lately.  Yes, part of the reason is the horrible things physics (a C last fall) and organic chemistry (also a C last fall, looks like I am headed for another C this spring) have done to my GPA.  Two years ago I was on the deans’ list for my GPA of 3.75.  It fell to 3.2 with the fall semester.  Ouch!

Physics I just didn’t understand.  I spent the last half of that class wondering Why is this required for me? and Who thinks of these things anyway??  Organic chemistry is very interesting, and I do understand it, but it is a true case of information overload.  There is just so much new stuff in each chapter, and the professor makes some really tough tests.  Considering almost a third of the class either dropped or flunked the fall semester, I am really not doing too badly.  It’s just hard to see my GPA dwindle like this.

So I am thinking of switching from pre-pharmacy to medical technology (med tech).  This would cut out the drama of how to pay for pharmacy school, which is $27k for tuition alone in the fall of this next school year.  Add in books and fees and parking and gas for the hour commute each way, and it could get really ugly really fast, and due to first year attrition rates the scholarships don’t start until the second of four years.

My brain is a little frazzled by this point in the school year, so if my numbers look off feel free to correct me.  I’m trying to do a cost-analysis between the two programs here.

Pharmacy school: approximately $30,000 per year, up to $35,000 at the end of the four years.  Let’s call it $125,000 in cost with hubby’s income only able to cover about $5,000 to $8,000 per year.  My G.I. Bill will be running out before I hit pharmacy school, so I would be looking at $80,000 to $105,000 in student loans.  Average starting salary after you pass the board (and you must pass the board to get a job): approximately $100,000 per year in the Nashville metro area, a little lower here.  Pharmacists are paid by the hour, and my mom says right now starting wage is about $42 per hour.  I wouldn’t be in the workforce for six more years, give or take a semester, so that pushes my entry into the working world to 2013 or 2014.

Med tech: I could get this one done in about three or four semesters (two years max if I don’t do summer classes) at the most, and it would be local.  I could cash flow college the whole time, and might have only one semester at the most without my GI Bill money.  I could be working in 2010, and average starting salary of a med tech is $32,000 to $40,000.

Finally, there is the non-money issues of hubby’s deployments and son’s school and activities.  There is no doubt hubby will get deployed at some point soon.  Indeed, we have been rather lucky so far in that respect.  Son starts high school in the fall, but has two years before he can get a restricted drivers license.

Short-term thinking says it would be so much better to switch my major and get my happy hide into the workforce where I can sock 15% of that salary into a retirement account and get it busy compounding and get my mortgage paid off quickly.  But there is also the little vain thought in the back of my head that says a six figure income would be nice, and I might be able to make up for all the time and expense of the extra schooling.

Numbers nerds, here’s your chance to shine.  How far out is the break-even point between these two options?  To my caffiene-deprived mind it looks like at least 8 years, even if I put the pedal to the metal on those students loans as soon as I get out of pharmacy school.  At age 35 I am not getting any younger, and I really need to get serious about some form of retirement savings.

Saving For Upcoming Tuition Bill

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Yeah, I stopped and looked at the calendar today.  Which means I realized I will be hit for fall tuition probably next month.  The college is quick to grab our money and slow to process money in our favor, like Pell grants.  They usually credit the Pell grant money two days before “drop day” which is when they drop classes for students who haven’t paid yet.  I guess it keeps us on our toes or something.

I haven’t decided yet if I want to take another summer course or not.  It’s tempting as I make my slow progress towards a chemistry degree.  I’m also toying with the idea of switching majors.  I am just not seeing much opportunity to pay for pharmacy school since no one offers scholarships for the first year (my mom says first year attrition is pretty high).  The idea of going back into debt, even for a high-paying pharmacy degree, turns my stomach.

I’m starting to seriously look at at a med tech degree.  That’s lab work basically LOL and lab is fun … when I don’t blow things up, that is.  I really thought microbiology lab was neat last year, even though my ADD grad student teacher made it hard to get a passing grade.  And the other big plus is I would be able to get into the workforce quicker with a decent wage of approximately $30-40k a year.  It would double our household income.

But I digress (too much coffee and hubby made another pot of it).  I just got done moving $1000 over to my savings account in my credit union to sandbag for whatever nasty tuition hike surprises the college might have in store for the fall semester.  I would have much preferred to sock that money into the money market account where we are building up the fully funded emergency fund, but the college makes it inconvenient to pay by paper check. 

The college wants everyone to pay by “credit card.”  My debit/check card works just as good, but still I just don’t understand the rationale behind this since Visa and Master Card charge some kind of merchant fee for processing.  What ever happened to trying to save students a little money?  Even if it is just to get that money back in tuition or the bookstore?

Oh, speaking of Pell grants … I still have to wade through that nightmare known as the FAFSA form.  As if taxes aren’t painful enough!  Oh well, I do like getting the Pell grant.  And even with the accompanying headache it is a good return on my time.

It Blew Up in My Face

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I had chemistry lab today, and managed to have my experiment (which was distilling quite nicely so far) suddenly go into a mild explosion which left me cleaning stinky dark green slime off the sides of the fume hood.  Sitting here at home still trying to get the stench out of my memory, I couldn’t help but think how much my finances used to be like my ill-fated chemistry experiment.

I used to cruise through life thinking everything would be just fine, happily ignoring any and all warning signs if they were present, until BOOM!  Some financial situation would blow up in my face…and it usually stank just as bad as my chemistry slime.  (Did I mention it was really rank under the fume hood and my arms aren’t long enough to clean it from outside the hood?)

Tuition?  Car repairs?  The water heater breaking?  The roof leaking?  I didn’t plan for those things before!  What was an emergency fund?  I had never heard of it before a little over a year ago, much less the phrase “sinking fund” which is used for planned and expected expenses.  Retirement?  I didn’t think I would live that long!

One would have thought after cleaning up two stinking divorces along with the things mentioned above…maybe I should have gotten a clue.  But just like I had no idea my distillation was about to “bump” as the professor called it, previously I had no idea things would go bad and cost me thousands over the years.  I lived crisis-by-crisis and enjoyed the times in between the crises without any forethought for the next situation.

Oh, people DID try to warn me.  The professor today warned us about “bumping” and listed the warning signs.  But sometimes things will blow up without any warning.  My experiment didn’t change colors, didn’t give a small warning “bump,” the distillation drip didn’t change speed…it was going along beautifully then BOOM! I had that stinky smelly dark green slime everywhere, including in my product…so I had to do it over.  Just like I have been “doing over” my finances for a little over a year now

The second time I distilled my experiment, it went perfectly…except I had lost quite a bit of my product down the drain and on the walls.  This time as I redo my finances, it is going great…except I have lost 17 years of saving for retirement.  I can’t get either back, but I can write up the product loss in my lab notebook…and I write about my financial loss here.

And for the handful of fellow chemistry geeks reading this: it’s the conversion of cyclohexanol to cyclohexene in organic chemistry using concentrated sulfuric acid and 85% phosphoric acid.  Good thing for fume hoods and goggles!  Yes I had plenty of boiling stones, and had already turned down the rheostat.  It still bumped big time, about 3 minutes before the gal two hoods down had the same problem.