Category Archives: Education: College & Grad

Don’t Go Into Debt For College

I just got back form vacation, and need to do a bit of catching up. Well, the truth is there is a lot of catching up to do! I didn’t have internet for an entire week. Being great felt great, but not it’s time to kick projects into gear especially since fall is starting soon.

Here’s a link to my post on Dimespring. Ever since I graduated college I have become a strong advocate of not going into debt for your education. Check out my reasons why. Here’s a short preview.

My husband and I were discussing the cost of college one night. He had recently finished a conversation with one of his childhood buddies. They were talking about the jobs they had,student loans, and living expenses.

We all grow up thinking college is your ticket to success. You go to high school, attend college, and you get this amazing job.

After you land your job you can afford everything you want! New car, check! Fancy, international vacations, check! Designer clothes, check!

Then, reality kicks in…

Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 5.48.26 PM

Let me know what you think.

Did you go into debt for college? Would you do it differently?

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Master’s in Dispute Resolution

So, I had my mid year IPM review today. It went well. I asked for more opportunities, and I’m hoping my boss gives me some more opportunities. So far, I think I have improved a lot since starting a year ago. I’m more confident, and I’m taking charge.

I still want to run and do more things and get promoted now, but my boss wants to take things slow. He doesn’t want to overload me. So, I need to figure out different ways to continue my development.

I got approval to start a new master’s. You may ask, why do I need approval? Well, my company has a tuition reimbursement program as part of the company benefits. My company reimburses $8,000 a year. I used it to complete the last three classes of my MBA. But the master’s program has to be related to my job. So while I would love to do a master’s in spanish literature, at the moment I will have to wait.

Instead, I am looking at a master’s in dispute resolution with a concentration track in advanced international negotiation. Sound fancy, eh?

He approved it. So, now I have to get off my butt and complete the application for the program. It’s not hard, but I just need to do it.

The ideal time would be to start in early 2014, and take 3 classes next year. Each class is $2,500, so 3 classes would take me to the annual limit. Then, the next year, I would take 3 classes, and so on and so on. The master’s is a 42 hour credit program. Taking 3 classes every year means I will finish the program in 4.5 years. So 2018, here I come. Dang…2018??? I’m going to be 28 in 2018. Didn’t really think about it this way. Ouch. I could always figure out a way to finish in 2017.

The campus is 3 minutes away from my company’s head quarter’s. Talk about an easy commute.

What is a master’s in dispute resolution program about?

The program provides in-depth study of conflict theory as well as ample options for further specialization in areas such as organizational conflict, social services conflict, international conflict and  dispute resolution in education. Students learn the arts of negotiation, problem solving, mediation, arbitration, systems design, and many other applications of dispute resolution. The program actively incorporates role-plays from varied aspects of human relationships to engage the student in class participation. These exercises provide students with the skill and training necessary to become adept at the art of conflict resolution.

I’m hoping by the time I finish the program, I will become a master negotiator!!!

I’m also thinking of taking language courses at my community college (2014!). I’m looking at Mandarin Chinese. Classes are really affordable, and I would be doing this for fun, as well. This I would pay for myself.

English: Map of subgroups of the Mandarin dial...

English: Map of subgroups of the Mandarin dialect group, plus the Jin dialect group often considered part of Mandarin, based on Language Atlas of China, by Stephen Adolphe Wurm, Rong Li, Theo Baumann and Mei W. Lee, Longman, 1987, ISBN 978-962-359-085-3. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m, also, giving though to eventually going for a PhD, just for fun. I just have to figure out a way to do my PhD, while I work because I won’t quit my job to do my PhD. Ahh how I love to plan for these things. It’s on the dream pipeline. Meanwhile I’ll start working on some other projects I have been meaning to initiate.

Any thoughts? Anybody going back to school?


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Important Lessons From High School


I’m 23 years old, I have been married two years, and I have upper education degrees. I work for a big technology company, and live in Texas.

I know I’m young, but sometimes I look back in life and wonder about what I could have done better. I know I have done pretty well, otherwise I would be here today, but there are always times in your life where you wish you would have done something different. Here are mine.

Figured out a way to continue marching band in high school

I love music, and I actually continued to teach and perform music in high school, but I didn’t continue with marching band. I was in varsity freshman year of high school, and I had to audition on a different date for my sophomore year spot than everybody else. I had a competition during the regular auditions and I auditioned early. My band directors forgot about my audition and completely forgot to place me in any band. They gave away my varsity spot to another member, and after some discussion with them, I was told they couldn’t give me back my varsity spot because they didn’t think it was fair to take it away from the member. I was really disappointed and hurt at the time. I did my due diligence beforehand and made sure to schedule my audition since I had another commitment, but they overlooked it, and got dropped off the team. I don’t know about how you would have felt, but I didn’t like it at all, especially since they admitted my audition performance was top notch and better than the person they accidentally added. I quit the week after. Why do I wish things had gone differently? Band was so much fun. I was part of a big family, and I didn’t really find the same family in other activities. Sure there was plenty of drama, but it was still such a fabulous experience. I don’t how I could have changed my attitude. Varsity music is at a higher level than junior varsity music, and I didn’t want to be at a lower level.

Figured out a way to run cross-country my senior year of high school

So, after quitting band, I went to my love of cross country. Freshman year of high school I couldn’t participate in cross country because practices were at the same time as marching band. But now I could. My couch was ecstatic! I spent all summer training. At try outs, I ran the second best time, and made the varsity team. I qualified for regionals that same year for cross country and track. Sophomore year was also extremely fun. My couch and my team were awesome! Junior year, things started getting stressful. I had so much work from school, since I had started my first year of true International Baccaulareate classes. On top of that I had, AP classes, speech and debate assignments, and I tutored my brother at night. I, also, had dance classes and performances. I think I was also student leader for a couple of clubs. I would often get home and just pass out for 30 minutes, wake up, do homework, and tutor my brother for an hour. I only slept 4-5 hours a day. I would wake up at 5 am, and not hit the snooze until past midnight. On Fridays, I would often come home and spent the entire night doing homework. Saturday was always full of activities, and Sunday was church and homework. One of my classmates actually organized a petition to decrease the amount of homework were taking home. It backfired of course, and our teachers only gave us more homework. I was also dealing with overbearing parents; every teenager’s dream. We got a new couch. My cross country performance suffered. I got hurt and couldn’t finish the season. I recovered during the winter, and made it back for long distance track running. But again, the stress was getting to my body. Story repeated itself, and I kept getting hurt. My body wasn’t recovering. Now that I think back to it, I wasn’t taking care of my body. I probably wasn’t eating a balanced diet (not one that matched the pace of my training), and I wasn’t training properly. If I knew then what I know now, I would have ran way better. I would have had a better diet, and integrated more cross training to my workouts. I think yoga and pilates would have helped my stressed out muscles. Honestly, I should have dropped some commitments. I just have no idea what I would have dropped. I didn’t run cross country my senior year, despite the fact my couch begged me to come back. She even went and talked to my parents. I wish I had gone back. I, also, missed my cross country family

I don’t what I was thinking when I changed my mind about becoming a software engineer

Seriously, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was frustrated with JAVA. Object oriented programming was baffling and nobody knew what the hell was going on. Only myself, and my friend were working on senior design projects, and my teacher was learning JAVA along with us. Sometime senior year, when I was stressed out, disappointed, and unhappy, I made a decision that I didn’t want to become a software engineer. Despite the fact I had spent 4 years of my high school, learning how to program. I thought I was going to be so behind when I got to college, and that everyone was going to know how to code and design better than me. I don’t know. In the end, I decided not to, and switched my career path to business. I miss the rush of designing, and it took me five years to realize it. So, yes, I would go back and stick with my original plan. Because guess what? Those fears I had when I reached college where not really factual. Many of the people I talked to who were majoring in computer science/software engineering were just starting out. I think it’s so important to have a technology/engineering background. We are not pushed enough to do this. Especially females! My brother is in his junior year of high school, and we often talk about college and careers. Just last week he told me how a friend said petroleum engineering is really hard and my brother shouldn’t consider it as an option. I told him to not listen to his friend, and not do something because he’s scared. You can do anything if you have the determination.

What I have learned from my high school experiences:

Don’t quit before you start something. Don’t fail to try something because you’re scared you’ll fail. Don’t make decision when you’re stressed out and tired. Let your body recover.

 What do you know now that you wished you had known then?

Cover of "Learning Java"

Cover of Learning Java

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I Finished My MBA with No Debt at Age 23

On Friday, I took my last MBA exam. I’m finished with my MBA at age 23. Here’s a quick recap of my educational achievements:

  • May 2008 – Graduated Valedictorian from my High School as an International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Distinguished Scholar.
  • May 2011 – Graduated with my B.S. Global Business from my college with Magna Cum Laude Honors.
  • May 2012 – Graduated with my M.S. Supply Chain Degree with Distinction Honors
  • May 2013 – Graduated with my M.B.A with Distinction Honors

I did this without acquiring debt. I’m so glad I finished my M.B.A. Now I feel like I completed my mandatory education and I can move on and concentrate on something else.

I learned a lot from my M.B.A. education and believe it is extremely valuable to your career. I think an M.B.A. provides you with the prestige because honestly, you learn everything on the job.

Most people finish their post-college education way later in life. I decided to get it over and done early. A lot of people don’t think it’s valuable, or that companies won’t take you seriously. But honestly, companies don’t care at what age you received your MBA, only that you have it. So when I’m 30, and can say I have 10 years of experience and an MBA; they won’t ask, when did you graduate with your MBA?

An MBA costs a lot of money. At my school, tuition and expenses for an MBA totaled to $48,000, if you did it in 1.5 years. $48,000 is a lot of money. I know one family can survive on this alone for one year. One class this semester was $2,500. As soon as I get my grades, I will apply for tuition reimbursement at my company. I think by mid June, I should have the $2,500 back in my savings account.

Can’t believe the end finally came. Now that I finished my class, I plan to dedicate more time to this blog. I want to grow it. I, also, want to get more staff writing positions. If you know someone that is hiring, please let me know! I, also, want to start a professional blog. I’m going to plan it this summer, and hopefully take it live in the fall. My professional blog will concentrate more on business strategy and operations topics.

What’s next for my education? My company reimburses up to $8,000  every calendar year. I think this is an added benefit on top of my salary that the company is giving me. So, I’m actually looking into enrolling a new master’s program. This master’s program concentrates more on negotiation and dispute resolution; a skill I could utilize my entire life. Maybe I can finish it by the time I’m 25? Or 26, might be a more realistic goal. I have already done the math. I could take up to 3 classes a calendar year. Each class is $2,500. My plan is to start the application this month.

Are you working on a graduate degree or recently finished one?

I received $100,000 in scholarships. If you are interested in finding out you can graduate debt free, read 9 Tips For Paying For College, Stafford Loans, Choosing the College Path, Value Proposition of Your Degree.

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I Just Paid For My Last MBA Class

Last week, I paid for my last MBA class. $2500 has been withdrawn from my personal bank account and transfered to my university’s bursar’s account. It’s rather bitter sweet! I, also, just applied for graduation. I’ll be reimbursed in June when I pass my class. I already miss the money!

In the Spring semester, I will be taking Economics. I’m not crazy excited about the class, but I’m excited to be finished finally with school. At least for the time being. My mom is already asking me when I’m going to start and finish my PhD. She really wants a doctor in the family. ;p

Has my MBA benefited me? I have to say it has. I learned a lot during graduate school, and it allowed me to enter the workforce at a higher starting salary. Being “finished” with school, has it’s downsides. Gone is the security of knowing if you get A’s, you will be AOKAY. I’m finding out quickly the workforce is very different from school.

Will I go back to school after my MBA? I don’t know yet. I love being a student, sitting in a classroom, and learning, but I don’t like the busy work.

Are you finishing up a graduate program? Are you considering a graduate program? What are your thoughts?

I’m Already Thinking About a New Master’s

I’m already thinking about a new master’s and I haven’t even finished my MBA! LOL Yup, you read it right. So, I have four more classes to go until I finish my MBA (May 2013). I am taking two classes this semester, and two classes next semester for those of you that didn’t know.

This week I had Negotiation and Conflict Resolution training at my work. I had taken a negotiation class before in my graduate program, so all the terms like BATNA or WATNA, I already knew the definition. Let’s just say knowing the theory and applying it are two different things! Of course, I knew this, but still…It was a 3 day class that really reminded me of my shortcomings in negotiation skills. I actually made the mistake/brilliant move to volunteer to do a negotiation for my group. Thankfully, my other counterpart was one of the youngin’ fresh MBA faces, not the seasoned negotiators (older coworkers). Let’s just say we got a C- and the instructor told us nicely that we crashed and burned. We were the example of what not to do for the rest of the class. Seriously, he used us every other minute as an example!

One of the instructors is the director of the dispute resolution program at a local university. I actually had already heard about this program already before and it had been in the back of my mind.

Negotiation and conflict resolution is something that has always peaked my interest. WHY? Because I want to be an awesome negotiator. My job, also, requires negotiation skills every day, and to some extent conflict resolution. I think taking a couple of classes to hone in my negotiation skills would be a huge benefit for which I would reap the rewards until my death! It would definitely help my career! :)

I’m actually considering starting out with the Certificate Program in Dispute Resolution after finishing my MBA, and if I find it beneficial (which knowing me, I will), transition into the M.A. in Dispute Resolution. Dispute resolution refers to methods used by trained neutrals to help people communicate more clearly, negotiate effectively, develop and evaluate solutions. My company will pay for it, so I would consider it extra value added compensation on top of my salary and benefits :) Plus, the university has a professional center right around the street from my office where they would hold most of the classes (I need to figure out more details, but I believe this is true). I know this is a year away, but I’m going to ask the instructor to coffee and talk to him about my aspirations.

I do realize he is going to sell this program to me, after all it’s money towards the university. My current university does not have a similar program. I know the program is credible though. One of my close friend’s mom completed this program years ago, and is very happy with what she learned. The university is very reputable (more famous actually than the one I currently attend and am an alumni), so it would pretty cool to add it to my educational resume :) I already printed the admission and course requirements! I’m a tad excited :) Something to look forward to after my MBA.

P.S. Look for my posts relating to what I learned in training! Some of the info might help you refine your negotiation skills!

Pay for Tuition by Check or Credit Card?

Fall classes are just around the corner, which is making me super antsy. I am enjoying my free time way too much!!! In my department, I am the only one currently going to school, and I am a little jealous :p. All good jealousy! I have to keep the end goal in mind, and concentrate on the fact that I will be finished with my MBA in the spring (May). I, also, realize that I am fairly young in finishing my degrees, and I can only go up from now.

If you recall from my post, Going Back to School In the Fall, I am going to take 2 classes this coming semester. I have decided to veer from my original track and take a completely different upper elective. I found an upper elective that is online, thus eliminating the need to go to class. I have experience with online classes, and I am comfortable taking them. I actually find them better sometimes because it allows me to pace myself. Online classes can be less or more work than regular classes. Most of the time you are working about the same amount though. In the end, the difference doesn’t even make it to your transcript. If you are wondering, here is a description of the class:

Data Communications: This course covers the fundamentals of telecommunications, including: transmission, switching, throughput and capacity, error rates and checking, and security and policy issues. State of the art technologies and their applications to business are covered in depth.

My second class is also an online class and only lasts from August to October. Below is the description:

Management Information Systems: Examines key business processes in organizations and how information systems support the execution and management of these processes. The course also deals with how to structure and manipulate data that might typically be found in an information system using the database management system, MS Access, and spreadsheet software, MS Excel, to make business decisions.

Nothing too exciting. The first class will definitely be useful!

Here comes the fun part, for which I need advice. My fall tuition bill is $3674. I have the option of paying by electronic check or by credit card (fee of 1.9%). I don’t have to pay interest on my credit card for a year, so if I put it on my credit card, it won’t hit my checking account, but instead will float until my employer pays for it (Cost: $70). If I pay by check, I won’t have to pay a fee, but I won’t see my money until January! My savings will drop to $3,000, a dangerously low number. NOTE: I have a max of $2500 on the credit card, maybe it isn’t such a good idea?

I really hate paying a fee to use the credit card, and I am not sure how I feel about carrying a large balance on my credit card for six months. I feel like I should almost get a credit card just to pay for tuition. But it is just $72 to have peace of mind for a couple of months. But I do have savings to pay for my tuition on hand.

Tuition is due on August 1st, I will like to have the balance paid in the next two weeks. I have, also, applied for tuition reimbursement from my company. My manager approved my application, and thus, I will only need to turn receipts and grades when I finished the semester. Since the first class ends in October, I could potentially have almost $2,000 reimbursed in November.

What do you think??? Have you ever faced this dilemma?


Stafford Loans 101

As you may know, I am going back to school in the fall to finish up my MBA. I have 3 classes left in my program and I am super excited to finish! Being this close but not finished yet, is awful. I am taking two classes in the fall, and one in the spring. I am spacing it out so that I won’t be too stressed!

While I was checking out my tuition bill and scholarship information, I noticed that I had an offer to accept an Unsubsidized Stafford Loan. The loan was for about $12000. I immediately declined it because I don’t need the loan. Thankfully, I will not need to borrow to pay for these last three classes. However, I realized even though I had constantly heard about this loan, I did not actually know the exact details.

Here is a summary of my detective work….

An UNSUBSIDIZED Stafford Loan is a federally guaranteed loan that is not based on financial need. Interest will accrue from the time the loan is disbursed to the school. You do not have to make interest or principal payments until six months after graduation, or six months after you drop below a half time status. You can borrow up to $12,000 per year depending on degree status and years in school. Fixed interest rate varies depending on when you started, but right now it’s at 6.8%. Only U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and eligible non citizens are eligible for this loan.

A SUBSIDIZED Stafford Loan is a federally guaranteed loan based on financial need. Interest does not accrue on the loan while you are in school at least half time, or during any future deferment periods. The federal government “subsidizes” (or pays) the interest during these times. Additionally, there are maximum amounts you can receive per school year.

The main difference is when interest starts accruing. You can always pay off your loans early without paying any penalties.

If you are a college or graduate student, make sure you know if you have subsidized or unsubsidized loans, the interest rate, and when you need to start paying the government back.

Do you have experience with these types of loans? Any advice to soon to be college students? Would you recommend taking out the max amount in loans?


9 Tips for Paying for College

Student debt is nearing nearly $1 Trillion dollars. Our current generation is going into debt to attain a better lifestyle, and in turn burying themselves in mountains of consumer, government, and private debt. I have several friends who graduated with over $40K in student loans and are earning less than $40K a year. I have other friends who are making a good living $65K, but are still paycheck to paycheck because of their thousands of student loan debt. The pie chart below illustrates how the average family pays for college. Parent income is the number one source, followed by grants & scholarships, and student borrowing.

Here are 9 Tips for paying for college:

  1. Start saving for college early: I had nearly 3K of my own savings to start off freshman year. I saved all my money from my part time job in high school and some cash competitions I won. This allowed me to buy my computer and things for my apartment room. I think my parents had saved up several thousand.
  2. Work with high school counselors to find scholarships:I worked with my school counselor and registrar to find scholarships. Through the applications they gave to fill out, I earned nearly 8K in scholarship money to be used for my freshman year expenses.
  3. Make sure you know, and meet deadlines for financial aid: It’s surprising to see students lose out on financial aid because they did not turn in their application early enough or they simply forgot to apply, or follow up with financial aid department. Believe me nothing will happen unless you push financial aid to answer your questions. I had a high school classmate who delayed college for a semester because he missed financial aid deadline. Financial aid is also on a first come, first serve basis. I, also, saw another student miss aid because he did not turn in the right documentation.
  4. Lessen costs by starting at a nearby community college and living at home: I went to straight to university, but I know a lot of students who saved themselves lots of money by doing their basic at a community college. I took 5 classes during the summer at a community college to advance in my degree. The classes were easier and cheaper!
  5. Earn your degree faster by taking summer courses OR taking more classes during the semester: Like I said before, I took summer classes. I also took 21 hours every semester. In many universities, after 15 hours, students don’t have to pay for additional classes. This is how I finished my bachelor’s in 3 years.
  6. At some colleges, you can take 15 credit hours as the same cost as the typical 12 hours. Or 21 hours at the same cost of 15 credit hours. Just make sure to balance out tough classes with easy classes. If you are taking 21 hour, make sure no more than 15 hours are heavy duty, intense courses. You do not want your GPA to drop due to taking on too much of a load.
  7. Get a part time job off or on campus: I worked during summers or vacations. It helped me reload my savings fund. I definitely recommend finding an on campus job like campus patrol. The jobs are easy, you don’t have to spend gas to get to them, and they tend to be flexible with your school activities. If you can’t find one on campus, find one close by. I had a friend who did not work all the way through college, relied on student loans, had no scholarships, did not concentrate on school, and did not graduate by one class. After 4 years, she is looking for a minimum wage job. Does not make any sense.
  8. Many community groups and often your parent’s company have scholarships available. But it’s up to you to find these sources of money: I got a lot of local scholarships! Look around and call the organizations to see if they have any. If you move to another city for university, look for scholarships in that community. I did, and got $2000 in local scholarships.
  9. If you have a scholarship, don’t blow it by getting bad grades or acting up:Pretty self explanatory.

Do all these tips pay off? Yes. I received a total of $93,000 to pay for my 4 years of education. My parents paid $11,000. My 4 year education cost a grand total of $109,000. If I had not had scholarships, I would have had to pay $93,000 out of pocket. My parents would not have been able to help me, and I would have graduated with $93,000 in student loans. Since I knew my education was very expensive, I decided to get 2 degrees in 4 years (bachelors and master’s). Did it mean I had to work very hard? Yes. I did have to sacrifice activities with my friends, etc. But it was worth it.

Did you get scholarships to pay for college? Do you have any recommendations?


Choosing the College Path

There has been a lot of discussion in the personal finance world in regards to the benefits of a higher education, especially when considering the increasing cost. Some pf bloggers have gone as far as saying a college education is just not worth it. I just wanted to write my own experience in acquiring a higher education. Gathering different perspectives is very important in trying to decide whether it’s worth it to continue with your education or even help your child decide if it’s the right choice for him/her.

My background:

I come from a low income community. My parents immigrated into this country when I was younger and despite having college degrees from their respective country, could not really do the same thing they were doing there here. Why did my parents immigrate? Their country was going through a high unemployment period for young adults at the time, sort of like what’s happening now. My dad has graduated from a top private university, had several years of experience, but still could not find a job that could feed our family. My parents came only temporarily to ride out the storm, but decided to stay after they realized life for their kids (my brother and I) might be better here, even if life for them was harder. So they traded their office jobs in their country to come work in harder conditions in a foreign country.

I definitely went through the “system.”Bilingual classes are never top priority for schools, and many kids get discouraged and often drop out. I was lucky to have my 4th grade teacher notice that I was bright and recommend me to the talented and gifted program. Despite achieving high scores, I was not allowed to join the program because I needed to have 1 year in an all English classroom. I spent fifth grade in an all English classroom; this class was where they put the majority of the problematic kids. My teacher was great and was the only that could handle such a special group. I was finally allowed to join the program in middle school.

Differentiating Myself: I think it was extremely important to separate myself from the crowd. When your peers are all motivated and aspire to go to college, it kinds rubs in you know? As of now, only 2, including myself, have graduated from college from the kids in the bilingual program in my grade. There were about thirty of us. I did spend most of my time in middle school catching up to my peers, and finally in high school I was able to surpass my classmates. I graduated at the top of my class and went to college.

I honestly don’t usually share my struggles with people. Most people think I was just a normal kid who had parents that put her in special classes so she could advance. My husband is definitely one of those kids. He went to one of the best elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Which I think was great!

I definitely think my experience led me to have a higher appreciation for higher education. First, I realized acquiring a higher education was probably the only and easiest way to advance and help my parents. Second, I always had the goal to improve and a higher education of course contributed heavily in accomplishing this goal. College for me was not a party. Yes, I did have fun, but I saw the experience differently from most college kids. Most students see college as a place to explore and find themselves. I definitely saw it that way too, but channeled the exploration and experiences in my field, so that I could advance in my career. Focus is definitely important. I went through both my undergraduate and graduate degree in four years, when it usually takes six years full time.

College has increased my earning potential. Which means I will be able to have and do things that I couldn’t do before. I will outline how I paid for both of my degree and how you can pay for your degree in a later post.

My message is simple. Education is crucial to living a good life. Work hard and you will reap the rewards. Persistence and delayed gratification are your best friends!

Why did you go to college? Has it been beneficial? Please share with other readers that might be considering making this leap of faith.


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