Mar 22, 2006, 12:21 AM
Post #19 of 430
If you think you can put up with the debt (emotionally, financially, etc.) and you think you couldn't be happy elsewhere, go for it. This issue has been discussed in some other thread, look for it. I don't think it's obviously silly to go into debt in order to go to the program you like, but it's also true that you might as well apply to other equally good programs that might give you financial support. That's why I insist on "if you couldn't be happy elsewhere" (which is, I think, unlikely).
Re: [vitadimanche] Columbia-Poetry
Visiting is a killer, though. Yeah, once you visit, and barring some freakish accident, you will like the program -- or the impression of the program that you may have had in those two or three days. Which only goes to show what you've already said: the decision is tough. But on the other hand it's easy: think, realistically, whether you could or could not deal with the debt. This is a highly variable issue. Some people will be OK dealing with that, and some others will live in misery. Therefore, you are the one who's in the best position to know whether it'll be worth it or not. But don't fool yourself: don't "weigh" the immediate happiness (going to Columbia) against the future unhappiness (being in debt). If you honestly believe you will be unhappy when burdened by the debt, there's no current happiness that can outweigh that. Man, your future self will curse your current self like no one has ever cursed. But if you can deal with financial insecurity, etc., and the prospect of being in huge debt in your 40's doesn't bother you all that much, you're cut to go in debt. Of course, to the MFA debt, add mortgage, potential children and their financial needs, etc.
Also, I'd try to find and talk to people who are in that situation already. I think you mentioned one person. Well, seek more, because the one you met might be the lucky exception. The rest might, for all we know, be terribly unhappy. I've heard horror stories about former MFAers who're still yoked to Columbia's finance department. And I've also heard (fewer) stories like the one you mentioned, about people who are happy despite the monthly payments to Your Master's Voice. Anyway, I'd try to find as many former Columbia MFAers, see how they're doing, and then project yourself being in the shoes of the least favored Columbia MFAer -- perhaps even a couple of notches "below" him or her. (You know, just to err on the side of caution). Would you still be happy then? If the answer is yes, go for it. Of course, in the fate of these MFAers, like in everybody else's, good or bad luck (and other unforeseeable factors) surely played some role. But precisely because of these unforeseeable factors I'd project myself into the worst-case scenario. If I'm OK with that, then everything's going to be fine. But don't trick yourself: project yourself into the really worst-case scenario. If you can deal with that, you'll deal with whatever cards you'll be dealt.
Anyway, this is a mess. That's why I didn't even apply to Columbia. It's not that I'm immune to its charms, but I would have been tempted to go, and I would have freaked out about the debt. I just couldn't handle that. But that's just me :)