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At a crossroads..advice?


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I need help deciding what to do.


I am at a crossroads between starting a potentially very lucrative business, or starting grad school (I've already been accepted into the grad program and the first full week starts next week. I could get 90% tuition refund if I withdraw next week. It's an MFA program- Master of Fine Arts) I could do both, but it would hinder both unless I partnered with someone in the business, which I can't guarantee I can do.


I want to go to grad school because I want to grow artistically/creatively. Also the program offers some very opportunistic networking events that will possibly help me branch out socially and career-wise. I'm a very lonely person so having the opportunity to make friends who are similar to myself is valuable to me. I don't want to go to grad school because the program is very time-consuming/intensive, it is expensive, and I usually have issues with attendance (In college I often "skipped" or left early. I'm a free-bird kind of person and academic schedules never vibed well with me, so I don't want to waste all that money by not being fully present in the program.) I am also torn because I've wanted to join this program for a couple of years now, and I was very excited about attending...up until paying tuition and the time-intensive study became real to me.


The business I could get into would cost an initial max of 10,000 to start, (versus 15,000/semester, 60,000 total for grad program.) But the money making possibilities would be very rewarding and profitable. It is not in a field which I have any passion for, and is only about the money. I feel that with the money I could make, I could either save up to go back to school when I'm more financially stable, or put the money towards my own studio, classes, or anything I wish! It just somehow feels I am straying from my heart when I think of turning my back on grad school since art is my gift and I want to use it and have that meaning in my life. I realize I don't need school to practice art, but for me it's hard to stay committed to practicing when I'm not around other creative-minded people/environment.


Now it may be possible to do both, if I can find someone to partner in with the business, but I fear that half-running a business may be intrusive in my time/energy in school, and since school is so expensive I feel I wouldn't want to go into the program if I can't fully be present mentally.


Any thoughts?

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My nephew got a MFA from Julliard for jazz/classical music. At the same he made a lot of money tutoring, playing gigs with a band he formed, making /selling CDs, downloads, etc. But those were realistic and professionally related endeavors, not get rich quick schemes.



So you can follow your passion both form an artistic point of view and practical point of view, which of course ultimately you have to because you need to eat. Don't fall for shaky business ventures.

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How are you sure your $10k business investment would turn a profit?


Sounds to me like you're restricting yourself to two bad options: a continued education you don't want to go through and an outright gamble on a business that doesn't even enthuse you.


$60,000 is a lot of money to throw at something without being all in and I personally consider the commoditification of art education to be one of the all time biggest sins of academia (but that's just me). I'd suggest getting the idea out of your head that your next move needs to be some be some high risk, high reward leap and look for an Option C that gives you some stability to move forward with.

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I am always in favour of getting more education. That said, can you go to school part time and work full time at your job? I am also fully in favour of starting one's own biz. This is a tough decision!


The problem is that the program doesn't offer part-time status, I thought of that! Otherwise it would be a lot easier to decide.

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Hey Seagasper,


It seems like you already know what you want (Art Grad Program) but you also know your habits (lack of self-discipline) might be a road block. If art is your passion and it makes you happy, you will have a lot of regrets in the future if you don't pursue it. The money and effort you spend today to finish grad school will pay off in happiness for the rest of your life.


On the other hand, if you take the lucrative business opportunity today, it will definitely make you more financially stable but it will also take you farther and farther away from your passion. You won't focus on art when you are not in an "art" environment plus the flow of money from the business will keep you happy and motivated to continue with the business. It will be very difficult for you to leave the financial stability and enter a world where you are not making money and having to discipline yourself daily.


The IDEAL option would be to put off grad school until you have enough money from the lucrative business opportunity to go back to school with peace of mind. You could then attend grad school and, if you are able to balance a work and school life, also start a small art project/venture on the side. The difficulty in following through with this option is the amount of self discipline and willpower you will have to summon up to eventually drop the business and go back to school.


If you ultimately have a true passion for art, go for the IDEAL option! Just keep grad school in your mind and stay focused while running your business, knowing the end goal is to do what you love every day and have a fulfilling life. Always choose lasting happiness over temporary happiness.




No Matata

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I would go with Option C: find a steady source of income that doesn't involve a high upfront monetary outlay. In other words, a job.


Don't be dazzled by the thought of having a master's degree. Unless you have a good chance of making back the money that you spend on tuition in a relatively short period of time, it's just a liability. Art degrees are rarely money-makers.


What you need is practice, and that comes with working. So, a job kills two birds with one stone. You can always audit courses for far less money and get the same amount of enrichment without having to pay for the general curriculum requirements.


By the way, I have two master's degrees, minored in fine art, and currently work as an architect. So I am speaking with some insight on the matter.

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No Matata, thanks for the thoughtful advice. You made a good point that it will be challenging to go back to school if I am content and happy financially. However, when I decided to apply to this school I was in a much better position financially than I am now, and I was driven by the desire to follow my artistic abilities because I was so unhappy with my job. You raised a lot of good points, I have much to consider.


Art is funny with me, when I do it I feel good, lose sense of time, and forget my worries. But it's so difficult for me to get rolling. I feel that my peers work so much harder than I do and are so much more committed to their craft. I worry that my lack of self discipline will make me regret spending the money on school. After college I worried I had wasted my time as I had no idea how to get work. That's when I decided on more school! I'm not sure if I mostly decided to go to buy time. All of the things I want to accomplish from school, is it worth 60,000 dollars? In the long run is hard to say....experiences are priceless.

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Jibralta, do you have any regrets on your masters degrees? Were they in architecture? To be honest, I never cared much for the MFA. I just wanted the experience of the program itself.


One is in architecture, the other is in infrastructure planning. I only got the masters in architecture because I already had a bachelor's degree and the graduate degree can be completed in three years, whereas an undergraduate degree in architecture takes five. I picked up the second master's because I could overlap the credits and it's truly my primary interest.


I think the education was overpriced and of questionable value. However, since a professional degree is necessary to become a licensed architect, I really didn't have a choice, and I don't regret the degree. But I do think it's not worth the money. If I could do it over, I'd go for engineering instead. But now I work for engineers, so I guess it all works out!


As for the experience: I made some good friends and we managed to have a lot of fun as we suffered through the curriculum (which was torturous). It's the typical studio experience. I'm guessing you had a similar experience in undergraduate. If you take a job in a design firm/pottery studio/whatever, you'll have it again no doubt.

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To me, your post makes crystal clear what is best for you.


(1) you describe yourself as "a very lonely person" who would value the opportunity to find birds with feathers like yours, and you expect to find that in your MFA program.

(2) you do not have passion for the business you would start, its a way to make money that would allow you to get back to fine arts, later.


Start the path that is most authentic to you, NOW. Address your attendance issue in a few ways:


(1) Consider getting evaluated and treated for ADHD.

(2) Accept that your attendance issues are part of you, as you are today, and that is okay. No judgment.

(3) Accept that you can attend class, follow instruction, and build friendships, if not today, some day in the future. You can change and STILL be a free spirit.

(4) Permit yourself to fail. It is a necessary step on the path to success - and after, to the next success. Failure is part of the process, and the word itself needs to be understood differently. Failure is the opportunity to get feedback on a process. If you mean to be on time for class and are late, and so therefore you let yourself skip, then start leaving your home 15 minutes earlier. Etc. Use the feedback to tweak your process, and recognize incremental change. Celebrate the baby steps.

(5) Find a friend who will help you. Perhaps a friend in each class, or in each class of the day. Or even a guidance counselor, or a therapist. Skipping class is often a symptom of a fear of failure; its an intimacy avoidance technique. Counter that head on. Tell your teachers: I have a history of skipping class a lot, and I want help changing that, and here is what I am going to do to help myself. Tell everyone. Make yourself as naked to the world as possible. Each time, you will begin to accept yourself more, and you will help other people invest in you and become part of your success.

(6) If you recognize that it is okay to fail, then you may also allow yourself more chances to succeed.



I have drawn from my own experience - it seems relevant to you. I hope it helps. It took me nearly a decade to get out of college, and really, it took me about 6 years to finish the last. I am crazy smart, sometimes, I set the curve in classes I never attended. How easy it would have been for me to excel at the highest levels, if I would have been open to it. I wasn't. I didn't want people to invest in me, to get close to me. I didn't want to let them down and I knew I would. I knew I would forget to call, that sort of thing. I skipped class all the way through high school and college. Over the decades, I have learned how to be a better friend. It all started with accepting that I am a certain way, and that those are just skills and habits, not indications of whether I care about someone else. I have learned that its okay to apply myself and still fall short. In fact, its better because I learn how to do it better next time. When I didn't apply myself, I knew that's why I fell short, and couldn't see what else I might have learned.

Whatever you do, ALWAYS choose the path about which you have the most passion. Do that over and over, and you will bloom into the flower that only you can. That is your #1 job on this planet.

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It is not in a field which I have any passion for, and is only about the money.


I doubt that throwing 10K at anything as all that profitable, or everyone would be doing it already. I'd skip that, try it part time, and go to the school you worked hard and planned to get into. If the 10K gig is really 'all that,' there's no reason why you couldn't do it on the side and test how well it works. If it shows promise, you can delay the rest of school for a while, but if it doesn't, you didn't blow your education on a scheme.

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