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Should I wait a year??? extremely confused...

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Here's my dilemma: I accepted admission to a certain DC-based, top international relations program. I was given a small amount of aid money, meaning that I'm probably looking of debts around $80,000 for a two year program. Now I'm totally conflicted about whether I should actually go.

When I was applying to schools, I was set on this particular school. Part of it was the focus on my particular region; part of it was meeting lots of people in the nonprofit world (which I want to continue to be a part of) who have gone to this school and said they've loved it; and part of it was that I felt I had a somewhat meager resume, which would be bolstered by having that school name.

Shortly after finishing my apps, I left the US to my particular country of interest, and landed two really interesting, badass jobs in a row. Now, I'm sitting in this particular unnamed, Asian country, wondering whether it's really worth going back this fall and enrolling in the program. On the one hand, this program would certainly give me access to networks of people, a solid base of knowledge, and a good starting point. On the other hand, I could wait a year and get more field experience (and hope I can continue to find interesting work), and apply for cheaper programs. Deferring at this school is not an option, so it'd have to be a new set of schools.

In a sense, they're both pretty good options. There are parts of the program which I'm not in love with: its orientation is very much establishment, its curriculum options are pretty rigid. At $80,000, even if it was the perfect program it would still be hard to justify. That being said, most of these professional programs carry a big bill anyway. If I waited a year and ended up in a program that was $60,000, would it have been worth it? As said before, I'm interested in the nonprofit world. For those not in the sector, it's actually pretty goddamn competitive, and the school name and network would help. On the other hand, field experience is also pretty valuable.

So this is why I'm so confused about what I should do. The school option is somewhat "safer" - I know I'm in there, I don't have to worry about finding other programs, reapplying, and also finding another interim job to keep me going. On the other hand, I like living in this country for the most part, and I could have another year of adventure and interesting work before going back to the States. I'm 26 now, and if I waited a year I'd be 29 by the time I graduated. Makes me feel old...

I am reaching out to you, anonymous people of the internet, to give me some advice (or at least something to help me guide my decision)! Thanks for reading...

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That's a tough one.

My sis is in a fairly similar situation, though her's is a bit easier (she's younger and she can defer). I moved out here to Beijing for the job market - she lives here. She got into Johns Hopkins-Nanjing, her top choice program, but with no financial aid. Then she got a sweet job that provides both great experience and a GREAT paycheck (she's making more than I ever have even though I'm 3 years older and she was always kind of a slacker in school - yes, I'm a bit jealous). She deferred; she figures she can apply to a bunch of other programs next year and hope for some funding while having her top choice at full cost as a fall-back.

It's a bit tougher for you. I hear you on the age thing - I feel a bit old when I think of graduating a few months shy of my 28th (or 29th if I dual-degree, which is looking probable). You just want to have some direction and earnings before your 30s, you know?

I would base it on the promise of your current job. If you're enjoying yourself, doing really well and making some money, it might be worth staying, improving your application for next year, and applying to some cheaper schools that will also probably give you some aid. If these jobs are awesome and great experience but they're temporary and not paying a living wage, go to your dream school. I don't feel like I can offer that good of advice without being in your shoes, sorry! Good luck with your decision!

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