Thursday, August 22, 2013

New School Year, New School

This time last year I was attending orientation and preparing for my plunge into Interior Design school at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. The last year was challenging, but I am SO happy I decided to make the transition. A year later, I really feel like I'm on the path to do something that makes me totally happy and will continue to provide me opportunities to grow.

Even though the late nights working on projects and the many hours I still had to spend working my day job were stressful at times, no busy schedule can stress me out like money stresses me out. Deciding to go to the Corcoran, cut back my consulting job to 30 hours/week, and ultimately take a lower paying position as a design assistant weren't exactly putting me in the "financially secure" column.

When I decided to attend the Corcoran last summer, I did it mostly because I liked that the faculty was largely made up of adjunct professors who were out in the field running their own businesses or working for local design and architecture firms. If I was going to completely diverge from my career path, I wanted as many connections as possible so I could easily find a job when I graduated. And there was also the fact that going to the Corcoran and getting a fancy arts degree sounded really cool.

I enjoyed the Corcoran, I made good friends there, got involved in the student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the U.S. Green Building Council, and had some great professors who do amazing work in DC. But when I got my job at Arlington Home Interiors, started working with Kelly at Stylish Patina, and took on my space in the Sweet Clover Barn, I realized that I had completely underestimated my own ability to connect with people in my field. I also realized that I have no real intention of going to work for the architecture or design equivalent of the company I previously worked for. I like working in small businesses and owning a business because I get so much satisfaction building something for myself or helping those that I know personally build something.

Starting a business is expensive, and owning one can be pretty risky. I started looking at how fast I was wracking up debt in student loans and realized that the very decision I made to give myself freedom to pursue a new profession might also be the decision that would prevent me from doing so in the way that would make me happiest. Being saddled with student loans isn't exactly freeing, and I knew I needed to re-evaluate my decision.

It crossed my mind once or twice to drop out of school altogether, since you don't need a degree to do residential decorating in Virginia. I don't want to do that because there are so many opportunities to use design in ways that I haven't been exposed to, and I want to continue my education so that I can learn more about things like healthcare design and aging in place. Instead, I made the difficult decision to transfer to Marymount University's graduate interior design program. Their program is great and I know a few people who graduated from their undergrad program and were very happy there. After running the numbers, I determined that it would save me over $20,000 (!!!), and that doesn't include the fact that it's closer to my house and that parking is about half the price. Since I had already been admitted to the program the year before, it was just a matter of filing some paperwork and meeting with the department chair.

I'm going to miss the Corcoran and the friends I made there a lot, but I'm also confident that I will make new friends at Marymount, and I might even be able to take some of what I learned from my student involvement at the Corcoran to Marymount's program. I feel a little sheepish because this is actually the second time I will be a transfer student (I transferred into UVA in undergrad), so that means I will have attended four schools to get two degrees. But it would also be quite silly of me to stay at the Corcoran just because I don't want to transfer again.  I'm already sleeping better knowing I'm saving that much money. Classes start next week--wish me luck!

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes you just have to go with what you know is right, and it sounds like this is right for you! I have to say, it's fun to watch you... I have no regrets with my life and am so happy, but you are sort of an inspiration to me. I had no idea I would be into interior design when I was in college, and I wonder "what if...". So instead I will live vicariously through you, watching you grow and become even more awesome than you are. I know that sounds so cheesy, but I really mean it from the bottom of my heart.


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