Dunbar: The cost of investing in success


Blair Dunbar, Columnist

My best friend is emptying her savings account to go to graduate school. Oh, and it’s not to pay for the actual schooling. It’s just for the application fees. She is still trying to figure out how she will pay for the mailing of her GRE scores and flights to the various schools for interviews.

Another friend of mine, a journalism major, would love to spend some time chasing stories in Africa, establishing herself as an international journalist. That’s why she applied for a Fulbright grant. If she doesn’t get the Fulbright, what will she be doing? She will be waiting tables at her current job, hopefully saving up enough money so that she can eventually go abroad, crack a big story and establish herself.

And me? I was loath to discover that the recommended attire for the career fair was along the lines of a pencil skirt, blouse and blazer. I don’t own a single one of those items. I guess it’s time to taking a shopping trip to Nordstrom — and break out the credit cards.

Parents and teens across the country spend the majority of their lives trying to figure out a way to pay for college. Once that’s been resolved, families breathe a huge sigh of relief, thinking that the worst is over. I’ve slowly been realizing throughout my senior year that college is just the beginning of a long-term investment process for our success. Perhaps the only difference between our college years and post-college years is that the financial burden no longer falls on our parents — it falls on us.

No matter whether you are applying for jobs or applying to medical school or law school, your future requires a significant initial investment, a down payment if you will. It could be paying for practice test books, a new wardrobe or living expenses while working at a necessary unpaid internship. A lot of my high school friends had to move back to my hometown, Geneva, Illinois, after graduating from college not because they don’t have jobs, but because they need to save money while gaining necessary work experience. What better way to save money than living at home with your parents?

In a way, I equate applying for a job after graduation with running a political campaign. Everyone knows that the key to running a successful campaign is massive fundraising. You need millions of dollars for the various TV commercials, newspaper ads, visits to local towns and travel from one debate to another. When applying for a job, or graduate school for that matter, it’s all about putting our best foot forward. We need to put on our nicest dress clothes and an award-winning smile. You just have to hope you have enough money to buy that black pencil skirt or gray pantsuit.

I’m not the only one who has realized the economic pressures career success places on an individual. A nationwide not-for-profit called Dress for Success addresses the specific issues of the high cost of professional clothing. Dress for Success provides free, professional attire for women attempting to enter the workforce from homeless shelters, immigration services or domestic violence shelters.

Long story short? The harsh reality is that a full bank account never ceases to provide advantages, even if you do manage to scramble together enough money for college. As soon as you set foot on campus, it’s time to start putting the pennies back into your now empty piggy bank.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].