A lot of people believe that if they can't get in to a top-tier college or graduate school, it's not worth going. Yet, there are a lot of considerations that play into your decision to go back to school, and the prestige of the program is only one factor in choosing the school that's right for you.
In this episode of The Dominate Test Prep Podcast we catch up with Harvard Kennedy School of Government alumnus Jake Taylor who recounts his journey from working on Wall Street to teaching middle school math in Spanish Harlem to ultimately going back to graduate school at Harvard -- and he answers the question of whether it was worth paying full sticker price at Harvard vs. going to a less-prestigious school where he would have received scholarship money.
We discuss a number of important topics that can help inform your own decision about if/where to go to school, including:
One of the things Jake mentions as being really helpful during his transition out of Morgan Stanley and into the classroom was the counsel of people who had gone before him. Jake's experience and thoughtful insight into the key decision points of his own journey can be part of that similar counsel for you. We trust you'll find the conversation helpful!
FROM THE MAILBAG
In this week's "From the Mailbag" segment we answer the question of whether you should take time to write A, B, C, D, E a bunch of times on your scratch paper (short answer: "yes") and how to do it most effectively.
A DOSE OF MOTIVATION
"It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot
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it is never too late to be what you might have been. George Eliot. Hello, everyone. And welcome to this episode of the Dominate test Prep podcast. I am Bread Ethridge, your host and I am joined today by a special guest, Jake Taylor, as we unpacked the question. Is Harvard really worth it? Now I have Jake on because he actually went to Harvard. He went to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. But let me actually say it quick, a few quick things before I introduce him a little bit more thoroughly. And one is just to say that Ah, lot of you listening aren't actually going to be targeting Harvard. So we're sort of using Harvard as a representation of the top schools. I know a lot of you are listening to this and you feel like you absolutely have to go to a Top five program a top 10 program and and maybe it's worth it. And maybe it's not. So stay tuned for the rest of this conversation as we kind of explore that question on. The other reason I have Jake on is because in full disclosure, he is my cousin and I have been able to watch his journey firsthand. He actually took my G R E prep course as he was preparing for graduate school. I have seen the different turns and forks in his road at his journey toe, Harvard and now beyond and what he's doing. And and I have been struck by a kind of the decision, the thoughtfulness that he has had every one of those junctures, and he has taken an unconventional path in a lot of ways, and he has wrestled with a lot of the questions that I know a lot of you have. And I know you have those questions because I get those questions by email and in person and on the phone all of the time, as you're thinking about a career change and what schools to target and whether you should go for the school that's offering you scholarship money or go for the big name school. And and these are all things that Jake has wrestled with as well. And so I'm excited about this conversation. I'm looking forward to it. I've done a lot of talking already. Let me at least let you guys kind of here. Jake's voice before I before I introduce him a little bit more. Jake, welcome to the program.
Thanks, Brett. I'm excited to be here
and just a little bit more about Jake. Yeah, we're excited, Have you as well. And I look forward to catching up. And by the way, if I, uh, if I rip him a little bit about the fact that Penn State may never beat Ohio State, ever get in football, I'm allowed to do that because because he's my cousin. So he could try to defend himself. And and that is part of his bio. He went to Penn State University for undergrad, got his degree in finance from there. He went on and worked on Wall Street. Morgan Stanley for a couple of years before he had one of those initial forks in the road and he realized he wanted to go a different direction. He got into teaching. He worked in Spanish Harlem, teaching at a local middle school there. Hey, eventually went back to graduate school. I mentioned Harvard Kennedy School of Government and is now the director of curriculum and instruction at Urban Community School in Cleveland. So there's more to his career he would. He worked with Microsoft doing computer science classes in Cleveland. So he's got a lot of interesting stuff, and maybe some of it will come up and maybe some of it won't. But But let's kind of track through his journey, and we will eventually get to the question. Jake, was Harvard worth it? But let's table that and figure out how you got to Harvard to begin with. You started in finance, and I'm actually curious. I don't even really know this part of your story. Like, when did you think you wanted to do finance? When did you decide to study finance in undergrad and target Wall Street as your first job out of college?
Well, one thanks again for having me on the show, and that can answer that question. I don't know if I was, like, you know, on a school student find a common with dreams of having a Wall Street. Uh, but I was a high school kid. You like math? Uh, copy college. And we're trying to figure out what can I do with that tonight? I really like working with numbers. And I just didn't want Thio go. The engineering round, and I think a lot of that might have something to back. I just I didn't know a lot of engineering folks going up. I'm so sort of a mystery to me. But I didn't understand finance. And it seemed like a really, like, practical way to apply my love numbers, Um, to a to a degree. And then we kind of started taking the classes. That was 19 or 20. Okay, so what do you do with this? And everybody said, Well, the best job you can get is a Wall Street job. Um And so to be totally honest, I am from a smaller town in Ohio, and I also didn't know anybody who worked on Wall Street. I didn't entirely know what that meant, but I knew that I wanted to be successful in my classes. And I knew that I wanted to kind of do something meaningful with this degree. So I sort of like that followed the crowd, Will, it was I'm gonna get a job on Wall Street. Uh, and I did that. It took a lot. It was, You know, Penn State is a phenomenal school, but you know, the moment Saxon Morgan Stanley's of the world, um, are not running separate recruiting bears for a propensity finance majors. So I did a lot of hustling to get care lots of bus trips to New York City. At one point I walked around the grocery store with a gentleman who worked at ah specific investment bank. You said you'd meet with me and we ended up just grocery shopping and I walk next to him. But I got to ask questions, and he gave me answers and thoughts on how to get a job there. But so it was a lot of hustling, but I did. I did end up major financing and getting that job. Morgan Stanley Street and yeah, that's another story with that.
And so let's jump ahead to that job. And I hadn't heard that part of the story that's really cool on Dhe speaks to the importance of hustle and doing what it takes. And so you land that job on Morgan Stanley, and I think for a lot of people, that's like the dream I know it's certainly a high paying job, having seen a lot of my friends go on from Duke undergrad to work on Wall Street. And and so there you find yourself on Wall Street, you're making presumably Ah, lot of money at that job. Isn't that the dream? So, like, what was that experience like? And why then did you decide it wasn't for you?
Yeah, I think I think it is a lot of people's dream. Bret, I thought it was my dream. Uh, and it turned out it wasn't I kind of ended before. I didn't have a lot of context for, like, exactly excuse me what Wall Street was. But I kind of got there, and it was quickly apparent to me. They're like, it's just this wasn't my This wasn't my thing like this wasn't waking me up in the morning. Um, yes, the paycheck was nice. Um, and it was something that made you know, your family and your dad and everyone proud that you have this very prestigious job. But the truth was, you know, I do think it wasn't the thing for me. It didn't fit my personality. It was 14 hours in the cubicle, just crunching numbers, writing reports. Should we loan this money of this company? Should we do this? Bond should we not, Um and I just didn't like going to work in the morning. I worked with great people. It wasn't about the people. It was just about That's it for me and the work. Um, and, you know, about a year. And I started figuring out, Like, where? Where am I going to go from here? I'm learning a ton. I'm giving a ton of phenomenal skills out of this, but this is not my life's purpose. Um, and so, yeah. So that was That was where I thought I thought it was my dream, Bret. And, you know, it turns out that life in context and kind of hope you realize what your dreams actually are what you kind of start experiencing.
And how did you pull the trigger, then on transitioning? What did you do after Wall Street? And I know a lot of people struggle with the whole career change thing for you. You were fairly early on. You were in your early twenties. Maybe, You know, maybe the risk of change at that point wasn't as high as it might be For some people listening to this might be in their forties fifties. I people going back to school and taking my course in their fifties and sixties looking for that career change. How do you know when the time is right? And what were some of the what were some of the questions you had to ask and answer yourself as you thought about making that transition.
So I think you hit on one thing. That was definitely true for me, Brett. You know, when I made this transition, I was 24 years old. Um, I did not have a family, you know, there was no high schooler college tuitions that I was trying to pay for it. I was fortunate. Very, very fortunate to not have a ton of loans coming out of college. I expect any loan so that we made the decision for my life taking a giant leap of states. Um, a little easier. It didn't mean the path forward in life was going to be a lot different if I was gonna live breathe education for the rest of my life. You know, there was there would be no fancy vacation homes and things like that. But in the age of 24 like that was not what I was thinking about and I was thinking a lot more about, like, what's my life's purpose? What am I gonna do with the 2 10 to 12 hours a day that I want to throw myself into work? Um, but then interminably actually making a decision, like, how do I know that this is what I want to do? I kind of learned my lesson the first time, which was Don't do it blindly. So I had started by volunteering at a school in Spanish. Harlem was a a middle school, and I just went there every Saturday. I was like, Okay, what's going on in the school? You know, Can I help? I started pulling him over, the kids in the community and the work. And so I just also felt significantly Maur comfortable with the decision that, like this was right. And this is what I want to do on but also a super fortunate that the school where I had been volunteering had a phenomenal principle of leadership team. And I have said to that, Hey, coming here on Saturday mornings and tutoring and helping these kids is the highlight of my week. I want to be a teacher. I want to get involved. Education. I also know that I don't know how to do that. Um, can you help me figure out what is a real path board? So I don't make the same mistake I made last time, which is kind of blinding finally signing up for something that I don't totally understand, That I haven't sort of fun, a deeper dive into myself and who I am and what I want to do before I do this. Um and so they were so great, they went out of their way to kind of tell me about different schools and pathways. Let me come in and observe and really supported me. And my journey is trying to figure out how do I make this year's is probably so I don't just say, Hey, this job isn't for me And Morgan Stanley, I'm gonna leave and I'll figure it out, you know, over the next couple months. Actually, let's figure it out now and do so purposely. Um And so, to be totally honest, what ended up happening was, as they were helping me kind of figure this out, their math teacher quit. They had had a, you know, a year and 1/2 of watching these support help students and said, Hey, this is kind of random, but our math teacher is actually leaving on, so we have an open bad position here. We're an independent school, so you don't need a teaching degree. But you can do our summer residency sort of program, and we'll we'll onboard you and get you ready. If if you really wanna make a tradition of the classroom, So a part of it also represent a little bit serendipitous. You know what you know? What are the odds? I found this beautiful school, the tutor act, and then a position would come open and that there would be some support with me. But, yeah, that Beth was kind of my journey in the Morgan Stallion and into the classroom.
And then did you immediately like the fact that you were in the classroom full time? How long did you work at that school in Spanish? Harlem?
Yeah. I mean, I was I was in a little I was in a pretty low place by left. Morgan Stanley. I was like I was ready to go, um, and then I went into this beautiful school and was just so happy. I mean, I was It was night and day. I was just, like, probably the happiest version of myself. A pellet, further in love with teaching and do I made the right decision each and every day that I was there. I thought there for three years, um, taught fifth and sixth grade math with three years and then I'm actually from Cleveland. Um, and I, after three years in Harlem, wanted to move back home. And so I applied to a program called Teach for America on they They accepted me into their program and placed me at a school in South Easterly Wind. And I am the teacher for two more years here in Cleveland. So in the end, I talked for five years, um, teaching middle school math and again to this day, still think it was the best decision.
And how did you know it was time to go back to grad school? Let's settle here for a little bit, because now we're about to get to the Harvard piece of things. When and why did you realize it was time to go back to graduate school.
So I think there are two big pieces on the first being part of Teach for America, though there was, ah, program called Lee um Leah, sort of their policy component on the future American. It's basically say, Hey, if you really ended into teaching. But you also want to know what's going on like the local and state policy level of education. We have a summer fellowship you can do, um, and so I applied to leave. I got in and they placed me at the higher Department of Education, and I I had a phenomenal summer. I learned a ton at the Department of Education on it was one of those, like, transformative summers of my life. Um, but I also had this moment where I realized, like, hey that also, while this phenomenal people working here in this not a lot of people who are sitting around these tables who have either worked in the communities where I'm working and or have some of the context that I have when we're sitting at these tables and I don't I don't think that's fair to my students, and I think they deserve to have a voice at this table, and I would love to try to be that voice. Um and so I think that one sort of gave me the like, Hey, this is a space I'd like to really put myself into. And I think that, like, my experience teaching what it would help me do Do this. Well, um, and then the other piece Brett was I've been teaching for five years. Um, I had dipped in sixth grade math, so I've been delivering sort of the same content for five years, and I was really ready to, like, stretch my brain again. Um, for as much of a struggle as Morgan Stanley Waas like looking back like, I could feel my brain hurting leaving every day. I was thinking differently. I was growing my skills. And then I started teaching the same thing like I was really thinking about. How do I help my students? What do I do? How do I deliver this content in a way that's meaningful and effective, And five years in I had I was kind of delivering the same lessons over and over in size that I really wanted. Think now is the time to to kind of take that big leap and say, Hey, so I feel comfortable with my teaching. I'm becoming really passionate around some of this policy stuff. But if I'm going to eventually do things with policy or things that the more of a systems of a lake, I want to make sure that I am equipped with skills and perspectives and ideas that'll let me do it well. And so when those sort of things all came together, I just decided it was the right time. You know, this this is the right time to kind of make this move. Um, And that time I was I did not have a family at not have kids, so I sort of again had that runway two to make a make a jump, and I did it.
So we'll talk here in a second about the schools you ultimately targeted and how you ultimately ended up at Harvard. But let me ask, this is the dominant test prep podcast, after all. All of that said I'm curious. What was your experience like starting to think about? Okay. I have to take the G, Matt, Where the g r e. How did you choose between them. What was the application process like for you? And do you have any tips for our listeners about the test prep and application process portion of things?
Yeah. The process was an interesting one. Um, I would say sort of two things. One I in high school took the S A T and a C T. But I did not take any test prep classes. It didn't go very well. And my mom, thankfully, it was like, You gotta take some sort of class. Well, you'll have to, but I would encourage you like if you wanted to get past. We will support you to do that. So I just took a little class in the community college. It was nothing fancy, but I learned that there were some things that could be doing that would help me. I was 18. I didn't die that deeply into it. But it did. At least put in my brain that, like preparing for this test, is something that you have to do if you want to do it Well, you can't just show up with a pencil and see out goes there. There are things that you could do t be more effective in it. So my process was one call you. So thanks for helping me. So you know, someone was literally I thought, Brett, it was like, Hey, I want to go to grad school. I know that I should prepare for this test. Um, I want to prepare. Well, um, can you help me on DSO? You did. And this is much appreciated, you know, went out of his way to one. Just give me some thoughts of tips around like a here. Some basic things you do. But to, you know, I strongly encourage you to take take my course, and I did, and it served me super well, in a couple ways, um, one it forced me. Thio do I would say three things. One of forced me to set up a system. Our schedule around the helm. I actually didn't do this. And so I became best friends with the person at Panera Bread. Um, I went there three nights a week, and I sent it this really specific schedule. But like, I am going to go to Panera Bread three nights a week and I'm going to find a table and stayed here for it will be does from 6 to 8 for whatever amount of hours and sort of hold myself accountable to that. Um two. The process taught me like some really strong test taking strategies. I won't have time to go into all of them, but they were really It's awful things that that saved me time. And that helps me tackle what looked like complicated problems at work in a thoughtful strategic way and ended up making them not nearly as complicated, but they would have seemed complicated had I not had different ways of thinking of doubt. Um and then the third thing was in terms of like actually preparing for the test was forcing myself to be fully present with the work so I would leave my phone at home. I wouldn't kind of schedule things right before. Right after I was really diligent about saying like I'm gonna disconnect but everything else for at least two hours and just focus on this and it sounds crazy, but leaving your phone back in your house and say I'm gonna just go back and be present, uh, in the work that I'm about to do, it was a big piece of what I think helped me stay successful in the world of getting ready for the test.
Super helpful. And you ultimately took the g r e. But didn't you start thinking about taking the Guilmette?
Yes, I started I honestly. It was like unsure which one Which route to go and what kind of wanted over for me was. I'm always a little indecisive. Um, I know every time, like I'm making you speak decisions, but there's always some indecisiveness, I think for all of us, and for me, the Jerry was the most, at least internally, it seemed like the most probably accepted test that I could use it for business school if I wanted, But I could also use it for it's a public policy school like abuse. If I decide to go to education around, there's some schools, some education, schools have education policy degree. And so I basically just wanted to have one of the study for one test, and I wanted to be able to send the results of that one test to his many schools as possible. And I was in early on, was in a phase of like I'm not sure if I'm gonna go the education school. Regular policies will business school because they all kind of had unique values. And so I just decided in the end of the Jerry was the route that would let me study really hard for one test. And it kind of makes my decision about how to use that score leader.
All right, let's talk about that piece of it then, because you had that decision to make that point, you got accepted to a number of different schools, including, I think, Vanderbilt, which had a program Maur Taylor to education itself. And, of course, you transitioned out of Wall Street to to education. You wanted to be a teacher, and so that would seem like a natural fit. And yet Harvard has the Kennedy School of Government. It has the Harvard name. But public policy wasn't necessarily specifically about education. So So let's let's just dive in. Let me just kind of broadly ask you, How did you make a decision among the different schools? You were ultimately accepted, too.
So there are a number of factors, Brett, some somewhere around who would be my classmates. Um, so in one school. It was predominantly like student tour, 22 to 24 like coming straight out of undergrad or like they've been a teacher for a year or two. But at that point, I was applying as a 30 year old, so it wasn't really anything against the program. It was just like I actually want to be around. People who had, like, been in the work as long were similarly, as long as I haven't again even that the candidate school Most books were still in the 27 to 30 range, but that's something that will be different in my decision making process. Um, and in the end, I chose the Kennedy School because I decided that it would. It would open every door, generally speaking, that all of the other programs would open. But it would also open additional doors that wouldn't be opened by some of the more narrow a specific programs. I'm so and the Kennedy School. I was able to take many classes at the Ed School. I was able to take many classes on education at the Kennedys war, and so all those education policy doors were opened, just as they would have been at the other programs, but I was also able to open what I think are some really other interesting doors that, um I'd sort of started developing it in just when I was there and I was suspicious that I might get here, become curious about other things, and I wanted to be able to have that space tow, explore those curiosities, and so the kind of guys who I was able to take a lot of classes on, like urban policy, how the cities were, um what does transportation look like? Who's doing innovative things globally in education and health care? And like all these other factors that were affecting my kids, that I really thought I would be better prepared to do the work if I knew more about them and the Kennedy School just had accessed, Oh, such a broad array of classes and professors and experiences that is just in the end, it turned out to be a no brainer of, Of which, which one would kind of give me the most rounded educational experience.
What role did money the expense of the program versus scholarship money you might have been offered at other schools? What role did that play in your decision?
Uh, it played a huge role, except answer. This is timely. But I remember I got the email that said you got you did not receive any financial aid when I was actually visiting you. Um, and I remember, like, vividly just staring at the computer and, you know, a week before they send an email that said you got in. Um, and that was one of the happiest times of my life. You know, I just I did not think I would ever be, um And then, you know, one of the biggest downers was really see, like, Okay, so that is just a giant zero. And I don't work at Morgan Stanley anymore. You know, I had left that fancy job a long time ago, um, and was making a teacher salary on dso. You know that zero had some pretty big ramifications on on my decision making process. Um, and it wasn't big deal. I'm from I'm from a small town in Ohio. My dad was the first to put it, put himself through college, and, you know, like thinking things through, like how you're gonna pay for things is a big part of how my family works of hell. I worked on it and it had a huge impact on the like, decision making process. And in the end, I decided to do it. Um, I had a little money saved from five years prior when I was working on Morgan Stanley. Um, I sold my car on dhe. I lived the cheapest version of life one could possibly live for a couple of years. But I just decided that, like, I would figure out a way to make. This is cheap as humanly possible, even though there's a giant price tag on it. Like I would do all the things I could to cut every poss possible. But it's just not a decision I took lightly. And it's one that I wrestled it for a long time. And it's one that I still wrestle with today. Uh, but, you know, in the end, I just decided that, like, I would figure out a way forward, Um, and you know, again. But it's kind of another leap of faith, But look, I didn't have a perfect This is gonna work out, but I I really did take a leap of faith. Hopefully, it'll be on the other end of this. There'd be a way to to pay the other out.
Let's jump ahead then and all asked the question. The question that's on the title of this podcast episode. You have gotten into the degree you're out in the workforce now. You've gone through the experience. Was it worth it? Are you glad you made the decision to pay the higher price tag and go to Harvard?
Yeah. You know what? I would do it again. Um, it didn't actually hear me say that out loud. Just cause, like, I really did, I think so much about how am I gonna pay this back while I was in school? Um, and it really for the last year to being out of school. But I think, in retrospect, I I would do it again for a couple reasons. Uh, the first being, like I I think differently about the world in a way that, like I do think, is directly attributed to my experience in school. You know, I was around just such a unique group of people who had such different backgrounds and different perspectives in the way they looked at the world, and problems and problems really shaped. How I now look at the world and problems and I think that I think that really will. It really does affect me now. And I think it will affect me for the rest of my life. And so I think that this one just giant piece of life you do, I think, intellectually like skilled wise, like I got out of it. What I hoped the answer is yes. On And then, too, it put me in the world, breath it like I didn't know about it. I I didn't remember. I had a friend who had worked at McKinsey. I never heard of Mackenzie. I didn't know that was like a sought after job. Um, you know, And now I have 10 friends of Mackenzie. I know how you could get a job at Mackenzie, and I feel like I have access to an awareness of an understanding of a world that I just like I didn't know existed, um, in my life, the way where I grew up in kind of my life earlier career. So that was a big part of it. Um, and I think the other big tree spread is like any kind actually goes in. This Mackenzie thing is I have also learned that, like there is going to Harvard. Didn't give you access to jobs that, like, if you needed, if you had to pay this money back like you can go find a job that would pay you in a way that wouldn't would help you get these loans off your back on. I don't know if that's the case wherever grad school, but I do. I do feel like I was like, really honing into how'm I gonna How am I gonna pay these debts back? You know, I would have access to jobs that would allow me to do that and some of the other schools with, like, relatively similar price tag. I don't I don't know if that's the case or not. I didn't go to those schools, but I do feel comfortable saying like in this particular situation, I could find a means to pay back those loans. But most importantly, like, I just I really, really appreciate the perspectives skills and then people I got to meet through that program and I would do to get,
and this is 100% honest truth. I had no idea coming into this interview how you would answer that question. So this is interesting to me and let let's dive in even a little bit. Maur. I get e mails and phone calls from people all the time. That goes something like this. I need help with the gym at G r E l sat s a T. Because if I can't get into a top 10 school, if I can't get into Stanford, Harvard, Yale, like whatever school it is that their target targeting it's not worth me going. Is that a little extreme? So you just said it is worth it for you to have gone to Harvard. What are your thoughts on that thought process? And I guess, more generally, what are some of the things that people should be thinking as they're evaluating the schools that they are going to be applying to?
I think that's a perfectly fair question. Um, you know, it's interesting for me because, like, I remember working on Wall Street and I would depend state and everybody else went to fancy schools that I again off many of whom I had not heard of. Now that I understand what the schools are, Okay, I and I understand how, like this crosses works to get these jobs. I do understand that, like, that can be very helpful. But I also remember sitting there being like I would have been state. I had a great education in here. You and I are sitting in the same cubicle, um, and in our lives, we're treating us just fine. So I always like to caveat That piece of it is like, I don't think you have to go to one of these schools, t get to where you're trying to get to, um and then the other piece from us. I really did not think I was gonna get into Harbour. No, my mother from Ohio and I was really pretty set on going to Ohio State. And I also think Ohio State would have served me just fine. You know, I think I would have gotten a great degree there. I think I would have built a really great network. It would have been a very Ohio centric network, but I wanted to do work in Ohio, and I don't think I don't think I would have done any worse of a job or been less prepared. Um, if I had gone to Ohio State, and I would have been really happy and proud to have gone there, um So I I also just trying to, like, really afraid people to think through, You know, the fact that, like, there are lots of really great schools out there, Um and that if you're willing to hustle, I mean again, like, if you're willing to go grocery shopping next to somebody from the Wall Street think that you want to work at because that's how you're gonna build that network. That's how you're gonna meet someone like, you know, it can pay off. You just might have to hustle a little harder. Uh, and then the questions I would just ask myself. That was like, Where am I trying to get to What am I trying to do with this debris? And is this the best route and only route to get there? Because in my sort of introspective process, like, the answer was like No, like, they're all toe other ways for me to achieve what I want achieve if I don't get into Harper. Um, and those were gonna be go to Ohio State. Those were gonna be doom or fellowships. Those were gonna be built out my network. But, like, I'm gonna have to, like, really work part build that network myself. Um, and in the end, like it did. Look out, I got into Harvard. It was good. It was really amazing experience. But I also think, like, really thinking through the process of, like, where am I trying to get to What What skills do I need to get there? And how can I acquire those skills to do that is a really healthy process to go through, no matter how how it how your journey ends.
And if you had gone to Ohio State, you might have been able to eat a little more steak rather than just ramen noodles.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think that's a very real thing. Uh, you know, I would have been able to make a down payment. I used what was gonna be my down payment on a house to the school, you know? And instead, I I you know, I live in a duplex, and I, you know, I don't think I'll be owning Ah, a big home any time soon, and that's fine. That's a choice I made. Um, but I would definitely be in a much more like financially secure space, at least in the shorter term if I had made that decision. And I think that's also something healthy the wrestle with, especially if you're in a phase of life for you either are about to start a family or you're gonna need these funds in a way that, like taking out $100,000 in loans, is not gonna enable you to do so. I I think those things should definitely be considered.
What was the classroom experience actually, like a Harvard.
So I didn't have a liberal arts degree, which I know that that that that's not a director. Goto graduate school is unprepared to goto policy school. But it was the experience that most of my classmates had, um, and so what I found really interesting for me. Waas. The students who were like succeeding is buying up the best term, but like, you know, we're really doing well. The classes were those who could think about problems and articulate their thoughts and reasoning is unlike what's underneath it or how to solve it and or like incorporate the ideas of of other classmates, are other people in the field and sort of get into the broader conversation that we often had a class on. And that just wasn't my experience in undergrad. You know, I studied finance, and the way you did well in finance class was he took a ton of notes. You went home, you memorized those notes, you applied them to problem sets. And then you saw a similar problems that's on a test, and whoever could solve the most problems and the most complicated problems got the highest grade. And that was just That was not the kind of score. The Kennedy School waas was essentially a giant conversation in which we pushed each other about how to solve problems and how to think about problems. And it was actually very uncomfortable experience for me. Breath, um, in a super healthy way. But it was very intimidating, and it was very different than what I knew and what I felt like I could do well, so, you know, I think that's one other thing to kind of ads like thinking through, like, where to go to school. And, like what the study is like, isn't gonna push you. And it is gonna make you uncomfortable. I didn't go to business school because I kind of have done those glasses and that had those conversations I've played with those Excel charts. Um, what I needed to refine and develop with my skills that are to play the ideas coming up with strategies specifically in the public sector and education sector. But the classes of the Kennedys, who will directly aligned with the skills I was trying to do.
What is the kind of job search process like on the back end of grad school? Then how did you decide what to do next? And what are you doing now? Is we kind of wrap up this conversation?
Uh, yes. So this is kind of random, but I actually to make a little extra money. I told you I was hustling to pay off these loads. I actually I worked at the career office at the Kennedy School. Um, I mostly answered the phone, and I explained toe lost first years. How to use a fax machine often that was what was it the skill to to send in resumes in certain government organizations. Ah, but it did give me a really interesting perspective on the career process. When when you leave, um And so for me, one was I really did used to work with the folks in the career office to the things through. Okay, now I have this unique degree in these unique perspectives on the world, but, like, how do I apply them? What'll I applied to, um and so I worked a lot with the career office around like what those jobs might look like and then also working with them to sort of analyze myself around like, OK, let's let's figure out where we could go compared to, like, feel like this to, like, feel purposeful and driven in the worker you end up doing. Um, and really, my journey was a little serendipitous. To be honest, I knew I wouldn't go back to Cleveland. I was kind of spreading my resume around Cleveland and two things happened. One is, someone called me from Someone had set up a meeting with the foundation and the foundation director for education was great. And She connected me two to a principal in the area, and they were really listening for some support to increase access to computer science in all of Northeast Ohio, specifically in Cleveland. And they're working with Microsoft to do that. And they needed someone who understood schools but also was willing to kind of get their hands dirty and learn how to code, which was again, that's thing I did not know how to do. But I said, I'll give it a shot And so I signed up and basically and move back to Cleveland and signed up to work on this project with Ah, the Cleveland Foundation, um, and Microsoft and a bunch of high schools in Cleveland and said, Hey, let's let's actually get computer science of people because right now there's basically none. There is no computer science in the in the area accepted our wealthiest district's, um, and I move back and I took that job and, you know, the only other piece of this is during that process I had a coffee within the lumps under the school and, you know, two and 1/2 years later, when I was ready to just kind of move in more to the education space. That alone reached out to me and said, Hey, you know, I'm trying to do some really interesting work at the school in Cleveland. Could I convince you to come help me, help me do this work together and that that's where I am today. So, you know, three years after that, I am working with an alum from the Kennedy School really trying to do some interesting stuff at an elementary school, not too far from where. Look
well, I know you took full advantage of your experience. There I was. Jealous is you're tramping around the world on your summer breaks with your expanding network of people traveling around Southeast Asia. And so that's maybe a conversation for another point. Or maybe something you would want to touch on here is that it's kind of wrap things up and would ask you, You know, you're on the back into this process. You're you're done. You've gone through the process. You've gotten your degree, you're back out in the workforce. What advice? Would you have? Any parting thoughts or tips for people on the front end? Anybody listening to this? Who is wrestling with the idea of Should I go back to school? Which school should I target? Like, what should I be thinking about? Based on your experience? Any final thoughts for the listeners?
Yeah, I think there's for me. There's sort of two big questions. One is where am I trying to go? And is this gonna help me get there? Um, and if you don't know the answer to that question of where I'm trying to go, then like, I think that can lead itself into them. Like, what do I do with this pat school experience? Um, part part two of that is like, Am I going to grow from this experience? And I think that the way that that could be achieved, it is a couple different routes, but one being like my gonna be around people who are different to be and push me. Am I going to be in a space that focuses on developing skills that I don't have it the moment, um or that I want to really improve? I know there are some schools that are more quantitative than others, and it's you know, you're not particularly quantitative, you know, I guess I would encourage you to really, like, take a risk and go to the quantitative smooth. Um, you know, don't go to the school. That's going to be easy for you and the experience that's going to be more uncomfortable, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and then figure out what school is going to push you into that space and and send you out more prepared than when you entered it. But I do think in retrospect, like the Kennedy School wasn't uncomfortable experience for me in the healthiest of ways, and I have been coming out from that from parts of that uncomfortable experience are the reasons that I look back and think that it was worth it, and that I am in a position now to actually utilize the skill that developed through some of those uncomfortable crosses. It is two years ago.
I think that is great advice and a perfect place to end it, although I will ask one final question. Is Penn State gonna make the tournament this year?
You know, Brenda is a middle school teacher. I'm an eternal optimist. I believe in everybody, and every everywhere you can succeed. I don't know if I'm willing to put money on Penn State making the tournament. I think I will see this to your duties and and wait for a positive.
Sounds like a plan. I, uh I appreciate your time this morning and look forward to catching up with you at our next family gathering, but very much appreciate you sharing your very interesting and insightful perspective on all of these questions. I'm confident the listeners found it helpful. So thank you again, Jake.
Baber. I appreciate it. I looked for the senior Thanksgiving and yeah, I get actually also just say thanks again for all your help. You really play the big, big part in my my journey into grad school. And, you know, I look forward to seeing you.
I have a quick from the mailbag question and answer for you guys this week. And the question comes from one of my students, Laura, who wrote in and said the following quick strategy question. Do you recommend writing a B C D. E on your scratch paper for each problem? It doesn't take up too much time. Question Mark. So it's a good question. One important question and my very short and simple answer is yes, I definitely recommend that. Now let me say a few things about it. An elaborate and the first is. Obviously her question is regarding scratch paper, and that is going to apply on computer based tests. So if you're taking a computer base to computer adaptive test like the G Matt, the G R E the L sat, which is now digital, this applies to you because you have scratch paper, you can no longer write in the test booklet. For those of you taking tests are paper based tests like the S A. T. Other paper based tests. You still want to strategically eliminate answer choices. You want to physically cross off wrong answers, and you can do that inside your test booklet. For those of you taking computer based tests, you get those pieces of scratch paper. And, yes, you absolutely want to prepare with those mock answer grids. Another thing to say about that, though, is there is not a ton of room on the paper. They don't give you unlimited paper. In fact, they tend to be dry, erase types of scratch paper if you've never done it before or practiced with it. Unfortunately, they don't make the paper available for you to use his practice, but it's basically like laminated paper, and you can actually erase the ink like it kind of like a dry erase board, essentially, so you don't need to prepare with ah, 100 mock answer grids. In my experience, you really only need to write a B C D E about three or four times at the top right of your scratch paper, because you only have that much room toe workout. You know, just a few questions per scratch page anyway, before you're going to have to go to the next page or erase what you have already written and finally to address Laura's concerned about the time it will take. My answer to that is, it won't take time if you actually prep your scratch paper before you press start to actually start your exam. And if you use your brakes strategically so you get in some cases five sometimes 10 minute breaks between sections, depending on what test you are taking, use that to your advantage. Go to the bathroom, but then, when you come back, prep your scratch paper for the next section and so forth. That way, you don't have to waste any time during the actual exam when the clock is ticks ticking. Writing those mark answer grids you already prepared, you're ready to go so it won't waste any extra time. So good question, Laura. I hope this helps definitely do it and then apply some of the other strategic elimination strategies and physically used that to cross off wrong answers as you make those determinations helps avoid those careless wrong answers as well when you do that. But yes, definitely prepare scratch paper accordingly Way. Wrap up this week's episode of the Dominate Test Prep podcast. I don't really have a specific action item from my interview with Jake, but I do have a follow on action item for you from last episode, where we talked about test anxiety with Bara and she mentioned something else that she has found helpful that I think would be a good action item for you guys to take. And it was talking about becoming familiar with the testing center itself, where you are going to take your test and how just that familiarity can help alleviate some anxiety. So my action item for you is regardless of where you are in the process, maybe you're just starting. Or maybe you're about to take your exam. Figure out where the closest testing center is to you. Where will you actually be taking your official exam and do a drive by schedule. A time to go. Check it out. Scouted out. Figure out what the root is between your house or your apartment and the test center. What roads will you take? How long will it take to get? Get there, walk in, get familiar with the surroundings. Look around a little bit. Is it cold? Is it hot? Like what is the room like that Familiarity will help you A. On test day itself. It'll help alleviate some of that anxiety. And if you're still a ways away, it will start to become part of your visual ization process. It will make your exam or riel. It will give you kind of that target to kind of know what you're looking forward to, and I think all of that will contribute to a better test. Experience will certainly help to reduce some of that anxiety, which is important but also crystallize and help with the visual ization process as well. So there you go. Here we are at the end of another episode again. My thanks to Jake. Hopefully you've found my conversation with him. Helpful. Go ahead and subscribe to this podcast. If you haven't already done so, leave us a review. Would still love to get some more written reviews. What did you like about this episode? What have you like so far? About some of the other episodes? Well, be specific, be General. Ah, but just be truthful. Would love to hear your feedback. And I know that will help others who are looking for a good place to get tips and strategies around test preparation and the admissions process, which they will all get here at the Dominate Test Prep podcast. So again, share with your friends, tell everybody and tune in next time for our next episode of the Dominate Test Prep podcast. Take care, everyone