Saturday, June 05, 2004

I'd rather be sailing

Law school is expensive. A year at Santa Clara is more than $25,000, and that's just tuition. I don't actually have that much, so I've borrowed it. When you throw in the money I had to borrow for my undergrad education, I'll owe over $100,000 by the time I'm done. That's a lot of money. In fact, you know you're in hot water when, as a non-smoking, non-drinking twenty-four year old, the value of your internal organs can no longer cover your debt. My parents, and my father especially, are worried that I don't appreciate the enormity of my insolvency.

I'm prepared to concede the point that I don't really understand what the money means in real terms, never having really dealt with such sums, but it is something that I think about from time to time. When I started law school, I actually had a pretty good grasp on the numbers involved. This $100,000 isn't exactly a surprise. I know that I can deal with the loan; after all, other people borrow it and they get by okay. Still, I didn't want to run down the 100m dash of life with a 100k weight around my neck, so I came up with a plan. I decided to see if the military would pay my way. After a round of meetings and forms and so on, I got to talking with the people at the Navy JAG program. If I can get in, I'll end up serving a few years after law school, in exchange for a little help. It's a good deal, and it'll let me live overseas too, which is something I think I'd really like to do. There is a little problem though.

The program is competitve. That is, they have only so many slots, and they have more applicants than they can let it. Ordinarily, I like my chances in most competitions. Call it arrogant, which indeed it may very well be, but I trust in my own ability to come through when I really want to. The problem is that this year I didn't really regard my studies with the gravity with which they may have deserved. Grades come out in a few weeks, and while I don't fear failing anything, I don't expect to top the class. If I don't do well enough, I won't get into the program. They do accept new applicants quarterly, so it's not like this is my final chance. If the Navy doesn't accept me this time, I can always try again after improving the old GPA. And, even if I never make it in, it isn't the greatest tragedy in the world. I'll just have to pay off the loans on my own. But in some sense, I think I would be disappointed if I never get in.

At the beginning, this was just a financial alternative. I'm pretty laid back; taking orders for a few years seemed a small price to pay for a legal education. But as I got deeper into the application process, I began to warm to the prospect. To begin with, military service is somewhat of a tradition on both sides of my family. It isn't about being the tough guy, shooting people up, or just feeling big. My father is actually an immigrant, and his sense of appreciation has rubbed off. I do feel indebted to the country, and service is an honorable way to level the scales. It's also an excellent opportunity to live overseas. I'd really like to live somewhere far away, Japan or Australia, or maybe somewhere in Europe. Foriegn travel is the kind of experience that can really change someone's life, and I don't want to have to wait until I've lived most of mine before I'm in the position to try it.

Ultimately, we'll have to see. I hope my grades aren't too bad. If they aren't good enough, hopefully that'll give me the motivation to do better next term.

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