Posted by: lazilox | June 22, 2009

How to Stay Broke

Well, I’m out of money. I realized this fact upon rushing to the coin-star machine after discovering a bag-full of mostly pennies in my car, and realized that the amount I got for it probably didn’t cover the round trip of gas to get to the supermarket where the machine was located. I figured it’s about time I reduce myself even lower and look for a job with hourly pay as opposed to a salary with benefits. This is when things got scary.

When I asked a simple question of my friends from home last night, and unlike half the time I talk, did not actually expect them to look at me like I was quoting a proof from my computational algebra class (read: Math 476 – Useless Overly-Difficult Math). All I inquired was what on the island (the Long Island) was paying a decent salary for a summer job? After listing off a couple of options that might as well have been ‘stay broke, stay broke and stay broke’, I asked “well, is there anything that pays at least $10/hr?”. This question is what elicited the above response.

Cash 4 GoldI had known the economy was bad on paper, as every single econ problem set I did had some form of question involving a ‘recession’, and also due to the increasing frequency of cash-for-gold commercials. Even the Ithacan used car dealerships shouted through my TV that they were slashing prices due to these ‘tough economic times’, most likely by reducing the amount of razzle-dazzle to keep the level of hassle constant. What I didn’t expect was how bad the situation really was. My dad informed me that once-crowded LIRR trains are now either next to empty on peak hours, and that barely anybody riding the train wears a suit anymore. Thus, everyone’s priorities have apparently shifted and the jobs that are academically beneath me are no longer obtainable. At the average starting salary quoted on the “Come to Cornell!” statistics websites, $8/hr is less than a fifth of it, and I doubt could even support my current lifestyle without paying for rent. This statistic is probably hearsay because I don’t really want to go to the Cornell website to look up the declining statistics of matriculating students receiving jobs. Three years of working at Subway in high school taught me that that’s a sandwich per hour, and a salary I went to an Ivy League institution to never have to settle for again. At this point, I think I’d rather just be paid in sandwiches.

So, I’ve decided to do what any rational college graduate would do in this situation: hide. My bruised ego can’t take any more of the sick joke that has unfolded courtesy of Cornell; the arrogance it instills within you suddenly shattered when even the local Dairy Barn informs you that they aren’t hiring. I’ve got quite a headache from banging my head against the wall. So into the bomb-shelter of graduate school I go ::fingers-crossed::, surrounded by six feet of academia on all sides to shield from the fallout of the recession. I was actually quite against taking what I’ve referred to as a victory-lap, but it’s that or face the fear of looking my high school classmates in the eyes from behind the counter of a fast-food restaurant four years after peeling out to my ivory tower to win the rat race. I’m probably the one who made it such a competition in the first place, so I guess it serves me right.

There was one defining moment when I started my application process enthusiastically instead of listlessly. Upon researching the requirements of the various quantitative finance programs that were within commuter-distance to me, I learned that in order to graduate with an MS, students must hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher. I let an “uh-oh” escape, but my girlfriend added her two cents: “Rob, that’s regular 3-Oh, not a Cornell 3-Oh…”

A 3.0 is a B is ~85%. If I was told that I needed a B average in high school, I would have laughed, but the war against my self-esteem had been waged and apparently Cornell’s Math and Economics department emerged victorious. I realized not only do I need something that actually says “business” on my resume besides a few haphazard classes that didn’t even count as Arts credits. More importantly, I need my inner-confidence restored to its former glory (my outward confidence has not gone anywhere for those that know me), and perhaps attending an institution where getting 100% on a test and being the top of the class is once again feasible will do just that.

It’s late in the season, but thanks to rolling admissions I still have a chance. This will be the test to see how far a Cornell degree really does carry its graduates. Now I’m off to decipher what exactly they want in a “statement of purpose”, because I don’t think “hiding from the recession” is going to suffice.


  1. Rob, that was a great post. I loved the paid in sandwiches bit because when I worked at Ann Taylor loft, I measured my income in camis

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