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Kevin IhrigTry, Try Again: How Waiting (for a Time) Worked for Me

by Kevin Ihrig


“I really need you to wait,” my wife said, and with that, I withdrew from classes barely started and lost a substantial part of my tuition. It was 1999 and I had just enrolled in the Colorado State University Online MBA program, at the Fort Collins campus. The program didn’t require that I take the GMAT, and the tuition was reasonable. I had a pretty good job that seemed stable, but like all of us who go back to school, I wanted more.

I had planned a graduate degree even when before graduating with a bachelor’s. But when I finally finished my four-year degree after six years, I couldn’t see staying in class. Homework had ruled my world for years, along with tests, textbooks, professors, and most of all, due dates. I was ready to go into the real world, and say good-bye to all those school headaches. Little did I know that homework would be replaced by overtime and travel and tests by important projects that have to be done today. Textbooks changed to thick, disorganized files in cabinet after cabinet, while demanding supervisors replaced kindly professors. And due dates? Well, this was the worst realization: due dates never go away; they just become more important as the projects grow. And so I decided I could at least get a graduate degree and move into management.

At the time, we had one son, five years old, and we owned a house in Gilbert, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. I thought our life was calm enough to go back to school. When my wife asked me to drop out, I already had my first class videotapes, and had arranged for my employer to pay half my tuition through our tuition assistance program.

Dropping out dropped my attitude a few notches. This wasn’t my first attempt to go back. Once previously, at least a year earlier, I had nearly enrolled in classes at the University of Phoenix. Not wanting to rack up the $18,000-20,000 in debt it would take to finish, I chickened out. But this time, I was ready to start, I thought. Out of respect for her, I dropped out. CSU could wait, and so could I. But for how long?

By August 2000, nearly a year later, my position disappeared. The company offered a transfer, but I declined, since we would have had to move to a much more expensive city at a lower salary. I found a job in northern Utah quickly, and began planning to go to school there. The company had a waiting period before I could take advantage of tuition assistance, so when my availability date rolled around, I jumped on it. Unfortunately, classes didn’t start right away, so I couldn’t actually enroll in classes, and I had to take the GMAT entrance exam at my own expense.

I used the challenge to prepare for classes. I studied for a month using a text from a well-known test prep company, and a computerized training system, too. The computer version helped more. During my preparation, I took two computerized practice tests. On my second practice run, I scored high enough that I thought I was ready for the real thing. When Kaplan gave me my score, it was only nine points lower than my practice score, validating the practice test as an excellent tool.

By the time I had studied for and taken the GMAT in the summer of 2001, my company had a serious layoff. Once again, I thought, I would have to wait. We now had two children, one only four months old, and I was out of work. Six weeks after the layoff, as I worked one morning on a letter to a prospective employer, my neighbor called and told me to turn on the television. After the tragedy of September 11 and the onset of recession, prospects for work were bleak. Who knew it was the perfect time to go back to school?

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