Yes! The only reason I’ve been struggling financially ever is because I’m trying my darnedest to pay down my student loans within four years.
To give you an idea: my half of rent each month is about $750 (Pretty affordable for NYC. That’s also luck and shitloads of research and stalking rental listings. A lot of people live in NJ or something to commute and can pay even less than that.)
How much I pay towards my student loans each month is $700-1000.
But I’m also doing much much better than when I was in school! I had scholarships and maxxed out federal student loans each year, always had to beg financial aid for any extra I could possibly get and that still wasn’t enough to cover the left over tuition costs. I went to school full time, had to keep my GPA up to continue qualifying for my scholarships but also had to work multiple part time jobs to pay for my monthly tuition costs. And those monthly costs weren’t just a couple hundred. Sometimes I had to come up with around $1200. And that was just tuition! I’m very very lucky my partner basically fed me throughout our entire time at SVA.
I’m still amazed that I somehow pulled that off. My time at college is kind of a big blur because of it, though. And I’m so much happier now that I only have to worry about one job and just paying my regular bills. I think that’s the reason why I haven’t tried taking up the freelance route here in NY and if for some reason Titmouse NY shut down or made cuts or something and I was no longer employed with them, I would most likely move out to California myself.
You really just need to figure out what you’re comfortable with! I know I could do freelance in NY and make that work and be successful. And I know people who do that very successfully and that wouldn’t like working at a decently sized animation studio. Both are valid decisions but I wouldn’t be as comfortable doing only freelance and them visa versa.
My best advice for when you graduate is to just keep asking yourself questions to figure out what you want. Don’t feel pressure that there is a certain tract that you are supposed to follow once you’re out of school. You might not even want to go into animation and instead what to go into other artistic routes. That’s totally cool too! Just explore. You might have to start off doing stuff that you thought you’d be cool doing and it turns out you don’t like it so much. That’s fine! Don’t feel like it’s a mistake or a waste of your time because even if something doesn’t work out, you’ll be one step closer to figuring out what you do want to do. Keep asking yourself “If I do this, will it make me happy? If no, what are my alternatives?” If you aren’t sure, do it anyways. Try it out and see.