Need Some Help Making a Decision

Hey guys,

I was hoping to inquire on this forum about a predicament I have recently found myself intertwined in.
It has been about 8 months since I graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Hospitality Business/Chinese Language, and while in & out of school I have been working in hotels. I was in a very bad relationship, and a couple months ago moved out of my former apartment with him, dropped my minimum wage hotel job, and moved in with my parents since I did not have anywhere else to go. I am 24 years old, and while here at home, I have kind of been having an existential crisis trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.
A couple months ago, I applied for a Marriott Voyage Program, which is a pretty competitive hotel leadership program–coincidentally the same one my ex-partner is doing, that “I wasn’t good enough for”–and got accepted. Marriott was supposed to move me across the U.S. from Michigan to Kansas City in July, however due to Covid-19, everything has been delayed until mid-September.

Since having all this free time at home I have been teaching English online, which is a good side job, however it has given me a lot of time to reflect. I don’t know what sparked inside me, but I started to do a lot of research on aviation, and after much consideration, have decided I want to become a commercial airline pilot!

Personally, I just don’t see myself as being successful in the hotel industry, and overall the impression I have gotten over the past 4 years working in hotels has mostly been long hours, low pay and disgruntled co-workers. An airline career would give me the ability to travel around–which is something I have always enjoyed–as I get bored easily; and I always have enjoyed planes.

My question is if I would be prudent to drop my Marriott internship and go to ATP flight school as soon as possible, or instead to move to Kansas City for a year (the length of the program), save up money, and then apply for flight school. Currently, I still have $14,000 in student loan debt from college, and a car loan to pay off. I could become debt-free in one year, and also save up about $10,000 to put down on my loan, which would save me on interest, and approve my likelihood of getting approved. It also might be a really cool experience, since most of my time in hotels has been smaller select-service properties, while this program in Kansas would allow me to work at a larger hotel in a bigger city.

On the other hand, I am reading on this forum that a lot of pilots are saying that seniority plays a large part in becoming a successful captain, and it is wiser to begin your flight training as soon as possible. Especially since you can make very good money the older you are, which would essentially be flushed down the toilet by waiting a year.

Is it foolish to waste a year doing this Marriott program for the experience and to pay down my debts, or should I just bite the bullet and take out the loan? A part of me should probably talk to a professional, because I honestly don’t know if I’m doing this hotel leadership program to prove a point, and get back at my ex-partner, or if I truly want to do it myself. Especially because I haven’t necessarily enjoyed my time at previous hotels. Though I think this might be different since I would be in an entirely new city, around different people, and not living in a toxic environment that is making me depressed–which is why I want to give it a chance.

And again, because of Covid-19 my program with Marriott got delayed, which would just delay my training with ATP even further. So by the time the hotel internship would be over, I would already be 25 and a half years old before I could start ATP training. I would have all my debts paid off and money saved, but I don’t know that if that is too late of an age to start if I realistically want to work with the major commercial airlines.

I don’t know what to do. I just feel conflicted and lost!
Thank you


My first and really only question is have you ever flown in a small plane (not sitting in the back if a Boeing on vacation)? If the answer is no it’s ridiculous for you to consider tossing your apple cart for a career in aviation based on the idea it’s something you’d like to do. There’s a physical component to this career that doesn’t exist in many others so if the answer is no you need to go to your local airport and take a lesson.

Beyond that the rest are all life decisions only you can make. Yes seniority is everything but you’re the one who knows your finances, how you feel about debt etc etc and what you need to live and be comfortable vs sacrificing.


A couple thoughts (beyond actually taking a discovery flight, which may make all other discussion pointless):

  • First and most importantly, never make big life decisions from a place of desperation. This is a big leap and you need to be moving from a position of strength and confidence.
  • You’ll need to be able to secure a $90K loan to do ATP. Your debt to equity and income situation might not get you the loan. Do you have a co-signer with outstanding credit that trusts you enough to co-sign for the $90K?
  • The aviation mentors will tell you about that last few years that you are foregoing if you wait, and that is an indisputable fact, but if you leap into this without fully understanding what you are getting yourself into, you’ll be ditching this career for another when you find yourself unfulfilled and bored again…and further in debt. The first few years you won’t be rolling in dough and if you never make it through the first four or five years into consistent six figure salaries then what have you gained?

Research, research, research, and pay down your debt as you are already planning to do. Heal up from your relationship. Take a discovery flight, or two. This is a big decision and you alone can weight all the factors and look into your heart to find the answer.

Good Luck!

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As close as you sound to signing up for the program, I’m happy you sought a second opinion.

Some good points have already been made. I just want to emphasize how critical it is to approach this decision more strategically. Before you do ANYTHING you need to do an intro flight or two to experience what it’s like at the controls.

I would also encourage you to continue your research about this industry. This job is not about traveling. That’s a small part of a much larger picture.


Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies, it is great to hear a perspective from the true professionals in this field.

To provide more clarity, this is something I have just been researching for a while, and I would never invest that much money or make a major life decision on a whim or based off an idea. I don’t think I communicated that clearly in my original post. Because I do think I want to be an airline pilot, but of course I would need to have a discovery flight or two, get a first-class medical certificate, tour the ATP campus, and eliminate my current debt before doing anything.
As for my finances, I recently increased by credit score the past couple of months all the way from bad to excellent due to paying off credit card debt. My parents could potentially be a co-signer since they have excellent credit, however I do not think they would agree to it. I should just be focused on saving as much money as possible, in the event that I have no choice but to self-fund.
I have never personally been inside a cockpit or been flown around in a small aircraft, however I do have a lot of family in the air-force. My grandfather actually still has his private pilot’s certificate and flies recreationally.
I think that it would be a great idea to go on a trip down to Florida (where my grandpa lives), where he might be able to give me more insight on the inns and outs of being a pilot.

Thanks again for all of the replies. I apologize if I am coming off in any way shape or form as desperate. I am just trying to figure out my life post-graduation and find my passion. :slight_smile:


If you fly with your grandfather it could very well be like flying with a friend, which is not what flight training is. I would recommend that you do a discovery flight at your local airport, or even better, at the ATP location nearest you. You need to go up with an instructor and get a feel for what flight instruction actually is.

I would also strongly recommend that you contact the admissions department and speak with Kirk in Finance, he can give you a real good idea of how the lenders will look at your financial situation, which might heavily factor into taking the Marriott program or not.