Originally Posted by Adelgander
I would really hate to think that my professors, as wonderful as they were, left me unprepared for the real world.
Worse than that, they are part of a system that left you in debt for the privelge, which is one reason why I have advocated for alternative approaches to learning the craft side of becoming an artist.
Don't let materials cost stop you. It does not cost much to make small scale models of your ideas. It is important that you work these out and leave them in some form, be it 2-D sketches or 3-D small models, materials for which can either be found for free or nearly so. If you are doing figurative work clay can be purchased cheaply and armature materials can be cobbled together from construction site debris.
Working out these ideas at a small scale will keep you engaged in process. You will also build up reference material that can be photographed and will be ready for if and when the right circumstance or person comes along that may provide the opportunity to go the next step.