Graduate School will require more intensive focus, commitment, and dedication than your undergraduate days in college. Hence, surviving graduate school can be particularly tiresome if you also have to contend with financial worries. Unfortunately, many people in graduate school have money matters high on the list of their worries because the funds available are always low and the bills to pay are always high.
Many people survive graduate school by taking the easy route with an unhealthy accumulation of debt. However, such a strategy is destructive because you’ll be inevitably setting yourself up for a lifetime of financial stress when you leave school and your dream job isn’t as grand as you imagined. This piece provides insight into four tips that can help you survive Grad School without much financial worries.
1. Part-time options could be smarter
If you’ve spent your undergraduate days as full-time student, you might want to consider the other side of the coin as a part-time student in grad school. Of course, there’s a sense of commitment that comes from dropping other commitments and immersing yourself in full-time studies – some graduate programs do not have part-time options. However, if your graduate program offers a part-time option, you should give serious thought to the part-time program. For one, you’ll be able to finance you graduate education without much debt because your earnings will cover living expenses and a part of the tuition. Nonetheless, you should note that it might take a longer time to complete the program and you should strive to be diligent in finding a work-school balance.
2. Keep an emergency fund against all odds
It is ultimately in your best interest to reduce the amount of student loan that you’ll acquire for graduate school. Hence, you would ideally have saved up some money to cover living expenses and part of the tuition. However, you should have an emergency saving fund (after accounting for tuition and living expenses) when heading to graduate school. Your mental health and academics could suffer if there’s an unexpected setback and you suddenly need to borrow more money or you are left stranded for lack of cash. You should ideally enough money to tide you over for a couple of months between loan disbursements or other setbacks.
3. Maximize opportunities for grad school loans
Many people struggle financially throughout grad school because they failed to maximize loan opportunities to get the best student loan package. You’ll ultimately get the most flexible loan packages and terms from federal student loans for grad school. You can get the most up-to-date information on grad school loans by reading a student aid guide or going to the FAFSA website. The best part is that getting information and applying for the best FAFSA deal could make a whole lot of difference when you are paying back your student loan debts. For instance, you could enjoy income-based repayment plans or pay-as-you-earn plans. You might also be eligible for special tax breaks such as the lifetime learning tax credit if you have shopped for the perfect loan plan from the onset.
4. Know that you’ll always need to pay the piper
Just because money is available to borrow and you are getting pre-approval emails doesn’t necessarily mean that you should start loading on credit. In all honesty, I know that it could be very difficult to survive on most stipends for graduate school and it is often easier to borrow more money instead of racking your brain, searching for how to pinch pennies to stretch the dollar in order to make ends meet. Graduate school is a place where you go read, study, learn, and hone your skills – any borrowing that doesn’t directly contribute to those cardinal needs might be an unnecessary waste of money.