Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School

Deia Schlosberg had been working as an environmental educator, teaching students about issues concerning conservation and sustainability. While she loved teaching, she wanted to reach people on a larger scale about the importance of protecting the environment. So she decided to follow her dream of becoming a filmmaker—a dream that would require her to return to school for a graduate degree. She had no idea at the time that it would lead to becoming an award-winning documentarian.

While Schlosberg’s choice may have paid off, learning how to pay for grad school as a working adult can be a challenge. There are various benefits to getting an advanced degree: You can learn more, you can earn more, you can further advance in your current job or prepare for a career change. However, you might also find yourself stressed by the expense and resulting debt of it all, especially if you have kids, a home or other financial commitments. So a big question on your mind could be, “How much should I save for grad school?”

To financially prepare for grad school it’s important to weigh the benefits and stressors that surround getting an advanced degree.

Below are some lessons on how to financially prepare for grad school to help you determine if and when you should go back to school. If you haven’t yet decided if graduate school is right for you, see section 1 for tips on how to decide. If you already know you want to go back to school, skip to section 2.

1. Decide if going back to school is right for you

Getting an advanced degree may seem like a ticket to success, but depending on your chosen area of study, the outcome may vary. For Schlosberg, it was a bit of a risk. It can be difficult to get a break in the film industry, and going to grad school could mean carrying around debt for a long time. Is this the type of outcome you would be willing to accept?

According to Emma Johnson, best-selling author, career consultant and founder of Wealthysinglemommy.com, there are a few things you can do to help you decide whether or not going back to school is right for you:

  • Do your homework. When considering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, research your degree options and the jobs to which they might lead. Compare cost and compatibility—for instance, will classes for the program align with your work schedule? Once you’ve determined what kind of occupation you may pursue after grad school, search online for information about that occupation’s average earnings.
  • Solidify your goals. You may find clarity in writing out your goals for going back to school. Some benefits are tangible, like earning more money, building a professional network and gaining skills. Others might be less tangible, such as finding personal fulfillment. Once you know your goals, it will be easier to determine if a graduate degree makes personal and professional sense.

“Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field.”

– Deia Schlosberg, filmmaker
  • Give your degree program a test run. Consider taking classes that relate to the degree you are interested in getting in grad school. These classes can give you a taste of the subject matter you’ll be studying and help you meet people involved in the field. Also, if prerequisites are required for your advanced degree, they often cost less online or at a community college, which is important to remember when thinking about how to prepare your finances before grad school. Make sure the course credits will be accepted at the graduate school you plan to attend.
  • Take a hands-on approach. To level up in your existing career or find out what it’s like in a new field before making the change, get some work-related experience first. For instance, to learn more about moving up in your own field, get out and meet those higher level professionals by attending conferences and networking events. The same tactic applies if you want to change careers.

2. Know how much you need to save

How to pay for grad school as a working adult can be complicated, but you’ve decided you’re ready for it. Plus, hitting the books at a time when saving for retirement or your child’s education could be at the forefront makes the task of how to prepare your finances before grad school even more critical.

Understanding how to prepare your finances before grad school becomes more complicated if you’re also budgeting for a retirement plan or child’s education.

Figuring out how much to save for grad school begins with determining the cost of attendance. Here are a couple ways to do that, according to Johnson:

  • Do the research. Once you have found a school and degree that you like, visit the school’s web site. Some schools may provide the cost of tuition, fees and estimated costs for books, supplies and transportation. Costs can vary tremendously, depending on various factors: whether you attend full or part time, whether you attend a public or private school, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident and the time it takes to get your degree.
  • Determine your budget. Once you have a handle on the school-related costs, build a spreadsheet that accounts for these costs and projects monthly income and living expenses. Working through a savings plan beforehand can help you financially prepare for grad school by showing just how much you’ll need to budget for monthly on tuition plus living expenses. Once you determine these factors, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to save up.
  • Create a savings buffer. After you determine your monthly costs, pad that number. “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field,” Schlosberg says. She saved a little more than she estimated, giving herself an extra cushion to cover some of the potential risk to her finances.

“You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.”

– Emma Johnson, career consultant

3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline

One key factor in planning the timeline for earning your graduate degree: Don’t be in a rush. If you need to, create the time to save. It may not be necessary to go back to school full time or finish on a particular schedule, Johnson says. She mentions these possible paths to earning your degree when planning how to pay for grad school as a working adult:

  • Consider a side hustle. One option is to go to school full time and take on a side hustle. You may not make as much as you did as a full-time employee, but the income can complement your savings. It may also allow you to concentrate more on your degree and finish faster.
  • Attend part time. Go to school part time (nights and weekends) while working. It will take longer, but it will also minimize your debt, which could be better in the long run.
  • Take it slowly. Only sign up for a class or two—whatever you can afford—and continue to work. This part-time “lite” approach may take even longer, but could help you avoid overextending yourself financially or sliding into debt.
  • Take online classes. Consider online programs that could lower the cost of tuition and allow you to continue working full time.
If you’re wondering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, consider attending school part time and taking online classes.

4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits

So you’ve done your research on how much you need to save while determining how to prepare your finances before grad school. But there are ways to potentially cut or eliminate some of those costs. What comes next are some solutions that may help pay your grad school bills:

  • Consider loans, financial aid and scholarships. “I took out some student loans for living expenses, but I tried to pay off my tuition as I went by working through school,” Schlosberg says. Graduate students may also be eligible for different types of scholarships and grants, which is aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your area of study, scholarships and grants can also be obtained through federal and state organizations, private foundations, public companies and professional organizations.
  • Ask your employer to pay the tuition. One way to financially prepare for grad school is to talk to your manager or human resources representative to find out if your current employer would help pay for, or fully fund, your degree through tuition reimbursement. This is most likely if you plan to move up the ladder and use your new skills on behalf of the company.
  • Take advantage of in-state tuition. Some people move to the same state as their desired school to try to get a break on tuition. “I moved to Montana and worked a couple jobs for a year before applying so I could get in-state tuition,” says Schlosberg. Whether you are already a resident or you move to a new state, be sure to determine how long you need to be a resident to qualify for in-state tuition at your desired university.
  • Cut back on discretionary expenses. Seemingly small things like adjusting your lifestyle to lower your monthly costs, which could mean fewer lattes and dinners out, might go a long way in resolving how to prepare your finances before grad school. “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources,” Johnson says.
When determining how to financially prepare for graduate school, consider scholarships, in-state tuition and tuition reimbursement.

Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start

Answering the question of how to pay for grad school as a working adult requires significant research and preparation, but some say it’s worth it, including Schlosberg. It not only gave her a whole new start, but a wealth of knowledge going forward to nurture her future endeavors. “Getting a graduate degree gave me the confidence to jump into a new career. I met an amazing network of people,” Schlosberg says.

But an advanced degree may not be a necessity. While it could look impressive on a resume, for many employers, a master’s degree is not a requirement. “Whatever you do, don’t go back to school just for the sake of getting a degree,” Johnson says. When thinking about how to financially prepare for graduate school, make sure it fits into your financial picture and that you’re able to “weigh your sacrifices against future gains,” she says.

The post Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

I Thought I Was Too Good For Community College

4 reasons you should go to community college firstWhether you are about to head to college (no matter what your age may be), if you have a child who is about to attend college, or if you know someone who is about to experience this, then this article is for you.

When I was around 17, I applied to several different colleges, but one mistake I made was that I didn’t even give community college a thought.

Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to going to community college, like thinking it is for those that can’t get into a “regular” college, for those that don’t have enough money, or for those that have no other options. When, in fact, these are all far from the truth.

And, sadly, I bought into these myths and thought I was too good for community college. If you want to save money in college, community college is a great way to do that.

The stigma about going to community college is absolutely ridiculous.

And, I was a young kid, so, of course, I let other people’s opinions get to me. And, I thought everyone was right!

It isn’t just kids that believe those myths about community college, as even adults (parents or returning learners) buy into those myths.

Well, that is a big mistake!

For many people, community college should be their first choice.

College costs are increasing, and they’re not going to stop anytime soon.

According to College Board, the average yearly tuition and fees for a:

  • Private four-year college is $32,410.
  • Public four-year college for out-of-state students is $23,890.
  • Public four-year college for in-state students is $9,410.

Community college, on the other hand, is just $3,440.

Those tuition differences are huge, and just look at how much you could save if you did only your first year at community college!

For many people, going to college means taking out loans, and according to a student survey done by Nerdwallet, 48% of undergrad borrowers said they could have borrowed less and still have afforded their educations. And, 27% regretted going to a school that required them to take out loans to afford their tuition.

I know this regret personally.

I only spent one summer semester taking classes at community college, where I earned 12 credits, and I still regret not taking more. I probably could have saved over $20,000 by taking more classes at my local community college.

Yes, I could have saved that much money!

Whether you are in college already or if you haven’t started yet, taking classes at a community college can be a great way to save money.

Today, I want to talk about common myths I hear about community college, so that I can persuade more people to give it a shot. It can save you so much money, and is a great option for a lot of people.

Related content:

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  • Learning How To Survive On A College Budget
  • How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500
  • How Blogging Paid Off My Student Loans
  • 16 Best Online Jobs For College Students

Here are common myths about attending community college:

 

But, all of my credits won’t transfer.

This is the top reason (and myth) I hear for not attending community college.

If you take the correct steps, the credits you earn at a community college will transfer.

If you decide to go to a community college first, always make sure that the 4-year college you plan on attending afterwards will accept all of your credits. It’s an easy step to take, so do not forget to look into this! You should take this step before you sign up and pay for any classes at the community college so that you are not wasting your time.

My four-year university made it easy and had a printed list of what transferred from the local community college – it’s seriously that easy! I’m sure many universities do this as well.

When I took classes for college credit in high school and at the community college, I made sure that all of the classes transferred to the university in which I was getting my degree from.

I have heard too many stories about people not checking this ahead of time and wasting years by taking classes that didn’t transfer, which means you are wasting time and money.

Make sure you get it in writing and talk to your college counselor as well about this. They can help you determine which ones will transfer and provide you proof of transferability.

Also, know that by accepting transfer credits, your four-year university is basically saying “these community college credits mean the same thing here.”

 

Community college won’t actually save me that much money.

I want to repeat, the average yearly tuition and fees for a:

  • Private four-year college is $32,410.
  • Public four-year college for out-of-state students is $23,890.
  • Public four-year college for in-state students is $9,410.

And, community college is $3,440.

As you can see, college tuition is a significant amount of money, and it is a drastic difference between four-year institutions and community college.

Now, the problem here is that many people “afford” college by taking out student loans, so the amount of money you are paying for college isn’t an immediate thing that you “feel” – because it’s all debt!

Note: If you are a parent and you are thinking about taking on debt to put your child through school, please, please, please consider having them attend community college first. Please, also read Should I Ruin My Retirement By Helping My Child Through College?

 

The classes won’t be as good.

I’ve heard this community college myth over and over again. Many people think that the classes won’t be “good enough” for them. That is usually far from the case, though. Your first two years, no matter where you go, are most likely going to consist of very generic classes or classes that are similar, if not the same, as ones at the four-year college you are thinking about attending.

It’s usually not until the last two years, after you get those beginner classes and electives out of the way, that your classes really begin to matter for your degree.

And, if you’re afraid you really need more of those beginner classes from a four-year college, I recommend at least taking a summer semester or two at your community college for elective classes. There are usually lots of elective options at community college, and you can at least take those at a more affordable rate. That is exactly what I did – one summer while I was attending my four-year college, I enrolled at the community college for a bunch of electives. I was able to easily, and affordably, knock out a bunch of electives.

 

My degree will be worth less coming from a community college.

When you graduate with a four-year degree, the school name on your diploma will be the name of the college you graduated from. It won’t say, “graduated from here but took some classes at community college.” This is because your community college credits transferred (if you followed the step above).

So, no worries here.

Nowhere on my college degree does it say that I took some classes at the community college.

Did you attend community college? Why or why not?

The post I Thought I Was Too Good For Community College appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com