Whether you’ve just received your undergraduate degree or decided to get some work experience under your belt, heading to graduate school is a milestone for many. If you’re driven by the desire to pursue higher education to explore your interests or give yourself a competitive edge in the job market, graduate school goes a long way in helping you achieve these goals.
While it may be a steep investment for many, attaining a master’s degree can open several doors for you throughout your career—and that includes more than just the hefty paycheck.
When you’re making this important decision, you’ll be faced with a dilemma that many prospective students—both graduate and undergraduate—experience. That is, figuring out how you’ll finance your education!
Unfortunately, recent college enrolment rates have been dwindling. While this isn’t a new phenomenon, the number of students heading to college has been consistently plummeting since 2011—landing at a staggering 18.24M from 20.56M in less than a decade.
What’s the reason that students are choosing to opt-out of getting a college degree?
For a significant number of them, it’s financing. Rising tuition rates, increasingly competitive scholarships, and diminishing state funding mean that many people can’t keep pace with the ever-increasing cost of education.
If you’ve decided to attend graduate school, the first thing you need to do—before you even finalize a college of your choice—is to plan for your finances. When you’re expecting tens of thousands of dollars to be taken out of your meager savings for the foreseeable future, it’s logical to stay ahead of the curve.
However, getting your graduate degree at your dream college isn’t all gloom and doom. There are many avenues that you can explore to fund your higher education. Here’s how you can financially prepare for this life-altering investment:
Choose Your Grad School Wisely
The first thing to nail down is whether graduate school is a viable option for you. Will you receive a return on your investment? Will it add to your career growth? What are the salary prospects of your career? Is this college or program worth it?
Assessing your options before you make the final decision will ensure you make the most of your investment. When you’re so early in your career, you can’t afford to incur considerable debt for a degree that doesn’t offer the kind of payback you expected.
Analyze public and private graduate schools, as well as ones at varying costs, to determine which one would be the best option for you. Familiarizing yourself with what colleges have to offer and logging their expenses will mean you aren’t caught off guard later!
At this point, you should determine whether you want to enroll as a full-time student or balance your work and education simultaneously. Many graduate school attendees work part-time to support themselves through their degree and supplement their finances by leveraging their free time.
You may continue to work part-time at your existing job or take up student jobs on campus—your decision, however, will depend on the country and college’s rules regarding on or off-campus part-time work.
Start Budgeting In Advance
So, you’ve attained your undergraduate degree and decided to pursue your career. A few years down the line, you wish to follow your dream of getting a master’s degree and start looking into options.
When you’ve had a clearer picture of the trajectory of your career and how much you can expect to earn, planning for graduate school will be much easier. With a steady flow of income in the years leading up to your enrolment, you have plenty of time to save up and budget your graduate school expenses accordingly.
There are a lot of costs to consider when opting for graduate school—and they go above and beyond tuition costs. You’ll have to account for student services fees, accommodation, study materials, commute, health insurance, food, and personal expenses, to name a few!
A savings plan can help you put away a tidy sum of money for your foreseeable college costs. Spread over some time, you’ll manage to collect a considerable amount by putting away a little bit of your income every month.
There are many savings plans you can choose from, such as a 529 Plan, which offers tax-advantaged savings for your future costs. A low-risk investment option will help you broaden your horizons with readily-available savings at your disposal.
Explore Your Financing Options
Scholarships, grants, and fellowships are viable financing options that are offered on need and merit bases. These highly competitive awards can subtract the entire or a considerable amount of your tuition fee, but they’re not that easy to come by!
Many people tend to overestimate their ability to secure a merit-based scholarship, forgetting that there is only a limited amount of them that can be awarded. However, the truth is that there may be several factors at play when it comes to selection.
Even if you do receive a scholarship, it may only cover a portion of your college expenses. This will leave you wondering how you’ll manage a considerable chunk of the cost on your own.
Luckily, there are many graduate funding opportunities for you to explore in the time leading up to your admissions. Public and private student loans are a popular choice among undergraduate and graduate students, with almost one-third of people under 30-years of age currently repaying their student loans.
Explore your options when picking a student loan for yourself—both public and private funding can vary in the repayment terms, requirements, and interest rates. Borrowing the funds you need to finance your graduate degree now and repaying it later offers a variety of benefits, including flexible repayment plans, low credit requirements, subsidies, and greater control over loan terms.
Even if you find it difficult to repay your insurmountable student loans later, you can always opt for ELFI Student Loan Refinancing. Instead of defaulting on your loan repayments and incurring increasing interest rates, you can work with a private or public lender to get some much-needed reprieve.
Consider your options early and assess whether working with a private or public lender is in your best interest. Both have their own set of pros and cons that need to be weighed well in advance so you can apply for them accordingly. Since student loan refinancing options don’t determine your eligibility on very strict criteria, you can explore and select a lending plan on your terms!
Don’t let your graduate school dreams fade away. With adequate and timely financial planning, you can prepare yourself to get your master’s degree at a college of your choice. It’s never too soon to start preparing for graduate school if you’re interested in pursuing your higher education, it’s only a matter of finding a comprehensive plan that helps you achieve your goals.
Going to college isn’t a dream you should give up on just because you can’t finance your education at present. There are countless financing and budgeting options you can explore to manage your college education without incurring an inordinate amount of debt.
Your best bet is to start planning well in advance so you can foresee and overcome any challenges that come your way.
About the Author
An expert with extensive experience in student loan refinancing, borrowing, and financial advisory, the author helps students achieve their higher education goals. They empower students and parents with unique financing solutions that are tailored to their needs and circumstances!