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How to Pay for Grad School

After fighting myself tooth and nail, I finally decided this past year to go to grad school.

For years, I’ve known that I’ve wanted to get a master’s degree, but for the longest time, I didn’t know what for. First, I applied to journalism school and got accepted. When the price tag was going to cost me $50,000 in loans, in addition to the $30,000 I already had from undergrad, I said: “forget it.” Then I decided I wanted to go to public relations school. I got in there too, but again, I decided not to go. Then I realized on a whim that I wanted to apply to law school. After studying for the LSAT and taking the test, I decided not to even apply to law school. I was over it.

For years after that, I kind of just decided to forget about graduate school. I knew that in my career in public affairs, a higher degree wasn’t a necessity. Until the opportunity crossed my path.

At my current job, my company will reimburse me up to 75% for all grad school costs, except parking. I kind of ignored this fabulous offer for a while, because I was dead set against going back to school. The reading? The writing? The time?! No, no, and no.

And yet, I couldn’t deny that at my company, a higher degree is revered. As a semi-young professional, I know that a master’s degree will open opportunities for advancing at my company and will allow me to advance faster than if I didn’t have a degree. In addition, a master’s degree will guarantee a higher salary.

With that being said, I’m still trying to pay off $16,000 left of my undergraduate student loans. SO I didn’t want to accrue any more debt. Here are some tips to help pay for graduate school:

Start saving when you’re applying. As soon as I made the decision to apply to graduate school, I started saving money. I needed enough to pay for my first semester up front, in addition to books and other items.

Work as much as possible before starting school. Knowing that I would be busy when graduate school started, I worked as much overtime as possible before school began. I also ramped up my side hustle income by taking on extra freelancing jobs and squirreling away the money into my grad school savings account.

Research scholarships. Since there are no grants offered to grad school students, I knew that scholarships were the only way I was going to be able to find extra money. Check with your grad school to see if they have any scholarship resources; most do.

Look into employer-sponsored programs. I feel incredibly lucky that my company offers to pay such a large portion of my schooling. While I still would have been able to manage without their help, it would have taken a lot more work and sacrifice–as well as forgoing larger debt payments to my undergraduate loans.

It’s important to make sure that graduate school will pay off for you before taking on such a large financial and time commitment. Make sure to look at all the pros and cons before you decide to go back to grad school. It took me several years to make up my mind, but I finally feel like I’m on the right path in terms of graduate school.