Updated on August 27th, 2021
There is no doubt that having your graduate degree can set you apart in a competitive job market. It’s also no surprise that graduate school is one of the most expensive investments anyone can make. While positive, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into financially before you make the jump. In this article, we cover how to pay for grad school without taking out student loans.
Attending graduate school can be an exciting time, but it comes with decisions that will affect the rest of your life. We hear a lot about the “student loan crisis.” In a time where student loan debt is at an all-time high, how do you keep from accruing more debt on top of what you already have if you want to go to graduate school?
The most well prepared prospective graduate students will certainly be ahead of the rest when it comes to this important decision.
Today we’re going to share with you some insights backed by research to help you pay for graduate school as you go or take out little to no debt!
PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING
Deciding that you want to go to graduate school is a positive move. You need to have a plan in place, do your research, and make sure that you are choosing the best school and program for your long-term goals.
Many students forget that even a $10,000 difference in programs is a lot of money! At the end of the day, sit down and list out all your potential schools, programs, and cost of each option side by side. This will help you clearly see how each school compares.
To graduate your master’s program with little to no debt, there are a few key components that you must consider.
REDUCE PROGRAM COST AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
This is a long way of saying, choose the most affordable school that will get you the outcome you want. In 2017, there is not a huge difference in the coursework from your state school and that coveted “more selective” graduate program in “so and so” city.
The reality is that the internet has equalized education in a way that is positive. The name brand recognition matters but is it worth an additional $40,000? Probably not. There are often outreach programs that cater to working adults that are often cheaper than full-fledged masters programs. These programs can often be taken on nights and weekends as opposed to during the day. Check with your state school and ask what programs they have for working adults.
Other things you can do to reduce program cost:
- See if your current employer can sponsor your program or find a job that will sponsor you
- Find a Merit Scholarship
- Choose a state school or lower cost school
- Go part time
- Find a one year program
EARN MONEY WHILE YOU ATTEND OR BEFORE YOU APPLY
Working after your undergraduate degree assures you that you have some real world experiences under your belt before taking off and doing a master’s degree. Many programs, especially MBA’s, will not accept students unless they have some work experience.
One key way to avoid taking out student loans for your graduate program is to work before and save a nest egg that can help you pay out of pocket for your program. Additionally, working while you are in the program is the ideal route if you plan on graduating with no debt.
While some programs do not allow this, it is a choice you need to make to assure you set yourself up for success later.
The Return on Investment (ROI) significantly decreases if you are earning zero dollars and are paying $30,000 – $100,000 for a masters program.
If you work on the other hand and can make $45,000 a year, find a program that is $20,000 total, then your ROI outlook significantly improves.
Simply put: choose the cheapest school you can and earn as much as you can while you are in grad school to maximize your investment.
Ways you can earn while you attend school:
- Drive for Uber & Lyft
- Drive for Postmates
- Get a teaching assistant job
- Work on campus
- Start a side hustle
SAVE MONEY WHILE IN GRADUATE SCHOOL
Graduate school is a privilege that not all get to pursue. It’s okay to make some sacrifices while you are in graduate school because it will pay off big later.
People tend to give graduate students a break because they know that school is expensive and not easy to get through as an adult. Don’t feel bad about being cheap when you are in graduate school. After all, you are trying to be in the top 8% of Americans that can say that they have a graduate degree.
A few ways you can save money are:
- Live with roommates
- Live with parents.
- Drive an old car
- Don’t spend any money on new clothes
- Cook at home
- Check out textbooks from the library or buy used books on (BetterWorldBooks.com)
Here is what you never hear about in the media:
- 34% of graduates from public colleges do not have student loan debt
- 25% of graduates from private nonprofit colleges do not have student loan debt
- 12% of graduates from private for-profit do not have student loan debt
It’s important to recognize that many students graduate with undergraduate and graduate programs without debt. If they can do it, so can you.
I did it using the exact tips I described above.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you are interested in grad school, you are probably already a critical thinker. Put that critical thinking to good use and think 10-20 years down the road and consider how your choices you are making now will impact your life then.
Graduating with little to no debt is a huge benefit. It is not easy, but it can be worth it if you follow some of these simple steps laid out in this article.
About the Author: Zack is an entrepreneur, and personal finance blogger at FreeUp. His blog is focused on personal finance, entrepreneurship, and travel. He and his wife paid off $50k of debt in 11 months by living in a camper and has been featured in Forbes and U.S. News. Follow him on Twitter & Facebook or grab his Free 8+ Page Get Out of Debt Guide.