During a recession the number of graduate school applicants tends to increase. In fact, according to schools such as UCLA and Harvard, there has been a slight increase in the number of applicants in recent months. Some people look at grad school as a way of “hiding out” until the economy gets back in shape.
Is going back to graduate school worth it, and how are you going to pay for it?
Should you go to graduate school?
Going to graduate school could bring you more money, a better job, teach you more about your field and look really great on your resume. However, going back to school can also drive you deeper into debt, keep you from actively pursuing your career goals, and be unnecessary in the long run.
Who should go after a post bachelor’s degree?
Anyone hoping to be a lawyer, doctor or other profession that requires a master’s degree or Ph.D. should definitely shell out the time and money to complete a higher degree. Not only will the extra time in school bring you closer to your dream job; but, it should pay off with a higher income since these fields tend to pay more than entry level positions that only require a bachelor’s degree.
Who should not go to grad school?
In some cases a certificate or a license may be all that you need to get a raise or a better job. Certificate and license programs are often significantly less expensive and take less time than a master’s program.
If you are not financially, physically, emotionally and/or mentally ready for two to four more years of school, your best bet may be to try to get a job in, or as close to, your chosen field as possible. This way you will be earning income and work experience.
Paying for grad school
So you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided to attend graduate school after all. That’s great. There’s only one problem: How are you going to pay the tuition?
Call the school you wish to attend. Talk to the financial aid office and see if there are scholarships, tuition assistance programs, or work study programs available. Don’t forget to check into research assistant positions with your individual college or program of study. These often pay a stipend that will assist you with the bill.
FindACollegeScholarship.com offers a free guide to grants and scholarships that helps students find over 20 million grants and scholarships. Visit: http://www.findacollegescholarship.com.
Do not cash in your 401k. Not only will you be hit with a penalty for early withdrawal, but that money will not be able to accrue any compound interest, making it harder to save for retirement.
Do not pay for graduate school with a high interest credit card. Using your credit card to finance your education will guarantee you graduate in debt. Think long and hard before you follow this path.
If possible, try to avoid student loans. However, if there is no other option, do your research. Remember: with subsidized student loans you won’t have to pay interest on the years you are in school, but with unsubsidized loans, interest begins accruing the moment you take out the loan.
Before you do anything else, fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You never know what kinds of federal aid might be available to you.
Ashley is a freelance writer and photographer for several local publications in the Tampa Bay area. Follow her on twitter @ashbabe1984