Graduate school is like your undergrad on steroids. It's more intense, more time-consuming, and (usually) far less fun. Everything is amplified: your workload, your extra-curricular responsibilities, and even your financial obligations.
Grad school tuition and fees can be stifling, even for those without previous debts from undergrad. Here are some quick tips on managing your money as a graduate student.
I was living at home and didn't have any debt, says Michelle, 25, an MBA student at the University of Toronto. I knew school would be expensive, so I was saving as much as I could.
It's a good idea to think over your decision to attend grad school. Search all graduate funding possibilities before applying, since application deadlines are often a year in advance of attendance. Also, consider working for a year or two to gain experience to stockpile money for tuition.
For the two years I was working before graduate school, I would challenge myself not to spend a dollar for a single day, says Michelle. She packed homemade lunches and used a travel cup to drink coffee on her daily commute between Mississauga and Toronto. When I got really good at that, I'd try and go a whole week without spending money. I was really frugal.
Every penny you find is one less penny you have to pay back to the bank. There are an abundance of scholarships, grant programs, and on-campus positions to ease the cost of attendance. Don't assume that available funding is always advertised.
When Candace got accepted to the master's program in epidemiology and biostatistics at McGill University, she chose the school over others that offered funding. With no information on assistantships, she decided to email professors directly and inquire about research opportunities. That initiative earned Candance a $22,500 research job, which was the reason she never had to touch the line of credit she took out.
Loans are a necessity for the majority of graduate students. When shopping around for funds, pay attention to interest rates and repayment plans. Many banks offer competitive interest rates for graduate students while they attend school and for a period after graduation.
Money was a bit of a concern, but two things stuck out, says Julia, who just graduated with an MBA. One, Rotman (the business school at the University of Toronto) has a guaranteed loan program with a few banks, so it wasn't like I had to fight for tuition money. Two, I was making so little before with a bachelor of arts in political science that my income could only go up.
Like Julia, you should look at your loan as an investment. Even if your degree doesn't help you make more money right away, it will help further down the line. The combination of an advanced degree and a few years of professional experience should make you a winning candidate for high-profile positions. But you might need to live off of ramen noodles and Kraft Dinner for a few years first.
Budgeting can be especially difficult for students. There will always be temptations to go out with friends. And though you shouldn't cut entertainment out of your life completely, it's crucial to map out a realistic budget.
I definitely calculated my bills every month and budgeted for entertainment, groceries, gas money, and tried to limit myself, says Meghan, who received a master's in international relations from the University of Windsor. Instead of going out to eat a lot or going to the bar, we would go for a walk or do something free.