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Do You Need Grad School?

Post-grad degrees are great, but do you need one to further your career after college?

You’re getting close to graduation, so what is next? Sorry, enough people have probably asked you that question. If you’re looking into applying to grad school and you’re planning on graduating this spring, you need to get on that now. But before you start applying, set a budget. Not just a financial budget, but a budget for how many schools you apply to. Ultimately both will save you money.

Aim Small, Miss Small.

The first step to budgeting your graduate school applications is to aim for the right school. Not everyone should go to Harvard. At the same time, you shouldn’t set your sights too low.

  1. Decide on your area of focus, evaluate your passions, and understand your motivations.stairs
  2. Research and explore programs that align with your focus, passions, and motivations.
  3. Keep future career goals in mind (an investment in grad school without a job is a bad investment).
  4. Pick a program that fits you. In-person, remote, or hybrid programs can be a game-changer depending on your lifestyle.
  5. What are your current finances? Is there financial aid or a work-study program? Will an employer pay for your school?
  6. Talk to admissions advisors. But also students and alumni.
  7. Contact faculty, ask for advice on the program; build a relationship to maybe get a recommendation.

Not only will this help you budget your time and resources by eliminating schools that don’t fit you, but it’ll also save you money by cutting out unnecessary application fees.

Waivers.

You can ask for waivers for many grad school applications. Most schools have programs to cover the costs of application fees. It might add to the time it takes to graduate, but if you can’t float the cost, taking a few extra hours to potentially save thousands is worth it. With application fees being between $40 and $150, a few waivers can save a lot.

You can also apply for waivers on the cost of taking the GRE. At $205 a pop, taking the GRE just once can punch a pretty big hole in your budget. Taking it more than once can be a burden. It never hurts to try and save a little.

Reimbursement.

Many companies are willing to reimburse some, if not all, of your graduate school costs. It’s an investment for them. If you already have a job, ask your HR department if there are any programs to help pay for grad school.

You can also apply for jobs at companies you find have reimbursement programs. It might mean you have to delay grad school for a year or two, but you’ll be making money in the meantime and gaining references and experience that looks good on your applications.

Is Grad School Needed?

The way to save the most money is to decide if grad school is necessary for you right now. Yes, it will open more doors for a higher paycheck sooner, however, you need to take into consideration if you’d spend more on school than you’d make in that time period. If you’ll be at the same pay level after two years of work as you will be after two years of grad school, then the cold truth is, grad school would be a waste of money.

That’s not to discourage you from pursuing more education, but it’s something to think about. Not every career requires a master’s degree. Going into further debt for minor gains is poor financial advice. It shouldn’t be the main factor in your decisions, but don’t ignore your earnings potential over your education.