This is the first of a three-part series on paying for graduate school.
Why should you go to graduate school? It’s a simple question with a simple answer. Going back to school can do wonders not only for your knowledge and skill set, but also for your career. Think about it. How many fields these days REQUIRE a four-year undergraduate degree? A lot, right? So how do you separate yourself from the pack? A graduate degree gives you an advanced skill set that employees are looking for. Not only do those skills make you more marketable, they can give you a nice bump in salary as well. The average employee with a Master’s or other upper-level degree earns $10-$15,000 per year more than someone in their field with a Bachelor’s, according to Salary.com.
The next question you must ask is can you actually afford it? Yes, paying for graduate school is the elephant in the room, and there’s no doubt that if you’re already paying undergraduate student loans back, on top of other life expenses, the thought of adding another one can cement your decision to not go back to school.
Before you do anything, you should check to see what options you may already have. Be open-minded. For example, did you know many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs? If you are considering a program relevant to your current job, your employer may pay for some or all of the cost of your classes. If you are serious about wanting to attend graduate school, but already face a burdensome monthly loan payment from undergrad, you might be eligible for income-based repayment. This plan helps borrowers keep payments low with caps based on their income and family size.
One last note, if you are still paying off undergraduate loans and are considering grad school, you should fill out an in-school deferment form, which lets your lender know that you are, in fact, still taking classes and postpones your loans until after you graduate.
Next week: Your scholarship and federal loan options…
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