How to Afford Graduate School: Best Practices

Exploring your options for graduate school is an exciting process. You’re thinking about which programs are the best fit for you, getting ready to get back into the classroom, and imagining what your graduate degree will mean for your personal and professional life.

But eventually, everyone comes to the question: “How am I going to pay for this?”

If you’ve come to that bridge and you’re not sure how to cross it, we’ve put together this list of how to pay for graduate school and best practices as you explore financing options.

Best Practice #1: Understand Your “Why”

Going to graduate school is a commitment. It’s not only a financial commitment, but one that will require a lot of your time and energy as well. Sometimes, that might mean studying nights and weekends while you balance your studies, career, and personal life.

You can do this and fortunately you don’t have to do it alone. Our programs are designed to help working adults earn their graduate degrees without putting the rest of their lives on hold.

But when things get tough and the work feels challenging, you need to make sure you really understand your “why.” Why are you earning this degree? It could be something tangible, like a pay raise or a promotion, or something more personal like a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Understanding why you want this degree is essential so that when you take the leap, it will all feel worth it.

Best Practice #2: Consider ROI as You Weigh Costs

Of course, the cost of your education is important. You should have a very strong understanding of your tuition, fees, and other expenses before making any decisions about your future. You should know exactly how much you’re paying and what you’re paying for.

Beyond that, however, it’s important to think about both the short- and long-term return on investment (ROI) of grad school. As we previously mentioned, this could be something tangible or something more personal and subjective. Whether it’s to explore a new career, seek a promotion, earn a salary increase, or take on new responsibilities, these are all benefits of earning your graduate degree.

Some of these will deliver financial ROI, while others, like the sense of pride from this accomplishment, can’t be measured by anyone other than you.

Best Practice #3: Explore Every Opportunity to Reduce Your Tuition

The “sticker price” for graduate school can sometimes seem out of your budget, but there are lots of ways to help pay for tuition and expenses. 

You should explore financial aid options like grants, loans, tax credits, graduate assistantships, and employer reimbursement to reduce your financial burden. Each of these options has different eligibility requirements and payment structures, but they are all great ways to offset the costs.

You can learn more about each of these here: How to Pay for Grad School: 5 ways to Reduce Tuition.

Many students aren’t aware of all of these options so they don’t take advantage of all of the opportunities available to reduce tuition costs. Avoid making this mistake by connecting with your adviser.

Best Practice #4: Don't Pay More Than You Can Afford

Yes, there is a tremendous ROI associated with earning a graduate degree. 

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence and have a strong handle on your financial situation and the costs of grad school.

When you commit to taking this journey, you want to be sure that it’s something you feel 100% confident that you can afford and that it’s the right time to take this on. If you’re not sure where to start, you can speak with an adviser who can help you work through this to see if this is the right time for you.

Best Practice #5: Research the Program’s Specific Costs

Every school is different and has different costs and payment structures. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of programs, make sure you understand the costs associated with each of them. It can be helpful to list this in a table or spreadsheet to compare costs directly.

Not only do different schools have different tuition rates, but they also offer different forms of financial aid and tuition assistance. For example, some schools may offer graduate assistantships whereas others may not.

Make sure you’re taking the time to research and understand the costs and payments expected for each program you consider so you’re making an informed decision when it comes time to choose.

Best Practice #6: Rely on the Experts 

You are not in this alone!

It can sometimes feel overwhelming when you’re looking at the costs, financial aid, and eligibility requirements, then trying to figure out which is the best path forward for you.

One of the best things you can do in this process is to enlist the help of an experienced admissions adviser. They can walk you through the process step-by-step and answer every question you have.

Remember, knowing how to afford graduate school is part of the process of launching your future. You’re not expected to be an expert–that’s why we are here to be a helping hand. 

If you’re considering Southern Adventist University’s flexible and affordable graduate programs, we invite you to meet with Laurie Gauthier, Director of Graduate Marketing and Enrollment Management. You can schedule some time on her calendar below!

About the Author

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University is a private Seventh-day Adventist college in Collegedale, Tennessee. Our practical graduate programs equip you with in-demand skills and experience that transfer directly into your career path. We hope to help you accomplish your dreams!

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