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Thinking about Going to Grad School?

After graduating from college and working in a professional environment for a few years, returning to grad school can be a major decision. In most cases, people forget what it felt like to be in college, they are too used to a working lifestyle and the thought of being a student again just sounds intimidating. To add to that, graduate school is nothing like undergraduate college - it is more professional, it is more exhaustive and you will be expected to behave like responsible adults. If you have indeed decided to go to grad school, here are a few things you should consider.  

How to pay for grad school?

When you apply to grad school, there is a fair possibility that you are still paying off your undergraduate student loans. In such a scenario, how are you supposed to pay for grad school?  

Federal aid is available for grad schools as well

For starters, you can still apply for federal student aid as the William.D.Ford Loan, Perkins Loans and the Pell Grant are offered to graduates as well. Additionally, you can also apply for the TEACH or the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grant which is awarded to students who are planning a career in the teaching field. While filling the FAFSAfor graduate financial aid, you will be considered an independent applicant which means that your financial assets and monthly income will be taken into account.  

Look for fellowships, assistantships and research positions

Graduate schools provides you with many funding opportunities besides grants and scholarships. All graduate colleges have assistantship programs under which you will be offered free or reduced tuition in exchange for research, teaching or administrative work. For instance, you might be required to teach a few undergraduate classes or do some research work for your professors. At times, your college might even pay a stipend and provide health insurance to graduates working as assistants. Fellowships are more like regular scholarships or grants. They are provided either by your college or a third party organization and they might cover a part or whole of your expenses. Fellowships are course specific and you should contact your particular department to acquire information about their eligibility, application requirements etc.  

Is grad school really worth the effort?

The answer to that question depends largely on the field you are interested in. For certain disciplines like law and medicine, going to graduate school is absolutely necessary for professional success. Similarly, if you want to get into research or academia in any field, you will need an advanced degree. However, one can't say the same about other fields of study. A graduate degree sounds lucrative but will it really make a difference to your career? Do a quick survey and find out if there are many people in your field with graduate degrees. What is the difference between your and their salaries? Will your career reach a dead-end without an advanced degree? Ask yourself these difficult questions before you take the plunge. Additionally, look up placement statistics for your grad program from recent years? Are there enough jobs in your field for people with advanced degrees? Basically, do a thorough analysis of the current situation in your professional field; find out if there is a demand for advanced degrees at all. Remember, not only is grad school expensive, it is extremely challenging and it demands serious commitment, both on a personal and professional level.  

Is working part-time while in grad school a good idea?

Once again, the answer depends on your financial situation and your willingness to make things work. Even with the academic burden of graduate school, it is possible to work part-time. If you were already working as a full-time employee before going to graduate school, you can speak to your boss about getting a part-time job. This way, you could support yourself financially even if you fail to find a fellowship or an assistantship. In fact, in some cases, your employer might be willing to sponsor a part of your tuition fee. Having said that, juggling between a part-time job and a graduate degree is not everyone's cup of tea. Some people find it next to impossible to devote sufficient time to their academics or research while working part-time. Like we said earlier, the decision is finally yours. A part-time job will ease your financial burden but it will also take away a lot from your academic experience and you might take longer to complete your degree. Clearly, you have to consider several factors even after you have made the big decision to go to grad school. On the bright side, when you finally earn a graduate degree, you will be looking at a life of success and prosperity.