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Should You Enter a Graduate Program?

5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before You Start a Graduate Program

Deciding if you should go back to school for your graduate degree should never be taken lightly. When you enter a program, you are agreeing that 2 to 3 years of your life will be affected. You will have less time to spend with your family, less sleep, and less money.

Before you take the plunge, here are 5 questions to ask yourself about your financial situation to truly know if you can truly handle a masters program.

Older College Student
1) Can you pay for it? If you don’t have the money in hand to pay for your program, you may have to take out a loan. Is that plausible? Can you handle all your regular expenses and a student loan on top of that?

2) Will it benefit you in the long run? With the large commitment you have to make, you should really know if it’s going to help your career in the long run. If your boss tells you that you need further education to get that promotion – do it. If you want to eventually apply for a position that requires a masters – do it. If you are doing it in the hopes that your company will pay you more money – reconsider. Unless you are certain it’s required for your professional future, wait and see.

3) Can you get financial assistance? Let’s go back to the situation where your boss tells you that you need the graduate degree to make more money. In a lot of those cases, your employer may offer a tuition reimbursement program that allows you to enter a higher education program for virtually nothing. It’s also worth looking into grants, scholarships, and asking family members.  If you only need to finance a small portion of the cost, consider a personal loan.

4) How much will it change your day-to-day life?
This one is huge especially if you have a family. If a large chunk of your money is going to this program, you may need to make lifestyle choices. This could be anything as small as switching to the generic brand groceries, to forgoing family vacations for the next couple years. In some situations, you may even need to consider selling your home for a much cheaper option.

5) Do you really know how much it will cost? Let’s do the math.
– $50,000 is the average cost of any 2 to 3 year program
– Before you start the program, your salary may average about $30,000
– By the time you graduate you may end up making $60,000 (That’s a very generous estimate)
– If the average student loan rate is about 5% on a $50,000 loan and you pay about $350.00 per month, it will take you about 19 years to pay off.
Are you willing pay on a loan for an extended period of time? Even with your new pay raise, will it be worth it?

Bettering one’s self through education is always a good thing.
However, it’s important to make sure you’re not going to put the financial well being of yourself and your family on the line.

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