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Student Loans, Scholarships & Debt Podcast Episodes

Coming Back to School
Back to School

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Pete and Alex are joined by IU’s Coordinator of Financial Literacy, Morgan McMillan, to talk about factors to consider before deciding to go back to school. Below are a few more points to address when making the decision to jump back into studying for a higher degree.

Read the Show Notes

Are you on the fence about going back to school for your graduate degree? Whether you would like to go back right after undergrad or take a few years in between, now is a great time to reflect and map out all the factors that could make or break a money-smart move to go back into academia. Here are a few points to consider before making that decision.


Of course, we can’t go without giving you the rundown on what you might expect financially when making this transition. Adjusting back to school, whether you decide to go back soon or wait, comes with its own transitional challenges; and what happens with your finances is no exception to that.

While the financial component may vary based on your situation, you will want to consider how going back to school can affect every aspect of your financial life, whether that’s from a change in salary, to cost of attendance, to moving and potentially adjusting to a new cost of living. You could likely be in a different life stage all together from the last time you were in school. Creating a realistic budget for your household expenses and assessing how that could change with a dramatic salary decrease would be in your best interest when considering your options. Think about adding in the expense of paying tuition and student fees as well and what options you might have for financial assistance from the institution. Finally, don’t forget that transitioning to school could also mean transitioning to a new area, cost of living, and housing situation. Be sure to accommodate for those changes as well.


Aside from finances, it’s also important to recognize that going back to school will have a great effect on other aspects of your life as well. The reality is that you may not likely be able to hold a full-time job if you attend school full-time as well. And working while in school, which may or may not look like it did during your undergrad experience, is another point to take into account when deciding which graduate program or if going back to graduate school at all is right for you.

For some, either experiencing a 30-40% pay decrease or sacrificing having a job just won’t cut it. This can be a great determiner of the type of program that will work best for you – whether it’s online, at a traditional on-campus institution, part-time, or full-time program. For others, the search for the right program might even include the search for guaranteed on-campus job opportunities or options like teaching or finding a graduate assistantship that will help cover the costs of your tuition and pay salary with medical benefits.

New Study Habits

Whether you just finished school months before stepping into grad school or you are jumping in from having worked full or part-time, your study habits may look very different than they did the last time you were in school. Pulling all-nighters and banking on the last-minute cram session and messy notes to get you by may not work as well for you now as it did in the past. In fact, it may take some getting used to finding out what your new learning style may be and how any transitional learning curves could affect your adjustment to school and your study habits.

New Institution, New Field of Study, New Academic Culture

Thinking about making a big move for a new educational experience or because of the location of your top academic program? This may not be an issue for you, but if it is, keep in mind any of the other transitional factors you may face in that process, whether that means adjusting to a new geographical area, institutional culture, or academic field.

Of course, there are many more considerations when you start thinking about grad school. So, where do you start when narrowing down your options or thinking about all the factors that will make or break your decision to pursue a graduate education? Make a list – we can help!

Let us help you weigh your options and break down the factors most relevant in making the decision about whether or not going back to school is right for you. Whether you are in graduate school or making the decision to go back, schedule an appointment here with one of our MoneySmarts team members to create a plan for how to make it financially feasible for you. You can also e-mail with any questions.