Going back to school

Going back to school means learning how to budget all over again

Are you on the fence about going back to school for your graduate degree?

Whether you want to go to grad school right after earning your undergraduate degree or spend a few years in the work force in between, now is a great time to reflect and map out all the financial factors that could affect your grad school experience.

Here are a few of them:

Your budgeting plan will need a facelift

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, cost of attendance, or moving and potentially adjusting to a new cost of living. You could even be in a different life stage altogether 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 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.

Your income stream might change

If you decide to go back to school, the reality is that you may not be able to hold a full-time job if you attend school full time. 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, experiencing a 30–40% pay decrease or sacrificing a job altogether just won’t work. 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, or a 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.

You may need to acquire new study habits

If you go back to school, 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 as it did in the past. In fact, it may take time to figure out your new learning style.

You may be working in a new environment

Will you need to make a geographical move to enroll in the academic program of your choice?

This may not be an issue for you, but if it is, keep in mind the other transitional factors you may face in that process, whether that means adjusting to a new geographical area, institutional culture, or academic field.

Still on the fence about going back to school?

Schedule an appointment with a MoneySmarts team member, or email mnysmrt@iu.edu with any questions! We’ll help you weigh your options and break down the factors most relevant to deciding if going back to school is right for you.