Not everyone is lucky enough to have parents who can provide for them financially while they’re in college. This means that the longer you’re in school, the more financially independent you can become – shouldering the cost of tuition, books, and housing at least partially on your own. You might start to feel overwhelmed by the financial burden of going to college, which happens to most students, regardless of their personal situation.
Keep this fact in mind: research from the 2010 Census showed that only 30 percent of Americans have a bachelor’s degree, but that 30 percent makes an average of $25,000 more a year than they would with only a high school diploma. Depending on your major and career graduate school can increase your salary another 40 percent, which is why it has become increasingly necessary in order to really compete in the job market. You might think it’s out of your league, but there are many reasons why you can and should continue your education.
1. Why Go to Graduate School?
The number one reason people go to graduate school is to make more money, but most students find that their graduate school experience is much more rewarding than the experience of getting their bachelor’s degree. You will find that professors treat you as an equal, and that the research and exchange of ideas feels more like true learning than just studying for a test.
Graduate school allows you to really develop your expertise in a very specific area. You’re probably thinking that this sounds great, but it’s a lot of money to pay for a rewarding experience. Of course, graduate school is a lot more than that. Consider the connections you’ll make, the opportunities for internships, and the open door to your industry. For example, business majors (always one of the most popular graduate degrees) typically get hired straight from graduate school at a rate of around 70 percent a year.
2. How to Choose the Right Program
Finding the right graduate school comes down to more than cost. It also involves finding a program that will allow you to finish quickly, and that will fit into your life in the meantime. Graduate school can be time-consuming, and many students find it hard to juggle it with employment, let alone a social life. You could be facing these same issues as an undergrad, but when the work gets harder and more focused, it gets even more intense.
While some students prefer to continue learning on campus, many students are turning to online schools to pursue advanced degrees. If you research accredited schools online, you would find a variety of options in your area of focus, whatever you’re looking for. Masters of education programs designed to let you finish quickly, cheap masters in counseling programs, programs that allow you to get state licensing in social work and other areas, and even online MBAs are plentiful. With less aid available for graduate students at universities, this is a new and valuable option.
3. How to Pay for School
You’ve probably heard the stories when it comes to paying for graduate school. While it’s true that students pursuing a master’s degree receive less money in the form of government grants and need-based aid, there are way more scholarship opportunities for gad students – and they can be based on a wide variety of factors.
You can also rely on fellowships and even employer incentives to help pay for school. You have to be more proactive looking for aid in grad school than you probably already are as an undergrad, but most institutions have their own awards and financial offers, and if you speak to an aid counselor, they can help you get the maximum amount of money you can. You’ll likely still end up aggressively searching the internet for more options as well as securing loans, but it’s okay – remember that a high-paying job after graduation will reimburse your tuition in as little as 5 years.
As you make your way through college, you will form an idea of how to answer that age-old question – what do you want to do with the rest of your life? If you can get a better job in your major with the aid of a master’s degree, you can’t afford to pass up that opportunity. College is a huge investment, but you only get to do it once, and you want to make sure you get the most out of it that you can. The system might be flawed, but with determination and planning, you can get it to work for you.
Amie Gottschalk is an avid blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @amiegottschalk.