Wednesday’s Parent: 6 reasons to think grad school in college search

Adding grad school to college list. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Adding grad school to college list. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

There are many factors students consider when composing a college list or choosing a college to attend but graduate school is often not one of them. That omission can be costly for students who decide to continue their higher education beyond a bachelor’s degree (B.A.). Here are six reasons why your college-bound student should think grad school before saying yes to a college:

  1. Careers Certain careers require advanced degrees beyond a B.A. If a student is considering such a field, checking graduate school applicant qualifications makes sense. Students can discover right away if a college has the courses, majors and internships necessary to best prepare for the next admission process.
  2. Grad school acceptance Graduating from college is not an automatic admission into graduate school. It can be even more competitive than undergraduate programs. Students can check a college’s stats for number of students attending graduate/professional schools to gauge how successful past grads have been to gain admittance into graduate schools and programs.
  3. Undergrad/Grad school programs Many undergrad schools offer postbaccalaureate programs. Students can take a look at graduate curricula while researching undergrad academic programs. They can also find out the acceptance rate of undergrad students gaining admission to their own school’s grad programs.
  4. Combined undergrad/grad programs Some schools offer combined degree programs that put students on the fast track to obtain their advanced degree. This is a great deal for students sure of their career goals because they achieve their college and career dreams in less time thereby shaving college expenses.
  5. Costs Graduate degrees can be much more expensive than the dollars shelled out to earn an undergrad diploma. When considering college costs, students can tally what they expect by combining the number of years necessary to earn the desired undergrad and grad degrees. Students can decide to make it all affordable and to lower costs by setting priorities when apportioning dollars between college and graduate school choices. Read Planning a Budget for Grad School for tips on preparing financially for grad school.
  6. Financial aid Students shouldn’t expect need-based and merit-based aid to be the same offered to those studying for a B.A. Federal financial aid programs for graduate students consist of student loans with hardly any exceptions unless limited to certain occupations or work/study programs. Some states and schools may offer a few fellowships and the latter may have research or teaching assistant positions for grad students. Some professional, scholarly and other organizations may sponsor scholarship contests but the majority of such programs are solely for undergrads. A few universities discount their grad tuition for their own undergrads under certain circumstances. it can pay in the future to investigate these options now.

Graduate school is very different from college. It’s no longer about gaining knowledge via a major, minor and general graduation requirements but concentrating on a selected field of study. The college-bound can prepare for both at the start of the college process.

Read Suzanne’s postIs Grad School in Your Teen’s Future?


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

Planning a Budget for Grad School

 Barrister on a Budget: Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank by Jenny L. Maxey

Barrister on a Budget: Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank by Jenny L. Maxey

When and how should students going to college plan a budget for graduate school? That’s the question author and blogger Jenny L. Maxey returns to answer for POCSmom readers. Take a look at Jenny’s two prior guest posts, also packed with great info: 7 Tips to Help Your Child Decrease Their Loan Debt BEFORE Graduation Day and The Political Side of Student Loans. Higher education is a huge investment that requires careful planning:

College students can prepare themselves financially for grad school in many of the same ways they budgeted for their undergraduate degrees.  However, a few new problems may arise that make it more challenging.  While there are still many scholarships available for graduate students, scholarships for a particular area of study will be narrow, which means more students gunning for the same scholarships.  Further, those applying for grad school are those that are more academically successful as undergrads.  This means that the competition is fierce for those scholarships.  Moreover, income from part-time work may also be hindered as grad school takes up more time during the school year and some programs even have work-hour caps, causing budgets to be less flexible than during undergrad.  Not to mention, you’ll find costs for grad school to be generally more expensive such as tuition, textbooks, professional networking groups among other miscellaneous costs.

It may seem easiest to just throw your hands up and give in, relying on more loans or credit cards for financial assistance.  Although the budget may be a little tighter in grad school, try to resist this urge because there are ways to continue to save.

Begin planning during the final year of undergrad.  There will be admission exams (GRE, MCAT, LSAT) to pay and prepare for.  Keep track of deadlines and take advantage of early bird discounts.  Look for free resources to help with preparation for the exam, personal statements, and building up résumés.

Continue to apply for scholarships.  Look for need-based and merit-based scholarships during the admission process, but don’t stop there.  Apply for scholarships for each year of graduate school.  For example, employers and agencies offer scholarships for reaching a certain level of grad school (i.e. a scholarship specifically for a second year law student).  Some schools even give scholarships based on academic performance throughout the duration of the program.  For instance, most law schools award students with scholarships for achieving a certain rank within their class (such as the top 10%) after the first year.

Review the school’s valuation of costs and don’t accept it “As Is.”  Visit your school’s financial aid website or office to locate the estimated costs.  There are fees that count towards the cost of tuition, but can be opted out of.  If your student prefers to jog instead of using the gym, try to opt out of the gym fee.  Or, did your student get a new computer for an undergrad graduation gift?  Opt out of the computer lab fee or the cost allotted for the purchase of a new lap top (which is included in most grad school costs when calculating the loan).  Every school is different, so be sure to check with the financial aid office to determine what can be cut.

Multi-task experience and income.  Have your student look for opportunities to multi-task.  Building a résumé with experience is a must in this job climate even with a graduate degree.  Positions such as a teacher’s assistant can offer experience and an income, and are generally flexible with school hours.  In law school there are search engine and bar preparation student representative positions, which allow students to receive an income plus discounts on study materials and programs.  If students can receive course credit for internships that also come with pay, definitely jump on the opportunity.

Make sure undergrad loans are deferred.  Most federal and some private loans will allow for continued deferment of payment if the student is enrolled in grad school (varies on full or part-time enrollment).  Make sure the loans are deferred.  This allows the payments to be delayed without interest accruing (although you’ll need to look at your specific loan agreement because terms can differ).  If the loans are in forbearance then interest will accrue, which causes you to pay more over the life of the loan.  If you haven’t talked to the lender about repayment, then payment may become due and may set your student into default if they cannot pay – so make sure undergrad loans are situated!  If your student is able, try to make interest payments on loans, even if not required, in order to keep the outstanding balance low and the amount paid over the life of the loan less.

Create the budget.  Once you and/or your student have implemented these tools to carve out a little more flexibility in a budget, it’s time to set the budget.  Look at spending for a few weeks to a month to see where it’s all going and determine areas that can be cut back.  Ask upperclassman for unexpected costs they came across so you can be prepared for them.  Use student ID cards to get discounts on food and entertainment.  Purchase used books, eBooks, or use books from the library to get textbooks at a lower rate.  Use Microsoft Excel or free smartphone apps to create a budget that is easy to enforce.  And, if the budget goes belly up, don’t quit!  Keep at it until it becomes habit.


Jenny L. Maxey is the author of Barrister on a Budget: Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank, which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble on November 17, 2014. Visit for more information.