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The Wild World of Student Loans: Knowing How Much You’ll Need

Posted in The Wild World of Student Loans by Caroline Roberts on February 2, 2011
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen you receive your financial aid package, you might not be able to determine whether or not it will be enough. So many factors are involved, with cost of living being at the top of the list. Before you sign on the dotted line, you must be sure that you can live on a low, low salary for a long, long time:

Have a rough idea of your budget first. Eh. Why lie? No one ever really sticks to your budget, but you should take a look at your bank statements to find out where your money goes and how much money leaves per month.

Cut out the fun stuff. Hey, you wanted the life of the mind, right? The life of the mind comes with used clothes and the dollar-value menu. Unless …

Get a roommate. I knew very few people who managed to live alone during grad school. Nearly everyone had a roommate. My roommate and I agreed to split utilities and had enough left over for basic cable.

More after the jump! Image of a storefront by Kenneth Allen from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Know when you’re getting ridiculous. Remember: Teachers were never expected to be martyrs. That martyr business started so the education industry could make you feel guilty and squeeze more work and research time out of you. As commenter Brian over at Worst Professor Ever put it:

It’s a common fallacy to throw good money after bad: to say that I’ve invested so much time in this thing that I hate that I can’t leave it and do something else. No! If you hate it, leave, and find something that you love–or something that pays the bills and that you can leave behind when the work day is over.

Before you go into this, you need to know how much you’re willing to take on a financial level. You may be able to push yourself mentally and physically, but you’re not going to be able to push yourself financially without getting into serious trouble.

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2 Responses to 'The Wild World of Student Loans: Knowing How Much You’ll Need'

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  1. gradland said,

    Great post–particularly for humanities grad students (who are unlikely to ever earn high salaries), I would argue that if a PhD program admits you but offers you very little or no money, *don’t do it.* Virtually all of my English- and comp lit-PhD grad student friends were guaranteed at least five years of funding upon admission, whether in the form of TA-ships or fellowships. We don’t live lavishly, but we live comfortably. No matter how important this PhD might seem, it is not worth getting buried in debt. Further, completing a PhD with plenty of money is hard enough–doing it while constantly stressing about whether you’ll be able to make rent is damned difficult. Finally, if a department offers you admission but doesn’t give you ANY money, it may be a sign that they don’t want you all that badly. And who wants to join a PhD program where they’re not really wanted?

  2. gradland said,

    Sorry, I just read the first of the “student loans” series and realized that similar comments have already been made–I think they’re worth repeating, though!


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