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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

March 21, 2008

School Selection: Paying for It

This is the third in series of posts on school selection for both those in the process of selecting where to apply to and those deciding where to attend. The first post is here. The second post is here.

How I can pay for tuition and all related costs? Except for the rich, the cost of education is always a consideration. You will need to figure this out for any school you attend, so look carefully to see what you will actually need, what you can borrow, and what kind of scholarships might be available. Don't be afraid to ask admissions questions about this because it is too important a topic to guess about.

For those who have now been accepted to one or more schools, it is time to start paying! If you are making a decision about which program to attend, finances are likely a critical consideration for you. Now is the time to figure out exactly how you will really pay for your graduate degree. Of course, you should have already figured this out before you applied, but you have not, you need do it now. Where you eventually decide to go may very well be the result of the calculations you make.

For those who are deciding where to apply to, you need to have a clear plan for how you will finance your education. Many applications will require that you state this, so you might as well do your homework at the initial stage. If you will be coming to the US as an international student, you will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds in order for the school to issue you an I-20 (the document you need to get a student visa). While much of your plan will likely be a function of your finances and those of your family, your plan might also rely upon support from the school or from loans.

What scholarships are available to me and how likely is it that I can get one? Depending on your background, financial need, academics, and GMAT, and the program you are applying to, schools have very different levels of funding available. If you are expecting to get scholarships, look closely at their availability when selecting schools.

The availability of part-time work, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships is another consideration. If you are an international student, your ability to work will greatly vary depending on where you go. The US has very stringent rules on part-time work for those on international student visas, so don't count on being able to work. For those pursuing Ph.D.s one primary source of funding would be a research or teaching assistantship, but the availability of such positions varies widely.

Loans: MBA programs often have great programs for all admitted applicants to obtain loans, but this is less often case with other types of degrees. Look at what will be available to you before you apply. If you are international student, depending on your situation, you may need to obtain loans in your country, so look into this before you apply.

ROI: Return on Investment. Simply calculating costs is not enough, you have to look at the return you can expect as well. It may very well make good financial sense to leave school with $100,000 in debt if the return justifies it. Regardless of what type of program you attend, you really do need to do some cost calculations so that you have a sense of what your graduate degree will be costing you and what kind of potential return you can expect from it. It is an investment of time, energy, and money, so make your decisions carefully. For more about ROI, see the Businessweek ROI calculator.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. If you are planning to apply for an MBA, LL.M., Ph.D., or a Masters and would like to learn more about my consulting services, please visit http://adammarkus.com/. I offer a free initial consultation.
-Adam Markus
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