I wish they would have told me........
In order to identify some of the major concerns and
problems faced by students attending graduate or professional school,
several financial aid administrators took an informal poll of their
students. We asked them to tell us what they wish they would have
known prior to entering school and what information would have made
the transition easier. Many of the respondents held down full-time
jobs prior to coming back to school. Below are the things that they
felt were most important and wanted to share with future generations
of graduate or professional students.
1. The true cost of school
Tuition is not the only expense of going back to school. Students
identified living expenses as one of the biggest "unknowns"
in trying to establish a budget. Items which need to be considered
when setting up a budget that many students didn’t consider
are having to come up with first, last and security deposits, moving
expenses, utility bills and having to buy groceries on a regular
basis. (Grocery shopping was a big concern for students used to
living at home or being on a meal plan.)
2. The importance of good credit
Students were so focused on getting into school that they didn’t
spend time planning how to pay for it. Many didn’t realize
that having good credit was very important, since most degrees beyond
a bachelor’s are financed with federal and private loans.
Private loans are credit-based, so students with less than perfect
credit might not qualify. Graduate and professional schools are
expensive, especially here in Massachusetts. Federal loans don’t
cover tuition in many cases. Students unable to get private loans
are in a real bind financially.
3. Planning financially before school...
Students wish they would have paid credit cards down so those bills
weren’t pressing. Students found they were unable to meet
all their outside obligations and ran into financial difficulty.
Some fell behind in payments and hurt their credit. One student
wished that he would have deferred admissions for a year to be better
prepared financially. He thought that in the long run, one year
of his life would not have made a big difference in the length of
time that he would practice law, but he felt he would have been
less stressed about money matters while in school. Another student
said that it took her some time to realize she couldn’t buy
whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.
Students wished that they would have considered the impact loan
debt will have on their future lifestyles BEFORE they signed on
the dotted line. One student said that he came in with realistic
salary expectations and limited his borrowing accordingly. He was
more concerned with the way he was going to live AFTER school than
while he was in school.
Students expressed the importance of keeping up with undergraduate
lenders. While they were overwhelmed with information from the lenders
at times, they stressed the importance of keeping lenders informed
of their current addresses in order to avoid problems in the future.
One student actually went into default because he failed to have
his mail forwarded from an old address. His credit will now take
a long time to repair, and he was in jeopardy of having to drop
out of school because he was unable to obtain federal loans for
All students stressed the importance of filing deferment forms promptly
too, to avoid slipping into default by error. Lenders don’t
automatically know when students re-enroll, so it’s up to
the student to let the lender know.