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The funny costs that creep into your grad school budget

Katie Schenk - January 10, 2017

The Funny Costs that
Creep into Your Grad School Budget

You’re not after cheap; grad school education is an investment. The question usually isn’t whether you need to take a loan, but how much you need to borrow.

And that’s a tricky question for any student, but especially for international grad students who don’t have an appreciation for the real cost of living in another country.

Sure, every university provides a general breakdown of costs including tuition, housing, books, and general living expenses. But these often fail to account for all those other funny costs that can creep into a budget. And, there are plenty of those.

Clubs and activities – Technically, these are optional expenses. But, most grad students, especially those pursuing an MBA, will tell you that optional really means you have a choice between several options. These activities flesh out the grad school experience, making it more valuable than the price tag itself. Certainly, costs vary between schools and activities, but in the US, club memberships tend to run between $50 and $150. The more you’re involved in, the more you will pay.

Socialising on and off campus – You’re pursuing a degree to learn skills, theories, models, and more. But, you choose to pursue your graduate degree on-campus (rather than online) because of the networking and friendships to be had. (Well, that’s at least one of the reasons.) And, the relationships developed during this time are truly incredible. But, it costs money to head out for a drink, a coffee, a meal. And those costs are almost never mentioned in school cost calculators.

Visas and travel expenses – Some degrees (especially MBAs) place a lot of emphasis on international connections and exposure. Chances to travel appear on the horizon almost constantly – whether it’s a getaway with friends or an experiential learning trek. While you may have factored in the cost of one or two of these, don’t forget about visa costs, ground transportation, phone and data roaming expenses, and the like.

Internship and holiday periods – Many schools provide cost estimates that include only the academic calendar times. They tend to exclude the holidays when most domestic students would head for home. The housing fee may only cover ten months of the year. And what about internships? You may earn a little, but it may not be enough to cover living expenses in another city (or country) while holding onto a flat near the university.

Interviewing and recruitment – Grad schools are eager to find career opportunities for their students, and you’ll often find companies on campus. You may need formal attire for interview events – and you may need to book flights when you proceed to advanced rounds with a company. Indeed, it’s more than just plan tickets; you’ll also need food, accommodation, and ground transport when checking out the company and city where you may spend the next several years.

It’s not easy to determine any of these costs on your own. However, you’re not alone; you can easily check with current or recently graduated alumni. And, it’s important to do so. While additional funding opportunities and scholarships can arise at any time, many students are limited to the amount they borrow the first time around. Take the time to investigate before you’re stuck eating plain bread and noodles for weeks on end and before applying for financing. This isn’t an investment you want to shrug off.  


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