5 Overlooked Expenses of Graduate School

Looking for a way to increase your income and build your career? Going to graduate school can help you accomplish your goals. According to a study by Georgetown University, graduate degree holders make $17,000 more per year than their peers who have just a bachelor’s degree, on average.

However, attending graduate school can be expensive. You often have more costs than just tuition and classroom fees, which can add to your degree’s price tag. Before applying to graduate schools, it’s important to come up with a budget that accounts for all of your expenses to avoid any surprises.

The Cost of Graduate School

According to Peterson’s, the average graduate school tuition is $30,000 per year at public universities and $40,000 per year at private ones.

While that number is steep, it’s not the total cost of your degree. You might have to spend more each year on necessary expenses like housing, transportation, and supplies. However, there’s also a number of other expenses that are often overlooked.

Here are five expenses you should expect if you plan on attending graduate school:

1. Application fees

Graduate schools often charge application fees just to apply to the university. Depending on the school, that fee can give you a case of sticker shock. For example, Cornell University charges a $105 application fee. If you apply to several schools, you could end up paying hundreds or even thousands in fees.

To minimize your costs, limit your list of potential schools. Apply to schools you seriously want to attend and have a good chance of getting into, rather than applying to a long list of dream or reach schools.

2. Testing fees

Most graduate schools require applicants to submit standardized test scores. Each of the exams charges a fee every time you sit for the test:

● Graduate Records Examination (GRE): $205
● Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): $250
● Law School Admission Test (LSAT): $200
● Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): $315
● Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): $205

However, the exam registration fee is just part of the total cost. Many students will pay even more for test preparation classes and books. And, you may have to take the test more than once to get the score you need.

You can manage your test expenses by using free resources, such as your local library, or by buying study materials secondhand.

3. Work samples

When you apply to graduate school, some programs will request samples of your professional work. For example, music students who plan to attend graduate school will typically submit audio recordings. To ensure your best chance of getting in, you can’t just submit a recording from your phone; you have to rent a recording studio to get high-quality sound.

Even for non-musical students, you may have other expenses to showcase your work, like binding and mailing your thesis or building an online portfolio.

4. Textbooks

Because you’ll face more intensive course work in graduate school, you usually have to pay a premium for textbooks. The cost of your books could be as much as $1,240, but how much you have to pay is dependent on your school and major.

You can save money by buying your books used or even renting them. Skip the school bookstore and check out BookFinder, Barnes & Noble, or Chegg.

5. Computers

As a graduate student, you’ll have to do a lot of hands-on work, including writing papers and developing presentations. To handle all of your work, you’ll likely need an up-to-date computer, rather than being able to rely on the ones at the library or school

The cost of a new computer or laptop can be significant. If you purchase a new Macbook Pro — a favorite of graduate students — you’ll have to pay at least $1,299.

Before buying a new computer, see if you can find a secondhand model. You can often get refurbished models from places like Best Buy or Amazon. But, if you have to buy new, shop through a retailer that offers discounts for students. Apple, Best Buy, Dell, and Lenovo all offer special prices for students.

Paying for Graduate School

While graduate school is expensive, it can have a big impact on your lifetime earnings and career trajectory. By knowing what to expect in regard to your costs, you can prepare for graduate school and come up with a comprehensive budget. Once you know how much money you need, compare your student loan options to save money.


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