Financial planning for grad school

Readers, it’s that time of year when we’re obliged to have a conversation about a distasteful but crucial topic: financial planning. I know, I know, it’s like taxes. No one wants to do it, and it feels like there’s enough time that it can always be put off just a bit longer. March has a way of quickly becoming April, though, and waiting until you’re forced to think concretely about it will constrain your options and increase the pressure under which you find yourself. So let’s do this thing!

It’s difficult to cover all the ins and outs of making a sound financial plan in a brief blog post, but the broad theme I want to emphasize is approaching the task with a “portfolio strategy” in mind. We can all agree that it would be ideal to uncover a single pot of funding that will take care of all the costs of attendance in grad school, but it’s unfortunately not a realistic expectation. Scholarships (both from Fletcher and outside sources), educational loans, personal contributions, and part-time work are very rarely sufficient to cover costs on their own, and most students make use of all these funding streams in concert to meet expenses.

Understanding that, it’s important to gather as much information as you can about each of these options well in advance. While Fletcher scholarships have already been allocated to admitted candidates, it’s still possible to research and pursue external sources of scholarship funding. Now is the time to learn about eligibility requirements and application deadlines for a variety of external funding opportunities. You should make sure that you understand all the terms of any education loans you’re considering. It’s also not too early to start sketching out your best estimates of your likely living and miscellaneous expenses. For international students, familiarizing yourself with your national currency’s recent value and fluctuation against the US dollar is also a good idea; while you obviously can’t predict the future, you can at least get a sense of what kind of cushion you might need to account for currency volatility.

The more of this work you do now, the less you’ll be forced to do in a rush later, and the better-positioned you’ll be to focus on your coursework, career development, and new relationships during grad school!

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