It’s time for The Talk: making your financial plan

Today we turn to something of an eat-your-vegetables topic. The thrill of a favorable admissions decision is, for most candidates, accompanied by the realization that it’s time to get serious about making a financial plan. It’s understandable if the prospect makes you want to curl up into a ball and take a nap, hoping things will sort themselves out, but I assure you that the earlier you get cracking on financial planning the easier your path will be, and the more options you’re likely to have available to you.

We’ll start with the reality that Fletcher scholarships, while awarded to nearly all who apply, are almost universally partial funding packages. In general, it’s a rare applicant who has a single funding source that meets the full cost of attendance of grad school (that is, tuition and mandatory fees as well as living expenses). This means that a “portfolio” strategy of several smaller funding streams working in concert is the best way to organize your thinking. Most students combine Fletcher scholarships, externally-funded scholarships, educational loans, personal contributions, and part-time work to meet the cost of attendance.

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.

I’ll conclude by acknowledging that all of this is easier said than done. Readers might be interested in a recent-ish post from current MALD student Samantha, who managed to hustle her way to enough different funding sources to fully finance her degree. It may not be realistic to count on the extraordinary results she achieved, but her thought process and methodical approach to the challenge has a lot of value for students beginning the same process. The more of this work you do now, the less you’ll be forced to do in a rush later!



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