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The High Cost of Education? Graduate school, Part I

In my previous posts (here, here, and here), I discussed affordable ways to obtain a college degree, gave some tips on making the most of your college experience, and also provided a testimony of one of my students who got his degree from the GI bill.  Today, I want to focus on graduate school.

So you’ve just read about affordable ways to get your college education.  Now you may be wondering “what about graduate school“?  That is a good question, and below is my single bit of advice for going to graduate school:

Don’t pay for graduate school:  I can’t speak for all disciplines, but at least in the sciences, you should have in mind to not pay for graduate school.  Most degrees in science have assistantships.  Yes, they are competitive, but with the right preparation you will be likely to get one. I was told by an English professor that even graduate degrees in English have teaching assistantships – they are grueling, as you have to grade hundreds of papers for those ENGL 100 classes, but they do offer tuition remission.  My wife also had an assistantship at Syracuse, and she was an Art major.  So, these graduate assistantships do exist.

This is where those big schools with freshman English and Biology classes of 500 people work to your advantage: you aren’t a freshman anymore!  Therefore, you don’t have to take those large classes – sucks for them, but works nicely for you.  You see, those big schools need somebody to help teach  those courses and grade all those tests, labs, and papers.  That is why the big schools often have a few teaching assistantships available to incoming graduate students.  Also, those Professors at big research universities that don’t seem to spend a lot of time with undergraduates are actually busy writing grants and getting money to fund their research, which typically requires graduate students.  Remember that 80,000 seat stadium we talked about in my first post in this series?  This is now your opportunity to go to one of those schools – but on somebody else’s dime.

Last year, of all the students who graduated with a geography degree at Salisbury University, we had something like 13 students go on to graduate school – 11 of them had either a full assistantship or a partial assistantship.  And, these were some of the best schools out there: South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi – and, the football stadiums are fantastic, not to mention the awesome seminars on campus that you can attend!!

Here is what I tell my students: if your number one school does not provide you with an assistantship, but your number 2 school does – case closed.  Go to your number 2 school. If your number 3 school is  the only one that offers you an assistantship then go there.  If your number 4 school is the only one to give you an assistantship go there.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  If you think that number 4 school isn’t a good school to go to, then you probably shouldn’t have applied there for graduate school, right?

This post is running a little long, so my next post will give you some advice for what to do as an undergraduate to get one of those assistantships.

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