This is a guest post by Calli Nyhen. You can also write about higher education.
There is no doubt that deciding to pursue an advanced degree is a commitment. You will commit to time away from your family and your career. You will also make a financial commitment, which often includes paying back student loans after you graduate. Because of this, it is important to carefully consider how you are going to plan for this investment.
Choose Your Program
The first step you must take is to choose your MBA program. Whether you pursue an accelerated MBA online or an on-campus, two-year MBA program, your chosen degree plan should be the one that best serves your long-term career goals. Once you have selected your program, you can begin to research how best to afford it. For the best results, it is wise to select your top three programs and apply to all three.
Research Tuition Costs
Your next step should be researching tuition costs for each program you are interested in. Sometimes, you can save money by taking an online program versus an on-campus program because fees and overhead costs are often lower. You may also be able to save on tuition by taking an accelerated MBA program. Be sure to balance these savings against what you may give up in terms of employment income to figure out the best solution for your personal, work and financial situation.
Research Financial Aid
There are several types of financial aid that graduate students can apply for. Once you know whether you will attend a full-time or part-time, online or on-campus, traditional or accelerated program, you can then start researching the best combination of financial aid options to pay for your education.
- Federal aid. Your first step in researching financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. These results can then be forwarded to the financial aid office of any institutions you have applied to. The institutions use this information to calculate other financial aid or awards you may be eligible for. The government also uses the FAFSA information to calculate what types of grants and loans you may be eligible for. Also, be aware of the submission deadlines for the FAFSA and allow adequate time to complete this complicated form.
- School aid. School aid may come in the form of fellowships, work-study programs, scholarships or grants — or a combination of all of the above. You should contact both the university financial aid office and the specific department office to find out what types of aid you are eligible for and what the application requirements and deadlines are for each.
- Tuition reimbursement or forgiveness. For some students, their employer may also offer tuition reimbursement. Often, tuition reimbursement also requires the employee return to work for the company for a certain number of years after graduation. As well, for graduates who choose government, education or nonprofit-sector work, sometimes you can qualify for tuition forgiveness if you meet the eligibility requirements.
- Private scholarships. There are a number of websites you can use to research private scholarships. You may also belong to associations or organizations that offer assistance for graduate-level students. Be sure to allow plenty of time for scholarship research and applications, as these are as competitive and complicated as applying for graduate school itself.
- Private loans. Private loans are still considered a last resort for undergraduate and graduate students. It is best to maximize all other types of aid first before turning to private bank loans. The one exception may be that, in certain circumstances, when interest rates are very low, private loans may offer you a better value than government-loan aid. Keep a careful eye on interest rates as your admission date nears to decide on the best course of action.
It is important to spend adequate time thoroughly researching each aid option to reduce your overall financial burden. By doing your research thoroughly, you can find a way to earn your advanced degree and be on your way to achieving your career goals.
Calli Nyhen enrolled in Benedictine University online last fall. Through assembling a combination of private scholarships, grants and loans, she now feels confident she can afford the higher education she has dreamt about.
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