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Ten Tips to Prepare Yourself Financially for Graduate School

stock_checkbookIt’s never to early to start thinking about how you will pay for graduate school. Betty Casale, Director of Financial Aid at Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University recently provided some tips on  starting the process.

  1. Retrieve your credit report (no cost to you at annualcreditreport.com).  By law, you are entitled to one free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.  Unless you want to run a comparison report by retrieving all 3 major credit reports at one time, you may want to consider retrieving each report at various intervals throughout the year.
  2. Clear up any disputed or outdated information on your credit reports before enrolling in graduate school.  Contact the agency that shows the incorrect or outdated information: Equifax, Experian, and/or Transunion.
  3. If you have running balances on your credit cards, stop using them and, if possible, try to pay down credit card balances.
  4. Read and understand your school’s financial aid website.  These websites often have a wealth of information for students, provide financial aid contact information, and are designed to answer most questions students have about educational financing.
  5. Avoid over-borrowing by developing a monthly budget and sticking to it.  Often, students borrow the maximum loans offered in their financial aid package.  Don’t automatically borrow what the school is offering in loans.  Strategize about ways in which you may be able to live for less than the school’s published cost of attendance.  For example, consider living with a roommate so that you only have to pay half of the rent.
  6. Cut corners whenever possible by taking advantage of discounts on products and services and using coupons for food and other living expenses.  Search online for companies that offer student discounts.  Your school may even have a list of local companies near campus that offer student discounts.
  7. If you have a car, consider selling it.  You may find that you don’t need a car on campus and can get around quite well by using public transportation or shuttles offered by your school.  The savings in gasoline and insurance costs may be considerable and these costs generally are not allowable for determining the amount of a student’s loan eligibility.
  8. Prepare for climate changes prior to starting school by taking advantage of sales on seasonal clothing.  Waiting until the last minute may result in having to pay higher prices.
  9. SAVE-SAVE-SAVE.  Often, the more you save before entering graduate school, the less you have to borrow in student loans.
  10. Review the tax benefits of education in order to understand how you may be eligible for tax credits and/or tax deductions when you file your federal income tax return.