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How I Finished Graduate School Debt Free

How to finish graduate school debt-free

Guest post from Darya 0f A Mom From a Foreign Land

Completing graduate school was one of my biggest accomplishments in life… and graduating with no school debt made the moment even sweeter!

Before I started my master’s degree, I was terrified that I would graduate owing thousands of dollars and it would take me years to pay it back. I was also freaking out because I was pregnant and my baby was due in the middle of my first semester. I couldn’t imagine how we were going to afford it all.

Gratefully, I had the support of my husband and a plan in hand. Three years later, I received my master’s in science and had no debt to repay.

I went to NC State University in Raleigh, NC. The tuition and fees for one semester totaled to about $6,000 for in-state students. On average, a master’s degree at this school takes between 4 and 6 semesters (roughly $24,000 to $36,000!)

Here are the things I did to finish graduate school DEBT FREE:

1. I worked at the university.

The good thing about grad school is that you can often get an assistantship job and have your tuition covered. I also received a small stipend with it!

I got a teaching assistantship that included assisting a professor during a class, grading homework, helping with attendance, and overly assisting with general administrative tasks.

I had this job for 3 of my semesters — which meant no additional tuition costs for those 3 semesters!

2. I had another part-time job.

I worked every Friday and Saturday night at a local steak house.This job gave me the flexibility and finances to earn my master’s degree.

Occasionally, if my school load was lighter and my husband was available to watch our child, I would pick up an extra shift here and there. I made about 70% of my income at the restaurant. It was tiring and I had to work late but I needed the money.

3. I took some online classes.

I didn’t want to take too many online classes, but taking a few helped me stay at home when I first had my baby. At the same time, I saved on gas (I had a 70-minute commute) and could work more hours at the restaurant.

4. I cut down on unnecessary expenses.

We stopped eating out. On the days I went to school I brought my snacks, lunch, and coffee from home.

I minimized social life and entertainment. I breastfed my daughter to save on formula. I kept clothes shopping to a minimal.

5. I earned a scholarship.

I got a $1000 scholarship for working towards a Career in Conservation due to some volunteer work I did for a local environmental organization.

6. I made small payments on my loan while on grad school.

My schooling lasted 6 semesters and (as I mentioned above) my tuition was covered for 3 of the semesters.

In order to afford the other 3 semesters I had to get a loan. However, as soon as I got the loan though, I started making $50 monthly payment on it while still in school — even though I did not have to.

Some months I could not afford to pay more, others I would pay extra. And once I started working full-time (see below), I started paying as much as I could. I ended up completely paying off my loan before I officially graduated!

7. I started a full-time job while still in school.

I started working as soon as I finished all my classes, but I spent another 8 months working on my thesis. Working a full-time job and working on my paper was challenging. I had to devote my nights and weekends to writing, but I was happy to be able to get a job before I had officially graduated.

Doing all these things took a lot of effort and dedication.

I am so happy that I can now focus on paying off other bills and not worry about student loans.

I believe that anybody that puts their mind to it, can do it too!

Darya grew up in Eastern Europe, and has been living in the U.S. for over 10 years. To this day she still has trouble adjusting to the American culture, especially when it comes to raising a child. She lives with her husband and 3.5 year old daughter in Greenville, SC. While working a not-so-exciting governmental job, she still finds time to blog about motherhood, working mom life, healthy life, and recipes at A Mom From a Foreign Land.

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  • Joanne Peterson says:

    This really took hard work and dedication, very well done!

  • Cheryl says:

    That’s so great Darya! Congratulations! I got my graduate degree paid for by taking advantage of my employer’s tuition reimbursement benefit. I paid $25 to the university to defer paying tuition until after the semester was over. As long as I got a B or better (I got all As and 1 B working full time plus overtime), my employer paid them directly. I worked for a very large international company with great benefits.

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