stocksy | Eduard Bonnin
There are a lot of intelligent reasons for a passionate and driven nurse to pursue a graduate degree. Not only can a laundry list of new skills lend itself to a boost in employability and salary, but nurses holding an advanced degree can also enjoy a heightened sense of freedom to explore or foster a niche within the profession. Or score a major leadership role in a rapidly changing landscape, which is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Of course, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the graduate school tunnel when that tunnel is full of obstacles—obstacles as basic and pressing as, “Do I even have the resources, the energy or the time?”
Luckily, there are ways to reduce the added financial and mental strain of a continuing education. Here are eight survival tips for you to consider.
1. Recognize “the best” when you see it.
Grad school is a financial commitment, and it comes at a time when you have a lot of other responsibilities, financial obligations and all-around “adult stuff” going on.
As such, the best school for you is the one that best fits your life. Roll with a credible institution that also suits your financial needs and interests for a more well-rounded experience. If all of these elements are way out of proportion, you risk incurring a financial debt that isn’t exactly worth its weight in gold.
2. Squeeze every last drop out of financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
Not pursuing financial aid is a great way to leave money on the table, so don’t dally when it comes to scholarship and loan forms/documents. As soon as those acceptance letters start rolling in, you’re going to have a lot on your plate. Cushion yourself against the possibility of missing a deadline—either because you came late to the submission party or made an error—by completing and submitting all forms at your earliest convenience. Which is just a nicer way of saying: Get. It. Done.
3. Look into tax deductions.
Taxes are brutal—hands down, without exception. However, the savvy grad student can make taxes less, well, taxing by researching deduction opportunities across the board. Here are two that may warrant further investigation:
- Graduate student loan interest tax reduction
- Educational expense tax reduction (available if you’re required to obtain a master’s degree for a job)
4. Utilize your advisor.
Meet with your advisor at least once per term—ideally more. The more your advisor knows about you and your interests, the more he or she can support you, anticipate your needs and pinpoint opportunities such as internships or research projects.
5. Talk to your employer.
Many employers offer tuition reimbursement that can help you pay for much of your graduate school tuition. Also, your employer may help you identify certain projects or research you could do that may benefit you in your grad program as well as benefit the organization. Win/win!
6. Carry your CV/resume at all times.
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” While we can’t ask him, we’re pretty confident he was referring to the importance of forethought and preparation. So we say, “Speak softly and carry a big resume…everywhere.”
You’re going to be racking up a whole lot of experience (translation: credibility) as you make your way toward that long-awaited graduation day. Don’t let any noteworthy experience fall to the wayside; be diligent and update your resume as much as possible. Always keep a copy on hand in case you should stumble upon an unexpected opportunity or “whoa” connection—the juice always feels worth the squeeze when both a degree and a job offer arrive manifest simultaneously.
7. Harken back to those undergrad days…
Look—you’ve come a long way since your first foray into nursing school, and as far as experience and knowledge go, you’ve made strides that should in no way be dismissed.
School is back in session. Allow yourself to be a student once again.
8. Pay off student loans.
Student loans are the ultimate “back to school” black cloud, and they threaten to put a damper on any happy graduation day.
While student loans serve as an unsavory aftertaste for many a grad student, there are ways to beat them back into a more manageable corner:
- Pay off interest (if possible) as you go, even if that means dishing out more than your minimum monthly payment every now and then.
- Get to work paying off your most expensive loans first—private loans generally tend to have the highest interest rates.
- Note that some federal loan programs will forgive your debt if you put in some time in an area of public service. Determine if this is an option for you.
- Know that consolidating new loan debt with any lingering undergraduate debt may help reduce interest rates and monthly payments (this applies to federal and some private loans). Explore all of your options.
See, we bet you’re feeling better already. Still, be sure to let us know what you’d like to learn more about in the comments section below!
Want to find out more about continuing your education? Visit our Next Level Nursing hub.