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Debt or Deferral?


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Hello everyone! I was accepted to GW University, and I applied for the Pickering and Rangel Graduate Fellowships. I was not selected for either so now I have to make a tough decision:

1. I could go ahead and continue with grad school, and take out loans and possibly a job to cover tuition and living expenses.

Pros: I was accepted @ GW with a $30K fellowship, and a $5K need-based grant for the first year. So that is 61% of tuition ($57,460 total). I would expect to get another $5K for the second year, but there's no guarantee.

Cons: I would need to make upthe rest of the $22,500 for tuition, and then living expenses (D.C.), books, insurance, etc (GW estimates this at $45K for two years). So I'm looking at possibly taking out $60K in loans. I could take out less if I score a part-time job making good money, and that would likely be in a restaurant (I worked in a restaurant in D.C. during a 5-month unpaid internship, and I had literally no time for anything else - not to mention I averaged one day off a month and I was exhausted the whole time... So I don't want to do that again). And that would mean I'd be missing out on a lot of opportunities in D.C. (Amazing, although unpaid, internships, public events, networking ops, etc.)... So Im looking at a lot of debt despite an aid package from GW that some people would kill for.

2. I could defer/reapply for grad school for a year, and hope to find something I can work on in the meantime...

Pros: I would have another shot at both the Rangel and Pickering fellowship. I would be able to improve my application (work experience/ GRE Math score, etc). I would be able to reapply for a wider range of schools in case funding becomes an issue again.

Cons: None of the fellowships are guaranteed, and I could possibly forfeit the GW fellowship and end up with absolutely no funding. It would be somewhat difficult to find a relevant job for such a short period of time. (I could do an ESL job in China or something, which would look good and probably be a great experience, but teaching English is not something that truly interests me)

Any advice?

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Thank you, mirandaw.

Well I would certainly be more "employable" with an MA than without one, and statistically I would have a higher earning potential...but it wouldn't necessarily be the job I really want. I wouldn't want to be put in a position of having to take a higher-paying job that I don't really enjoy (I know, I'm absolutely insane)... but I'm not looking at an MA in terms of a payscale.

And as far as networking, I chose a DC school because of all the opportunities, not just for networking, but for really integrating with the policy community. I also had an unpaid part-time internship already lined up. All these would be difficult to do if I am working at a restaurant or something else just to make rent payments...

And on top of this, there is no financial support from my family...whatsoever... (I imagine this is the case for many grad students, but it's worth mentioning)... so I have to think of long-term stability/sustainability.

Either way, debt or deferral, it's a tough predicament.

Edited by PrattIAFF
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Do you have any significant debt from undergrad? If not, $60K for an MA -- and all of the trappings of the GW experience -- really isn't too bad. Your fellowship defrays a major chunk of the cost, and you're right in wondering if it may not be awarded to you next time. I would also advise you against the part-time job. Ultimately, it'll only be a matter of a few thousand bucks; you're there to take full advantage of the relevant external opportunities (as you mentioned, internships and networking). Spending your time productively, immersing yourself in the field, could yield much better prospects for employment after you finish. Is a few grand worth compromising your chances to parlay your education into a great job?

Nonetheless, I understand it's a lot of money. I'm in a similar boat (no family assistance, not eager to assume too much debt) and will re-apply for next year. Good luck!

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There are ways to cut down on your expenses so that they're lower than the estimated cost of attendance. On top of that, I agree with the previous poster that if you have little undergraduate debt, then $60K for a 2-year degree isn't bad compared to a lot of people (like myself... similar pricing, no funding). One advantage of GWU is the class timing so while it wouldn't be ideal you could take on a part time job. Also, if that job is on campus--as a tour guide or desk staffer for Admissions, TAing a course in your undergraduate major, etc--you'll often get partial tuition remission so you're reducing your costs as well as putting money towards living expenses.

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