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How does one survive while doing a masters away from home?


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For those of you who completed their masters away from home, how do people typically go about doing that? Do you just load up on debt? I know many people do bachelors-level work while obtaining their masters, but did any of you go straight from your undergrad to do a masters in a different geographical location? 
My understanding is that masters aren't funded, how do people manage? 
I know I'm all over the place, but hopefully you see what I'm getting at. 
I suppose I'm asking is there a viable way to get a masters aware from your home city/ area of undergrad without incurring a massive amount of debt..


Edit: Sociology major. 

Edited by Camus1
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TA-ships and grants. I also took on 2 related jobs. It's doable, you just have to grab opportunities. Also, to reiterate what many are saying, funded masters exist -- I have a friend right now doing that in sociology. Also, I definitely did not do bachelors' level work. I'm actually not really sure where you could have heard that from -- most masters students I know work really hard in their independent research project.

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The masters program I am applying to is rarely funded- some scholarships and GA or RA opportunities exist, but not many. I am just going to get as many loans as I need to make it through. My undergrad and previous grad degrees are in music performance, and music Ed, respectively, so I am hoping to teach private flute lessons wherever I end up going, but I don't anticipate having much free time according to what I have heard from current students in my program. Your loans while you are fully enrolled are on deferred repayment, so you don't have to worry about repayment until you graduate plus six months, usually. I also am going to be pursuing part-time opportunities within music Ed / band adjunct instructing as well as retail gigs because let's be honest, I don't want to have to get loans for my groceries. My husband is pledging to move with me, so when he finds his full-time job, we will be able to pay the rest of our bills... We hope.

Edited by kcald716
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I was given enough funding to pay for tuition, books, and food, but I have a line of credit specifically for my rent.  I could get an extra job, but I've chosen not to to focus on my school.  I've also made the a-list of the SSHRC so if I receive the award I will have back payments starting May 2013, and funding every month till April 2014 - plus internal funding I received continuing from May to August.  Fully funded programs exist ... mostly everywhere.  The best thing to do is to apply to at least 3 grad programs, hope to get into 2, and then send your acceptance packages to the other schools and the school with less funding will usually match / beat the funding of the other school.  This happened to me, so I got to go to the school of my top choice BECAUSE I was accepted some place else and got more funding = made me more competitive. 

Edited by kris_1010
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I'm currently doing a master's fully-funded with a generous monthly stipend (not an assistantship or job - just a monthly direct deposited amount of money to my bank account). However, I am abroad in Budapest, Hungary.  If you are interested (although the app deadline has passed) check out Central European University (they have a pretty good Sociology department). 



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  • 2 weeks later...

You just need to make a budget. If you are moving to a new area, start searching around to see what the costs of living are (rent, food, utilities). Check out what grocery stores there are (where are the deals, better value for your dollar), check out student discounts for utility packages (tv/phone/net), if you're lucky to get an assistantship you may also find yourself with health benefit perks, etc. Some stores have a perks card (some are annoying and are not really worth it, but if you research some are "worth it"). I've flown home with airmiles before, and I've used airmiles to get giftcards for restaurants. Just do it smart and don't buy things you don't need, like buying 5 jars of peanut butter because it gets you 30% more points on the perks card.


The biggest challenge I found in budgeting was the meal part. I made up my own meal schedule, and it ended up costing me more. I caught this mistake quickly (after reviewing my bank statements and adding up every time a pizza was ordered, or I went to a convenience store because I chose to eat dinner at 2am). Seeing the amount I was spending on take out food that offered zero nutrition (and only getting 1 meal out of it), I thought of how much I could have bought at the grocery store. You just have to be disciplined with your money. And take advantage of campus lunches. I know at my school there's been some departments that offer a weekly themed meal, you just have to bring your own container and cutlery and it's cost that's starving student friendly.


I have also made sure to have enough saved up to cover 3 months of bills for those "what if's". I hate surprise bills but feel better when I know I have an emergency fund for those reasons. It came in handy when my significant other thought it would be a good idea to flush a hearty pot of borscht down the toilet and it clogged so bad  we needed an emergency plumber. At 2am.


I've applied for as many random bursaries/scholarships I can find. It's well worth taking a few days to fill out applications for bursaries & scholarships, you never know if you'll get it... like the bursary available for a student who holds a parking pass (this was available at the school I attended) and I won it. Who doesn't love $200 bucks!


For the master's degree I received funding through an assistantship. There were different options on how you wish to use it, and I set it up so I'd have a biweekly income (just over $510 dollars, plus full health/drug/dental benefits). I also received an OGS for the 2012-2013 year (felt GREAT to finally win an award based on merit alone... and NOT for being poor. I had OSAP too for this year (last year of it... NO MORE FOR ME!).


For this winter term I was lucky when it came to my practicum placement. A funded placement was not a guarantee but I managed to be placed at one that paid me out a very generous stipend.


It's also been bittersweet and sad regarding funding. My line of credit was paid off after my dad passed away in September (he was my cosigner on an insured line of credit- insured for both life & critical illness insurance). The bank refunded all of the payments I made back to the date my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I used this money I wasn't expecting and paid off my credit card. So I am walking out of school with a loan debt but I am confident that I've learned how to budget wisely and be smart and responsible with my money. I didn't go out drinking with my osap in first year, nor have I gone away for spring break on my osap. I did use my osap to travel back and forth from campus to home...but for damn good reasons of spending more time with my dad (and my mom who's now recovering from another stroke). When both of my parents were diagnosed with critical illnesses (cancer & lupus), I spoke to the grad department and discussed my concerns. They put together a compassionate care bursary for me to help me travel back and forth.



For 5 years of school (September 2008-April 2013) I've completed an undergrad and in one month I will have completed my master's, and the debt I will owe is just over $50000 (all from OSAP).

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One trick, for postprofessional degrees (EG: MBA, MFE, JD) is that you can save money into a 401k or IRA, take a tax deduction on that, and use the IRA to pay your expenses at school.  I recommend not taking on student debt for school if at all possible.

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I'm doing a clinical program, which is (almost always) unfunded.  My goal is to take out loans only for tuition. I have some money stashed away from working part-time during undergrad, and I plan to patch together a few jobs this summer (respite care, retail, and research, probably) so I can work 60-ish hours/week for a couple months.  I might also try to work 5-10 hours per week for my first semester, when my course load will be relatively low.  I will use this savings, plus my leftover college savings money, plus some savings bonds, to cover living expenses, books, and travel. My parents are generous enough to continue taking care of my health insurance.


I plan to live with roommates and I actually prefer to do my own cooking. I'm also a vegetarian, which cuts down on the grocery bills quite a bit! This helps keep my monthly budget low.


I'm trying to avoid taking out Grad PLUS loans, because they have higher interest rates.  Thankfully, the FAFSA considers me to be "Independent", and calculated my Estimated Family Contribution as $0.00.  This means I am eligible for the full 20,500 in Stafford loans.


If you can patch together a few different strategies, it might make the sticker shock seem a little more do-able:)

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