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To debt, or not to debt...


MDLee
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After many months of agony I finally received ONE acceptance (yay!). Of course, it is unfunded...

so the question is...

is it worth it to try to get the student loan debt and pray for funding next year? Or am I better off to wait and try my hand at this whole thing again next time?

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I'm missing info like can you handle the debt, how likely are you to get funding next year (and can you survive if you don't) and what are your options if you don't accept this year -- will you be doing anything that will potentially boost your chances of acceptance next year? or working to save money to go unfunded next year if needs be? Also, how excited are you about the program that accepted you?

Regardless though, I've been following your posts on thegradcafe and just wanted to say, congratulations on the acceptance! :D

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Congrats on your acceptance.

I've heard of people getting funding later, but from a negotiation perspective, you'd think if they had funding to offer, they would offer it now. Basically, you'll bear the burden of proof and networking.

Budgets are not going to get better next year.

My accepts didn't fund me, and since my degree would have been in the education field, I decided I couldn't justify the debt. It took a while to be okay with that decision, but I remember the burden of my undergraduate debt, and am happy to leave those days behind me.

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How much are we talking? A couple $10k for tuition or something in the triple digits? It also depends how much you expect to earn after you get your degree. If your masters will allow you to earn $50k a year, you can pay off a debt of $50k in ten years assuming 8% interest and the ability to allocate 15% of your income to repaying the loan (circa $625 a month). Any more debt than that, or any less income, and you'll have to extend the payment period or increase the amount of your payments. If you're comfortable with the numbers, go ahead with this program. If you're not, then start work for a few years and let the dust settle before trying again with a spiffier resume.

You can also consider deferring for a year, work and save up for living expenses, and start next year with a little less financial pressure.

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First, and foremost, Congratulations!

:D

Now, to the rest of what I'm going to spout about -

It's a MA, not a PhD; it's not a top-name program, so it might not even help you apply to PhD programs; and most programs, if you aren't funded in year one, you are never funded.

That's a downright awful generalization for MA programs. Getting your Masters simply means you are less likely to see funding in the first semester and if you see funding, it will simply be less than a doctoral student would see for obvious reasons of time and quantity of work associated with the degree. Master's programs must carefully allocate funding because there usually isn't a plethora of it and wasting it on the following types is not good:

A.) A nut job.

B.) A flunky who fell in through the cracks.

C.) An idiot.

D.) The Invisible Person - who might have the best grades and does well but, not surprisingly, is NEVER around to do such work or help out.

Those are all options they want to avoid, but just an application is hard to weed the above out. So, they get a look at you for a semester before they put their money where there mouth is. This allows for some margin of error and is easier on the bank book... I know, I work with graduate level students in an Environmental Studies, MA and two professors have TA ships; sure, they're small but it really helps. And, on top of it, it's a tiny program so if you show up enough and do odd jobs, they'll give you $4,000 stipend a semester, Yippy!

Granted, there is no guaranty on funds in the future for MA students at most universities, while doctoral candidates who are not offered first semester funding (as is the policy in some places) often see funds if they make it to the second semester assuming appropriate quality of performance (economic insanity not withstanding).

The same goes for MA students, just on a smaller scale; often times there are TA, RA, and other whatnots available in house for differing MA programs or in adjacent departments (especially if it's an interdisciplinary field). Field of study and university structure, more particularly, are the issues as these elements also allocate how the university establishes its budget in regards to higher level students.

In the end, you cannot assume funding as such a massive issue in the Master's program 'world'. No, you probably won't get a free ride, usually. You may have the opportunity for funding in the future (and often times those positions contain tuition remissions as well as stipends - though it depends). Just don't let the funding thing be the millstone of the process; worry about it when/if you chance down your PhD - as that's a different story. Those (possibly 6-10) years would be definitely crying out for some cash, and you ought to burn any PhD acceptance letter without funding...

As far as debt goes - how much do you have from your past schooling residing? How much will you assume while attaining your masters? Oh, yeah, most importantly - do you want to go to graduate school at this school?

Waiting has its merits, but so does continuing your education; this is a personal decision based on whether or not this opportunity provides MORE future options for you than those currently available to you. Fuck the debt! If it's going to help you, take the chance now. Yes, even if you cannot pay it off in 10 years. Only fear it if it will totally sink you (I.E. you have no better options for the work equated). It is all about whether or not the sum is greater than the parts that make it up; if not, don't go but if this means something for your future plans, you might want to grab the opportunity while it's still on the table.

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Congrats! :)

I take a less optimistic route than girlathehelm, but this is because I am a super cautious person by nature and I do not leave things to chance.

Consider options. If this is THE perfect program that will get you into a fully funded PhD program, then it will be time to step back and figure out how you will be able to manage going there. FinAid has a loan calculator that might be helpful: http://www.finaid.org/calculators/

If this is a program of mediocre sense, this is what I feel: grad school will always be there. Taking a year off to build a stronger application will, in my opinion, be more worthwhile. You will gain experience, but without the debt.

What might help is to look further into the curriculum, the placement of recent grads, and also how helpful the dept is in helping you secure external funding.

Good luck!

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I take a less optimistic route than girlathehelm, but this is because I am a super cautious person by nature and I do not leave things to chance.

Meh, if you see that as pessimistic or optimistic you are mistaken; I am realistic. If the sum is not greater than the parts, find something else to do- that allows you to at any point to make a decision to better the situation for you (using this in relationships is a fantastic weeding tool - but then again, that's why I'm usually single - well, that and I'm crazy). It has no conceptual line of time and is not giving advice as what to do, it's giving a path to walk by verses trying to divine the future. I look at life as a standard set of equations and hence the reality is that not all of that weight is financial.

At some point, most of us will be in serious debt; that's life in our culture. Whether it's college, a house payment, that new blue Viper in the front yard. As I see it then, living to pay off loans because that seems logical, is not a reason suitable for most interesting people to live life and in no way shape or form gives you better future options. With future options comes debt; you need to manage it so it doesn't kill you, yes, but do not negate away what it can afford you either!

If we're trying to open doors and do interesting things, this is a better way of creating more available options. We are not, however, allowed the ability to divine the future's events that push and pull on us (car accident; lottery winnings; entire mass suicide of family; purchasing a kid etc-etc). It all can go to hell in a handbasket faster than you can say or do anything - that does NOT mean we should put the breaks on and try to salvage when the ship hasn't even sunk yet!

In addition, we control little to nothing in our lives. Circumstance, the status quo, and other people/forces/institutions/cultural norms/finances/mental hardwiring/etc-etc are dictators to us as individuals - whether or not we want to admit it. Everything is always left up to chance; even if we feel the margin is slim - don't be fooled, we're all ants on a hill in the vast desert of the universe. I'm not saying throw caution to the wind - but if you want to do something you have to weigh your options that are now available; if you pass it up, consider it absolutely gone until/if the option returns.

I don't play on what ifs - the land of the hypothetically speaking idiots ought to go pontificate in a philosophy class and leave the rest of us to ourselves and the bright or awful realities that are our lives. Deal with what comes not what your imagination might spawn - [nearly all] people are crappy at fortune telling.

That's not optimism or pessimism - that's reality. Make a choice for youself on what you value and what you are given the opportunity right now to gain; whether that means going to school or into the 9-5 grind or whatever...

When I say "gain" I am under the impression a Master's degree opens doors in the future. The gain is not instant and is not a guarentee but without enduring it we fail to see what's on the other side; that needn't be thought of beyond the progression of simple ritual progressions, as I said, I do not do 'what if's'. We cannot negate the future but it is only a forethought; divining it on emotion and into good-bad scenerios means we miss the boat on current happenings that are really in front of us. If you don't have a job, don't assume you'll get one next month - you don't have the options yet. I am a firm believer that I ought to ALWAYS do what's best for one's self at the moments that are present; that is where the dynamic itself comes in - even if the price tag looks high the person making the decision has to be the equating force as to whether or not it is too high -not the rest of us. Do the ends justify the means, in this case? $100,000 dollars is awful looking at this point in our lives, but perception is everything and don't be misaligned to thinking it's somehow damning. Most smart people by a $100,000 dollar starter house and move up - we're investing in the $100,000 for an entry level job that pays half that, say, and you'll move up in pay, given if your field allows that - but you have to look and make that decision. And, if you work during school, life is far more hellish but nobody said this was supposed to be easy. There are venues but you have to decide if it works the best for you and if you can shoulder the burden now and with the presented options available.

Oh, and freefallen - excuse me momentarily for being a total bitch, this is not projected at you, I am just sooo tired of all of my freshman students pontificating about grad school... Graduate Schools are present and ought to be in the future, yes, but I will crucify the next person I hear muttering, "Well if I get into [insert School & Program]... blah-blah-blah..." If you have not been asked to attend or been alloted your deferment, kiss it good-bye until the next turn over - you are not in until you are in and if you fail to see that you need to start looking harder. Leave daydreaming to the children because the reality is a HUGE kick in the pants.

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HEY ALL! UPDATE:

They're admitting me to the PhD program. WITH FUNDING!

so...I guess this isn't such a hard choice after all :)

Who said a little optimism didn't take you places?

Thanks everyone for all of the support you've all given me over the last two months--I'd never have made it without you!

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HEY ALL! UPDATE:

They're admitting me to the PhD program. WITH FUNDING!

so...I guess this isn't such a hard choice after all :)

Who said a little optimism didn't take you places?

Thanks everyone for all of the support you've all given me over the last two months--I'd never have made it without you!

**HUGS!** Congrats!

That makes everything so much nicer. :D

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