I don't want to rack up another cars worth of debt for grad school!
January 18, 2011 11:44 AM   Subscribe

[Grad-school filter] - I am starting a Masters of Public Administration this Summer, special questions inside.

First of all, I am excited to be going back to school. I was wondering a couple of things, but let me give a bit of a background. I worked nearly full time in my undergrad and did extremely well after messing up in my early undergrad years. I intend to do this program full time, and am currently employed at a job not related to my field, with hopes of leaving soon.
So now the questions:
1.) Is it possible to work a normal job during grad school? All my courses will be night/weekend.
2.) Did anyone do a graduate assistance program at their university? How was it, was the stipend enough?
3.) I racked up some college debt in undergrad and would like to make this degree as cheap as possible. The idea of not working and living off loans is really unappealing. If you didn't work, how did you do it? Are you employed now where not working was certainly beneficial, and paying back the loans now isn't too trouble some?
4.) Any other advice in comparing the undergrad/grad school feeling would be greatly appreciated. My Undergrad experience was commuting, never lived on campus (thank god, I can't stand the idea of living with a bunch of students), and was employed throughout my undergrad degree.
5.) Any advice at all that isn't covered in this question.

Thank you very much!
posted by handbanana to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I should add I will be eligible for grants and the program costs about 20k
posted by handbanana at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2011

Is it possible to work a normal job during grad school?

I should add I will be eligible for grants

Make sure you're still eligible for the grants and awards if you're working a joe job. It's not easy for an award-granting agency to find out if you're also temping or slinging espresso or whatever, but some awards stipulate in their terms for award holders that you can't do work, other than university work (TAing, RAing). Just some fine print to look for.
posted by Beardman at 11:58 AM on January 18, 2011

The grants will be based on my income and I will not be making anywhere near what would disqualify me
posted by handbanana at 12:00 PM on January 18, 2011

A few things:

MPA programs are often designed to accommodate mid-career students who work full-time, and if all your courses are evening/weekend, yours is probably one of those. That said, I would certainly see if you could talk with some current students in the program to get an idea of how easy it is to combine the academic workload with full-time employment. (For the record, I did about four years of full-time daytime grad school combined with 30+ hrs/week of grad assistantship and lived to tell the tale, but it's a pretty grueling routine.)

Re: grants -- just be sure to communicate directly with whoever's responsible for administering them. I have seen students get into horrible binds by relying on someone else's advice about their aid -- always, ALWAYS go to the source.

General grad school stuff: Intensity and difficulty will of course vary by program, but I found grad school to be not that much harder than undergrad, just more tedious, because the focus is so much narrower. If you're someone who enjoys, or is looking forward to, getting into a specific topic in great depth, you'll have a good time.

Also, even if you're someone who's usually studied solo, one of the great compensations of grad school is finding a congenial, supportive cohort. You won't be dealing with a bunch of unmotivated 18-year-olds, and are much likelier to find people who geniunely share your interests and can really help you with material that might be difficult. (I have always HATED study groups, but my core group of fellow students were the only thing that got me through a full year of doctoral statistics...)

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by Kat Allison at 12:31 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got my MPA while working full-time. I only took 6 hours per semester, though. All the classes in my program were on weekends; it was very much designed for students who also worked. I also had one kid when I started, and three when I finished.

I used loans to finance the degree, thinking that I would land a high-paying job in local government once I had the degree. That didn't exactly pan out, and the loan repayment has been not-great. But I still don't regret it.

It was the most rigorous academic challenge I've ever undertaken. I had a few friends I studied with occasionally, but mostly I did my stuff alone. Staying on top of stuff was key for me. I also really loved the material, so that motivated me quite a bit.
posted by Shohn at 6:37 PM on January 18, 2011

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