I've been working on the ...
May 23, 2007 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Did you work full time and go to college/ grad school full time?

I'm heading back to school this fall full time to pursue a PhD in Counseling Psychology. I already have one degree, but I've decided to go in a different direction with my life. My parents put me through college the first time and gave me an allowance, so I only had to work part time for 'fun money.' This time I am doing this all myself, so I'll need to work full time and take classes full time. I'm going to be thirty when I start, so I part time classes aren't an option (time is ticking...). I don't play well with others (meaning I can't live with roommates), so that is out as well. I already have my new apartment (did I mention I'm moving to a new state) and the rent is pretty average for the place I'm living, so I've done well on that front.

I need to find a job to fit around all my classes, and still pay enough to pay all my bills (and being able to eat would be nice too). I am trying to arrange my classes in a way that will be the most conducive to finding a decent job, but unfortunately none of them are offered at night. I could try to get them all in the am to noon range with a few exceptions or in the afternoon to 5ish range with some exceptions.

So... for all of you who have traveled this road before me... how did you make it work? What should I be careful of? What do I need to keep in mind? And what kind of full time jobs did you hold while also going to school full time?
posted by MayNicholas to Work & Money (48 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My reaction to your front page portion was "Oh my dear god, NO".

To what you've written inside, all I can say is that you are going to have to make some compromises. PhD programs generally don't offer classes at night because they are not compatible with full time jobs and thus they don't have students who need night classes.

Go to your school and find out about funding options. Find out what they pay for TAships (where I go we have a union, so this is actually a pretty viable option, unfortunately I've heard that many American grad programs pay pretty poorly, so assess the opportunities carefully here). Find out about internal bursaries and scholarships. I'm assuming from your user name and age that you are a woman returning to school after working for a while; there are a fair number of scholarships aimed at women, and at women who have been out of school for some period of time. Ask your school about how to track down external resources.

If you must work full time, I think you will have to consider doing the PhD part time, if your program allows that. Either way, you should definitely go to the department and to the graduate studies office and ask them about funding opportunities/strategies, and about what your program allows in terms of work and study.
posted by carmen at 7:24 AM on May 23, 2007

I know you've probably considered this, but how long will it take you complete your PhD? Would it be worth it to work minimally and take out federal or private loans to maximize your focus on your studies? As you say your parents put you through your first degree I would imagine you don't have student loans already?

I worked 30+ hours/week at a bank when I was going through undergrad but from my experience splitting my time running around from work to school, I am seriously considering living (frugally) on federal/private loans through my two-year grad program so I can totally concentrate on what Ill be taking on. Good luck!
posted by Asherah at 7:29 AM on May 23, 2007

The reason they call things "full-time" is that there is not enough time to do two of them.

Generally, people make this work with grants and teaching assistantships, staggering amounts of student loans and a major sacrifice in terms of lifestyle. You will have little to no extra spending money during school and for years afterwards and you will live like a grad student. That might even mean roommates because you can't afford anything else, even if you really, really, really don't like it, and ramen and a bicycle and PBR.

Grad students are usually beyond "poor" because money they spend puts them further in debt; that's the "investment" part of a degree, and the "returns" part happens after you graduate. Are you sure that's really for you?

(I'm heading to b-school full time in the fall, but I do have the advantage of being married and having some significant savings to use up.)
posted by mendel at 7:32 AM on May 23, 2007

I didn't do this, but my g/f did. She's not here right now, but I can tell you that she worked childcare, doing split shifts of before-school and after-school care.

I'm still amazed she could do it. Good luck.
posted by pompomtom at 7:37 AM on May 23, 2007

As a PhD supervisor I would say NO, NO, NO. You might just be able to do 20 hours of work on top of your study but 40? You'll be killing yourself and your studies will suffer. This will get worse the further in you get. Demotivation is major problem for PhD students and flogging yourself on top of study hours will only exacerbate the problem. In my experience, students without any social life are much more likely to get fed up, and having no free time is going to contribute to that significantly.

In terms of practical scehduling advice: I did a p/t time MSc on top of a f/t job and a little bar job and that was pretty hard going. I found it much easier to do academic work in the mornings before going to later starting work, e.g. 10/11am-3pm, plus some academic stuff on entirely free days. I found it very difficult to motivate myself to go to the library after a full days work.

The other thing to consider is who you will have to interact with as part of your data collection. When will you need time to see interviewees, etc?
posted by biffa at 7:37 AM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the early replies. I should mention a couple of things. My first year will be strictly undergrad work. I haven't been accepted/ applied to the grad program because you need 18 credits of undergrad to be considered. So I'm taking those in the fall semester then applying in December. Since they state you can't be admitted in the PhD (it is a Masters/ PhD all inclusive) program in the spring- only in the fall, I will take more undergrad and grad level classes. If they don't admit me on my first go, I can continue to take grad level courses till I am admitted. You are not permitted to work after your 3rd year in the program outside of TAships, so really I just need to get through the first 4 years.
posted by MayNicholas at 7:43 AM on May 23, 2007

I don't really understand your self-imposed time limit. My mother did her MS while working full-time, but it took her five years. She's planning on starting her PhD sometime soon...and she's over 50. The research part of a PhD program (or even some Masters' programs) is ridiculously time consuming - it's not something you can likely do on nights and weekends.

In your situation, you're going to want to push for funding in the form of a TA or RA-ship - in some schools this won't happen until the second year - or suck it up and take out loans and scholarships. Work part-time if you can, and make sure it's a job that has negotiable or flexible hours - there's going to be a point when exams and papers are all due at once, and you won't be working for that period.

Now, with a clinical psych degree, I wonder if there are situations like those for teachers - work in a crappy area for the city/state and get loan reimbursement.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:44 AM on May 23, 2007

It's doable, but what you end up doing is 2 things half as well. You don't have time or desire to do any one thing well, because your motivation is split. If that's ok with you (it was to me!), then great! My motto was "C's get degrees!"

You'll also find that you'll miss a lot of opportunities. You won't notice, or won't have time to immerse yourself in the full school experience. You may feel like a visitor there, a return student, or a part-timer...even though you're busting your ass to stay in step. It's just the drawback.

It's gonna be hard, but you have some control over exactly how hard and why. If the social aspect and the inability to devote 100% of your efforts don't bother you, then it'll be easier.

Also keep in mind that things are going to happen when you end up in the thick of it—you'll get sick, end up in/out of a relationship, family events/problems, vacations...these things will happen. They may be good, they may be bad, but they take time and/or money. Factor them into your decisions and options list.

You can totally do this...do you want to?
posted by iamkimiam at 7:50 AM on May 23, 2007

That's what I get for not previewing. Okay, I had one student who did work nearly full-time as an undergrad - she was a refugee with NO resources - but it was all weird-hours work. Just find flexible jobs - hell, Starbucks, or UPS or something - and work around your school load, not vice versa.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:52 AM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: The education is absolutely what is most important to me. I love school, learning, researching, and keeping up my grades. I want to feel like I am 100% part of the program and academic world. I will do more research on loans and try to work part time instead. I mean- I'm paying for this education and I plan on getting the most out of it. For me that means shooting for the A every time.

How do you manage all those loans when you get out?
posted by MayNicholas at 8:04 AM on May 23, 2007

My company has great tuition benefits, so I worked full time while getting a grad degree. I can count off at least four co-workers that got PhDs, so it's not as insane as it sounds.

I would try to find a job with tuition benefits, as those sorts of places are not only good to help with the bills, but also more understanding when you need to take a day off to study, etc. Working for a university that offers the program you want would be best, since then you're on campus and convenient to professors and classmates during lunch or immediately after the work day (less travel time). And people know you're getting the degree and already value education so they're going to be WAY more understanding than you might find elsewhere. Some of them will even allow you to miss work to attend class (provided you make it up later). I doubt Starbucks will allow you to leave for two hours for Psych 101.

You'll feel like part of the program more when you're actually around during the day and at night if you work at the university. I had a friend that worked for the school she got her degree from and she had to attend lecture events for work, which was awesome because she was a part-time student but still got to experience all of those perks the full-time students enjoyed, and she had great relationships with her professors because they were also colleagues, AND she was already on-campus to do research during lunch at the library. She had it made.

Anyway, for me, it wasn't easy, and there were many days when I wanted to pack it all in and give up. But man, am I proud of what I accomplished. I can't even believe that I made it all the way through while working full-time and it sort of makes me feel like I can do anything.

The biggest thing to adjust to is not having any free time to live life, either socially or in terms of the obligations to "living" that people have (groceries, dry cleaning, sleep, family). I think it might be sort of like being a parent, from what I can tell from my friends with young children, but I'm not certain. The hardest thing for me was not being able to do fun stuff with anyone or having my apartment turn into a disaster-zone because I was so consumed with a project at night (and working during the day) that I couldn't really turn my attention to daily life. I ate a lot more prepared foods and meals out, so I spent more money on food than I do now that I'm done. I say a little more about it here.

I completely think you should go for it.
posted by ml98tu at 8:17 AM on May 23, 2007

I went to grad school full-time (9 credits, classes 3x a week, four semesters) for library science while working full time (40 hrs/week), first in publishing and then in a library. One thing that ade it doable was that library school wasn't very demanding. I could get away with not doing a lot of the readings, unless I felt they were important to me personally for what I wanted to learn. The real saving grace was that I have an unfortunate tendency to get jobs where my main task is just showing up (read: lots of workday downtime). So I was able to do assignments while at work most of the time. Oh, and a moribund social life left plenty of time for outside work on group projects, etc.

Given what you're studying, perhaps you could get a job as a hospital receptionist or security guard or something where it's permitted to read on the job.
posted by scratch at 8:19 AM on May 23, 2007

I worked full-time while getting my BA. While my situation was different from what you describe b/c I had (and still have) a great spouse who was the main bread winner, I had to work for us to keep our house.

It can be done and done well. I commuted 30 miles (one-way, up hill, both ways) from where I lived and worked to school, worked 40+ hours/week and graduated Summa. (okay, that just sounded dick-ish, but I'm trying to make the point that this can be done)

I worked as a cook, which let me take classes on weekdays while working nights and weekends (and also let me eat two free meals on workdays). I tried to schedule all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I wouldn't have to go to work and class on the same day. A good semester's schedule had me taking 4 day classes on Tuesday, 4 day classes plus one night class on Thursday, and working the weekend plus Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights. A bad semester had me driving to Philly in the morning for class and out to Trenton for work in the afternoon three days a week.

Realize that all you'll have is work and school. I was so occupied with those two things that I didn't know what Friends or Seinfeld were until I saw them in reruns in 1996.
posted by qldaddy at 8:31 AM on May 23, 2007

P.S. Circuit City's corporate office is in Richmond and they offer tuition benefits to full- and part-time associates. VCU and University of Richmond offer tuition benefits to full-time employees and have a bunch of open positions (I'd imagine you'd be able to get an admin assistant position with no problem and those include tuition benefits too).
posted by ml98tu at 8:37 AM on May 23, 2007

I went to a college where tuition was around $28,000 per year, my parents could afford about $5,000 per year, and yet I graduated with only $16,000 in loans. How? I worked part time, received scholarships, and just borrowed enough money to cover the difference.

Have you looked for scholarships? The library will have resources. There are scholarships for just about everything: red heads, descendants of people who did important things, members of various ethnic groups, people who belong to certain credit unions. There are also scholarships earned by writing essays and completing other deeds.

Have you looked in to grants and work study available through the university you hope to attend? Work study doesn't always pay particularly well, but it is usually on campus and has hours that are flexible with your schedule.

Can you get your degree through a state school, where tuition and other costs will be much lower? That will give you more freedom now and in the future.

"How do you manage all those loans when you get out?"

You pay them back, a little bit at a time. Look into FAFSA, which is the federal student aid program that will connect you to grants and loans available. There are limits to how much you can take out in federally subsidized loans, but they are superior to private loans.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:49 AM on May 23, 2007

I worked full-time while an undergrad, but the coursework I'm sure was no nearly as challenging as PhD. I worked nights -- the 4:00-midnight shift four days a week and then 8:00-noon on Sunday mornings. It was a slightly-more-than-minimum-wage job, though, and a great deal of shift work is, so being able to work nights might depend on your willingness to lower your standard of living somewhat.

I worked in a group home, so I could often do homework in the evenings after the guys were asleep, though most of it was done on the weekends and in the early morning. I also basically sacrificed personal time and social life for the sake of work and school.
posted by camcgee at 8:50 AM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: I have been granted the max for Federal loans for the Fall 07/ Spring 08 year. I am going to a state school, but won't be considered an in-state resident for 1 year.

ml98tu- I am going to be attented VCU, so I'm filling out an application as I write- Thanks!

I'm also looking at Sally Mae loans- but all this loanspeak is a foreign language to me...
posted by MayNicholas at 9:01 AM on May 23, 2007

I worked almost full time in college (30+ hours a week) with a full class load (however, this was undergrad). I worked midnight-shift dorm security (babysitting, basically) on campus and most of my classes were morning classes (the classes for my majors were almost entirely only offered in the morning). It worked out, but I was often bone-tired in the morning classes and usually couldn't do as well as normal - although my GPA on graduation was fine.

Having a midnight shift job meant I could spend the time sitting at the reception desk studying/doing homework when I needed to. If you could get an on-campus job you'd be more likely to get something flexible with your class schedule, more likely to get on-the-job study time, and maybe even some help with tuition. Plus, if you time your shifts right, you can just walk from work to class. So very convenient, but the downside is that campus jobs don't usually pay much more than minimum.

Most importantly is making sure you get a full eight hours stretch of sleep especially if you're working weird hours. The days I had to take a long nap twice instead of getting a real sleep were the ones that fried me. And me personally, if I could've slept after work then gone to afternoon classes, that would've worked much better for me, but I've never been a morning person.
posted by Melinika at 9:04 AM on May 23, 2007

I worked full-time for the first 2 years of my BFA (I was a returning student, 25 when I started). It sucked sucked sucked, but I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that my commute stunk (4 hours on public transit each day...like qidaddy, I know it sounds "dickish" but I'm just sayin' :)

My job was cool about letting me have flexible hours during the semester (it was an office job), but I made up for it by working reeeeeally long weeks (including weekends) in the downtime. After 2 years, I was totally burned out. I quit my job, moved closer to school, and took out a buttload of loans and lived off that and savings. Best decision EVER and I appreciated being a student much more at 27/28 than I ever would have at 20.

There are reasons private student loans exist, and there is a reason why they allow you to take out more than tuition. I understand that you may not want to be in a ton of debt when you're done, but a lot of people who have gone to school are in a similar situation. (I just graduated, and I'm now in debt, so I understand.) If nothing else, know that you're not alone, and it is totally do-able.

Perhaps you should get in touch with the financial aid office at your school. As the chair of the financial aid office told me one day - their job is to help you and tell you what the best thing for you to do is.

That said, what you can do for cash: I have a lot of friends who worked as waiters/bartenders in college (and beyond) and make a ton of money. If you're in the right town, and you have the personality for it, it might be worth checking out. Even check out the chains - my sister worked at a chain in Boston (think a Ruby's/Chili's/Friday's type place) and she always had the rent paid (she lived off campus) and cash to blow. Of course, she worked lunch to close Friday - Sunday.

Also, not an answer, but I glanced at your question history here, MayNicholas...looks like you've had a tough/interesting 1st half of 2007! Congratulations on your decision to go back to school! I know it's hard to make big decisions, but good for you :)
posted by AlisonM at 9:09 AM on May 23, 2007

I can't speak specifically to graduate school, but I worked more than full-time during my undergraduate career (3 jobs, over 50 hours a week), and was able to attain two degrees (a B.A. and B.J.) during that time, while carrying a near 4.0 GPA. Don't listen to people telling you it's impossible: this is simply not the case. There are thousands of people just like me who worked through college without bankrupting their education. In fact, if I could go back and do it again, I'd make sure I still worked those three jobs, though maybe I would have preferred 30 hours a week instead of 50.

I found that the time crunch created by my jobs actually improved my time management skills and drastically increased the amount of time I spent studying--because I literally did not have time for distractions if I hoped to succeed. I was indeed a busy person, but it was a life I actually sort of enjoyed, and I got tons done, and still had time to relax on the weekends.
posted by dead_ at 9:16 AM on May 23, 2007

MayNicholas, have you considered applying to be an RA in a dorm? That takes care of your housing and they usually have you working non-standard (i.e. 9-5) hours; I had a friend who was getting his masters and decided to be an RA because it meant free housing and different shifts.

I've been working full time and getting my masters part-time. I was really, really busy this past semester, but it helped that I work at the same place where I go to school, and that my classes were right across the street from where my office is. The commute from class to work and then home (or whatever combination) is definitely something to consider.
posted by sutel at 9:27 AM on May 23, 2007

I think you have two separate issues, which are the remedial undergrad courses, and the grad program. It is totally possible to work and do undergrad courses at the same time. People do it all the time -- it will be brutally hard at times, and you will be cut off from a lot of the social life of the school and your workplace, but you can do it.

Working full time in a phd program is different. I am a firm believer in the idea that you should not attend a PhD program that does not provide funding (usually a combination of tuition remission and TA/RA-ing, which should pay enough to live at least minimally). There are some exceptions to this, I guess, such as a professional program with pretty much guaranteed high-paid employment at the other end (some PhD equivalent of medical school, say) but on the whole this is a good rule of thumb for graduate school. So the answer here is that the only doctoral programs you should even consider are ones that give you at least a minimally acceptable level of funding, preferably guaranteed for enough years for you to complete the program.

Many people end up working (because they run out of university funding, or just need more money, or whatever) late in their programs, when they are ABD. The usual result is that they take longer to complete their dissertation, but it is certainly possible. Working full-time while preparing for your qualifying exams would be very difficult, although I am sure many people have done it. TA- and RA-ships are designed to fit (in terms of schedules, hours required, and the form of the work) into a doctoral degree -- the work is often menial and demeaning, low-paid, and irritating, but the schedule is not at odds with your education. (There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to this.) Full time work does not fit as well, and you will have conflicting pressures -- an expected work trip at the same time as an important conference, say.

I went to a college where tuition was around $28,000 per year, my parents could afford about $5,000 per year, and yet I graduated with only $16,000 in loans. How? I worked part time, received scholarships, and just borrowed enough money to cover the difference.

Are you me? Those figures are accurate for my undergraduate education, almost to the dollar. This remains a good approach for undergraduate education, and many masters programs as well.
posted by Forktine at 9:39 AM on May 23, 2007

It depends what your fulltime job is. In my PhD program one woman tried consulting while she was taking classes. She'd answer e-mails and phone calls on her Treo. I think that if she didn't have that Treo she wouldn't have been able to do it.

She may have had money but she was never available to do extra projects with professors and that is the whole point of a PhD program. She quit.

Another guy tried to be the hands-off manager of a supply company. He was on his Blackberry during class, after class, before class... he quit too.

I work about 9 extra hours outside of my PhD program each week. This is edging on too much. On the other hand one woman in my program has a job where she can sit and study for 10 hours a week and it worked.

Any PhD program worth its salt should have some sort of TA or RAship for you that allows you to survive. My program pays our tuition and fees and health insurance and then gives us about $1600/month to live on. This seems to be pretty normal.
posted by k8t at 9:44 AM on May 23, 2007

Don't know how you're going to pull it off. Something--either your studies or quality of work--will suffer. A PhD program is designed to monopolize every moment of your time. Once you're done with classes and you are working on your dissertation, you might be able to get a job. You're going to spend a ton of cash on graduate school. Don't invest money in getting a degree that you may not finish because you didn't plan properly.
posted by HotPatatta at 10:57 AM on May 23, 2007

Yes, I did this for my last three years of college.

I found a job that allowed me to telecommute and set my own hours, and I thereafter went to classes all morning and afternoon only to come home work+study deep into the night. Sleep a bit, rinse and repeat all week long -- I would usually "lose" Saturdays to exhaustion (literally just sleeping right through it), leaving Sundays for catching up on whatever I had to before starting the next week.

I only did it because it was my only viable option, so I certainly don't recommend trying it if you have other options -- it's anything but fun. I barely remember those years, because there was no time for social life, family, etc. But yes, it IS possible to do this if you're wired right. You have to be able to make and stick to a long-term plan, while putting everyone and everything else aside for the duration. If you can't do those things, you will implode.

The wild card is age -- I did this in my early 20s, when my body was still pretty forgiving. I don't know if I could punish myself like that in my 30s and survive.

Given that it's a PhD program, however, I probably would not attempt such a plan unless you could find work within or directly related to the program that would plausibly "help" your studies while paying you.
posted by Pufferish at 11:03 AM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: I definitely don't want my schooling to suffer. My program does have paid TAships, but not for a while. Being an RA and living in a dorm wouldn't work since I have 3 cats & a dog (don't anyone even mention getting rid of them- there is no way what so ever that would be an option).

Forktine- you are right. 2 separate issues- undergrad & grad school.

Luckily my commute to school is 1.7 miles so about 10 minutes by bike. The area has plenty of bars/ restaurants in walking distance of my apt, so I could try to get work there. Hopefully the tips would be decent as it is a college/ young professional area of town and the bars are always busy at night.

AlisonM- Yes it has been an emotionally trying year- but that is life right? :)

Thanks to everyone for the advice. I will look more into the loans and working part time. School will be my #1 while I'm there. Plus I want to take full advantage of the research opportunities the school offers. I love school (did I mention I'm a nerd?)
posted by MayNicholas at 11:07 AM on May 23, 2007

Seconding forktine.

You're only talking about loans or jobs for one year while you take some undergraduate courses.

After that, either you'll be admitted with a full ride, or you should give up and do something else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:12 AM on May 23, 2007

I worked as an overnight supervisor at a kid's science museum. It was fun work, slept 8 hrs of the 14 hr shift and got paid pretty well. It was a lot of fun. This was a strictly weekend deal, so it worked pretty well. Bartending through school also served me well. I ended up having close to a 4.0 for both my undergrad and MA, while working about 40 hours and it worked ok for me, just because I found jobs that fit with my schedule and didn't have a inherent need for conventional social interaction.
posted by stormygrey at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2007

Oh, I forgot to add that it I took full or more course loads as well, so its doable. I really really wanted to finish my BA, so I took 21 hours my last semester.
posted by stormygrey at 11:37 AM on May 23, 2007

Also, you may want to look into just taking out loans!
posted by k8t at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2007

When I was at uni, I worked two jobs - one as a nanny and one as a waitress. I was able to take my classes early in the day (usually done by 11) and then I would go pick up the kids from preschool and watch them for about 4 - 5 hours. 3 nights a week and one weekend day I then worked at the restaurant. Being a nanny was great because I could study while the kids were down for their nap, plus the parents were quite wealthy and paid me pretty well, though it wasn't silly money.

Being a waitress was great because I could make quite a bit of money on tips in a relatively short amount of time. Plus, it was EXTREMELY flexible - there is almost always someone who wants to pick up your shift and make extra cash. I worked about 35- 40 hours a week and did well enough in school to win a scholarship and make the dean's list.

One year I was also an RA on top of this which gave me a free place to stay, but it looks as though you have ruled that out. Whatever you decide, best of luck and remember that loads of people have done it before you - sucessfully! so don't be too nervous. Enjoy your education. I loved school too.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2007

Sorry, I forgot to mention I also had to take out some loans as well, but don't regret it as I considered it a necessary component to my education and have not minded paying them back, considering what they got me.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:47 AM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: Figuring out my expenses (rent, electric, cell, food, insurance, heating gas, and just-in-case-I'm banking on there being free wireless internet floating around) the total is $370 per week. Can one make that working part time (after taxes of course)? I'm not ruling out loans to maybe pick up some of that. But first, is it possible? Say as a waitress? I worked in a couple of restaurants long ago as a hostes/ asst manager and at another one as a cocktail waitress, but I can't recall what I made.

triggerfinger- I never thought of nanny work, thanks for the suggestion.
posted by MayNicholas at 11:59 AM on May 23, 2007

I make around 800/mth bartending 6 shifts a month. I would say it would work.
posted by stormygrey at 12:13 PM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: If I could find a place that would be willing to train me as a bartender- that would be great. I'll just have to wait and see when I get down there in July. I can speculate all I want, but untill I get to town, it's just that- guessing and worrying. I read up on the Sally Mae loans and they have no deadline for applying, so I could wait until I get down there and see what I find for work.

Thank you all for sharing your experiences and advice!
posted by MayNicholas at 12:55 PM on May 23, 2007

My last stint as a waitress was about 4 years ago and I had enough experience to work at a nice restaurant and I could very easily make $500 (in tips, after tipping out all the other workers) a week, working 4 shifts or so (we also closed at 10, so each shift was only 4 - 5 hours as well). During busy times, I could double that. I also could have easily upped my shifts if I'd have felt I needed more money (someone always wants the night off).

In retrospect, I'm glad I got into waitressing. It is something that I could easily fall back into if I should ever need to.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:01 PM on May 23, 2007

Your $370/week is just about the same as K8T's TA-ship, and is about the same as I was paid the last time I TA'ed. But to put that in perspective, that means earning between $16,000 and $20,000 for the year (depends on whether or not you get summer funding), and includes benefits, for a part-time job that is only when school is in session. To earn the same at a full-time job, you would have to be paid between $8 and $10 per hour, and don't forget to add in the cost of health insurance, as benefits are not included at many jobs. Starbucks has benefits, but in many areas starts its employees at just under $8.

This is part of why people will keep telling you "only do a PhD if it comes with full funding" -- the funding includes a lot of hidden subsidies (like only making you work during the school sessions, giving you closer connections to professors in the department, and so on) and is a measure of the department's commitment to you finishing. Conversely, it is also why working while taking undergrad classes is doable (if not easy). Each class has expectations of reading, papers, etc, but you are not also trying to write a thesis, write proposals, write articles, conduct research, etc etc etc, all of which total to far more time than you will spend on any set of classes.
posted by Forktine at 1:09 PM on May 23, 2007

You said: I am going to a state school, but won't be considered an in-state resident for 1 year.

Call the school and make sure you understand this correctly. If your state is anything like here (Illinois), if you move to the state for the purpose of going to school you don't ever get to be an in-state resident, unless you take a full year off, and then re-apply to a program. So if you're moving there to finish undergrad and then apply and start grad school directly after that you'll still be an out of state student.
posted by MsMolly at 1:17 PM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, so this is what their website says about financial aid for Graduate students...

"Backed by a research university, the psychology department provides ample funding for our counseling psychology students. Typically, you may expect to receive an assistantship for the first three years of study and to secure a paid off-campus practicum for the fourth year. Teaching and research assistantships provide full tuition remission and an income of approximately $10,000 per year. University fellowships, grant-funded research assistantships and loans from the Office of Financial Aid also are available."

Should I be concerned? Or is this decent?
posted by MayNicholas at 1:19 PM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: MsMolly- My school says the same thing unless you can prove that you plan to remain there -via car registration, driver's licence, pay taxes as a resident, have given up all other residences or have immediate family residing in-state (my parents are permanently in- state and have been for 12 years). So I'm pretty sure I'll be ok.
posted by MayNicholas at 1:22 PM on May 23, 2007

I can't speak to norms within psychology. At the more general level of academic PhD programs, that level of funding is good.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:52 PM on May 23, 2007

You should also check to see whether or not you can apply for an NSF fellowship. The application is free and it's a nice, nice ride, and a good feather in your cap. Students planning to do counseling psych might not be eligible; your profs will know.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:54 PM on May 23, 2007

I'm currently pursuing a pharmD on the "C's get degrees" plan. This is what no one tells you. It is STRESSFUL to get C's if you are accustomed to being a good student. I had a second child during my 3rd year of school, expecting to relax my academic expections for myself. After all, there's a pharmacist shortage, so I'll get a surefire job after graduation no matter what my GPA is - no problem, right? Unfortunately it just hurts my soul to get a lower grade than I think I'm capable of. I do what I can in the time allotted, but I feel like I'm right on the edge of failure, constantly. I would have taken time off if I had it to do over.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:44 PM on May 23, 2007

re: in-state, my grad program covers "out of state" tuition for 1st years as well.

The loan thing - quicky tutorial, you'll want to look at your school's financial aid homepage as well.

1. Fill out the FAFSA. It will require you to grab your tax information. It doesn't take very long. This is the government sending your school your income information.

2. You're eligible for the Stafford Loan. This is $18,500 per year.

From my school's finaid page: "Graduate students can borrow $18,500 per year, although only $8,500 of that is subsidized. There are also cumulative limits of $23,000 for an undergraduate education and a $65,500 combined limit for undergraduate and graduate."

For most people I know, they take out the $8500 to supplement their TA income. But certainly lots of people take out the whole thing.

The way that Stafford works is that you go to Bank of America or your local bank's website or Sallie Mae or whatever and you apply for your Stafford loan through them. They then check with the school that you are attending to check that you are in fact an enrolled student. The school tells the bank that you're cool and then the bank sends your school the money that you've gotten.

The school takes out your money that you owe to them (for me because my tuition and stuff is covered, this isn't anything, but...) and then school cuts you a check for the rest at the beginning of the school year. GET DIRECT DEPOSIT if you can because those checks can sometimes be a bitch to cash because they are for so much.

3. If you need more to live on than that, you can take out a private loan (I do this, but reinvest the money into higher earning investment, but whatever).

Here's what my school's finaid page says: "Alternative Loans are loans available from private lending agencies, such as banks, credit unions, and other lending institutions. Students and/or parents may be eligible for these Alternative Loans, many of which have varying criteria on interest rates, minimum monthly repayments, etc."

I do mine through Bank of America. They will again need to check with your school that you are in fact a student. My school has it set up that BoA sends them checks written out to the school AND me 3X a year. I pick those checks up and deposit them in the bank.

My university, for whatever reason, sets a limit of the total money/financial aid that you can have. They add up the TAship + scholarships + Stafford + private loans and it can't be more than $30,000 a year. I got a special RAship, for example, and the school cut off my private loan amount for the last term. Other schools don't have this limit though.

This all makes it easy to survive in grad school without working.
Hope this helps! E-mail is in the profile if you want to talk.
posted by k8t at 4:49 PM on May 23, 2007 [5 favorites]

OP, that package sounds normal to me. You can ask the grad advisor for more specific information. Ask if the health coverage carries over into the summer, for example.

The graduate school page for the school may have more details.
posted by k8t at 4:51 PM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, thanks k8t! I have filed out my FAFSA and was granted the max Stafford Loan for my first year (unfortunately I'm considered an undergrad freshman for this semester). I'll keep everything else in mind too!
posted by MayNicholas at 4:56 PM on May 23, 2007

My take is that you should work a job during the undergraduate year(s) that will help your grad school applications. When I was in school full-time, I also worked full-time at the weekends at a group home for developmentally disabled adults. I showed up on Friday evening, left on Sunday evening, and had some time for studying in between when the guys were otherwise occupied. We had a lot of fun too, with pizza parties, days out at the zoo and various amusement parks, etc and although it was really hard work (try bathing a 300 pound man while simultaneously running back and forth to the kitchen trying to cook a healthy dinner from whatever the weekday staff has left in the fridge without burning anything) it felt like a totally worthwhile use of my time in a way that a job simply to pay the bills would not have done. I also had plenty of time during the week to take on additional school projects, do group work, etc.

It seems like this kind of job would be perfect for you in terms of schedule and it would have to count favorably to being accepted into a grad school as well. You could probably find this in a group home for adults with mental illnesses as well, if this would be closer to the area you intend to study.
posted by hazyjane at 3:34 AM on May 24, 2007

k8t says: For most people I know, they take out the $8500 to supplement their TA income. But certainly lots of people take out the whole thing.

This must be something that depends on the cost of living where one is in school, or the amount in a standard TA package, because no one I knew well in grad school took out loans on top of their standard funding, except as a bridge to help with an unfunded summer or the like. But that was in a city where it was possible to live on a TA-ship (most often in shared housing, but having one's own apartment was possible with careful budgeting); in an expensive city, or where departmental support was lower, I would expect k8t's comment to be generally true.
posted by Forktine at 6:38 AM on May 24, 2007

« Older Purchasing fine art photographs   |   How can I help my dad who has begun to lose all... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.