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How to Fit in Grad School

If you’re looking to advance in your field, graduate school is the bridge between where you are now and your career goals. Advanced degrees grant students a deeper awareness of the ideas, technologies, and issues within their preferred field. However…they also require your finances and time, and some of us just can’t seem to get past the price tag or time commitment. 

Can you really afford to go back to school?

Squeezing in Coursework

For a season, graduate students compromise sleep and leisure time for their education. But not in vain. 

“It’s a sacrifice,” said Daniel “Dee” McDonald when asked about how he fits his coursework into an already-busy schedule. “The hardest part is finding a rhythm specific to your life.” 

The matter of accommodating assignments into a routine of work, family, and personal obligations is a familiar one to Dee. Not only is he SEU’s Executive Director of Graduate and Online Enrollment, he is also a student of SEU’s PhD in Organizational Leadership program, a husband, and a father. 

Professors generally advise students to reserve about ten hours a week for master’s work and twenty hours a week for doctoral assignments. In daily life, Dee said this looks like “catching an hour where you can” and reminding yourself that graduate school is a worthy investment. “With each college degree, your mind expands. You invite more opportunities. Your income potential increases.” 

According to studies from the US Social Security Administration, College Board, and The Hamilton Project, those with a bachelor’s degree, on average, earn between $400,000 and $655,000 more in lifetime earnings than high school graduates. This amount climbs when students complete a master’s program, and increases further for doctoral graduates.

Financial Preparation

Let’s not dance around the fact that graduate school comes with a substantial price tag. Pursuing an advanced degree definitely requires you to reorganize your finances. However, this is more doable than you may think. SEU has highly-competitive master’s and doctoral tuition rates, and our graduate enrollment team “works with every student to make it work,” said Dee. 

When financially preparing for grad school, know the rules have not changed. Your first stop should be free aid. If managed properly, student loans are a viable option.

This may be your first time searching for financial aid since your undergraduate studies. Where do you start? Southeastern offers scholarships for alumni and for specific degree programs. We also supply scholarships and grant opportunities through the Assemblies of God (AG) and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). Financial aid websites and various organizations provide funds you don’t need to pay back as well.

Dee suggests prospective graduate students check with their employers to see if they will pay some or all of their tuition or educational expenses.

Still not sure how you’ll tackle the financial side of heading back to the classroom? Dee recommends remembering your “why.” Call to mind why you enrolled in your master’s or doctoral program in the first place. Yes, managing your time and money will be a lot. But remind yourself that these are just stepping stones to your goals, whether that is owning your own business, earning that promotion, changing your career path, or developing a new professional framework

Support Systems

Because grad school is such an undertaking, having a strong support system is a must. Our commitment to fostering community and the value we place on servant leadership enables Southeastern’s graduate programs to be more personal than many others. 

The tone of each class is set by professors who combine their expertise with a desire to see their students succeed. They are relational — deeply caring for students — and make themselves available to clarify information and offer guidance, said Dee. Graduate students at Southeastern work with their professors rather than having to figure everything out on their own. 

For many SEU graduate degrees, students journey through their respective programs with a specific cohort. Dee comments, “In our PhD/DSL program, you’re with the same cohort the whole way through.” This setup allowed him to meet one of his best friends and develop close relationships with his peers. Over time, Dee’s cohort has become a second family, who makes sure “no one fails or gets left behind.” 

Be Open to Change

There are so many great ways to learn about master’s and doctoral programs before committing to one. It helps to scour the internet and chat with friends for advice. You can learn even more by meeting with our graduate enrollment counselors, touring our school, and reading testimonials. However, second-hand information only goes so far. 

”There’s only so much you can know and plan before you experience it,” said Dee in response to what he would have liked to know before entering his program. He encourages prospective students to not just be willing to learn new information but to be open to how an advanced degree can change your life, as it did his. 

So, can you really manage to squeeze grad school into your lifestyle and budget? Yes — with the proper preparation and a willingness to make sacrifices for a period. But at the end of the day, you’re learning how to better the world through your field. Wouldn’t you say that’s worth it? 

By Jordan Fleming, Student Writer


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