I graduated with my MBA in December of 2015 and wanted to share how I managed to graduate with an MBA completely debt free, as well as what I learned in the process.
But first, I would like to give a small piece of advice, for those of you who are considering whether or not to get an MBA. Given, that I am someone who actually went through two years of endless group projects, case studies, presentations and late night exam preparations. If you are one of the lucky ones who has a chance to go to an ivy league school to get their MBA and have someone else pay for it, or if you have enough cash to pay for it, by any means you should do it. I mean why not if it’s free or paid for upfront? But is it worth taking out a loan to get an MBA from a school that’s less than nationally known? In my opinion it is not. Especially since the national student loan debt is now close to $70 billion dollars, that’s with a B, according to Wall Street Journal. If you want to get an MBA my advice is that you should have a clear plan for how it is going to help you advance your career. Here are a few things that might be worth considering:
- Is getting an MBA going to help you land your dream job that requires an MBA?
- Or are you working for an employer who is willing to pick up the tuition bill?
- Are you guaranteed to make significantly more money after you complete the MBA program?
Having a mere hope that once you get an MBA life will magically get better is NOT a good enough reason to get it. Two years later and $50-$100K later there will be no magical moment after graduation. And of course I’m referring back to my case. I just thought it would be cool to get an MBA and I really like learning, so I said why not? I could say that I’d rather have the cash, but it did turn out that I’ve met some pretty amazing people during my last semester of graduate school, and this actually landed me a job. So I guess my point is, you have to decide for yourself. I definitely wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking out student loans for my MBA, because it was never something I cared passionately about having. But at the end of the day the choice is yours.If you’re still trying to decide on whether or not to get an MBA, you can check out some other posts that continue this discussion:
- Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don’t Really Need
- 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My MBA
- Weigh Costs of Part-Time and Full-Time M.B.A. Programs
- Should You Get an MBA?
Don’t get discouraged If you have taken out student loans, there are ways to pay off student loans quicker, I’ll share some of my suggestions in a future post.
So if you’re looking to go to grad school and would like to avoid taking out loans, or decrease the amount of those loans, here is a summary of how I managed to get an MBA without incurring a single dollar of student loans.
- Start preparing in advance. I knew I wanted to get an MBA, so I started saving money for it months in advance. Having that jump-start on payments for tuition, really helped down the road.
- Pick a school you can afford. The one I picked is of course UT Dallas, which is part of the UT systems and happened to be the school I went to for undergrad. If your goal is to cash flow your MBA, you will probably have to pick a reasonably priced school. You can find the list of MBA program rankings and costs here.
- If you’re not going to an Ivy league school, I highly recommend that you continue working, instead of quitting your job. You can find out if your company has Tuition Reimbursement Program.There are some companies out there who will pay for almost all of your graduate tuition. Granted, you do have to keep working there after you graduate for a certain amount of years, and while you’re in school. But hey, I never said it was easy to go to graduate school debt free. Social life will most likely have to suffer if you’re working and going to school, but in the end it’ll be worth it.
- Find other ways to pay for tuition. Taking out loans is not the only option. There are scholarships and grants out there for graduate students. You can find information on scholarships at FastWeb, GoodCall and FinAid. Start applying for those early, as some are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
- Stop wasting money on useless stuff. I mean it. Stop spending money on things you could live without for a while. The key to being able to pay for something as significant as a graduate degree out-of-pocket or with partial support from an employer, or with a least amount of student loans, is to be extremely disciplined with your spending. I was not going out to eat, getting weekly manicures and pedicures, visiting the spa, shopping for new outfits every week or even every month, or spending money on any of that other “fun girlie stuff”. You’d be surprised how much extra money opens up when you only spend on things you need to survive. Instead, use every single extra dollar you get from bonuses, birthday gifts, tax returns, or part time work towards tuition.
- Split the semester bill in payments. My school offered tuition installment plan for a small fee of $20 to set it up. It was totally worth it. Every other month I knew another installment was going to be due, so I always told myself that before I spend a penny on anything I will have that money ready. It’s amazing how our mind works like that, I was always able to make the payment on time.
I hope you find this helpful. Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments and any other advice you have on going to school debt free.