Financial Risk Planning
The first rule of thumb is to realize that your student loan is a loan, and you do end up paying it back with interest. Over the years I have seen way too many students using their student loan as free money. When planning your doctoral journey, it is a clever idea to plan around the financial flow that could successfully get you out of this debt in a reasonably defined time frame. Be realistic! Even if you are promised a job promotion upon completing your doctorate, know that graduating from your program is not always accompanied with a green windfall.
Those who choose the path of paying out of pocket as they go, have two key advantages over students who rely solely on student loans. First, paying out of pocket every semester painfully keeps you motivated to get the best bang for your buck. Secondly, your financial planning may allow you to pace yourself realistically through the program as guided by other factors in your personal life.
In cases where academically you are going strong, but are running low on personal finances, a mix of pocket funds and student loans can be an effective plan. In this format, you only rely on student loans just to avoid exhausting your pocket without sacrificing the momentum of your academic progress.
- Never repeat a course: Don’t waste time finding shortcuts around difficult courses. Immerse yourself in the material, learn, and pass it. Worst case scenario, if you think the course is too difficult for your current skill set, consider withdrawing within the add and drop period (at no cost), re-register in the course at a near future date and use the extra time that you have gained upfront to learn the material.
- Learn the skills needed to graduate: Invest your time to learn the ropes. You have ample time to learn through your coursework before you hit the dissertation phase. Learn how to write, edit, format, and run statistical analyses required for your research. Even if you spend a couple of hundred dollars learning these skills through external courses, it is way cheaper than hiring someone to do the job for you.
- Keep external help to a minimal: There is no reason why a doctoral should send her dissertation for formal editing (if required) more than once. Clean up your paper the best that you can and have the content approved by your committee and chair before sending it out for editing. Do not do major changes after you have paid an editor to clean up your paper.
- Design your research in a way where you can gather data yourself without paying companies for archival data. Likewise, if you are using survey instruments, you can save hundreds of dollars on license fee on commercial instruments, by reaching out to researchers who designed the survey and ask permission to use their instrument.
- A dissertation is nothing more than a process. Break your dissertation process into sizeable chunks, allocate a deadline with each portion, and systematically execute your plan to finish in time.