As I was starting to look into graduate school, one of the most daunting things to take into consideration was the cost. While it’s very common for graduate students to take out loans to cover the cost of their education, it can still be an overwhelming process, especially when you realize how much debt you will inevitably accumulate by the end of your time in any health profession graduate school. My mind was put at ease during orientation our first week at Salus University, when we were given a presentation on how to manage loans after we graduate and how it is possible to live comfortably while paying off your debt. As an optometry student, I have been assured by other optometrists that it will not burden you for the rest of your life if you handle your money wisely. However, I still try to minimize the amount of money I owe wherever possible.
One way that I would suggest to reduce your loans as a student is to sign up for the Federal Work-Study program. Many people do not take advantage of this program, and it is a great way to earn money throughout the semester when it’s convenient for your schedule. When filling out an application for financial aid, you can choose to sign up for work-study as well. Choosing to partake in work-study reduces the amount of federal loans that you take out each semester, and the money does not have to be re-paid. A student also chooses the amount of hours they can realistically work per week when they sign up, and it can be divided among various departments on campus. However, it is important to note that you should not sign up for 20 hours a week if you realistically will only work 5 of those hours. You will have a larger work-study fund in your financial aid package, but your loans will also be reduced by that much. If you are counting on the work-study money to help you pay for expenses throughout the semester, it is important to ensure you are able to work the allotted time to earn the money you need.
For me, work-study was a great option because I have a small paycheck coming in every two weeks without having to juggle a part-time job outside of school. The money helps to pay for groceries and other expenses throughout the week. While some people may be able to fit in a part-time job in their schedule, I knew it would not be possible for me on top of balancing my studies and my sanity. Instead, I am able to work a couple hours here and there throughout the week, during a break in my class schedule or at night. There are plenty of jobs around campus for students. I currently work in the Office of Communications and as a Teaching Assistant in the Optometry Clinical Skills Lab. There are also jobs in the library, the gym, admissions office, etc. Each department offers different shift options so it’s important to look into what kind of hours they require and whether or not it will work with your schedule. Some jobs, like the Learning Resource Center and Hafter Student Community Center, offer weekend shifts if you don’t want to try and schedule another commitment during the week. No matter what your preference is, there are work-study jobs to fit everyone’s schedule. Having work-study here has been a great way to earn some spending money throughout the week and help me minimize the amount of loans I’ve taken out thus far. Although it may not seem like much in comparison to the cost of going to graduate school, every little bit helps. Make sure to explore the idea if it works for you when filling out your financial aid package!
-Kelsey is a second-year Optometry student at Salus University