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Preparing to Finance a Business Degree – Where Do I Start?

The following blog post was written by Jason Buitrago, associate director of admissions operations and financial aid

Blog -- Steps to A Simon AdmissionSo you’re considering business school – congratulations! We’re excited you’re ready to take the first step toward your future career, and we hope you do so at Simon. Our degree programs inspire a new level of clarity about how analytical frameworks drive success in business; about what it takes to collaborate and manage in the contemporary, global workplace; and about professional growth and goals.

But how do you get started?

Prepare to invest in your education.
Regardless of where you are in your career, it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that pursuing higher education is an investment – financially, emotionally, and quite frankly, mentally – so it should come as no surprise that preparation is critical.

So where to begin? I recommend you get to know your starting point by taking a litmus test and then methodically review how you are measuring financially.

Annualcreditreport.com is an excellent place to start. Here you’re able to obtain a copy of your entire credit report from the three primary credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Your credit score is comprised of multiple activities, so reviewing it for accuracy is huge to make sure you’re starting off with a valid baseline.

Once you know your credit score, strive to improve and strengthen your credit score by doing the following:

  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Reduce your overall debt. Whether it be consumer debt in the form of credit cards, or other forms of debt, look to find ways to reduce your overall debt load.
  • Avoid new debt or opening new lines of credit.
  • Keep long standing credit cards open.

Determine educational costs.
I suggest you start by:

  • Visiting the websites of the programs you are pursuing to find published costs on their website.
  • Talking to current students to get a sense of cost of living expenses. We’re fortunate here in Rochester to have a wonderfully reasonable cost of living, which makes the pursuit of your degree all that much easier.
  • Considering the length of your program and how it would factor into your expenses.

Beyond that, there are two important components when figuring out educational costs: direct expenses and indirect expenses. Direct expenses are the tuition and fees that appear on the student account statement from the University. Indirect expenses are those not traditionally billed directly by the school, but are still encountered as a graduate student. For example, graduate students typically have rent or mortgage payments to make and utility bills to pay. They still need to buy groceries to prepare meals, purchase books, travel to and from their residence to campus, etc.

There are some items that are not considered as part of the cost of attendance of being a graduate student which include, but are not limited to: luxury living (basic living, no penthouse living), credit card payments, and conference and job-interview travel and fees. Remember, cost of attendance includes only the components needed to successfully have you attain your degree.

Explore funding options and opportunities.
So now that you’ve figured out the educational costs of your program, how will you pay for it?

There are a bevy of scholarship opportunities in the private sector. The biggest challenge for students is that they must be researched and applied for. What are you doing this weekend? Take time to set up profiles on fastweb.com and petersons.com. These are scholarship search functions that will match you with private scholarship application that might fit your profile and interest.

Here at Simon many of our MBA and MS admitted students are offered merit-based scholarships at the time of admission. Those scholarships are very competitive as they are determined by your candidacy and profile in the admitted pool of students.

In addition, once you’ve enrolled as a Simon student and have started your coursework, there might be graduate assistantship opportunities to help you navigate your educational costs. Some require a certain level of work or service, while others require special skill-sets or focus in a particular discipline (for example, being a teaching assistant for a class as an advanced student).

Educational loans also can play a big role in funding your educational expenses. Specifically, US citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for federal loans through the United States Department of Education. If you are a US citizen or permanent resident and you are looking to apply for loans, I highly recommend you complete your FAFSA (free application for federal student aid). If you are planning on starting your studies in the fall of 2018, the FAFSA is already available to complete electronically.

International students also have loan options, although they are more limited in quantity. Here at Simon, we do offer a loan without a co-signer for tuition costs called the MBA International Student Loan Program. For more information visit: http://www.ursimon.studentchoice.org.

I know it’s a lot to absorb, but the earlier you think about your finances, the better off you’ll be during your business degree. If you still have questions, view the recording of my Financial Aid Prep webinar to hear more explanation on these topics and benefit from questions others asked during the live session.

Here’s an important, final money-saving tip: If you submit your application to our full-time MBA or MS programs by Oct. 15, your application fee ($150 value) will be waived and you’re guaranteed a $5,000 scholarship if you’re admitted and have requested scholarship consideration (indicate “yes” for scholarship consideration in the online application).

What are you waiting for? We look forward to reviewing your application soon!

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