Young student getting frustrated over laptop in library

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If you feel like your pricey undergraduate degree didn’t give you a good bang for the buck, it’s time to do more than complain about it with your friends. According to a new study from Ascent, a private student loan provider, more than half of the undergraduates surveyed didn’t believe that the value of college education was keeping up with the costs— and it’s understandable. The average salary for 20-somethings is $41,000 but tuition costs for public colleges were just under $21,000 during the 2017-2018 academic year—private colleges came in at more than $46,000. You can’t un-spend money, or un-sign loans but you can think more strategically for graduate school. Here’s how.

Consider Why

Enrolling in graduate school because you’re bored or you feel like you career is stalling is a waste of time and resources. Your degree needs to have a clear purpose that can be monetized. If you’re getting an advanced degree in your current field, talk to mentors to ensure the investment has a payoff. For those changing career paths, figure out whether the degree is actually needed to get in the door.

Follow the Funding

Relocating can be annoying, especially if you already have a settled group of friends. But spending 2-3 years in a new city is way better than getting saddled with $100,000 (or more) in debt that will likely take decades to payoff. Your friends will be there when you get back.

Don’t Be a Label Whore

Ivy league and tier 1 schools look great on the résumé, but are only helpful in certain industries. Figure out whether your career path requires that you attend a school like Harvard or USC. If not, pick an affordable and competitive program and save that bread.

Partner With Companies

Look for companies with programs that fund educational opportunities for employees. You may have to devote a few years there but you’ll be celebrating more than walking out the door when it’s time for your “moving on” party.

Certificates v. Degree

Schools like New York University and Harvard are known for their competitive, in-demand post-baccalaureate certificate programs. These tracts cost less money, and take less time, than a graduate degree but offer a wealth of expertise. Do a little research to determine whether a certificate program can be beneficial to your professional pursuits.

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