College Connect: Grad School Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

Posted By Crystal Beasley

By Daniel Levitt

When I first told my friends and family of my plans to study in America, they thought I was barmy. And that was before I told them it was a master’s degree that I wanted to pursue.

As I researched journalism schools from all 50 states, my long short-list of schools stood at six: Georgetown, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Northwestern and Texas. The cheapest list price for international students was Illinois: $35,000 for one year. And I didn’t even look at schools in high cost areas, like UC-Berkley, where the cost of tuition and living expenses would be estimated at $47,000, according to the school’s website.

At the time, I held a decent-paying sales job in the UK that would just about afford two semesters in Champaign, but only by living on a shoestring budget once I got there.

This caused many sleepless nights over how on earth I was going to pull this off. Heck, I even questioned whether all of this was worth it. Journalism, yeah?

So I seemed completely out of my mind when I set off for a whirlwind campus tour in the summer of 2014 — visiting Georgetown, Northwestern, Illinois and Missouri (it was all I could afford). I needed to see the campus I was going to spend the next 1-2 years on, right?

I’m glad I did.

The greatest moment of relief came as I departed Columbia, Missouri, on my Greyhound bus after a fleeting two-hour visit with then-graduate admissions advisor Martha Pickens. I explained to Martha that my main hurdle was tuition. She looked at me with the same “are you serious?” look my parents had when I first told them of my plans.

She introduced this thing called a ‘graduate assistantship’, where you work between 10-20 hours for the University and they grant a tuition waiver.

“A what?” A waiver of all tuition!

Well, let’s just say there was a huge smile and a couple of tears shed.

Now I’m near the end of my time at Mizzou, it’s probable that I’ll break even with my finances, and not my bank.

So there it is, ask, ask and ask again what graduate assistantships are available before signing up.

Levitt is a graduate student at the University of Missouri on the data visualization track. He is the graphics editor for the Columbia Missourian and is set to intern with Bloomberg in New York this summer.

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