Thursday, March 1, 2012

MArch --Debt Load?

I am about to graduate from a state college with my undergraduate degree in architecture, and I have applied to five grad schools around the country (including the grad program at my current school). I am excited to move out of state and on to a new and maybe more impressive program, but I'm worried about cost. My current school is by far the cheapest since I am a resident, but I feel I could be more challenged elsewhere. Do you have any advice on a good rule of thumb for how much debt to accrue for an architect? Especially since I'll be graduating into such a tricky economy, I feel like staying where I am is the safer choice in the long run. I just don't want to sacrifice my potential in a lack-luster program, and therefore make myself undesirable to employers.

Currently I attend the University of Utah, and I've applied to UC Denver, CCA in San Francisco, CCNY, and Roger Williams.

You along almost all candidates for higher education are concerned about cost, but do not let cost completely drive your decision. 

In making this decision, you need to seriously sit down and determine the criteria by which you are making this decision -- like 1) cost, 2) challenge, 3) reputation, 4) faculty, 5) location, etc.  Once you have determined the criteria, you can compare each institution to which you have applied meets the criteria that you have determined are most important.

Just important is the decision to whether you continue at your current institution which is driven by cost or to pursue one of your other choices.

Have you been in phone contact with each program to discuss / determine financial aid for graduate programs.  Call and be up front about your financial situation.  Most programs have fellowships / assistantships for incoming graduate students.  Even if not for the first year, you may be able to receive funds for subsequent years.

I truly have no idea what is an appropriate threshold for your debt upon graduation.  Only you can answer that question, but it sounds like you want to the safer choice.  I would suggest that you not select a graduate program only based on cost.  If you feel the need for a challenge, make the monies work.  You may even need to take a year or two off and apply later.  In your words, do not attend a lack-luster program.  You deserve the best education possible.

I hope helps!

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