267: The Hidden Costs of Finishing Grad School

267: The Hidden Costs of Finishing Grad School

In this episode, I address the hidden costs of finishing grad school or more specifically the often overlooked financial burdens associated with earning a PhD. I share personal experiences and practical advice aiming to provide you, my first-gen BIPOC listeners, with a heads up on potential expenses and strategies for managing them. Some of these hidden costs I mention on the episode include dissertation filing fees, doctoral regalia, job application fees, moving expenses, and more.

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267: The Hidden Costs of Finishing Grad School


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] I recently received a message from a personal contact asking me to share an urgent mutual aid request. This request was from friends who are finishing up their graduate program and they received an exciting postdoc offer, but unfortunately, they cannot afford to make the move to another state to pursue this opportunity.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This is actually not an uncommon scenario. In fact, even I've experienced it. And for that reason, I wanted to dedicate an episode on the hidden costs of earning a PhD.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Welcome to the top global ranked and award nominated grad school femtoring podcast. The place for first gen BIPOCs to listen in on conversations about grad school, and growth. In this podcast, you'll [00:01:00] learn about all things higher education, personal development, and sustainable productivity. This is Dr.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yvette Martinez Vu, and I will be serving as your femtor, providing you with tips and tricks and everything else you need to know to successfully navigate grad school. For over 14 years, I've been empowering first gen students of color along their personal and professional journeys, and I'm really excited to support you too.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: Welcome back, everyone. This is your host, Dr. Yvette. Today's episode on the hidden costs of earning a PhD is one that feels personal to me because.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: Just seven years ago, I found myself in the position where I received the opportunity to pursue a job that felt like a really exciting opportunity, but it required that I [00:02:00] move cities. And unfortunately, I did not have the funds to afford it. Even after I set up my own fundraising campaign, I found myself with over 10k of debt.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: And now you might be thinking, how is this even possible to incur that much debt for a move? And that's why I'm going to be talking about some of the things that come up as you graduate that are hidden expenses that could put you in a similar scenario. And I'm saying this to you now so that hopefully You have a heads up and you can do something about it.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: I didn't have that heads up. I didn't know all this was coming and that's what it resulted in. And no, I don't think it was my fault. No, I don't place blame on anything other than the systems that make it that much harder for those of us who are. Working class, who are first gen, who are BIPOCs, to [00:03:00] navigate these spaces.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: It's just that much more challenging when you don't have the financial resources necessary to keep. advancing in the next steps in your career. So what comes up when you're getting ready to finish up your graduate program, especially a PhD program? I'll start with as you're getting ready to finish up a graduate program, you are required to file your thesis or file your dissertation.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: Not everybody will remind you that when you file your dissertation, there are filing fees involved. Then on top of that, you have the option to get copies of your dissertation, and there are printing and binding costs for that. Aside from that, some of us need a little bit of extra assistance with our writing, and so you might be encouraged to hire an editor, at the very least to do some line editing to check for grammar mistakes and for formatting consistency.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: So those [00:04:00] already are a couple of things that could easily cost a couple hundred dollars. If not more, just to get through the dissertation filing stage. Now let's say you file your dissertation. Yay, it's time to celebrate. What comes next? Another thing that comes up are the costs to either buy or to rent your cap and gown.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: And this is what's called doctoral regalia. If you are getting your PhD and this regalia, the silly hats and The hood and the gown. It is so expensive. Back in the day, back in 2016, for me, it cost 1, 000 to afford that. And 1, 000 is a lot of money. Even then, I couldn't afford it, so I opted to rent my gown.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: Sadly, I actually ended up getting really, really sick on the day of my graduation ceremony, and I didn't even get to use [00:05:00] the gown that I rented. What I ended up doing instead is asking my partner to do a photo session on campus so that I could at least have a few pictures with my rented cap and gown.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: Otherwise, that would have been such a waste of an expense. So cap and gown fees, doctoral regalia fees come up. You might have to pay to get tickets, especially if you have more family members or guests that want to show up for you on the day of your ceremony. Sometimes you want to celebrate your graduation and for that it might mean helping family with their travel and lodging costs.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: It might mean saving up to be able to help people to pay for their meal or their dinner. , So any celebratory events that cost money and I'm not saying that you should be getting in debt to pursue celebrating graduation or celebrating this momentous [00:06:00] event. But I do think it's important to make time to celebrate yourself in whatever way is feasible for you.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: So just keep that in mind that at the very least you might have cap and gown fees, you might have ceremony ticket fees that come up for you. Then you're not done when you graduate. Odds are you might have been applying or you might continue to be applying for jobs before and after you graduate. And that's where you see some job application expenses come in.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: There are fees to apply for jobs, especially in the academic job market. You're going to have fees to submit your applications or fees to send materials, fees to send letters of rec. There are travel costs involved to attend interviews, to attend campus visits. Sometimes you have to travel to academic conferences, and sometimes there are interviews at those conferences.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: And then did I mention the costs involved in having to get the wardrobe [00:07:00] necessary to quote unquote look professional? And I can talk about my experience. Issues with the word professionalization later, but there, there is an expectation of wearing certain types of clothing, business casual, business professional clothing at interviews.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: And some of us, we don't have that already in our closet. That's not how we dress in our day to day life. So that can be another cost. Um, and then some, sometimes you need a little bit of extra assistance with your job applications. You might hire. a consultant or a coach or someone, an editor, someone to review your materials, someone to coach you through a mock interview.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: And let's say that exciting day comes when you get this really exciting offer. You might have those moving expenses that I was talking about in the beginning of today's episode Where you not only have to pay for movers [00:08:00] or you might have to pay for moving expenses for boxes for You know a vehicle for shipping costs, whatever method of moving works for you You might have to pay for that.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: But then there's also the fee of paying for a a security deposit for a new place, having to pay upfront rent for new housing. You also might have to break a lease. That's what happened to me. That was actually really expensive. Having to break a lease in the middle of the year because I landed this new opportunity.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: It was December, so I was only, I wasn't even halfway through that lease. We had to break our lease and that cost two months of rent. A loan. So those are a lot of fees that quickly add up, especially in today's housing market. And if you live in a high cost of living city, that's thousands of dollars just to move a loan.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: That's why for me, things quickly added up. I paid to break a lease, [00:09:00] had to pay for a security deposit, had to pay for first and last month's rent. Had to pay for, for shipping or, um, moving fees. It's a lot. Um, and just in general, um, there are other things that could come up that I might not even be thinking of right now.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: I mean, you think for yourself, aside from filing, aside from graduating, aside from applying for jobs, aside from moving, what else could come up for you? Because you have your own circumstances. So what can we do? What can you do if maybe this episode is scaring you and you're realizing, oh my goodness, it's way more expensive than I thought it would be to not only pursue a PhD program, but then to finish the PhD program.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: Well, one, don't fret. I don't want to discourage you. I just want to give you a heads up so you can plan for it in advance. You can always, it's never too early to create a budget [00:10:00] sheet to anticipate some of these expenses. If it's possible, it's never too early to start saving little by little. And I say if it's possible because I know a lot of us are living paycheck to paycheck or even in the negative.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: The silent recession is really deeply impacting so many of us and so I get it if you're barely making it right now. But keep in mind what other funding opportunities are available to you. Are there grants? Are there fellowships? Um, are there assistantships? Even loans? I'm not a fan of loans, but are there student loans that you can take on that may have reduced interest rates that are a little bit, uh, better off than personal loans, for instance, that could help you to stay afloat that might be better than putting something on a credit card with a higher interest rate.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: Aside from that, what are other sources of funding that you could consider? Can you negotiate for higher [00:11:00] pay at your new job, your new postdoc, your new opportunity? Can you ask this new employer to cover at least partial travel or moving fees? Aside from that, who in your network can provide support? Some of us, we have to do our own fundraising.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: We have to rely on sources of mutual aid. I mean, that's been an ongoing thing, especially in the disabled community for a while now. We rely on each other. So who can you rely on during difficult moments, especially times when things are financially hard for you? And then of course, there are the considerations that I think a lot of us have made for most of our lives.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: If we come from working class families, which is to think about what are ways that you can save costs. And I don't think this is ideal. This is not the best suggestion because if you've always lived this way, it actually [00:12:00] discourages you from sometimes getting the help that you need to invest in yourself when necessary.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: But you know, there might be some things, there might be some places where you could still cut costs. Maybe. Maybe. So really, at the end of the day, I want you to be aware about the hidden costs. I want you to know that, you know, you can start to prepare in advance. I want you to know that you are going to make it through.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: Even in my case, yes, I incurred a lot of debt and it took me many, many years to pay it off. And I, nobody was there to give me a heads up. And no, I did not have access to financial literacy. But guess what? You can do that. I'm giving you that heads up. So you can work on your financial literacy at the very least, just to be aware now and take some baby steps to start preparing.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: That's [00:13:00] it for today's episode. It's one of my short solo episodes. Please, please, please, um, find ways to. Take care of yourself to prep for things that might come up for you. I, I know that in a lot of cases, some of you might be financially struggling and you know what? There might be some of you that aren't.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: And if you're not, and you are in the position of having financial privilege, do what you can to support your peers, do what you can to support folks who have mutual aid requests. Do what you can to You know, donate your time and energy, or I've even had folks purchase, um, coaching services for folks. I've had mentors purchase coaching services so that I can provide my services to their students.

dra--yvette-martinez-vu_77_06-03-2024_130545: So find ways to advocate for others if you are in a position of privilege. And that's it. That's it for today's episode. I hope you found something helpful as [00:14:00] always, and I will talk to you all next time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Thanks so much for joining me in the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. If you like what you heard, here are four ways you can support the show. The first is to make sure you're subscribed and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. If you email me a screenshot, I'll send you a surprise freebie. The second way is to get your copy of my free Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: which includes essential information to prepare for and navigate grad school. You can access it at the link in today's show notes. The third way to support my show is to follow me on social media. You can find me on Instagram with the handle at grad school, femtoring and on LinkedIn by searching my name.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The last way to show your love is to order a copy of is grad school for me. My graduate school admissions book for first gen BIPOCs. Thanks again for listening and until next [00:15:00] time.

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