For many students, the start of a graduate program at Penn GSE is simultaneously exciting and stressful.  One of the biggest sources of stress is the financial burden of another degree.  While it is important to remember that a master’s from UPenn is an investment, there are also steps you can take to relieve some of the financial burden.


1) Reach out to the Financial Aid Office if you have questions

            The financial aid office is there to help.  Reach out via phone, email, walk-in, or by appointment if you have any questions about loans, work-study, or any other finance related questions.  Their website also features a useful budget by program length (tuition and fees not included).  Be mindful that a financial aid work study award does not exceed $3,500 for the academic year, but is available for students who may not be eligible for federal aid.


2) Get a Job

            Many students will work as Graduate Assistants or Graduate Associates.  These positions usually pay well but will not allow you to work over 20 hours a week when classes are in session.  They are also great opportunities for students to get relevant experience or work in their departments.  The website below is a great place to start your job search!


3) Wharton Behavioral Lab

            If you need cash fast, Wharton Behavioral Labs are an easy solution.  Their website will connect you to opportunities to participate in various studies for money!  These studies vary, but many will include a computer survey that can be completed between 15 minutes to an hour.  Payments usually range from $5-$15 which is the perfect amount if you want to buy lunch without dipping into your rent money.


4) Free Food

            Speaking of lunch, there are numerous events on campus throughout the week and many of them will include free food.  Get there early!  The Graduate Student Center also provides free coffee and tea to anyone who brings their own mug.  Otherwise a cup is $1.  This is still much more affordable than a trip to Starbucks!  Look into these other on campus resources for free food, shared kitchen availability, or if you are experiencing food insecurity: Greenfield Intercultural Center, Penn’s Women Center, or the various Cultural Houses.


5) Don’t Buy Books

            Another easy way to save money is by not buying books.  The Penn library system has great resources to help students borrow books.  As soon as you get your syllabus look up the books at the website below to see if you can get your books through reserves, delivered from a partner institution or loaned to you for the semester.  Of course, if you prefer to have your own copy buying used is another option.


6) Think Through the Best Transportation Options for You

            Philadelphia is a walkable city, but that may not work for everyone.  For those who have a car and need it while you are at school, seek out free parking places.  There are several streets and SEPTA lots that are in walking distance of campus where you do not have to pay or pay very little.  Public transit, Penn Rides, walking, Uber, and biking are also cost-effective ways to get around the city if a car is not an option.  Unless you are commuting or routinely travel beyond Philly, a car is not necessary during your time at Penn.


7) Start Apartment Searching Early

            While the school does offer a graduate housing option, I would encourage students to explore all their options early.  There are plenty affordable, nearby housing options and many places will have deals over the summer including discounted security deposits and waived application fees.  Many graduate students also have roommates to further lower costs.


Money is stressful, but don’t let the stress take precedence over the pursuit of your degree. I have personally used these tips to help relieve some of my own finance-induced anxiety.  Your time at GSE will go by fast.  Keeping money under control, whether through these tips, a budget, or other strategies, will allow you the flexibility to take full advantage of your program and the many resources the university offers.