Live Like a College Student, Not Like a Rock Star

Most SIPA students have, since they were last enrolled in college, worked full-time and began establishing careers throughout the world, living on their own, perhaps marrying and starting families…these experiences are part of the perspectives that they bring with them to SIPA.  And it’s normal for lifestyles to change during the period of young adulthood…nicer clothes, a bigger apartment, more restaurants and fewer ramen noodles, maybe finally scrapping that 1991 Honda and buying a new car.

But when people make the decision to be a full-time graduate student, it may mean a brief period of financial adjustments and temporarily resetting priorities.  You are entering a rigorous academic program and are very unlikely to be able to hold down a full-time job or anything close to it.  Financing options are certainly available to help defray costs that you cannot cover out of pocket, but don’t forget that loans have to be repaid later…it’s hardly the same thing as income.

NYC housing prices make it worth the effort to find a roommate or two.  Pare down the wardrobe (you’ll quickly observe that SIPA is a pretty informal place in terms of fashion).  Parking in the city often makes a car more trouble than it’s worth, and no city anywhere has more mass transit options.  New York may be home to countless trendy restaurants that foodies from around the world flock to, but food trucks and bagel shops serve up good food at affordable prices.  Find the cheap eats, they’re all over our neighborhood.  Learn where and when Columbia University student ID cards get you reduced prices (or better yet, free admission) at museums or concerts.

Give yourself a budget and work hard to stick to it.  About 40 percent of SIPA students rely on student loans to meet some of their tuition and/or living expenses, and student loan repayment is flexible and manageable, but debt is debt and shouldn’t be taken on just to maintain lifestyle choices for the 21 months you’ll be a SIPA student.  It’s one thing to choose to live like a college student while you are one…it’s another to have to later.