By Laura Morrison, July 2014
Summer is drawing to a close, and for soon-to-be students everywhere that means one thing: back-to-school time is here. Not even graduate students are immune to the frantic shopping that seems to permeate the air at this time of year. Indeed, it's more important than ever that future graduates pay close attention to their shopping lists and habits, as budget should be a primary concern. There are a few things to keep in mind so that you're able to make the grade without breaking the bank.
Know the basics...
The key to a successful and financially friendly shopping experience is knowing exactly what you're going to need in advance. Making a list and doing some cursory research with different retailers online can give you a rough idea of what you can expect to spend, which is a huge help for those adhering to a strict budget. Every program is different, but in general, there are a few staples each student might be interesting in purchasing in advance of the first day of class: Pens, notebooks, Post-it notes and even a laptop or tablet are all practically required for keeping up with notes and reading. Get a handle on what you absolutely need, and try not to get side-tracked by the extraneous things that may jump out at you as you peruse the aisles.
...But don't forget the finishing touches
Of course, graduate school is about more than hitting the books. You're there to form relationships, make connections and network as much as you are to learn. This gives new meaning to the idea of the back-to-school wardrobe. For some fields - MBA candidates, for example – this may be of particular importance. But in general, you should make sure you're able to look professional, in case you ever find yourself in a situation that demands it. According to Experience, one cardinal sin of prospective graduate students is not realizing just how demanding their new studies can be on their wardrobes. From research fellowships to job interviews, you never know when you'll need to break out a power suit.
Become a hunter - of bargains
Regardless of what field your graduate studies are in, when it's time to shop for back to school, everyone is a hunter. Scoping out deals, promotions and sales is one of your major priorities in this endeavor, as anywhere you can save a couple extra bucks will add up down the road. As Fastweb pointed out, there are many helpful tools to make use of, from price comparison apps for your smartphone to good old-fashioned coupon clipping.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.