Managing Finances at HDS: What to Expect and How to Save

HDS campus, May 2016, with new campus signage.

Where to Save 

There are several ways to reduce expenses in graduate school. One way is looking for cheaper housing options. Less expensive housing usually comes with the caveat of a longer commute so ask yourself how important it is for you to be close to campus. Another option is living with roommates. The more roommates one has, usually means cheaper housing costs. If you are someone who enjoys sharing spaces with others this can be a good option.  

While having a car can be convenient, especially during the pandemic, it can also be very expensive. In Massachusetts you need to get a street parking permit and in order to qualify for a permit you need Massachusetts insurance which requires registration in Massachusetts and a Massachusetts license. Massachusetts insurance can also be more expensive than other parts of the country. If you opt not to bring your car, you can still get around the city using the T system, the buses, and free Harvard shuttle. HDS offers access to a reduced T pass, which you can renew each semester. Factoring in this deal might make it easier to live farther away from campus. Harvard also has an evening van program, which operates anywhere within a 1-mile radius of the yard. You can call it to come directly to you and then bring you to the exact location you specify.  

Purchasing books for class can also get pretty pricey. Thankfully, Harvard has tons of books available online through Hollis, and you can also use the “Borrow Direct” function to get an inter-library loan of your books for class mailed to Harvard from libraries across the country. 

Unexpected Costs 

While we hope that our generous financial aid packages cover most of your financial needs, there are some unexpected costs you may encounter. For example, if you choose to live off campus you may be surprised at how expensive utilities can be during the winter. Also, Boston’s restaurants and bars can be fairly expensive. Even if you live off campus or opt out of a meal plan, you can save on food by attending campus events with free food! This is a popular practice among graduate students. Finally, without the Harvard student discount, the cost of a single subway is also pretty high so be sure to sign up for the reduced-price T pass.  

Working Part-time 

It is very common to find part-time work while you complete your degrees at HDS. Students who work part-time usually work anywhere from 5 to 15 hours a week. Many students in the MTS and MDiv programs are eligible for work study, which allows you to find a job on campus. You won’t know if you are eligible for work study until after you are accepted, and it won’t be mentioned in the financial aid package you receive (if you filled out the financial aid need-based form or get merit aid). To find out if you are eligible for work study, contact financial aid after being admitted. Even if you are not eligible for work study, there are still plenty of part-time work opportunities on and off campus. You’ll be able to browse job openings here and get access to the Harvard jobs database which has everything from research positions to nannying gigs.  

Have A Great Budget  

Even with a generous financial aid package, for those who have relied on a full-time job’s salary for several years it can be difficult to downsize expenses. Having a solid budget and financial plan can make this transition less stressful. Take time to review your financial aid package and make a list of any additional expenses that might not be covered such as relocation expenses, car payments if you have a car, and any other bills you are responsible for. Then decide how much you can spend on things you want and how much you need to carve out for all your necessities.  

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