Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Hidden Costs of Finding a Degree

Over the past month I've started some serious PhD applications. It's very time-consuming, but also surprisingly expensive! If you are considering applying to university, you should ensure you have the money to cover the following expenses:

Admin Fee
Some universities actually charge you an admin fee to apply for a post-graduate degree! This is typically institutions where they receive a huge number of applications. The University College London charges £25 for an application, whilst Oxford and Cambridge are charging £50 this year!

Most people will have to travel to interviews and open days. Depending on where you are, this can be very expensive. From Cornwall, the transport of choice is almost always National Rail using a Young Person's railcard (purchased for £28 for one year), which knocks around a third off travel.

Other cheap transport options include Megabus (very useful if you live in, or are travelling to, London), National Express (more flexible than Megabus but often nearly as expensive as a train ticket), or driving.

There are some potential concerns about driving there:
  • How nervous will you be – will this affect your concentration on the road? Could you get someone else to drive?
  • The fuel costsGoogle maps can estimate the cost of fuel for your journey based on an adjustable price, fuel type, and fuel consumption rate of your car. I have found it to be fairly accurate.
  • What time is the interview? Will you have to stay somewhere overnight? This will bring additional costs.
  • What is your back-up plan? Cars break down, you could get stuck in traffic, there might be a diversion. How will you get there?

Then again, it would be a lot more flexible to drive. It could actually work out cheaper too because of the huge hike in rail fares. You could arrange your day to avoid accommodation fees and additional public transport costs in town too.

Interview Costs
What would you wear to an interview? If you are anything like me, you've probably never had a formal interview before you went to Uni. It is important to make a good impression. I would definitely recommend wearing smart attire, preferably a suit or blouse and skirt. Make sure you have smart, clean shoes to wear.

None of this has to be hugely expensive. A ladies suit cost me about £35 a few years ago. Girls could get a smart skirt and blouse for significantly less from discount shops or even charity shops.

Not to mention..
Don't forget that when you've found your ideal course you may have to find your own accommodation, especially as a graduate. This will involve additional admin, travel and accommodation fees!

Good luck, and please wish me the same!


Frugal Down Under said... could be an excellent solution to prevent having to pay for a place to sleep.

saving for travel said...

good advice for people!

Sft x

Maria said...

Good luck! Really wishing you all the best of luck in your PhD-hunt.
I remember the cost of travel to interviews stacking up, and of buying a suit and shoes for job interviews (having previously lived in jeans and trainers as a student). As you say, the best way around these things is always to plan and research :) Personally I prefer to go to interviews by train rather than car, as can sit quietly preparing (well, sometimes can sit!), rather than stressing about driving. Of course buying tickets in advance and for specific times helps in the UK, and travelling off peak if you can (though interview times are generally not chosen by oneself!).