I just finished my student debt for attending a master’s program at McGill University in Canada. I graduated from the program two years ago. Usually, students take much more time to repay their student debt.
I was always savvy about my expenses when I was still studying at McGill. Sure, Canada is not as expensive as the USA or UK, but as a student, you have to learn how to become independent. Now, financial independence as a student comes in only one flavor – minimize your expenses and maximize your income.
There are a ton of ways for you to minimize your expenses. I am pretty sure you already know about most of them. Don’t eat out often, don’t go shopping very often and get an international student card for discounts. But when it comes to sources of income, you don’t have that many options available because of student visa policies.
That said and done – as a grad student, you want to grow to your fullest capabilities, and becoming financially independent is a part of it. Taking your own financial burden can seem very intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. I did it and I believe any responsible student can do it.
Here are three sources I used to make a decent living as a grad student in Canada:
Since I was a grad student, I was allowed to take up a few courses in the undergrad class as a teaching assistant. Mostly, I was available to the students for counseling, clearing their doubts, and for grading their tests. Some of my friends also took up research assistantship with doctoral students and faculty members.
The assistantship pays a good stipend and gives you an opportunity to network with the rockstars in academia at your university. This may help you with job recommendations in the future. But above and beyond that – these assistantships are a good source of income for grad students.
If you want to go for one, make sure you have a very good profile and you are applying for the assistantship. Some schools ask for a separate application if a student wants to be considered for these assistantships.
The assistantships were great, but they were very academic in nature. I knew I did not want to be a professor in the near future. I wanted more practical exposure. If you are coming for a grad program you should be cognizant about internship opportunities in the market. The Career Development Cell at your college will help you find internships, externships, winter internships, projects, and consulting opportunities while you’re still continuing with your program.
The professional opportunities give you a ground to test the new skills you have acquired in your grad program. At the same time, if you land at a reputed institution, you will also get a good stipend. I interned with TD Securities in their operations team and the stipend helped me pay the bills for at least a few months even after the internship was over.
Internship spots can get very competitive. So make sure you are proactive and have a very good relationship with the career development cell. Also, use LinkedIn to reach out to recruiters and opinion leaders in your prospective industry. It will also help you if you attend networking events on campus.
Here’s the thing – some of my classmates were not comfortable with the on-campus jobs. Usually, they would say something in the lines of – I came to this prestigious university for making myself a professional, not to work in the cafeteria or the library.
Here’s the thing – on-campus jobs are a great way to earn a few quick bucks. No one really cares where you are working. These jobs don’t define you and will not even impact your future career prospects. One thing that is assured is that they will pay you well enough and you will not be exploited on the job. I got to network with a lot of university students while working in the cafeteria’s kitchen. My professor of economics, with whom I did my assistantship, was happy with my work ethics when he saw my work there. This was one of the reasons he hired me as an assistant.
So, if you can balance the on-campus job and your studies, you should definitely go for it.
There are quite a few other ways for you to pay the bills – you can start your own little business or consult overseas students who want to come to your university. One of my friends used to teach English to Chinese school kids online. So, if your innovating muscles are ready to get flexed – go ahead!
The ways stated here helped me take care of my expenses and also helped me network with fellow students as well as professionals. I would strongly recommend you to take up one or more of these jobs to help you with your attending expenses. Good luck!