None of my family or friends have gone to grad school so I’m turning to GT for all my grad school questions.

I’ll be completing my bachelors in sociology in December, and I’ll be applying to masters of social work programs with a health care concentration starting in September. I’m very excited about grad school, but I have some questions first.

1. How many grad schools should I apply to, and how much should I expect to spend? I have an overall GPA of 3.7 with the last 60 units being 4.0. My last few classes are fairly easy electives, so I’m guessing I’ll maintain about the same GPA. I’ve worked throughout undergrad, but none of it is related to social work. I have been a hospice volunteer since the beginning of the year so I’m hoping that will work in my favor. The schools I’m applying to do not require GRE scores unless you have a GPA below 3.0.

2. How do you minimize grad school debt? I’ve been able to work and live at home throughout undergrad, and I’ll be graduating with zero debt. I will still be living with my dad during grad school so I don’t have to worry about rent, but I do have a few other small bills. All of the programs I’m applying to will have classes on Tuesday and Thursdays, with a field placement on Mondays, Wednesdays and some Fridays. All estimates point to grad school costing me $18,000 - $20,000 for two years. This includes tuition, books, and other fees.

If I stay at my current part-time job until grad school starts, I should be able to save $10K. That would comfortably cover my living expenses for a year. I will not be able to keep my current job once grad school starts. I’m going to try to find a full-time job once I graduate in December, this would allow me to save a bit more. I know that I will have to take out a loan, but I want to keep it as small as possible since debt scares me. I’ve been looking into scholarships, but I know scholarships are a bit harder to come by for grad school. Any tips?

I’m sure I’ll have plenty of questions over the next couple of months and I greatly appreciate any advice you all can give me.