Managing money as a graduate student

Graduate school is expensive.

Even attending a public university and paying in-state tuition, graduate school costs 7k/year for tuition, plus tuition for summer clinic placements and internships, health insurance, food, car insurance, gas, books, and rent — all of these expenses quickly add up.

When the clinic announced that we had to pay $100 for CPR certification and background checks, a lot of us were thrown. The unbudgeted small expenses tend to be worse than the budgeted large expenses, possibly because we suddenly realize that we cannot eat out for the rest of the semester in order to accommodate the new expense into our already thin budgets.

My tips for minimizing graduate school debt:

1. Apply for scholarships and assistantships at your home university. Most departments have some funding available for students, whether through endowments or through the graduate school’s assistantship funds. Ask in your department about applying for these. If your speech pathology program doesn’t have enough for everyone, look in other departments. Graduate assistantships might be available in your university’s writing center, housing department, or tutoring services. Your strengths as a SLP student will be put to good use in all of these departments.

2. Buy used clothes. Thrift stores are great, and most have days when clothes are half off. This is where you want to buy your clothes for clinical placements. I bought seven cardigans, two dresses, a pair of boots, two pairs of dress pants, and four skirts for twenty five dollars at my local thrift store. Need more reasons to shop at thrift stores? They prevent waste and so help the environment. They support local charities. It’s fun to look through the racks to see what you can find, and you might end up finding a donated textbook for a dollar instead of 150 dollars…

3. Buy used textbooks. $150 is too much to spend on a single book. Your professors will specify a certain edition. It is almost always fine to buy a prior edition (Amazon is a great resource). Otherwise, there is usually a copy in the library. Don’t check it out and hog it all semester, but you can use it for reference if your older edition seems to lack updated information.

4. Drink in. It’s too expensive to buy all of your alcohol at the bar.

5. Cook. Eating out is expensive, too. Don’t do it every day. I usually put some meat, vegetables, and rice into my slow cooker on Sunday and eat that most of the week.

6. Live with a friend. Half the bills, twice the fun.

7. Apply for external funding. Scholarships available for SLP students include:

On a happier note, I was about to apply for another part-time job until I did the math. I might have ten hours a week to give to another job, and at eight dollars an hour, that’s eighty dollars a week. After I graduate, I’ll make three times that much in a day working at a school. Don’t give up — you will be making money soon!



Amazon Prime

The agony of accidentally clicking “free standard shipping” instead of “prime 2 day shipping” when ordering on Amazon.

When you first realize what you’ve done:

When you can’t help checking the shipping status every few hours (or minutes):

The rage it induces when my package is still “in transit”:

On the day when it says my package will arrive, every time I hear something outside of my apartment move:

When it finally arrives, and I hear the knock on the door, but I can’t answer it because I chose the worst possible moment to take a shower:

I silently weep, knowing that I won’t have my new shoes until tomorrow.

Autism and Theory of Mind

One of my courses is focusing this week on Nonliteral Language ability. For this module, I read An Exploration of Causes of Non-Literal Language Problems in Individuals with Asperger Syndrome. This article claims that the Theory of Mind is underdeveloped in individuals with autism. Theory of Mind is the ability to understand that someone else’s mental state differs from one’s own. Researchers have tested the presence of Theory of Mind by hiding an object with the child’s knowledge and asking the child where the object is. The researcher would then ask the child where someone not present would think the object is. In the absence of Theory of Mind, the child would respond with where the object really is.

Theory of Mind involves many pragmatic language skills. Without these skills, children with autism will not understand irony — rather, they will understand the speaker to be lying. How does a speech pathologist support a child in development of Theory of Mind?

I found some resources while trying to understand how to apply this theoretical information clinically:

Practical Theory of Mind Games available from Linguisystems.

At Amazon:

Teaching Theory of Mind: A Curriculum for Children With High Functioning Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Related Social Challenges

Teaching Children with Autism to Mind-Read: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Parents

Pair Up Free — Preschool Brain Matching Puzzles

However, there is one activity I can think of that uses the child’s interests to stimulate Theory of Mind. I used to tutor a child with autism, and he loved to play chess. However, since he lacked Theory of Mind, he struggled to guess which move I would make following his. I capitalized on this and allowed him to move his piece and then come to my side of the board and look at the chess situation from my perspective.

Although this did not fix all of his pragmatics issues, I believe it was an important stepping stone to later skills of understanding how someone else feels.

If your child does not like chess, any strategy game should be sufficient. One game I love playing even as an adult is to choose a question and have everyone write down their answers to the question. Then one person reads all the anonymous answers and has to guess who said what. My friends and I sometimes answer for ourselves and for someone else, like a mutual friend, teacher, or even Julius Caesar. This game requires a higher level of Theory of Mind that might be appropriate for the developing child who needs extra guidance in this pragmatic language skill area.

This game is available at Amazon, but you don’t need the question cards to play it. You can make your own. Some example questions are given below.


What do you do when nobody is looking?

What is your favorite book?

What is your favorite movie?

If I could have any superpower, what would it be?

What is your favorite dessert?

Where would you travel if you could go anywhere?

How would you spend one million dollars?


Martin, I., & McDonald, S. (2004). An exploration of causes of non-literal language problems in individuals with Asperger Syndrome. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 34(3), 311-328.