How do I become a 'professional student'?

Without going completely and utterly broke in the process, that is.

Seriously. I’ve been giving this some thought lately, and I’ve realized that the one thing I enjoy doing with my life is, y’know, learnin’ stuff. Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of careers out there where one can make a living wage simply learning for learning’s sake.

Except, apparently, the elusive and mysterious “professional student”. You know who I’m talking about - the 30-or-35-year-olds that every college campus sports, shuffling from lecture to lecture as they put in their sixth year of working on that history degree. The people in college who’ve been doing that and nothing else for a decade.

I look at them, and I say to myself, “man, what a great life! I should figure out how to do that!” I mean, I already live just a few miles away from a fairly respectable state university, so I wouldn’t even have to move or anything.

So how do these folks do it, short of having some massive windfall stashed away (and none of them look particularly rich)? How can they afford to, apparently, make a career out of attending classes? Amongst a community of such learned folks, surely there must be a few people here either doing this, or who know someone that is.

(And let me head off those of you who might jump in and suggest I take some evening classes for my own edification while still working. There’s two problems with that scenario: 1. This university’s selection of evening classes generally sucks, and 2. My job usually leaves me drained by the end of a day, not to mention my schedule shifts on an almost weekly basis.)

You can live on a very tight budget for close to nothing. (I know, I am an expert on living on a shoestring) Forget about raising a family, driving a nice car etc. Rent a cheap room, eat cheap stuff, spend little on clothes and you can live on close to nothing. A part time job at the U will do it.

Be a European, preferably German, and live off the taxpayer?

I am nearly a professional student… it’s not too hard, but it’s much easir (as said above) if you don’t get married, have kids, expensive cars, ect., ect… There are 3 basic ways that I can immediately think of.

  1. Be an Indian and live on a reseravation. I’ve heard you can go to school forever and the government will pick up the tab. Of course… you have to be indian…

  2. Join the National Guard (in a state that gives full educational benifits). In Michigan, you can go to school indefinately and you effectively go for free. Of course, you still have to pay for living expences and there’s always the small detail of going to boot camp and serving in the military ;o)

  3. Take out student loans. As long as you are still a full time student, you don’t have to pay them back. And if you are dirt poor for at least a year, you qualify for all of them! :oD

It’s called graduate school and it’s really easy to get in. All you have to do is give up any semblance of dignity and self-respect.

You need some sort of income, and a low-cost life style. A good way to get some money is to be smart enough or do well enough to get scholarships. When you get into higher-end programs in big schools, some scholarships can be in the tens of thousands. Scholarships or bursuries - you don’t need to pay these back like a student loan. I’d stay away from student loans if I were you (and you were in Canada; which I know you aren’t). Here they are a real drag to deal with once you’re outta school. For many they are necessary, but avoid them if you can.

You have six months after you’re done to start repaying, but if you’re booted - you pay now!! Also you get no tax refund, no GST refund, cannot get a mortgage, a new line of credit, cannot go bankrupt on it, etc… until you are all paid off. By the time you are tired of being a professional student; 10-20 years, you’d have such an amazing debt from student loans that you could literally never pay it off.

Another better way is to get some sort of sponsors to fund your education… particularly if you are learning popular subjects (like biotechnology and the likes). Of course, most people poneying up the dough would have some sort of expectation that you finish and put all this expensive education to some use; so after a decade or two your financial support might start drying up.

Choosing to become a pro-student is like choosing to become a hobo or someone who lives from a back-pack. You give up a lot on the hope that you’ll enjoy it, and it’s not that easy to get out of - and by the time you do you’ve lost a lot of time. Try for a research job instead.

A good job for 4 months of the year.

In order to get the law degree that I lust after I’ll need to essentially become a professional student. (yikes! 6 more years minimum) I’ve got a job that works out to $15000-$20000 a summer, so paying for school/living looks like no problem at all. I should be able to do it debt free if I budget correctly.

OK, move over, amateurs. I am a professional student. I don’t plan to stay one forever, but for now, my studies are completely supporting me. It’s called an assistantship: In addition to classes, I spend 16 hours a week (more in the summers) working for one or more professors, doing grunt work like grading papers, teaching labs, or programming for research projects. The pay’s not stellar, but I’ve always been rather low-maintenance, and it’s enough to pay the rent and put food on the table.

15-year man here :smiley: . I was a full-time student, part-time worker for five years. Full-time worker, part-time student for ten. Because of rapid expansion of the department I was most immersed in, I had seniority over approximately 1/3 of the professorial staff by the end :stuck_out_tongue: .

The secret? Graveyard shift at a low-stress ( usually ), high-paying ( relatively ) job. IF you can handle it. It’s unfortunately true that I’ve found most can’t. At least not for a period of more than a year.

  • Tamerlane

OK, sadly I just graduated after 9 years of college. The neat thing I discovered recently was that if you have subsidised loans you don’t have to pay them back until you graduate, and no interest till 9 months after you graduate. Once you get into grad school you can push it back some more. So just change majors a couple times, if you get out, get right back in. I wish I could do that but it’s not the … ‘best’ lifestyle. Sadly I realize I eventually want a job

oh, another option available to only a certain few is to be born rich. Sadly I was born flat broke. sigh

Could you give some more details on this? As a UK taxpayer, I have an interest…

A friend of mine lives of the Belgian government, so it’s definitely possible.

I’d say your best bet is getting a job clipping bird’s wings in Her Royal Majesty’s Parks in England. Once a year, these birds arrive and have their flying feathers removed in a week long effort by these brave men and women.

Then you just go kill time for a year untill some more birds need clipping :smiley:

— G. Raven

My 4 years of undergraduate work was funded by my parents, some part-time jobs, and lots of loans. My 2.5 years as a grad student was funded by a stipend from the college (I was a teaching and research assistent) and by a cheap lifestyle (old car, lots of roommates, etc.).

A friend of mine managed to be a professional student well into her late-20s through tons of loans, government assistance, and begging for money from family/friends/etc. Not the best thing for your long-term finances.

My advice is to get into a technical major and go for a research assistant stipend.

Could you give some more details on this? As a UK taxpayer, I have an interest…