By Elina Schmauch, class of 2025 student pharmacists
In my two years of pharmacy school I have learned a lot outside of the pharmacy program. A few things of note are that I learned how to set up utilities, Wi-Fi, and how to drive a U-Haul truck (not very well, I’ll admit). Most importantly, I learned how to budget and find ways to extend my student budget as far as I can. You are welcome to take my advice, modify it, or leave it, as I have no formal financial training and my lowest undergraduate grade was in Econ 101. While maybe not financially literate, I am resourceful. Or as my coworker likes to say, “crafty.”
Here are the 7 things I have learned financially in pharmacy school (so far):
1. Take out as much as you need to survive from your student loans, I promise you can pay it back.
I take out my full loan amount to pay for tuition and I receive a $1,000 scholarship each semester (we have two semesters in an academic year), so overall I have about $16,000 annually of on-hand cash to use after paying tuition. Disbursements occur 1 week prior to the beginning of the semester, usually around mid-August and early January. My rent is about $1,000 a month, so my tuition essentially just covers my rent from January to July which is just in time for our next disbursement.
How do I afford everything else? I work as a pharmacy intern at Rite Aid where I make about $20 per hour, and I work anywhere from 10-15 hours per week. If you do the math after taxes – I am barely breaking even on my car payment, utilities, Wi-Fi, and food costs. Remember, I am still taking out my maximum loan amount and these federal loans are not accruing interest.
There was a saying in the community pharmacy world that went, “live like a pharmacist when you’re in school and you’ll be living like a student when you’re a pharmacist.” Some pharmacists say this in relation to taking out for full loan amount and having repayments being so high that your quality of living after graduation will not improve. However, after being in class from 9 to 5 most days, studying, and working 10 to15 hours per week, I am completely spent. My job is to be a student and I view receiving my student loans as a way to allow me to be successful without worrying about keeping a roof over my head.
2. You may be eligible for electronic benefit transfer (EBT)
EBT or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is funded by the state and is usually available to students. I received a letter from Student Financial Services that I could be eligible for SNAP but did not end up signing up until this year and I am still kicking myself that I did not do it sooner. Usually to be on SNAP you have to be actively applying for a job if you do not have one (both described my situation in my first year of pharmacy school), but being eligible for work study is a new way to meet these Basic Food application requirements. If you want more information or want to know if you qualify – contact Student Assistance for your campus.
Here are some resources students can utilize while in pharmacy school:
- Washington State Department of Social and Health Services general information
- How does being a student of higher education affect your eligibility for the Washington basic food program?
- This website is a great resource and written in language you can understand.
You can also apply through these resources:
- Apply online
- Washington Department of Social and Health Services-Apply by phone: 1-877-501-2233
3. Apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program
As a low-income student on SNAP, you can qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) through your internet provider (I have Xfinity). Through this program, you can save up to $30 a month on your Wi-Fi! For example, my base Wi-Fi price is $65 but I signed up for automatic payments so I received a $10 discount each month making it $55. Then, the ACP program covers up to $30 on my costs bringing my Wi-Fi total cost to $25. Would you rather pay $65 or $25? I’ll gladly take the latter.
4. Don’t forget your tax write offs!
Did you buy a parking pass this year? Write it off! Did you buy a new laptop or iPad to use while you’re in the program? That’s an education cost, so write it off! Take the tax breaks while you can and it can pad your wallet come tax season. I found this article on education tax breaks to be very helpful.
5. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!
You might be asking – how do you save when you’re barely breaking even? You can work spring, summer, and winter breaks. While working full time during your only time off may not be ideal, it is usually these times that allow me to have some emergency money or a few extra dollars to go out with my friends. I do this because it allows me to live the quality of life that I desire, but if you want that time to yourself do not feel guilty about it.
6. Apply for scholarships!
Did you know that every pharmacy student at the college who applied for a scholarship during the 2022-23 academic year received one? There are hundreds of scholarships available through the university and the college that you can use to help offset some of your costs. You can see the long list of college scholarships here, and university scholarships here.
7. Get a roommate!
I actually met my roommate over Facebook (she’s also a second-year pharmacy student) and now we are best friends! We don’t live together anymore because she got married last fall and I moved into my own apartment at the end of last semester. Having a roommate really offsets a lot of costs though and I think was super beneficial to adjusting to Spokane my first year in pharmacy school. Here are some links to find roommates from the various universities and colleges in the Spokane and Yakima area:
- Spokane Roommate Search! (This was created by the WSU College of Nursing students, but student pharmacists are welcomed!)
- Off-Campus Housing Whitworth, Gonzaga, EWU, UW, WSU
- Washington State University College of Pharmacy – Student Page