Attending Conferences on a Graduate Student Budget

Are you, or do you know, a graduate student who would like to attend conferences but feels the expense a barrier? On February 6, Katie Krajny Beaulieu, Joren Plunkett, and Gillian Perry presented a flash webinar with advice for attending conferences on a graduate student budget. If you missed the live program, it has been archived and is available in the On Demand section of the ACUI Library.

Each of the presenters has experience in this area. Beaulieu is a doctoral student at Texas Christian University and has a graduate assistantship in student development services. Plunkett is a graduate student at the University of Utah and holds a graduate assistantship in the A. Ray Olpin University Union. Perry is the assistant director of campus life arts and programs at the University of North Carolina–Wilmington and recently received her master's degree in higher education and student affairs at Indiana University.

Funding Opportunities

One way of funding your conference trip is through getting involved. Interning with professional associations, including applying for the ACUI Conference Management Team, can help fund your trip. You can also get involved at the regional level. Regional conferences are often less expensive than their association-wide counterparts.

Graduate students can take advantage of scholarships and awards to offset conference costs. Professional associations like ACUI usually offer scholarships to attend their conferences. Your graduate program department or student government may offer travel or conference scholarships. Be sure to start setting aside money for the conference months in advance to reduce the financial burden of attending.

Limiting Spending

Conferences can be more affordable by controlling spending while you are there. Try to carpool or share a ride to and from the airport. Lodging can be a large expense related to conference attendance. Share hotel rooms to split the cost of the lodging. Even if you are the only person from your institution attending the conference, you can make use of discussion boards and social media to find ride shares and roommates from other institutions. Sometimes you can find a lower-cost hotel or another lodging option close to the conference location.

ConferenceYou can save money on meals by bringing your own breakfast. There are many portable breakfast options that are easy and light to include with your luggage. Many hotel rooms have refrigerators in the rooms and access to microwaves. Take advantage of meals provided as part of your conference registration. Before you go, be sure to research the nearby dining options. Bring a refillable water bottle to avoid purchasing expensive bottled water. Bring snacks or grab free snacks nearby to avoid expensive café visits.

If you plan to go sightseeing, research discounted tickets before you go. Be sure to pack a travel first aid and incidentals kit to avoid a trip to the airport or hotel gift shop for items like band aids, safety pens, and over-the-counter medication.

The more you can plan ahead, the better off you will be financially when the conference date arrives. Don’t be afraid to nominate yourself for awards, scholarships, and other opportunities. Be proactive by getting involved and taking advantage of the perks connected to that involvement.

These are just a few tips for saving money and paying your way to the conference of your choice. If you have questions, feel free to contact the presenters, and take advantage of the Graduate Students and New Professionals Community of Practice to continue the discussion online.

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