A graduate degree is even more expensive than an undergraduate degree. So if you are considering enrolling in graduate school, you will want to know what financial aid options are available to you and how to apply for them.
FAFSA and Funding Your Graduate Degree
Since you are looking into graduate school, I am sure you have filled out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. This document is also necessary for graduate students wishing to obtain financial aid in the form of student loans, grants, and work-study programs from the federal government. Even if you think you will not be eligible for federal financial aid, it is important for you to fill out the FAFSA. Some universities and private institutions require the FAFSA to determine eligibility for merit-based awards, scholarships, and state financial aid. The good news is more loans are available for graduate programs than undergraduate programs. Also, since you will be applying as a graduate student, you are considered an independent student and will not need to include your parents’ financial information, so this time around the process will be a bit shorter. After filling out the FAFSA, your financial aid eligibility will be determined and sent to the schools listed on your application.
Funding Your Graduate Degree with Private Loans
You can also apply for private loans to help pay for your graduate program. However, whenever considering a private loan, don’t just take the first loan that is offered. You should consider and compare interest rates with other lenders. Find out if the interest rates increase over time or stay the same. Most importantly, be sure to understand the terms of the loan.
Fellowship funds for Your Graduate Degree
Fellowships, offered by universities and private organizations, are another option available to you as a graduate student. A fellowship is a type of scholarship or grant that can be used to pay for your education expenses, anything from textbooks to housing to tuition. Each fellowship has its own requirements and must be applied to individually like any other scholarship. However, it is important to note that fellowships tend to be even more competitive than undergraduate scholarships. The two different types of fellowships are:
- Institutional Fellowships: These are offered through a particular university and must be used to attend that university.
- Portable Fellowships: These are offered by organizations within your field of study and can be used at any accredited university.
Assistantships are also available through graduate schools. These are similar to the federal work-study programs. However, instead of being placed in an office or janitorial job, you will conduct research and/or teach. In return, he/she will receive a stipend to pay for education expenses. Check with your university’s financial aid office for our website for more information.
Graduate Degree Funds and Scholarships
Scholarships are another way to pay for your graduate degree. Plenty of scholarship opportunities exist for undergraduate and graduate students alike. From scholarships for women, minorities, and veterans, to quirky scholarships for coming up with the best zombie survival plan, to academic performance scholarships, to scholarships for your particular field of study, there is a scholarship, quite literally, for everyone.
Your Place of Employment can Fund Your Graduate Degree
Another potential source for funding your graduate degree is through your place of employment. According to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, 54 percent of employers offer tuition assistance. These agreements involve you working for your employer for a set amount of time in exchange for them paying part of your tuition. Check with your human resources office for more information.
When you’re trying to figure out how to pay for a graduate degree, it can be overwhelming. But just remember, there are plenty of avenues available to you to reduce the cost significantly.