How Do I Pay for Graduate School? – Funding Options for a Graduate Degree

Graduate Degree

So, you have your bachelor’s degree and you’re saddled with thousands of dollars in loans. You want to go to graduate school, but after researching the tuition costs, you realize that this degree will be even more expensive than undergrad. It seems unwise to stack up more debt, but you feel like a master’s will make all the difference in your career. What do you do?

You shouldn’t have to make a choice between education and financial security. Even though tuition prices are very high, there are ways for you to mitigate the cost of your degree. By using the tools below, you can focus more on your career goals and less on your bank account. Keep reading to find out how you can obtain funding for a graduate degree and take the next big step in your life.

FAFSA applies to graduate school!

During your undergraduate experience, you probably filled out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA. Basically, this form is used by the government to determine whether or not you are eligible for need-based funding. Well, this same 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. In fact, some universities require the FAFSA to determine eligibility for merit-based awards, scholarships, and state-specific financial aid. Luckily for you, there are more loans available for graduate programs than there are for undergraduate programs. Additionally, at this point in your life you are considered an “independent student,” and you will not need to include your parents’ financial information. You are no longer considered a dependent, and therefore the government only looks at your current income level when determining aid. In most cases, this means you will receive more aid. After filling out the FAFSA, your financial aid eligibility will be determined and sent to the schools listed on your application.

Fund your graduate degree with private loans

Though government loans generally have the best interest rates, 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 you find. You should compare interest rates with other lenders. Find out whether the interest rates increase over time or stay the same. Most importantly, be sure to understand the exact terms of the loan.

Fellowships can fund your graduate degree

Fellowships, offered by both 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 any of your education expenses, including textbooks, housing, and tuition. Each fellowship has its own application criteria, and they must be applied to individually. It is important to note that fellowships tend to be even more competitive than regular 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.

Find a university that offers assistantships

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 other line of work that doesn’t relate to your interests, you will conduct research and/or teach. In exchange for your hard work, you will receive a stipend to pay for education expenses. Check with your university’s financial aid office or CollegeHippo’s posts on assistantships for more information.

Scholarships can help pay for grad school

Scholarships are another way to pay for your graduate degree. Plenty of scholarship opportunities exist for students applying to graduate school. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have an amazing academic record in order to receive scholarships. Universities and private organizations offer scholarships to every kind of individual imaginable, based on artistic talent, resilience to adverse life experiences, ingenious research proposals, and more. Spend some time considering your personal strengths, and then scour the internet to see if there are any scholarships that help support people like you.

Your job can fund your graduate degree

If you are currently employed, you may be able to obtain funding from your workplace. According to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, about 54 percent of employers offer tuition assistance. Typically, these agreements involve you working for your employer for a set amount of time in exchange for partial tuition reimbursement. If you suspect that your employer might be able to help you pay for graduate school, stop by your human resources office for more information.

Paying for undergrad is stressful enough, and figuring out how to pay for a graduate degree can be absolutely overwhelming. However, by researching all of the options listed above, you can find creative ways to drastically reduce the cost of your tuition. Hang in there, and don’t let anything stop you from seeking the education you want!

About Rbutton

R is a freelance writer, primarily specializing in education and travel. She is a digital nomad and currently lives somewhere in Europe.

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