Funding Graduate School
You’ve decided what you want to be when you grow up, and it requires more schooling than your four-year undergraduate degree. Which also means more money. Have no fear, there are ways to fund your dream.
What does the school offer?First check the school you’re considering. It probably offers some scholarships, fellowships, work opportunities and other funding options. Many universities have financial aid offices that specifically help with these sorts of questions, but you can also contact your specific department of interest, as they may know of other money sources. Another good source: current students. Tap their brains to find out how they’re making ends meet.
Federal and state aid
Like undergrad, many graduate students fund their education through federal and state loans—you know, that multi-page FAFSA (free application for federal student aid). Unlike undergrad, though, you’re now considered independent from your parents, so you won’t need all their financial details, just your own. Good news: initial loans are often larger than for undergraduate loans, they’re eligible for repayment plans based on your income, and depending on your career field, some are even forgiven. Bad news: interest rates are usually higher, and they start calculating right away, so plan wisely.
Fellowships are coveted awards that bear names like Rhodes and Fulbright and might include a tuition waiver, travel, stipend for independent research or other bonus. Of course, they’re highly competitive and typically weigh academic achievement heavily, as well as character. Besides the big-name fellowships, many universities have their own that are less competitive, so check their websites.
You’ll have to work for your money with an assistantship—for instance, helping a faculty member with research, teaching a class or providing administrative duties—but you’ll get work experience and probably a great reference upon graduating. Just be prepared for the stress and time constraints that working will add to your schedule.
While private loans typically come with a higher interest than state or federal loans, they’re often a good last resort. You’d apply at individual banks or financial institutions for these where your credit and income would be considered. If you don’t qualify on your own, you can have a co-signer. Do your research, as some private loans offer benefits for certain career fields, such as cost of living expenses.
If nothing else, you can earn some money by working outside of your class time in a related capacity, such as teaching at a nearby community college or writing for trade journals.
Sites that provide a listing or links to graduate school funding options and information: scholarships.com, fastweb.com, edvisors.com and gradschools.com, which has a dedicated financial aid section.