Congratulations, you have been accepted to graduate school! Now, you may be asking yourself, “How will I manage the cost of tuition and the cost of just living.” Paying for graduate school may seem like an impossible task; however, taking time to create a finance plan will help you. No matter what your financial situation, you should spend adequate time preparing a financial plan for graduate school. Begin with researching and applying to as many potential financial sources as possible. There are 3 ways to finance your graduate education: fellowships, loans, and work. Remember, just as each graduate school’s application procedures differ, so will the systems for awarding financial aid.
What to Factor into Your Finance Plan
Basically, when developing your financial plan, your initial consideration is the cost of tuition, fees, and housing expenses. However, it’s just as important to consider personal living expenses such as gas, cell phone, food, and entertainment. Knowing how much money you are able to live on is basically why you will want to outline a budget of the anticipated cost you will be responsible for while attending graduate school. Use the Finance/Budget Worksheet to begin this process. Calculate your financial need for the duration of your studies will help you create financial plan for how you will meet your financial needs and now the amount of potential debt you will be acquiring.
If you have been admitted to several programs/schools, you may want to outline a side by side comparison of the tuition, fees, cost of living to the amount of a financial package the programs may offer you. Make sure your comparisons are accurate and include cost of living expenses for each particular location.
How Can I Finance Graduate School?
Financial assistance is available to graduate and professional school student. The key is to perform a thorough search for all financial assistance opportunities in and outside of the school or program. It is crucial to begin this process early because of deadlines. Most graduate students finance their education through fellowships, assistantships, scholarships, grants offered by the university, foundations, and organizations. Financial assistance can be obtained through the department of study through assistantships. Loans are available from the federal government, place of employment, and private lenders. Some assistance is based on need or merit.
- On the graduate level, fellowships are equivalent to scholarships.
- Fellowships are a straight monetary award given on the basis of scholastic record.
- Funds may come from endowments, current income, private foundations, industry, or government.
- Catalogs outline institutional fellowships and directories identify other sponsors.
- Ask departments and programs about applying for fellowships.
- Individual departments award teaching and research fellowships.
- You work part-time while pursuing your studies.
- A stipend serves as remuneration and sometimes tuition remission.
- Inquire about assistantships within the departments.
- Universities may have a graduate assistantship office or department.
- Resident directors work in residence halls while pursuing their graduate studies.
- Resident assistants usually receive tuition remission and a stipend.
Long-term Educational Loans
- The Federal Government offers low interest loans which you repay over a long period of time.
- Repayment begins several months after graduation.
- Check with the financial aid department and local banks for information.
Where do I start?
Talk with the Financial Aid Administrators for your school is the best way to get started. They are the professionals regarding current requirements, deadlines, and procedures. Also, a great online resource is the Financing Graduate Education: A Guide for prospective Students written by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
Financing Graduate Education (PDF)
Financial Aid Application
Application for financial aid is not automatic. You will need to fill out and submit required aid applications before deadlines. Aid application instructions and deadlines are usually clearly stated in each school’s application materials. Some schools require you to apply for aid when applying for admission. Other schools require that you be admitted before applying for financial aid.
Be prepared to submit copies of your federal income tax forms and federal aid transcripts. You may want to check the status of your aid application if you receive no response within a reasonable time period. Keep copies of all forms for your record.
* The information in this section was adapted from Game Plan for Getting into Graduate School, by Marion Castellucci.