Some of you may be considering going on to grad school, but may be questioning whether or not you can afford to pay for it. Of course, you could always use student loans to fund the additional schooling, but no one likes the thought being buried in massive student loan debt.
College is expensive. Graduate school is even more expensive, so it's no wonder a lot of people do not attempt to continue their education.
Pell Grants are not available to graduate students, so how can you pay to further your education without racking up a ton of student loans?
Obtaining funding for graduate school can be difficult, but you do have a few options before you go further into student loan debt.
Scholarships for Grad School
Finding and applying to scholarships can be a long, hard process, but there are scholarships out there for you. It may take some time to find that scholarship that fits you perfectly (eligibility-wise), as it seems there are pretty much scholarships for everything nowadays. Some are harder to find than others but this free money certainly helps chip away at the cost of an advanced degree.
Check the web for scholarship opportunities that are not generally published to the general public. You can also check with your college financial aid department and/or the department of your specific study, as they sometimes have access to scholarship lists not easily available to other students.
There are a variety of private grants available that you may be eligible for. Just like scholarships, these private grants are hard to find and sometimes require a little bit of extra digging for information before applying for them.
Become a Teacher's Assistant
Some professors use an assistant to help out with lectures and other class duties. Sometimes these assistants are graduate students working their way toward a degree. Of course, the positions available depend on the school, but if you are able to snag one you could possibly cut your graduate tuition bill in half or even to zero, simply by assisting professors. The other good thing is that you are gaining experience while obtaining your degree.
A lot of companies want their employees to further their education; therefore, they may pay for some or all of an employee’s tuition. Of course there may be stipulations, such as your courses must be related to your job or you must obtain a certain grade to receive reimbursement, however it is something worth thinking about. You may not have to pay a penny out of pocket if your company offers this great benefit. Companies do this because it is essentially a tax write off for them.
A fellowship is a merit-based scholarship, or form of academic financial aid. Ask the admissions office at the graduate school(s) you apply to for more on what they have to offer and what you need to qualify. Most of the time, fellowship awards will be based on your GPA and your GRE/GMAT score. The difference between a fellowship and a scholarship is that most fellowships are not based on need, but rather on the recipient's skill and personal achievements.
Loans for Grad School
If you are looking into attending graduate school and there are no other alternate funding options available, then use loans as a last resort. One type of loan available is the student loan that was designed especially for Grad students: the Grad Plus Loan.
About Grad Plus Loans
Step one here will be to fill out the FAFSA. Once you max out the Stafford Loan funds that are available, you become eligible for Grad Plus Loans. A PLUS loan is limited to the cost of attendance minus financial aid received. The PLUS loan has a fixed interest rate of 8.5% that does not depend on your credit score, generally making it cheaper than using private student loans.
Remember, a lot of graduate students sift through alternate funding before using loans. Graduate school is very expensive and the tuition bill can add up fast. It's a rewarding feeling to have the advanced degree, however it is not rewarding if it came with $100,000 worth of debt. Be sure to budget your money and take advantage of any and all free money available to you.