Paying for graduate school can seem daunting, especially when you have loans from your undergraduate degree. There are several forms of need-based and merit-based aid available for graduate school.
A fellowship is a monetary award based on academic, athletic or personal achievements to support graduate studies, academic research or specialized training of particular interest to the granting organization. In addition to the financial award, the recipient will sometimes receive a tuition waiver for up to five years of study. Fellowships are awarded by graduate schools, and government or private agencies. Check out:
Assistantships provide full or partial tuition and sometimes a stipend and health insurance in exchange for part-time employment. Most graduate assistants work between 15 and 30 hours per week. Deadlines for graduate assistantships are usually before admission into the program. Contact the Office of Graduate Admissions or your department early for information on where assistantships are available. There are three different forms of assistantships: teaching, research and graduate assistantships.
Teaching Assistants teach undergraduate courses, lead classroom discussions, facilitate small group activities, grade papers or supervise labs.
Research Assistants perform research in their academic field, sometimes in collaboration with a faculty research project.
Graduate Assistantships are available in a number of departments or programs at the institution. Responsibilities vary greatly depending on the department and program. Graduate assistants might be responsible for supervising residence halls, planning student activities, managing community service programs, etc.
Scholarships are offered on a more limited basis for graduate study. The graduate institution may offer scholarships. Deadlines are often early so do your research now. Some good resources include:
Need-based financial aid is also available at the graduate level. You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for federal aid. Work-study students work part-time on campus at an hourly wage. Federal loans (including the Perkins, Stafford and Supplemental loans) offer low interest rate loans to students who qualify. Private loans are also available from various providers.
Loan Forgiveness Programs
Depending on what field you enter and your professional pursuits after school, some loans can be partially or fully canceled. For more information, check out these sites:
Loan Deferment or Forebearance
A deferment or forbearance allows you to temporarily stop making your federal student loan payments or to temporarily reduce the amount you pay. You’ll need to work with your loan servicer to apply for deferment or forbearance; and be sure to keep making payments on your loan until the deferment or forbearance is in place. However, during a forbearance you are responsible for paying the interest that accrues on all types of federal student loans. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Education's website and talk with Financial Aid.
Some companies provide tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits package. Employees typically have to pursue a graduate degree related to the industry field in which they work. Talk with your Human Resources Department to see if this benefit is available to you.