Finding Financial Assistance for Graduate Schools

Finding Financial Assistance for Graduate School | CashCourse: Your Real-Life Money Guide

You have much to prepare for if graduate school is on your horizon. You’ll need to research the schools and programs you're interested in, apply for admission, and take any needed entrance exams. And you’ll want to get your financial aid in place.

Although the costs of graduate school can seem overwhelming, there are a number of aid options available today to help you cover the costs. With a little time and effort you may be able to find the scholarship, student loan, or other aid source to partially or fully fund your graduate education.

Assistantships and More

One of the first graduate school aid sources to consider is employment options in your area of study within the university. These often offer full or partial tuition payment in return for your work, and sometimes include a living expense stipend as well. Check with the financial aid office, your academic department, and other campus offices about available positions as a resident assistant, teaching assistant, or research assistant. Also ask about program-specific scholarships in your field.

Scholarship and Fellowship Opportunities

Look into scholarships and fellowships offered by private and government organizations. Start early, because they’re generally highly competitive, and the application process typically begins during the third or fourth year of your undergraduate studies. Use the same scholarship search engines that apply to undergraduate students. Some popular online information sources are:

Student Loans

Student loans are available for graduate school. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to establish your eligibility for Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate PLUS Loans. Always start with federal student loans first. The combination of Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate PLUS Loans should meet your entire cost of attendance. Unfortunately, graduate students are not eligible for Direct Subsidized loans. 

Private Student Loans

In some circumstances, graduate students with excellent credit history may be offered lower interest rates on a private loan. Remember that private loans don't come with some of the benefits of federal loans.  If you do consider a private loan, be sure to understand all of the terms of the loan, including:

  • Current interest rate
  • To what extent the rates can rise or fall
  • When and how interest accrues
  • How much you will have to pay back per month
  • How long you will be repaying
  • What happens if you can’t find a job immediately and can’t start repaying

Begin your search for aid by talking to your school’s financial aid office and your bank or credit union. Search online for different rates and options. Take advantage of our student loan calculators to estimate a repayment schedule.

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