The procession of professors to begin the ceremony for graduation 2016

Financing Your Graduate Degree

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

Part of the reason you might be hesitating to get a graduate degree is the sheer cost alone. How the heck are you supposed to pay for another two-four years of college when you’re already strapped with student loans from the first four? Here are some options:

  • Complete the required Free Application for Federal Student Aid. A paper copy is available from the Student Financial Office or you can complete the application online.
  • Apply for teaching and research assistantships.
  • Research and apply for foundation/association fellowships and for grants for special purposes.
  • Inquire about programs that waive out-of-state fees.
  • Check to see if your employer will pay for all or part of your graduate degree. Local organizations and families may provide scholarships.
  • Perkins Loans and college work-study may be available through your graduate degree; Stafford Loans may be available through your bank.
  • Consider special living arrangements that may cover housing, utilities, food, tuition remission, and/or a stipend. These would include working in university residence halls, private schools, group homes or for private families.
  • Check the deferment policies for your undergraduate loans and investigate employment with loan forgiveness policies.

Scholorship Databases:

  1. FastWeb: The Largest and fastest free scholarship search service of more than 1.3 million private sector scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans. Used by colleges across the United States.
  2. FinAid: The Smart Guide to Financial Aid (Mark Kantrowitz, Carnegie Mellon Univ.). The author of a book on scholarships, Kantrowitz collects a wide range of information on aid, scholarships, university financial aid offices, and related documents.
  3. College Board’s Scholarship Search: A scholarship database lists scholarships and other types of financial aid programs from 2,300 national, state, public, and private sources.
  4. CollegeNetMach25: A Database list contains more than 600,000 awards.

Options For Financing Your Graduate Degree:


The Financial Aid Application Process:

  • Federal Student Aid: Review the U.S. Department of Education’s site for free information on preparing for and funding education beyond high school.
  • Federal Student Aid Application: Allows you to fill out and submit your FAFSA online (data is encrypted for protection).  Call 1-800-4FED-AID or visit if you have questions about applying for aid.

Apply for All Types of Funding:

  • Graduate/Teaching/Research Assistantships: By working 20 hours a week for a professor or your program, you could finance your whole tuition! Some assistantships are not listed on web sites, so it’s important to call your program directly to ask about these opportunities.
  • Stafford Loans: As long as you are enrolled in 6 credits per semester, you can qualify for Stafford loans. Subsidized means that the government would cover the interest payments while you are in school. Unsubsidized means that you would be responsible for paying any of the interest that accrued while working on your graduate degree after you finish. In order to receive this assistance, you would have to fill out your FAFSA so that your information can be sent to the schools you are applying to.
  • Federal Work-Study Program: Provides financial aid by funding student salaries for selected jobs. You’re automatically considered for FWS when you apply for financial aid.
  • Private Loans: Many colleges provide listings of preferred loan vendors. Make sure to compare interest rates at various lending institutions.
  • Scholarships/Fellowships: Although there are fewer scholarships available for graduate students, there are some options. Check out our fellowships page to learn more.
  • Residential Life: While living in a dorm might not be the ideal situation, becoming a residential advisor could provide you with free housing and a stipend. Check with the residential life office at your institution to find out more.
  • Employer Assistance: Sometimes employers offer tuition reimbursement as part of a total compensation benefit package for employees. Check with your human resources department to find out more if you intend to work while getting your graduate degree.
  • Loan Forgiveness: There are a number of loan forgiveness programs for those who pursue work in specialized fields such as law, education, and nursing. Visit Finaid’s web site to learn more about these programs. In addition, there are a number of service positions that we have listed with these benefits!

The good news is: you have options! If you’re passionate and determined about furthering your education, you’ll find a way to get your graduate degree, even if it’s not in the way you originally envisioned.

Resource: Career Collaborative