Funding for Graduate School
Attending graduate school is an expensive endeavor. But it is an attainable one with proper and early planning. So while you’re gathering your transcripts and writing your personal state-ments, you should be developing strategies for how you’re going to finance your education. Do not wait until your admission letter arrives to start thinking about paying for graduate school.
There are three main sources of financial aid for master’s and doctoral study. These three sources offer several types of aid that are often combined to provide an overall funding package. I am providing some general information and strongly advising you to do the legwork and read all the fine print.
Financial aid received from the college or university you’re attending is considered institutional aid. This could be defined as a scholarship, grant, or fellowship. These forms of aid do not have to be paid back. Typically these types of aid are offered to selected candidates based on academic merit or financial need or some combination of the two. Usually, there is no separate application and you’re automatically considered during the application review process.
Scholarships and grants are awards that provide for the cost of tuition and are applied to your bill. In addition to general school scholarships, generous alumni often give donations to establish named scholarships. These awards may have certain eligibility restrictions, such as scholar-ships for blue-eyed students, or scholarships for student in selected majors. These scholarships often require a separate application on which you indicate you meet the eligibility criteria.
Fellowships are typical awards for doctoral study and often provide full tuition support for multiple years. They might also provide health insurance and a living stipend. More generous fellowships also provide a housing subsidy.
Graduate assistantships, teaching assistant-ships, and research assistantships are types of aid that may require some form of work in return for receiving a tuition award or stipend.
For the most part, need-based aid from the government comes in the form of student loans. To receive consideration, you’ll need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA – http://www.fafsa.ed.gov).There are two major loan categories to consider, the Stafford subsidized and unsubsidized stu-dent loans, and the Grad Plus student loan. Loans typically provide for the cost of your education after institutional aid has been applied. Loans are types of aid that need to be paid back. There are interest rates and payback schedules that need to be considered, so read up and be informed.
Federal Work-Study provides part-time oncampus jobs for graduate students. The program encourages community service work and work related to the recipient’s course of study.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers education grant assistance to qualified U.S. military service members and their families. There are some scholarship programs, like the TEACH Grant, which require a service commitment in return for receiving scholarship support.
Aid from External Organizations
There are several foundations, professional associations, and social organizations that offer aid for graduate school. These organizations typically do not require payback of scholarships but may ask you to provide updates or reports back to the organization. There is usually an application and review process that is specific to the organization.
Another resource of external aid is your employer. Check with your benefits office to see if your company offers a tuition remission benefit for graduate school. No matter the source of aid, it’s very important to follow all instructions and meet all deadlines.
The following will provide greater details on some of the information provided here:
• U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid (http://studentaid.ed.gov)
• U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (http://www.va.gov)
• FinAid (http://www.finaid.org)
• FastWeb (http://www.fastweb.com)
John S. Myers is director of enrollment management at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture,
Education, and Human Devlopment.