Thinking about pursuing further higher education, but not sure how to find financial aid for grad school?
Financing higher education always proves challenging in the United States, but it’s one that countless students have risen to meet. You can do the same with federal grants, scholarships and loans that help finance your graduate degree.
How can you find financial aid for grad school? While it isn’t quite as streamlined as it was in undergrad due to the additional considerations you must make, you can nevertheless find ways to fund your dreams. Here’s the information you need on graduate grants, loans, scholarships and alternative financing options.
Five Ways to Find Financial Aid for Grad School Students
Technically, there are six ways to fund your education. If you have the cold, hard cash from an inheritance or savings, though, you should still know your other options. This information helps you to make the wisest moves with your money.
Assuming that you don’t plan to write your graduate school a check, here are five ways that grad students can find financial aid.
1. Graduate School Grants
What is a grant? It’s the method the government uses to fund ideas and projects to provide public services and stimulate the economy. One of the ways it accomplishes these aims is by helping qualified students with financial aid for grad school.
The best part of graduate school grants and scholarships is that you do not need to repay the money, although you must meet minimum qualifications to maintain funding. You must also enroll in an accredited college or university. Unlike a fellowship, which is typically awarded for specific research purposes, authorities award grants based upon financial need.
How do you get a grant? In many cases, you’ll start with a document you know well — a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. In some cases, you’ll need to complete additional applications depending on your grant type. These fall into the following categories:
- Federal and state: Federal grants may only require a FAFSA, while state programs may require additional documentation.
- School-specific: If you did well at your university, your professors might clue you in on these opportunities. Otherwise, check with your advisor.
- Organizational and corporate: If you go to work for a nonprofit or a corporation that requires highly educated individuals, they may offer grants you can apply for to obtain these qualifications.
- Demographics: Grants do exist for various underrepresented community members to increase inclusivity.
- By field: Finally, field-based opportunities exist to further your education, particularly in areas of unmet need.
2. Scholarships for Grad School
Another form of financial aid for grad school students that you don’t have to repay involves scholarships. Unlike grants, which often entail a financial need component, groups award this type of funding to those who meet rigorous academic standards. It’s a bit more challenging to find resource links, but your advisor can help.
As with grants, you will need to maintain your academic performance. Failure to do so can cause you to lose funding — which can delay or derail your education.
3. Graduate Plus Loans
Graduate Plus loans are federal student loans for graduate students. Unlike your undergraduate days, there is no aggregate loan limit, meaning you can take out as much as you need to cover the cost of attendance, minus any scholarship or grant money you receive.
Another difference is that you don’t need a cosigner to obtain these loans the way you may have for undergrad. Once you graduate, you can choose from multiple repayment options at a fixed interest rate.
4. Home Equity Line of Credit
There are alternatives to federal grants, scholarships and loans for graduate school. If you own a home and have equity, you might consider whether a line of credit offers you a lower interest rate than graduate plus loans. While graduate plus loans currently sit at 5.3%, you can find many home loans for less than 3%. Over the life of your repayment, you save considerable cash.
Unlike graduate plus loans, however, you don’t have the option of income-based repayment if your employment situation later changes. Think carefully before taking out an amount that will make your monthly payment, combined mortgage payments, burdensome. You don’t want to lose your home due to unforeseen circumstances.
5. Your Employer
Finally, if you are a fortunate soul, your employer may see your potential and offer to help finance your education. Typically, this scenario occurs if you work for a massive corporation that provides tuition reimbursement, but it could also become a factor at the negotiating table come your annual review.
Talk to your HR department and find out what resources are available. If you feel brave, put together a proposal and call a meeting with your supervisor. While you want to remain realistic about the possibility of them denying your request, the answer will always be “no” if you don’t ask.
Learn How to Find Financial Aid for Grad School
When it comes to finding grad school grants, scholarships, loans and all-around funding, the process can seem daunting. Learn how to find financial aid for grad school with these tips and pursue your academic dreams.