How to Afford Grad School?

how to afford grad school
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Going to graduate school can be a great option if you want to change jobs or increase your earning potential, but the question becomes how to afford grad school. This is especially true if you just finished your undergrad and you don’t have a full-time job.

It can also be difficult if you are working full-time but have responsibilities such as a mortgage and a family.

The good news is there are ways to make affording graduate school easier. 

How to Afford Grad School?

I went to graduate school and I was worried about paying for it as well, so I know how you feel.

I have to say, however, I was lucky. I received a stipend, so I didn’t have to pay for school and I received a salary for teaching two classes each term.

Not everyone is so lucky and if you have a full-time job, being a graduate teaching assistant isn’t really an option.

Even with this advantage, I still had to figure out how to pay my monthly bills and live. Teaching assistantships don’t pay very well and very often don’t cover all your living expenses.

But don’t fear. Here are some easy ways to make graduate school much more affordable. They might not all work for your personal situation, but just one or two of them will go a long way for you.

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1. Apply for Assistantships

Since I mentioned them, the first thing you need to do is check out if there are any assistantships available for your area of study and then apply for them.

Not all of them are for teaching. My cousin got a research assistantship when she went to graduate school at the University of Michigan.

Instead of teaching class, she worked in the lab. She was getting an advanced degree in biology.

I got a couple of assistantships. When I first started graduate school, I was working on a Masters of Fine Arts in playwriting of all things. 

I was going to Arizona State University at the time. I received a full assistantship which means I didn’t have to pay any tuition or fees. I also received about $1,500 per month during the months I was in school which was great. 

Keep in mind, my apartment cost me $1,000 dollars per month, so it didn’t cover all of my expenses, but it got close.

Of course, I could have had a roommate and that would have cut that to $500 per month which would have been a big savings. 

I also got an online class to teach for the summer months and was paid $2,600 for that which really helped to pay the bills all year long.

I know someone that also taught a fast-track class over Christmas break. The class lasted four weeks but he received the full $2,600 dollars. 

A teaching assistantship really makes graduate school doable.

So it is worth the effort to do whatever you need to do to get one. 

That might mean going to your second or third school on your wish list. Whoever offers you the money is where you should go.

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2. Think Outside the Box with an Online Degree

Okay, not everyone is going to get an assistantship and not everyone is going to be able to go to graduate school full-time to take advantage of one. 

If that’s your situation, you should consider going to school online. 

An online degree, in many cases, is less expensive than going to a college campus. That doesn’t mean the degree is worth any less because it’s not. 

But you can save money and you can even work full-time which is a real advantage especially if you have other responsibilities.

You can work at your own pace in a lot of these programs, so you can, hopefully, be saving money at the same time to pay for part or all of your tuition and expenses.

You won’t have to worry about housing and the like. You already have a place to live, so nothing will change there.

If possible, you can always change your living situation to reduce your expense or bring in extra money to help pay your way through school.

Consider renting out a room or get a couple of roommates. 

Granted living with strangers isn’t always the most fun, but if it saves you $500 or $1,000 per month that will go a long way for paying for graduate school.

3. Apply for Grants and Scholarships and Fellowships

You might think that grants and scholarships are only for undergrad students, but you would be wrong. 

Go ahead and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). You could be eligible for state or federal assistance and the first step in receiving it is filling out this form. 

You will also need to fill out this form if you intend to apply for student loans.

Before you head down the student loan path you also want to see if there are any fellowship opportunities at your school as well.

When I went to Arizona State University, I received a $5,000 recruitment fellowship. This was great. It was $5,000 dollars in my pocket that I didn’t have to pay back.

I could use it for fees or tuition if I had to pay that, or living expenses. It didn’t really matter and was completely up to me. 

Someone I went to graduate school with used it to pay for emergency vet bills when her dog got bit by a rattlesnake right before school started.

Fellowships are a great way to reduce the cost of graduate school and make it more affordable.

Keep in mind, they tend to be limited, so find out far in advance if there are any available what you have to do, if anything, to receive one.

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4. Check with Your Employer

If you are currently working, check with your employer to see if they offer any financial assistance for graduate school.

Many companies will reimburse you for tuition if you are taking classes that are related to your job or to a position in the company you are looking to move into.

Typically they will pay part or all of the tuition as long as you received good grades.

This is a great, and free way to obtain an advanced degree. 

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5. Consider Student Loans

It might be necessary to take out a student loan. This should be your last option because you really don’t want to be saddled with a ton of student loan debt down the line.

Even so, if you have to take out a student loan, be sure to only take as much as you need. It can be really tempting to take all they offer and spend the rest on a vacation or something like that but resist.

It can feel like free money when they hand it to you but trust me, there’s nothing free about it.

You will be paying that money back for years to come.

6. Start Saving Money Now

If you’re not planning on going to graduate school for a couple of years, start saving for it now. Every dollar you can save before you start is a dollar you don’t have to find once you are in school.

Cut unnecessary expenses. Make a budget or savings plan. Find out what the tuition and fees are at the school you want to go to, so you will know how much you will need.

Take control now, and you will make graduate school much more affordable when you are ready to start.

Related Questions:

Does FAFSA Cover a Master’s Degree?

Yes, it does. You will have to complete the form, but it will be slightly different for grad school. You can find out more here.

To Sum it All Up:

There are ways to make graduate school more affordable. You can apply for assistantships, find out if your college offers fellowships, go to an online school, or take advantage of your employer’s tuition program. Whichever way you go, planning ahead of time is the name of the game if you want to reduce the cost of graduate school.

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