Congratulations! You got your undergraduate degree and now it’s time to think about grad school. But how are you going to pay for it? You’ll want to have a financial plan in place before you enroll, especially if you’re married and supporting a family. Here are 10 ways you can finance your education:
1. Work and Save. This might not seem like the most attractive option, but if you want to avoid all debt, postponing grad school while you save up for tuition could be the way to go. You already have your undergraduate degree, so you can always look for work in your field. Having a sound savings plan in place can save up money for tuition while gaining valuable work experience. Plus, if you’re able to get a scholarship or grant once you’re in school, you might be able to apply that nest egg to Individual Retirement Accounts or a down payment on a home.
2. Work Part-Time. Although it will take a little longer to get your degree, you can always cut back the number of classes you take so that you can get a part-time job on or off campus. This can help you gain experience while you learn. Also, working while you’re in school can be a great way to establish work experience and contacts that you can leverage once you get your graduate degree to help you find better-paying work.
3. Employer Tuition Reimbursement. If you’re already working to finance your education, ask if your employer offers this important perk. Check with your benefits administrator to find out about any reimbursement limits.
4. Work for a University. Some schools offer big discounts, or even free tuition, to their staff members. While this would likely mean working full-time while also going to school, a good enough discount could make the long hours well worth it. So keep an eye out for any positions you could fill at your favorite grad school!
5. Go Online. Online schools can give you a solid education without the added expenses of housing and meal plans. It also means you can work while you attend school without worrying about a long commute or missing school because of your work schedule.
6. Fellowships. A good fellowship can go a long way in helping you pay for graduate school. Fellowships are scholarships usually awarded either by schools or private organizations. Some are federally funded. Fellowships pay for tuition and may also provide a stipend so students can pay for living expenses.
7. Teaching Assistant Positions. These positions, or “assistantships,” are similar to fellowships in that they pay for tuition along with an additional stipend. However, they do require that students teach or work on research part-time while attending school.
8. Financial Aid. Graduate students can also apply for federal financial aid by filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. As a graduate student, you won’t have to use your parents’ financial information to apply. You may not qualify for a Pell Grant, but you could receive Federal Work-Study or Stafford Loans.
9. Private Scholarships. This is a big resource that is unfortunately often forgotten by graduate students. Search for scholarships in your field of study, those open to people living in your geographic area, or from local organizations like banks or credit unions. You might be surprised at the money you can find!
10. Loans. Student loans are available to graduate students. Shop around for good rates before you make the decision to borrow for graduate school. You may not want to begin your professional life weighed down by additional student debt.
The cost of graduate school doesn’t need to wreck your future financial plans. Some prudent research and planning can help you maximize your available dollars and avoid excessive debt on your way to continued academic success.
This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.