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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

How Do I Pay for Grad School?

Tom BenzaStudent Financial Aid Expert Contributor – Tom Benza, Associate Director

So you’ve decided to go to graduate school?  Great!  Now all you have to do is figure out how to pay for it.  Here are some options available to you:



Most graduate programs award scholarship support based on merit, not financial need, through the program or department of admission.  It is critical to meet early deadlines to ensure that you are in the running for all sources of scholarship support.  Some programs consider the admission application an ‘umbrella application’ and submission will grant you consideration for all merit based scholarship programs.  Other programs may require individual applications for certain scholarships, assistantships, or fellowships.  You will have to research the individual program requirements to find out how scholarship assistance is awarded.  This can vary widely not only between different schools, but between programs/departments of the same school.

National graduate scholarships and fellowships are available, but are highly competitive.  For outside grant or scholarship support, Cornell and UCLA are known for their powerful search sites:



Federal Aid:

To be considered for federal aid, a student must complete a FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, at www.fafsa.gov  The Department of Education considers all graduate students to be independent, so no parental information is needed on the FAFSA.   Once submitted, the graduate school will review and determine a student’s loan eligibility.  The maximum yearly amount of guaranteed federal student loan aid a student can receive is $20,500 through the Unsubsidized Stafford loan program.  If additional federal loan aid is needed, a credit check will be required.  A student can apply for a Federal Graduate PLUS loan at www.studentloans.gov and be eligible for loan aid up to the cost of attendance of the program.  You should always review the total cost of attendance for the graduate program on the financial aid website for the school.  Review the difference between direct costs (tuition, fees) and indirect costs (off-campus housing estimates, books and supplies, personal expenses) to ensure your personal budget reflects the estimates used by the program.  For detailed information on the federal aid programs for graduate students, check out the following site.  Please note that graduate programs may participate in some, but not all, of the programs listed on the following site:


Employer Benefits:

Another great way to pay for graduate school is to work for a company that offers educational benefits.  Some companies offer a tuition reimbursement plan that allows a student to recoup tuition payments based on successful completion of a degree.  Follow up with the HR office at a prospective employer if you know that graduate school is on the horizon and will assist in your career.

Category: Professional Development

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