Whether you’re going for your master’s or PhD, applying to graduate school might just be the next big step to fulfilling your lifelong career and educational goals. Exciting as this process can be, it may also present its challenges, especially when it comes to tuition and funding for grad school. With the average college debt for recent graduates nearing $30, 000, it’s important to look toward options like financial aid and graduate school scholarships.
Tuition varies greatly among schools and programs, but no matter what the cost, graduate school is still an investment in your future. PhD and master’s candidates enjoy lower unemployment rates and higher salaries down the line than those with only bachelor’s degrees. Still, that beacon of future earnings doesn’t do much to take care of those hefty tuition bills right now. So what to do?
Luckily, grad school applicants have many options available to help them out with tuition. In addition to graduate school scholarships, which we will explore in a moment, there are always student loans: Perkins and Stafford federal loans and various private loans—not to mention personal savings and family or parental support.
The trouble with these types of student loans is that you (almost always, with the possible exception of the familial or parental loan) have to pay them back. Fortunately, many grad programs offer other ways to finance your education, including graduate school scholarships, fellowships, and teacher assistant positions—some of which may offset your entire tuition and even offer small living stipends.
How do you find graduate school scholarships?
Here are five ways to discover and secure funding for your grad school education:
1. Explore your tuition assistance possibilities.
You’re going to be doing plenty of research in graduate school, so why not start now? Begin with mapping your interests and career goals, and determine whether you need to pursue a master’s or a PhD. While 76% of master’s degree candidates borrow money to cover grad school tuition, only 20% of PhD candidates do. They are more likely to find funding through other avenues like fellowships and scholarships.
Doctoral programs that involve producing original research receive more funding and can offer more funding to students. Even then, however, funding availability may vary and carry several stipulations. For example, some graduate programs may allow you to work as a teacher’s assistant or ask that you teach an introductory class as a way to offset part of your tuition, and then add a modest living stipend—and we do mean modest (think more along the lines of sandwiches than steak dinners).
While you’re exploring your financial aid and alternative tuition assistance options, look into all the graduate school scholarships and fellowships available for which you qualify—no matter how small. Then, get organized. Whether you create an application binder or merely have notes crumpled all over your desk, keep track of available funding.