Posted on 15 May 2013.
For college students with lofty career aspirations and business professionals who are interested in taking their career to the next level, attending graduate school and earning a more advanced degree is the ideal solution. However, the cost of a graduate degree can be rather expensive, and many would-be grad school students are looking for an affordable way to pay for their graduation school education. For the 2011-2012 school year, the average cost of tuition for the top 20 graduate business programs was $102,355. Of course, other expenses also must be incurred, such as books, fees and living expenses. While some students will continue to work at least on a part-time basis while attending graduate school, others will quit their job while earning their graduate degree. This can compound the challenges associated with pursuing a more advanced degree. With the right strategy, however, those who would like to earn a graduate degree may find a way to do so.
The Benefits of Scholarships and Grants
Student loans are certainly one option available for paying for grad school, but this money must eventually be repaid. Scholarships and grants are a preferred solution because the money is an award that does not need to be repaid. Grants and scholarships for grad students are more difficult to come by. However, if you know where to look and follow application guidelines and requirements, you may be able to pay for at least a portion of your education with grants and scholarships.
Different Resources Available for Scholarships
One of the best resources available to grad students who are interested in applying for scholarships is their college or university. Many colleges and universities award scholarships to students based on merit. In some schools, these are not available through the financial aid office but rather through the specific academic department that the student is pursuing a degree through. For instance, for grad students seeking a master’s degree in education, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program offers financing for students who are interested in becoming teachers. Up to $8,000 may be offered over two years through this program.
It is important to research these programs early on and to apply for them early as well. There are also public and private organizations that offer scholarships to grad school students. One popular scholarship is available through the Truman Scholarship Foundation, and it offers awards of up to $30,000 each to up to 60 students each year. Some of these organizations offer programs that are available to grad students in a specific field of study.
In addition to the Truman Scholarship, many graduate school programs offer the Fulbright Scholarship, which is available to U.S. citizens who wish to complete graduate studies abroad, as well as international students who wish to attend grad school in the U.S.
Work-Study and Teaching Assistant Positions
Another method of funding for graduate school is through teaching assistant jobs. Most colleges and universities in the U.S. offer graduate students assistant teaching or fellowship positions to help cover tuition costs and expenses (similarly to work-study programs for undergraduate students). These opportunities not only help with financing, but also offer graduate students valuable work-related experience. Teaching or research assistant jobs can typically be found directly through your school’s financial aid office or graduate student office.
Applying for Grants for Grad School
Some experts state that it is best to apply a specific strategy to your efforts to search for a grant. For example, you may find a greater level of success when you search for grants available for your specific field. Opportunities for grants may be more prevalent in fields that are in high demand. For instance, Purdue University offers a list of scholarships and fellowships for engineering students. While some programs require students to complete a certain degree or enter into a certain career path, others are simply geared towards getting more traditionally under-represented students into the program (such as the American Association of University Women or the Hispanic College Fund).
One way to search for these grants is to contact the financial aid department or Office of Graduate Student Affairs at the school where you are enrolled. You can also look for grants that may be available through trade associations and professional organizations in your field. The Internet is also a great general resource available to you for Grants.
If you are currently in the workforce, another idea to consider involves talking to your employer about tuition reimbursement programs available. With many employers, you may need to work full-time with the company for a period of time before you qualify, and you may need to continue to work there in order to have your tuition reimbursed. However, some companies will reimburse up to the full amount of your tuition. Others may offer scholarships or grants that you can apply for. Because these may only be available for current employees and their immediate family members, the competition for these scholarships and grants may be reduced in comparison to other programs that you may apply for.
Other Strategies to Consider
Because of the considerable cost of a graduate school program, many students will need to develop a comprehensive strategy to pay for their education while continuing to support their lifestyle. A great strategy to consider may be to reduce living expenses as much as possible. This may mean downsizing to a smaller house or apartment, living with a roommate, driving a less expensive vehicle and taking other similar steps. In addition to reducing expenses, additional funds must be available to pay for the educational expenses. When you have exhausted all options for scholarships and grants, you can consider applying for a loan for the rest of the funds that you need. Also, be sure to take advantage of the Lifetime Learning tax credit available to students if you qualify for it.
Paying for grad school can be a challenge, but it is not impossible to do. A graduate school degree can help you to qualify for more advanced and higher-paying positions in your field, and this may be the stepping stone that you need to cross over in order to achieve your professional dreams. To get started, you should consider reviewing the different scholarships and grants available to grad school students at your school and in your field. Then, consider exploring other options like employer-reimbursed tuition, student loans and reducing your living expenses. These combined efforts may help you to develop a strategic plan to pay for your education.
Before you go to grad school, consider taking a year off and traveling around the world, there are some great deals on tickets all the way around the world. If you plan on going overseas, don’t leave home without getting an expired passport renewal. Don’t be the one person on the trip who gets to the airport with an outdated passport!