You may already be overwhelmed by undergraduate school loans to the point that you don’t even want to think about graduate school but finding aid for graduate school can be done!
How much financial aid will largely depend on what field you are going into. For instance, there are more assistantships and fellowships available to students who are pursuing a post secondary degree in math, engineering and the sciences. There tends to be more Federal and private grants and scholarships offered in these fields as well. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be aid available in other forms for all other fields of academic pursuit.
The Assitantship or Fellowship Route:
An assistantship is usually offered by academic departments and is basically a swap of teaching for tuition and/or living stipends. In engineering and science departments it is more common to perform research for tuition and/or living stipends. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t gain an assistantship your first year of graduate school. Many grad students take out loans their first year and establish connections with their professors and gain an assistantship their second year or in some cases their second semester.
Fellowships, grants and scholarships are the most ideal for graduate school and can be obtained from the federal government or private institutions. These are ideal because this type of aid is money that does not need to be paid back. In essence it is a form of aid that pays you to do the necessary work you need to do for your program anyway. The National Science Foundation gives out a lot of grant money to award graduate students to be paid for their academic research.
Cornell University offers a free online resource that contains a Database on Fellowships you can find at: cuinfo.cornell.edu/Student/GRFN. The University of Michigan also has a good listing of grants that can be found on their website: http://finaid.msu.edu/sships.asp.
Tutoring can Be Lucrative:
Never underestimate the undergraduate education you have already received. If you are pursuing a post secondary degree you will have a solid background in a specific academic area. Tutoring can help you pay for graduate school and keep all those old lessons fresh on the brain. Usually you can arrange to meet your students on campus (where you will likely be anyway) and have them meet around your schedule. Tutoring can also give you teaching experience which may be able to convince a professor into giving you an assistantship the following year.
The Tried and True Subsidized Stafford Loans:
Most grad students will end up having to take out loans. The subsidized Stafford Loans still seem to be the best route to take. US News Online reported that “Subsidized Stafford loans are generally the cheapest way to go. Rates currently are just below 3.4 percent, and you can borrow up to $8,500 per year ($65,500 overall). The federal government pays the interest on your loan while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate or drop below half-time status. Even if interest rates rise significantly, the loans can’t exceed 8.25 percent.
Students qualify based on financial need, so it’s necessary to file federal aid forms (the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to get subsidized loans. If your need is high, you may also be offered a subsidized Perkins loan, with an interest rate of 5 percent. You can borrow an additional $10,000 a year in unsubsidized Stafford loans (and up to $138,500 in Stafford loans overall). Rates are the same as for the subsidized Stafford, and you can defer making payments, but interest begins accruing right away.” The point to take home from this report is to make sure and file the federal aid forms to be eligible for the subsidized loans.
Professional Degrees in Law and Medicine:
If you are about to enter Law or Medical school you more than likely know by now that loans for these degrees can enter into the six figure level. Loans are readily available to these students making it incredibly easy for them to borrow money. Keep your debt in check, ask yourself if you really needed to borrow money for a new car? It may take you longer to pay back those loans than you may think.
One other option for financial aid for students seeking professional degrees is committing to public service once you have earned a degree. By committing to public service work after you graduate your debts may be forgiven.