Graduate/Professional School Funding Options
Finance Your Studies
Because financial support varies widely from institution to institution, it is best to read all financial aid materials carefully and to file documents on time. You have until April 15 to decide whether you will accept admittance offers when there is a financial package involved.
Funding varies by program, so be sure to take note of what is available from each institution of interest. If funding does not cover the entire cost of the program, federal student aid is available for students in graduate/professional programs.
- Learn more about Federal Student Aid for graduate/professional students
A scholarship is money awarded to an individual for educational purposes with no expectation of repayment; they are available through colleges and universities, corporations, and private organizations. Organizations award scholarships based on criteria such as year in graduate school, academic merit, race, ethnicity, military affiliation, etc. Conduct an internet search to begin researching scholarship opportunities that fit your unique situation.
A fellowship is a financial award that is distributed by a university, independent organization (such as a foundation or professional association), or the federal government. Some fellowships are awarded to individuals based upon academic focus as well as persona characteristics (for example, a fellowship for women seeking graduate education in biomechanical engineering). A fellowship from a college or university is an institutional fellowship, meaning it is awarded for an applicant to pursue studies at that institution only. A fellowship that can be applied at the institution of the recipient’s choice is called a portable fellowship. Applications for fellowships can be competitive and may be evaluated based on financial need, merit, leadership, professional experience, as well as academic record. A fellowship application may require a personal statement, references, and resume, among other documents. Thus, it is advantageous to begin fellowship research and applications as soon as possible in your graduate/professional school process.
- Find more information as well as a list of fellowships to start your research
A grant is very similar to a scholarship in that it is money you can use towards your graduate/professional education that you do not need to pay back. While scholarships may be merit based, grants are more likely to be need based. They also may be associated with particular student identities or courses of study, especially if you are seeking graduate/professional education to enter into a field with high demand for qualified workers, such as nursing and teaching. Grants can be federally funded, state funded, university funded, or funded by outside organizations—similar to fellowships.
- Learn more about grants
An assistantship is a type of financial aid where a graduate/professional student works part-time in exchange for tuition remission and/or a living stipend. Assistantships are offered by the institution or department in which the student is enrolled and can serve different functions depending on the nature of the position. In a research assistantship, the student may assist with the current research endeavors of one or multiple professors. In a teaching assistantship, the student may be responsible for teaching sections of undergraduate or graduate courses, as well as holding office hours, creating syllabi, and grading assignments. In a graduate assistantship, the student may work in an administrative capacity—though this term can also be used to describe the concept of assistantships in general. To find out if you program(s) of interest offer funding through assistantships, check the website or contact the admissions department.
If you take out loans to pay for graduate/professional school, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness programs depending on your field of study and employment after graduation. If you are pursuing a career in teaching or public service, among others, loan forgiveness programs may cover your outstanding loans so that you are not obligated to pay your remaining balance and interest. Each person’s situation is unique, so you will need to do some research before determining your eligibility.
- Find more details on federal loan forgiveness programs
Your employer may also offer loan assistance or loan repayment programs, wherein the employer contributes a monthly sum or percentage of your salary towards your student loans. If you are already employed, ask your employer if they provide this service through your benefits package. If you are seeking employment, research the company’s benefits or ask your recruiter about loan repayment benefits after you have received an offer. Employer loan assistance is becoming more and more popular, so even if your employer does not currently offer this benefit, they may add it in the future.
Here is a list of current companies offering loan forgiveness programs
- 13 Companies That Pay Your Student Loans
- 20 Companies That Help Employees Pay Off Their Student Loans
- You can find national government loan repayment programs at Benefits.gov
- You can also search for state opportunities through your state’s education agency