Step 5: Find Ways to Fund Your Future Education

Step 1: Decide if Graduate School Is Right for You
Step 2: Identify and Research Graduate or Professional Programs
Step 3: Take Admissions Tests and Complete Applications
Step 4: Choose the Best Program for You

Step 5: Find Ways to Fund Your Future Education

Typically, it’s easier to get terminal degrees (i.e., PhDs) paid for than it is master’s degrees. That said, it depends on the program.

Funding for graduate or professional school can come from many different sources. The most popular are described below:

Graduate Assistantships: Graduate assistantships usually take the form of teaching or research assistantships. They’re typically salaried and half-time (20 hour per week) positions in your graduate department. Ask your department about these opportunities.

Resident Assistantships: Many larger universities hire graduate or professional students to be residential coordinators. This position typically pays a salary and room and board. It’s a great deal especially if you’re attending school in an urban area. If you’ve worked as a CA as an undergrad, your chances of securing one of these positions is much better. Check with the residential life department at your graduate institution for these opportunities.

Fellowships and Scholarships: These really come in two types – institutional and private. Check with your graduate program for fellowships or scholarships for which you might be qualified. Be sure to do this well before application deadlines as many programs require earlier deadlines for fellowship and scholarship applicants. For information on fellowships and scholarships from private sources, see the link below. But again, look early since application deadlines can be as early as 18 months prior to the time you begin graduate study (that’s the spring of your junior year if you want to go to graduate school right after SLU.)

Loans: Be prepared. This is one of the #1 ways that graduate and professional students pay for their graduate education. The government allows graduate students to take larger loans than undergraduate students. See the FAFSA link below for more information.

College Work-Study: Even graduate and professional students can qualify for work-study. The pay is hourly and similar to what you make as an undergrad, but if you have the time, it’s a better alternative to larger loans.

Make sure to fully research all issues related to financing your graduate or professional education prior to entering. Contact the financial aid administrators at any program you are considering to gain a complete understanding of the student aid process at each school. Following are some links to more information on graduate and professional school funding.

FinAid: The Smart Guide to Financial Aid At this FREE site, students can find links to other scholarship search services as well as "calculators" for estimating an individual's need for financial aid. General information on the "how-to" of applying for aid is also available and updated regularly.

FAFSA Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at this site. It's a good idea to prepare this form in advance, since it is used to determine your eligibility for all government including loans and work-study and many non-government aid programs.

E-Student Loan Shop for loans with the site's LoanFinder, which allows users to compare lenders. The site asks for preferences (on payment terms, deferment options, etc.) and uses the information you provide to find matching lenders.

Scholarships and Fellowships This list has some national and international scholarships or fellowships that may have funding for graduate study as part of their awards. Note the early application deadlines.

GrantsNet GrantsNet is a new web site designed to conduct grant searches for student researchers. It provides an extensive database on fellowships, grants, and other sources of support for research and advanced training in the biomedical sciences. The site also features links to the web sites of funders, online applications, stories about previous fellowship recipients, and comments from recent application reviewers. You can download from our Handshake Resources some specific information about the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowships (NSF GRFP, usually for PhD programs in mathematics and sciences).

A good general rule of thumb: GO STRAIGHT TO THE HORSE’S MOUTH! -- ask the programs to which you are applying how most students fund their study, and ask specifically about any special grants, assistantships or paid work they may offer. Also, apply to programs early – often grants and awards are offered on a rolling basis, so don’t wait until a final deadline in the admission cycle.