As you near the end of your college days, you may have aspirations of continuing your education at the next level by attending graduate school. You may be in a field where a master’s or PhD is required, be looking to explore a new area of study, or gain additional expertise to help you find a job.
No matter the reason, you’re ready to dive into a pile of applications. But there’s a nagging worry in the back of your mind — how are you going to afford grad school? Can you scrape together the money you need?
There are several ways to get the money you need for graduate school even if you don’t currently have those means. Follow our tips to find out how to lower grad school costs and find the best ways to pay for your post-college education.
Scholarships typically don’t have to be repaid, so they offer an excellent means of funding graduate school. Here are a few unique ideas for finding scholarships tailored to your area of study:
- Through an employer: Did you have a summer job or internship with a company? See if they offer merit- or need-based scholarships for graduate school.
- Through obscure areas of study: If you study a major very few people enter into, such as ancient art restoration or demography, you may find scholarships dedicated to the field as a means of encouraging more people to go to grad school and study that field.
- Through your hobbies: Search online for scholarships related to your hobbies. You may never have guessed, for instance, that you can earn free money for grad school as a Clowns of America, International member — but you can.
- Through associations or memberships: Were you a member of an association or other chapter-based organization during your undergrad years? Your affiliation may have scholarship opportunities.
Getting Free Money for Grad School Through Your Program
Many graduate schools offer aid to incoming students. In return, they may require you to take on a teaching assistantship or work for an on-campus tutoring program. However, you often don’t have to repay the money you earn for tuition through these exchanges of labor, which will leave you with less debt when you exit your grad school program.
Find a One-Year Program
Many master’s degrees require at least two years of study, and some even necessitate three. If you need to keep your costs down, though, you can search for a program you can complete in just one year. That means only a single year of tuition, half of what a two-year program will cost.
Attend a Part-Time or Evening Program
If you’re struggling to find the means to pay for grad school, consider a part-time or evening program. Attending part time may cause you to stretch your graduate studies over more years, but the cost will be stretched out, too, making it easier to manage. Attending part time will also allow you to work when you’re not in class.
Whether you want to attend part time or full time, an evening program will give you the opportunity to work during the day. Maintaining a full-time job during the day and attending classes at night is a big commitment. But, if you’re good at time-management, it can help you minimize your debt by using income from your job to finance your schooling, rather than taking on additional loans.
Get a Job
Securing a job out of school rather than heading straight back into the world of education can open up opportunities for you. When you interview with companies, ask them about their graduate school benefits – such as tuition reimbursement or discounts they’ve arranged with schools. Some employers will pay a percentage of your cost for tuition, and a smaller number will cover all of it. Your employer may have certain requirements for your studies, such as:
- Focusing on a field that will help you at work, like an MBA
- Remaining employed for a specific amount of time after you get the degree
- Asking for special presentations or assistance for co-workers based on your studies
These are often a small price to pay to secure the education you want, without incurring additional debt.
Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
The government encourages people to work in areas that need an increased professional workforce, such as rural hospitals. In return for working in places where you may earn a lower salary or have a particularly challenging job, the government offers loan forgiveness programs.
You can find information on these programs through the government’s Federal Student Aid department. A few cases that may qualify for forgiveness include public service and teaching.
It’s important to thoroughly read and understand student loan forgiveness program requirements before deciding the best path for you. You’ll most likely still have to pay the minimum payment on your loans on time for 120 months (10 years) before the remainder of your loan is forgiven.
Low-interest Loans for Graduate School
For many, reducing the costs of grad school rather than eliminating them altogether is the most realistic solution. You want to find the lowest-interest loans you can, so you avoid paying a higher premium than you need to on your student debt. PSECU offers a variety of loans, like a Signature Loan, that can help cover your grad school costs.
You can explore more money-saving tips on our WalletWorks page.
Do you go to college in Pennsylvania? You may be eligible to join PSECU for free!