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How to Pay for Grad School

Graduate school is getting more and more expensive each year, and cost has become a major factor in where students choose to study. Today, Stephanie Farah is here from with tips on how you can pay for your dream grad program.

Unless you’ve got a trust fund or a rich and generous uncle, cost is a major factor in the decision to attend grad school, whether you’re looking at two-year program at a public university or an M.B.A. at one of the Ivies. And if you’ve already got loans from undergrad, the prospect of borrowing even more for your master’s degree is less than desirable. But don’t worry: there are plenty of ways you can reduce or even eliminate the cost of grad school.

1. Crunch the numbers.
First and foremost, it’s important to make sure that the graduate program you’re considering will pay off for you in the long run. For example, dropping tens of thousands of dollars on a master’s degree in music at a pricey, private, liberal arts school doesn’t make much sense if it’s not going to increase your future salary. On the other hand, J.D. and M.B.A. programs can be expensive, but graduates tend to earn enough to pay back their loans comfortably. Do some research, consider your job prospects, and make sure the program you want to pursue is worth the investment.

2. Turn to Uncle Sam. There isn’t as much federal or state funding available for grad students as there is for undergraduates, but you should still file the FAFSA. You may qualify for grants (which you won’t have to pay back) or, at the very least, some low-interest loans.

3. Ask your boss. If you already have a job, see if your company offers tuition reimbursement. Some employers will reimburse employees for the cost of tuition, particularly when the degree they’re pursuing relates to their job. If your company doesn’t offer this benefit, it might be worth sitting down with your boss and/or an HR representative to explain how the degree would make you a better employee and, in turn, benefit the company.

4. Look for scholarships. Scholarships aren’t just for undergraduates. There are millions of dollars up for grabs for grad students. Start by seeing if the school to which you are applying offers any merit-based scholarships. Some programs give grad students scholarships based on their undergraduate GPA or GRE or GMAT scores (which is why it’s important to do well on them!). You can also use a scholarship search site to look for non-institutional awards for which you may qualify.

5. Look for assistantships and fellowships. Many graduate programs offer students assistantships and fellowships that can help defray the cost of tuition. The duties and the money a student receives for assistantships and fellowships vary by school and program, but both generally involve scholarly work in the student’s chosen field of study—meaning you’ll get funds to help pay for school and an attractive stamp on your résumé. Some fellowships even cover the cost of tuition and provide the student with a stipend for living expenses for the duration of his or her studies.

Once you’ve found a program that’s in line with your personal, professional, and financial goals, rest assured that your education will be a worthy investment. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that, in 2011, young adults with a master’s degree or higher earned $14,000 more than those who only had a bachelor’s degree. So study hard and keep your eyes on the prize!

Stephanie Farah is a blogger for, a comprehensive college and scholarship search website. She earned a B.A. in English at the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Journalism at the University of North Texas. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and hanging out with her Great Dane. You can follow her on Twitter.


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