Many graduates may find the prospect of graduate school prohibitively expensive, particularly if already weighed down with high student loan debt. Graduate school can be an affordable choice though, most particularly if it is planned for at the same time as undergraduate colleges are chosen. A number of top colleges now replace student loans with institutional aid to ensure that their best students are in a prime position to complete their education at graduate school, without the encumbrance of college debt preventing them pursuing their chosen paths.
Academic excellence is a must to benefit from the generous financial aid available at Ivy League colleges and other top universities. It is worth aspiring high to have the opportunity of graduating with little debt.
There are various forms of assistance available to help with the costs of graduate school, but much of it is competitive and needs to be applied for early. Assistance is most usually awarded to excellent candidates and is sometimes based on financial need.
Teaching assistantships are one option to pursue and generally pay a portion or all of tuition costs. Research assistants are also required to assist with faculty research programs. It can be helpful when pursuing either of these options if the candidate already has faculty contacts.
Graduates who can attain a fellowship often have the advantage of having full tuition costs covered. An additional living stipend is often awarded and sometimes insurance is paid. Graduate fellowships are available from individual schools and also from foundations.
Many employers offer tuition reimbursement programs either to current employees, or to attract future employees. They have conditions attached regarding the future length of employment with the company.
State programs also set conditions in return for paying towards tuition costs, but assistance depends on the individual state. State programs tend to focus on the teaching, social work, nursing and medical professions, including veterinary medicine and dentistry.
Students who attend graduate school are still eligible for federal assistance from the department of education. There is no requirement for parental contributions towards graduate school. Graduates can apply for the needs-based Perkins loan, Stafford loans and the graduate Plus loan, which all offer low fixed interest rates.
Private loans are another available option. Graduates who have been able to establish a good credit history will no longer require a co-signer in order to qualify for private loans, which emphasises the need to build a good credit history whilst in college.
Grants and scholarships are also available for graduate school and should be sought early, because they are very competitive. An excellent resource for finding suitable grants, scholarships and fellowships is here. Rather than depending on loans if other sources of funding are not available, graduates do of course have the option of working prior to graduate school and saving in advance to cover the costs.
Graduate school is extremely expensive and those who intend to include it in their career path are well advised to plan for the costs as early as possible. With careful forethought, it is possible to have the full costs of tuition paid for, making it an affordable choice.