Although the decision to go back to school is exciting, many prospective graduate students spend a lot of time worrying about how to handle the expenses. As this article will explain, however, a graduate degree doesn’t have to come with a mountain of debt.
There are many options for paying for graduate school, and not at all of them include taking out more loans than you can handle.
The following tips offer some valuable advice on funding your master's degree.
1. Research scholarships and grants that relate to you and your experience.
When researching scholarships and grants, specificity is key. Sites such as scholarships.com allow you to search for scholarships by choosing criteria that include state of residence, academic major, ethnicity, and GPA. These specifications enable you to find lesser well-known scholarships that you might not normally come across.
An example is the Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania, a foundation that provides scholarships to residents of Pennsylvania who are pursuing a degree in nursing and who are planning to work in the state after obtaining their degree. If you fit within the required guidelines, this kind of scholarship can make a huge difference in paying for graduate school.
2. Look for a paid internship in your field of interest.
People often assume that most internships pay little to nothing. In recent years, however, there has been a backlash against companies that take advantage of interns’ free labor and skills while giving them nothing but “valuable workplace experience.”
Pay Our Interns, a fairly new nonprofit organization, was founded on the belief that a student’s professional opportunities should not be dependent on his or her economic needs. On this organization’s website, you can find an extensive list of paid internship opportunities across all sectors.
3. Talk to a financial aid adviser about FAFSA.
The FAFSA process can seem overwhelming, but a knowledgeable adviser will be able to talk you through it and provide you with valuable advice and information.
As a graduate student, the amount of federal aid you receive will be based on your own income, rather than your parents’ income, so you may find that you are eligible for much more assistance than you originally thought.
4. See if you might qualify for loan forgiveness in the future.
The thought of taking out student loans for graduate school can be anxiety-provoking, as debt seems nothing if not permanent. When deciding whether to take out loans, however, it’s worth considering your future career plans. If you end up working full-time for the government or in the nonprofit sector, you could be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Just be sure that you take out federal Direct Loans, as other types of federal loans (as well as private loans) are not included in PSLF.
It’s worth noting that if your desired graduate degree is in nursing or education, there may be additional loan forgiveness programs available for you as well!
5. Ask your current employer to help fund graduate school.
Depending on where you work, you may want to consider asking your employer about tuition reimbursement. In this case, it’s important to choose a master’s program that will provide you with skills to improve your performance at your current job.
If you work in management, for example, a master’s degree in organizational and strategic leadership is sure to teach you valuable skills. If you are a teacher who has demonstrated potential to fulfill a more direct leadership role, it may be in your employer’s best interest to help you obtain a master’s degree in education.
6. Cash in on your talents and skills.
Writing freelance articles in your field of expertise, tutoring undergraduate students in subjects you did well in, or assisting a professor with research are several potential ways to boost your income without requiring too much of a time commitment. These kinds of side gigs are easy to find and can work flexibly with your schedule.
With a bit of creativity, you might find that you can use your various unique skills to help cover the expenses of graduate school, rather than taking out additional loans to make ends meet.
At Neumann University, we’re dedicated to making the graduate school decision process as simple as possible, and we know that part of that includes helping you to figure out how to finance your degree. Take a look at Neumann’s financial aid options!