Q: How does someone get financial aid for graduate school? Is the process similar to the undergraduate financial aid process, or are there additional resources an individual can utilize?
A: Obtaining financial aid for graduate school is very similar to obtaining financial aid for undergraduate school. However, graduate students may have additional financing options available to them, and depending on what they are attending graduate school for (i.e. business, law, medical school, etc.), there may even be additional financial aid programs and opportunities available to them that are not available to undergraduate students. Below are 3 easy steps that every student should follow when financing their grad school education.
Apply for Scholarships and Grants.
The best source for financial aid for college (regardless of graduate or undergraduate school) is going to be scholarships and grants. Students should always exhaust all of their scholarship and grant opportunities, as this is money for college that will not have to be repaid. Often, grad students can find specific grants and/or scholarships available to grad students only, or available to grad students in a particular field of study. Scholarship matching websites are a good place to start locating scholarships to apply for, however you should always remember to check with your school to see if they offer any scholarships that you may qualify for. Your chances of receiving scholarship funds at a local level are often greater because there is less competition for the funds.
Complete the FAFSA.
As with undergrad students, graduate students should also apply for FAFSA. FAFSA may provide graduate students with low interest federal student loans, and grants for college. Graduate students complete the FAFSA once per academic school year, just the same as undergraduate students. The federal student loan options you will receive from completing and filing a FAFSA, will likely be the least expensive of all of the loans available for financing your grad school education.
Grad PLUS Loans.
In addition to the federal student loan programs offered to both graduate students and undergraduate students, graduate students can also take advantage of the Grad PLUS loan to help cover their education expenses. The Grad PLUS loan is a lower, fixed-rate loan that can help cover the costs of tuition, as well as living expenses while you attend grad school. If your graduate program is demanding, and you are unable to work because of the course load, a Grad PLUS loan may help to bridge the gap from what you have received from scholarships and FAFSA, to what you need for the remainder of your educatioal and living costs. Unlike other federal student loans, the Grad PLUS loan will take into consideration the borrowers credit, and not simply the borrowers financial need. To learn more about Grad PLUS Loans view: Grad PLUS Loan Requirements.