There are a lot of good reasons to pursue a graduate degree. It will give you greater earning power and help you advance your career. Or if you’re ready for a change, earning your graduate degree can make it easier to transition into a new career.
Plus, some jobs require that you have at least a Master’s degree. This is probably why the major of college freshmen expect to earn their Master’s degrees. More than 21 million people in the U.S. will pursue a graduate degree, which is up more than 50% since 2000.
But graduate schools can be very expensive, especially if you don’t plan to work while you’re in school. The typical debt for a graduate student is more than $57,000. Fortunately, there are many different ways you can pay for graduate school in 2019.
5 Ways to Pay for Grad School
Here are the five most common ways to pay for college:
- Student loans: Student loans are loans you take out from the federal government or a private lender that can help you pay for school. These loans will have to be repaid.
- Work-study programs: With a work-study program, you’ll earn assistance to pay for your tuition in exchange for part-time employment.
- Fellowships: A fellowship is a great way for graduate students to pay for graduate or postgraduate education. This is a funding award given to a student to help subsidize the cost of education. These are often merit-based and given based on an individual’s potential to make a positive contribution to society.
- Scholarships: Scholarships are financial awards given to students to help them fund their higher education. These are usually based on merit and don’t have to be repaid. Graduate students can choose from hundreds of scholarships to apply for.
- Grants: Grants are funds that are dispersed to help students pay for career school or college. These are usually given based on your financial circumstances. Grants are often distributed by your state, college, or the federal government.
4 Ways to Find Grad School Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants
Many graduate students will resort to taking out student loans but this means you’ll start your career with a heavy debt load. But according to Sallie Mae, only 15% of graduate students will use grants, fellowships, scholarships, or tuition waivers to cover their tuition costs.
Scholarships are free money that you’ll never have to repay. And what most students don’t realize is that there are hundreds of graduate school scholarships you can apply for if you know where to look. Here are four ways you can get started:
Use a Scholarship Search Engine
One of the easiest ways to get started is by checking a scholarship search engine. These online databases have information about scholarships that are available for graduate students. You can try one or two from the following list:
- Career One Stop: This scholarship search engine is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. It lists more than 8,000 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial aid award opportunities. You can narrow your search by keyword, award type, your location, and more.
- Sallie Mae: Do you ever wish that someone else would sift through all the available scholarships and then tell you what you qualify for? If so, Sallie Mae has you covered with their Graduate School Scholarship Search. You’ll start by registering online and creating your user profile where you talk about your skills and field of study. From there, you’ll receive alerts whenever scholarships matching your criteria become available.
- Fast Web: Fast Web has a financial aid database of over 1.5 million scholarships. When you sign up, you can easily and keep track of targeted scholarships. You can keep track of the scholarships you’re interested in, ones that you aren’t interested in, and scholarships you’ve already applied for.
- Unigo: Unigo is designed for high school seniors, college students, and graduate students. It has many free resources as well as an online searchable scholarship database. Plus, Unigo awards its own $10,000 scholarship every year and has awarded $500,000 in scholarships to date.
- Scholarship America: Scholarship America has a searchable database of scholarships and they also award their own. Many organizations offer scholarships for graduate students but the majority are relatively small. Scholarship America is different in that it awards scholarships up to $25,000 for a Master’s degree.
- Scholly: Scholly is a mobile app that is designed to make it easier for grad students to get connected with scholarships. And you can even use Scholly to edit your scholarship essays.
Check Professional Organizations
One of the best ways to discover scholarship opportunities is by joining professional associations in your field of study. They exist for pretty much every field of study you can think of.
Student membership to these organizations tends to be pretty low-priced and the benefits you gain will pay for themselves. Not only will you get valuable networking opportunities, many offer scholarships that are only available to members of that organization.
For instance, The NCPA Foundation provides the following scholarships for pharmacy students:
- Presidential Scholarships
- J.C. and Rheba Cobb Memorial Scholarship
- William B. Simmons Memorial Scholarship
- Partners in Pharmacy Scholarship
- Neil Pruitt Sr. Memorial Scholarship
Check With Your Employer
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 54% of employers offer some type of tuition assistance. Companies like Google, Best Buy, and Home Depot already offer these types of programs.
If you work at a company that offers this, why not talk to your employer to see if they’ll offer grad school assistance? Just make sure you are clear on your company’s requirements before signing up. For instance, some companies will require a two to five-year commitment in exchange for tuition reimbursement.
Check With Your College
If you’re still looking into different graduate programs, ask the schools you’re considering applying to about funding opportunities. Most schools offer scholarships to attract students with high academic performance.
And many colleges offer scholarships to students who are pursuing certain fields of study, like STEM degrees. Ask to speak to a recruitment advisor and find out if your grades qualify you for any scholarship opportunities.
What are Things to Know About Apply for Grad School Scholarships?
Applying for scholarships, fellowships, and grants can be a great way to earn thousands of dollars toward graduate school. The application process may feel tedious at times but it is worth the time and effort. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Get started early: The best way to avoid overwhelming yourself is to start the process early. Many colleges have deadlines as early as a year before school starts so you should begin the process as soon as possible.
- Stay organized: Keep track of the scholarships you’ve applied for as well as those you’ve already heard back from. And keep track of all the essay questions you’ve answered because you can use these in future applications.
- Keep your options open: It’s important to look for scholarships in a wide variety of categories. For instance, you can look for scholarships based on your gender, field of study, hobbies, academic achievements, and more.
- Don’t apply for everything: This final point may seem to contradict the rest of the article. But while scholarship applications are free, they may require you to submit additional documentation that will cost money to access. For that reason, you should focus most of your energy on applying for scholarships that are lucrative and that you believe you can win.