Financial AssistanceAs stated, it is financially feasible for most students to attend graduate school. You need to plan ahead, research the opportunities available and apply for those opportunities that you are qualified for. There are three main areas of financial assistance available for students: fellowships, scholarships and grants, assistantships and work-study and loans.
Fellowships, Scholarships and Grants - At the graduate level, fellowships are the equivalent of scholarships. The difference between a grant and a fellowship is that a grant is awarded by need and a fellowship is awarded for scholastic achievement. These awards are given through the institution's endowment or through a private foundation, government or industry. Resources are available on a wealth of fellowships that are often overlooked and unused. These resources can be found in all of the local libraries. Also contact the department of your program and the financial aid office of the school you are applying to for further information.
Assistantships - Assistantships are awarded by the college itself and give you the opportunity to gain work experience while receiving a tuition remission and stipend for living expenses. There are three different types of assistantships; research, teaching and administrative assistantships.
- Research Assistantship - the student is paired with a faculty member in their field of interest and given the opportunity to assist them in their research efforts.
- Teaching Assistantship - the student assists a professor in their field by teaching a lab, leading study sessions or teaching a class. They also are responsible for correcting papers and meeting with students
- Administrative Assistantship - usually given to graduate students who work in a counseling capacity or within the student services or administrative offices of the college. Resident assistantships fall under this category and room and board is included as part of the stipend.
The number of assistantships available for students and their competitiveness varies by each department. Contact the department you are applying to for information on what assistantships are available and what you need to do to apply.
Loans - There are many need-based, low-interest loans that can be obtained to assist students in financing their education. These loans can be paid back over long periods of time and are traditionally of low interest. Some examples are The Perkins Loan Program, The Stafford Loan (formerly the GSL) and the Federal Supplemental Loan for Students (SLS) .
In order to apply for these loans, the FAFSA form (Free Application for Student Aid) must be filled out. This service is free. According to FinAid--The Smart Student's Guide to Financial Aid on the web, you should apply for aid every year, even if you don't think you qualify. There are many factors affecting eligibility for financial aid. Some private colleges and universities will require one or more supplemental forms to obtain information not included on FAFSA. They may have their own forms or they may ask you to complete the College Boards' CSS Profile form.