Insights on Paying as Little as Possible for Your Graduate Degree

At first glance, the expenses associated with attending graduate school can seem daunting. But don’t let a program’s official sticker price deter you from pursuing an advanced degree. By carefully researching and applying for scholarships that target students like you, you could receive enough funding to cover your expenses. Considering that workers with graduate degrees earn more money over the course of their lifetimes than those with lower levels of education, any expense you incur while paying for grad school may prove to be a wise long-term investment. Here are some tips to help you begin researching grad school scholarships.

Finding the Right Scholarships

Thanks to the sheer number of scholarships available, finding the right one can seem overwhelming at first. In fact, the opposite is true. The wealth of funding opportunities means there are scholarships out there for almost every type of student, including financial awards based on applicants’ field of study, ethnicity and unique life circumstances. Some grad schools also provide generous tuition discounts for alumni of their undergraduate programs and for family members of their employees. Would you consider returning to your alma mater as a grad student if you were welcomed back with a tuition break?

Start your scholarship search by filling out the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which most schools require aid applicants to complete. Deadlines apply and vary depending on your state and school, so don’t delay. Make this your first priority.

Sallie Mae’s online Scholarship Search tool is another helpful resource for fine-tuning your scholarship focus. Sallie Mae also provides specific advice about using grad school scholarships and other free funding opportunities to pay for a business, medical, dental or health professions graduate education.

Scholarships vs. Grants

Once you’ve exhausted your scholarship opportunities, consider looking for grants designed to assist students in your shoes. Like scholarships, grants require no repayment. Unlike scholarships — which are often based on academic performance — grants are often based on financial need.

If your scholarship awards ultimately fall short of your goal, don’t lose heart. You may still be able to negotiate for more graduate financial aid from your school.