Sunday, September 2, 2018

How to Pay for Grad School // Guest Post from Frank Financial Aid

Hello, beautiful! Long time, no blog. I've been fortunate enough to be traveling abroad in Europe for the past week - not to mention moving into my newly renovated campus apartment and getting ready for my senior year! Eek!

Awhile back, a representative from Frank Financial Aid reached out offering to share some tips on financing a graduate education. Since I am so close to going to law school myself, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to learn more about paying for grad school - and share what I learn with all of you!

So, today, I have a special treat for all my readers of Haley Marie Blog: a guest post from Frank Financial Aid detailing all the best ways to pay for a graduate education. I hope you learn as much from their advice as I did - and take what you learn to heart as you pursue the next step in your college career!


Graduate school can be a great way to differentiate yourself in the job market and specialize in an industry or field of your choice. For many though, getting that Masters or professional degree can come at an inaccessible price, especially for those who already carry debt from their time as undergraduates.

The graduate financial aid process differs from the undergraduate one. Many of the federal programs aren’t as readily available, and there is more competition for a fewer number of scholarships and grants. Still, there are some good options to choose from if you’re looking to get financial help. Here are some of the best ways to finance your graduate education:

Employer Sponsorship

One source of funding that doesn’t exist at the undergraduate level, but is an option at the graduate, is aid through corporate programs. Some companies will pay for their employees’ degrees, usually contingent on an amount of time worked for the company already, and a pledge to work for it after the degree is completed. Although almost exclusively confined to fortune 100’s, they’re worth checking out if you plan on going to graduate school.

Consulting, tech, and finance are vastly overrepresented industries where companies help their employees get through graduate school. Not all will cover 100% of tuition and fees, but many will give a yearly stipend or gift to full or part-time students in their employ.

Federal Loans

The William D. Ford Direct Loan Program offers graduate students unsubsidized loans,  which means they accrue interest while the student is enrolled in school. This is the largest government loan program for graduates, as students can expect a maximum of $20,500 per school year. If this amount isn’t sufficient, they may also apply for Direct PLUS loans to reach their total financial need. Good credit history is generally a requirement for access to these loans, and as in the undergraduate process, students must submit FAFSA and meet the requirements to be eligible for the federal aid.

A word of caution: students should only take out loans when, and in the amount, that is absolutely necessary. Given they have to pay interest on them while in school, and forgiveness or cancellation is rare, they should only be used to fill the gap of basic expenditures such as tuition, fees, textbooks, supplies students may need money for.

Graduate loans have higher maximums than undergraduate ones because it’s more expensive to get an M.A than B.A, and students who apply will be seen as independents; this means that individuals will generally have access to more money in loans. It’s important to keep in mind that you still have to pay them off, and just because you’re eligible doesn’t mean you should take out every cent you can.


Government Pell Grants and FSEOGs are a common way of paying for undergrad, but these forms of federal aid are only available to graduate students under very specific circumstances. Namely, only those who are pursuing some kind of post-undergraduate teacher’s certification or licenses are eligible.

Private Loans

As always, private loans should be your last choice after you've exhausted all federal, state, institutional and non-profit options. They normally have the worst terms of agreement, and usually can only be accessed with good credit history and/or a cosigner.

That being said, if a student has a good credit history and is being offered favorable terms and interest rates on a loan, they shouldn’t ignore them because they’re coming from a private lender. As long as the terms are clear and the creditor is reputable, then they should be treated as a serious source of aid for graduate school.   

Institutional Aid

School scholarships are a good source of aid for would-be graduate students. Though not as common as undergraduate scholarships, many institutions will provide merit-based aid to students with exceptional academic and professional backgrounds. However, unlike the undergraduate application process, which is simplified by the College Board’s CSS Profile, no such equivalent aggregator exists at the graduate level.

To obtain this kind of aid, graduate students must generally apply through each of their individual schools financial services office. Each will vary in the number, amounts, and selectivity of their scholarships, but as a general rule you can expect them to be competitive. This is because competition is much greater at the graduate level, because it self-selects for the most ambitious, and the amount of resources available are less than for those pursuing a bachelor's.

Work Study

The Federal Work Study Program is available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, where it functions in almost identical ways. Under work-study, the government allows students to work on or off campus as half or full time students. Graduate students are paid either by the hour or on a salary, depending on the kind of job they're performing, but they are guaranteed at least the federal minimum wage.

The purpose of work-study is to give students access to extra income for school related expenses, without affecting their aid eligibility. This is because FAFSA calculates aid through EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and COA (Cost of Attendance), student income is included in that formula. So if you’re making more money, then your EFC increases and your aid eligibility goes down.

Teacher and Research Assistant

One of the benefits of being in graduate school is that you are in a position to capitalize on your specific experience and skill set while you’re enrolled. Most undergraduate classes have TA’s (Teacher’s Assistants) who answer students questions and grade their papers. They are usually decently paid, and a great resume builder as well.

Similarly, a lot of professors are involved in at least some kind of research, and require skilled assistants to collect and analyze data, as well as conduct literature reviews. A lot of graduate students, especially those looking to get into academia, will find this kind of job a worthwhile pursuit. Even if this is not the case, research experience is a good indicator of knowledge and experience in a particular field, and can get you great connections with professors and other students that you can use after you graduate.

There are plenty of sources you can look towards to help finance your graduate education. As a general rule, you should first look for free money that’s already available to you, and then turn to loans and other kinds of debt. Federal aid will usually have the best terms, but that isn’t necessarily always the case, so keep your eyes peeled for good deals which may save you money in the long run. Make sure to do your due diligence beforehand, so once school starts, you’ll be well set up financially to concentrate only on school and get that graduate diploma.

How are you paying for grad school? 

Send me any tips we missed @haleyblogs or in the comments below!