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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Paying for Graduate School

UL Grad School -- 03/31/2016

So you want to go to graduate school? Well, we’re here to help you navigate the best options and course of action to take when funding your education. Below are some things to make note of during your application and enrollment processes.


Ways to Pay for Grad School

Assistantships & Fellowships

Research fellowships & assistantships, or work studies, usually at least partially cover tuition costs and offer periodical stipends while allowing you to gain valuable, relevant experience in your prospective field. These opportunities are available often within your program of study, but also can be found elsewhere on campus.

Scholarships & Grants

Scholarships are generally merit-based awards, whereas grants are need-based awards. Scholarships and Grants are typically financial aid that doesn’t have to be repaid, essentially “free money.” Though, compared to undergraduates, graduate students get the short end of the stick.

Employer Funding

A lot of companies looking to grow their internal skill set will reimburse all or some of  employees' graduate school tuition, as long as the degree path is relevant to their career.

Loans & Financial Aid

Borrowed money for college or career school; these must be repaid, with interest. Depending on your field of study and future earning potential, this should be your last resort.  Look for a  school that will offer you some funding or tuition benefit for your graduate education.

The Process

Research Important Deadlines

Research important deadlines regarding the prospective school(s). This will help guide your funding and financial aid process timeline and reveal if any schools or programs have specific “in-house” applications.

Complete Institution Based Applications

Financial Aid Guide & Cheat SheetSince you did your research, you should be aware of any institutional applications and deadlines for assistantship, fellowship, and scholarship funding. These are generally documents and forms to be provided and filled out at the individual University, college, or program level.

Fill out the FAFSA

Again, financial aid and loans should be what you consider as your last funding source, as you should try to pick a school that offers you some funding. Filling out the FAFSA will determine your financial aid eligibility. This should be filled out each year you are in school. The difference between filling out the FASFA for graduate school, rather than as an undergraduate, is that you don’t have to include your parents’ information anymore.

Schools will generally use the FAFSA as the foundation for an admitted students award and to determine a student's “need” as it pertains to a student’s ability to pay for graduate school.

Knowing your financial aid eligibility is important. You’ll know what you can borrow, but hopefully other funding sources can help you limit what you do borrow.


Do Your Research

Research deadlines and requirements both school and department wide to be sure you don’t miss anything.

Save Early and Often

Put some money aside for a “rainy day.” While you may not need it now, it’ll be nice to have something to fall back on if the time does come. This includes saving money for research, conference fees, travel costs, etc.

Take Initiative, Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to be open in communication with your graduate program. Ask questions, about awards and options available to you. Be polite and honest, you’d be surprised how far it can get you.

Be Diligent in Communicating

Keep in touch with your graduate program, the Graduate School, and the Financial Aid Office up until the start of your graduate classes. Make sure you have all your bases covered in terms of required forms and deadlines.

Process and options may differ for International Students. For more information visit

Learn more about Tuition & Aid

Visit the Graduate School website for more info.