Financial support does exist for graduate study, but obtaining it demands persistent and comprehensive research as well as follow-up on your part. Here are some things to consider as you plan your path.
Start With the Program
The best sources of information about financial aid are often the universities to which you are applying. Every institution has its own resources and procedures for allotting aid. Ask your prospective department about assistantships (teaching, research, or graduate), fellowships and scholarships. Also consult with the financial aid office about work-study, student loans and other assistance options.
How do programs award aid?
Many schools use needs analysis. Be sure to also check with each school's financial aid office for appropriate forms and procedures for that institution, along with applicable deadline dates.
Common Funding Sources
Below are the main types of aid for graduate study:
Grants and Fellowships
These are awards that do not require any service in return.
- Grants are usually provided to those with the greatest financial need.
- Fellowships are frequently rewarded to those on the basis of past academic merit or as a selective/prestigious award.
Research and Teaching Assistantships
These are service-awards, usually requiring students to work 10-20 hours per week, often by conducting research or assisting with teaching duties. Assistantships may vary in time commitment and pay scale, so all options should be thoroughly investigated. Most include tuition assistance, as well as an hourly or weekly pay rate.
Assistantships may be available within your department, or through other university offices. Note that large universities may have separate assistantship offices, so don't rely just on your department.
There are a variety of federal and other loan programs for which you may qualify. Contact the financial aid offices at the universities to which you are applying for information regarding these loans and application procedures. Websites like FinAid provide useful descriptions of loan options and how to apply. While application deadlines are sometimes as late as February and March, it is important to complete financial aid forms and materials as early in the year as possible, to ensure full consideration for all options available to you.