App version: 0.1.0

11 Ideas for Affording Graduate School

11 Tips for Paying for Grad School
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated February 7, 2023
Share this article:
Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
You’re excited about going to graduate school to further your education and set yourself up for success in your future career … but you’re not sure how to pay for grad school. And you know it can be expensive.Let’s look at a few creative ways to pay for graduate school, so you can get the education without ending up with an unmanageable amount of debt.  

Graduate School Costs

Naturally, if you’re exploring ideas for how to pay for graduate school, you’ll want to know how much graduate school costs. The fact is, the cost varies, depending on whether the school is private or public, where it’s located, and the program you’re enrolling in.That being said, the average cost for a public school graduate program is $30,000 per year, and for a private school, it’s $40,000 annually. However, there are also programs that cost $100,000 or more per year.It’s important to take into consideration other factors besides price. The most expensive graduate program won’t necessarily be the best one for you, nor will going with the cheapest always be the right option.

Ways to Make Grad School Affordable

Let’s look at a few tips for how to pay for grad school, so you can feel comfortable choosing the program that best suits your situation.

1. Stay Employed

Paying for grad school while you’re still earning money may lessen the stress you experience around that large expense. There are many programs that are part-time and that you can attend in the evening after your workday.

2. Ask Your Employer About Tuition Reimbursement

If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that values education and is willing to pay for part or all of your schooling, find out what you need to do to qualify. You may be required to work for the company for a certain period and/or be a full-time employee to qualify.

3. Apply for School Financial Aid

Paying for graduate school may be easier with the help of a student loan or other financial aid. Every graduate program offers financial aid in the form of student loans, grants, and scholarships. To qualify, you’ll first need to fill out your grad school FAFSA (or have your parents do it if you’re still a dependent). The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, gives the school an understanding of your financial situation and ability (or lack thereof) to pay for school. Once you’ve filled it out, the school will process it and inform you of any scholarships or loans you’re eligible for.[Learn how FAFSA works before applying.]

4. Apply for Federal Graduate Student Loans

If you aren’t sure how to afford grad school, a student loan may be the best option. As mentioned, filling out your FAFSA is the first step in knowing what assistance you’re eligible for. If you decide that taking out a loan for grad school is your best option, you can choose federal loans that have low interest rates and long repayment periods. You won’t have to start repaying student loans until you complete your schooling.

5. Get a Work-Study Job

Another tip for how to pay for grad school is to get a work-study job. There is a program offered through the U.S. Department of Education that offers students the opportunity to work on campus to help pay for their tuition and expenses. On average, students earn $1,8500 over a school year. The work may even be in your field of study, which is a great experience for your future career. To see if you’re eligible, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA.

6. Apply for Graduate School Scholarships and Fellowships

Most graduate schools offer scholarships that will pay for part or all of your tuition and expenses. Some may require you to have a certain GPA or take certain classes.Fellowships are another option. These are offered by universities, federal agencies, and private organizations, and they provide aid that does not have to be repaid.

7. Consider In-State Public Schools

Tuition at public schools for non-residents can be significantly higher than tuition for residents. Consider attending a school in the state where you live to save money.

8. Be a Research Assistant

Another option that will not only provide financial assistance but also give you the chance to get real-world experience is to be a research assistant (RA) on campus. If your program is a research-heavy one (such as science), there are professors working on projects that they can use your help with. You’ll assist them by working part-time as an RA in exchange for assistance with your tuition. 

9.  Look for State Programs

Some states offer residents discounts on tuition or financial aid if they study in a certain field or agree to work in that field upon graduation. To learn more about these programs and to find out if you’re eligible, contact your state’s education agency.

10. Take Out Private Graduate Student Loans

Another option for how to pay for grad school is to take out private graduate student loans, especially if you aren’t eligible for federal loans. There are many lenders online that offer private loans, though be aware some may require you to start paying your loan right away rather than waiting until you graduate.[Still paying your undergrad loan? Learn about the advantages and risks of student loan refinancing.] 

11. Be a Teaching Assistant

Similar to a research assistantship, a teaching assistantship (TA) allows you to earn money to pay for tuition for grad school while getting some great experience under your belt. It’s especially good for someone who wants to teach after graduating because you’ll be teaching undergraduate courses.Recommended: Can You Study Abroad for Grad School?

Pros and Cons of Attending Grad School

As you figure out how to pay for grad school, you’ll want to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of furthering your education. Here’s a look at some of the major pros and cons:
It may help you earn more money after graduatingIt can be difficult to work full-time while attending school 
There are financing options availableIt may be expensive
You may be more appealing as a job candidateIt will require hard work and time

The Takeaway

Now that you know how to pay for grad school, the question is: what will you study? Graduate school provides a wonderful opportunity to further your education and make you more competitive in the job market. To gain these advantages without putting such a big dent in your finances, it’s worth taking the time to explore ways to pay for graduate school.

3 Student Loan Tips

  1. Once the pandemic-related pause on federal student loan payments ends, going back to making payments may be hard on budgets. One solution is to refinance to a lower interest rate, longer loan term, or both, depending on your situation. (The tradeoff is that you’ll be forfeiting federal benefits such as repayment programs.) Check your student loan refinancing rates.
  2. One pain-free way to pay down your student loan sooner: send in your tax refund to put against the principal balance. Since it’s money that has already been taken out of your pay, you won’t miss it.
  3. Depending on their income, qualified borrowers can deduct the interest they pay for student loans, both federal or private, up to $2,500 per year. The deduction phases out for modified adjusted gross incomes of $70,000 to $85,000 for single individuals and $145,000 to $175,000 for people married and filing jointly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do graduate students get access to student aid?
How much does grad school typically cost?
Can you get scholarships for graduate school?
Photo credit: iStock/FreshSplash

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
Share this article: