Thinking about graduate school? Graduate school can help you build skills, earn credentials, and gain an advantage in the job market.
Researching and Applying to Graduate School
What are your career goals? What do you want to study? Research graduate schools to find a program that supports your future goals.
Once you’ve found a program that meet your needs, the next step is to apply to graduate school. Research application deadlines, get copies of your undergraduate transcripts and take any necessary entrance exams, such as the GRE. Each graduate school you are looking at is the best source of information related to application requirements.
Paying for Graduate School
Many of the grants that are available to undergraduate students are not available to graduate students. So how do graduate students finance their degree?
Graduate students often rely on fellowships, assistantships, and loans. Fellowships and assistantships are often awarded by the graduate school or academic program, not through the financial aid process.
Fellowships help students pay for school in exchange for field-related research or other work. Fellowships can be school-based and administered by an academic department, federally funded, or offered by another institution. Many schools provide a graduate school fellowship database. Check with your school to find out what is available. Carefully review eligibility conditions, as many fellowship applications require support from your undergraduate institution.
These online search sites provide fellowship and scholarship listings for graduate students:
- FREIDA Online® – American Medical Association fellowship and residency program information
- The National Science Foundation
- Prestigious scholarships and fellowships listing on Finaid.org
Assistantships are usually provided to graduate students through part-time academic employment. Students are typically paid a small stipend and are provided a tuition waiver in exchange for work.
If you have the opportunity to plan ahead, saving for graduate school can reduce your student loan borrowing.
Many graduate students also work full time. Some employers offer education benefits such as tuition reimbursement. Other education benefits, such as discounts from Maine colleges, may be available if your employer is a NextStep Maine member.
Applying for Financial Aid
The financial aid application process for graduate students is similar to the process for undergraduate students, with a few notable differences. Graduate students are considered independent for the purposes of filing the FAFSA; therefore, parent information is not required on the FAFSA. However, some schools may still ask you to supply them with your parents’ financial resources. Married graduate students will be asked to include their spouse’s information. Learn more about applying for financial aid.
The types of financial aid that may be awarded through the financial aid process include federal student loans and work-study.
Work-Study – This is a need-based federally funded employment program that you could be considered for as part of your FAFSA application. Funding is limited so not all students are awarded federal work-study funds.
Be sure to research and apply for financial aid through other sources, including:
Maine Grants & Loan Programs – Maine offers financial aid programs that help future educators, doctors, dentists, and lawyers cover graduate school expenses.
Scholarships – While many scholarships are reserved for undergraduate studies, there are scholarships for graduate students. Visit FAME’s scholarship search page for a Maine-based scholarship search and links to national scholarship searches.
No matter where you are in life, it’s never too early or too late to establish sound money management practices. Learn more about setting financial goals, creating a budget, saving and investing, and credit-related topics by visiting Money Management.
Managing Your Student Loans
If you borrowed to complete your undergraduate degree, you may have questions about how to manage your student loans while you are in graduate school. Learn more about repayment and deferment options.