Finding Financial Aid for Your Master’s Program

A student applying to a graduate program has very different financial assistance options than someone applying to an undergraduate program. Fewer people pursue a master’s, so those individuals have access to a broader range of possibilities. However, the qualification requirements tend to be quite rigorous.

If you need financial aid to complete your higher education, you will want to explore the following possibilities:

School-Based Awards

Various school programs have merit-based financial assistance for master’s students. The financial aid office at your university will be able to provide additional information about the scholarship and the qualification requirements.

Usually, the number of opportunities is limited, so applying early is one of the keys to ensuring success.

Some universities have additional financial assistance possibilities for their master’s candidates. In some instances, these students are hired as tutors and academic assistants. Apart from being paid, these opportunities provide hands-on academic experience.

Such programs usually have graduate candidates tutoring undergraduate students. This can be intimidating for some, but remind yourself that you have the academic background and the skills needed to be a successful tutor. Accepting such an opportunity can also have a positive impact on your career in the future.

Other Scholarships

Apart from the schools, there are other institutions and organizations that give master’s candidates access to financial assistance opportunities. Federal programs and foundations are typically responsible for providing financial aid. Some corporations also have programs that enable their employees to obtain a higher academic degree.

Making smart decisions about employment and having a good idea about how you’re going to continue your education will be a determining factor in getting access to such funding options. Look for professional associations and organizations within your field of interest. Many such organizations have scholarships that will provide sufficient funds to cover tuition, supplies and other expenses you may be forced to deal with while working towards obtaining your master’s degree.

While exploring such scholarships and stipends, you’ll also need to get a good idea about the conditions under which the financial assistance is going to be provided.

You can request information by contacting the organization directly. Look for professional unions within your field of interest – chances are, they provide some kind of assistance to graduate candidates. Getting started with an online search and sending out a couple of letters will give you a better idea about the scope of possibilities. In addition, your financial aid counselor will most likely have a database of external scholarships.

Federal Loans for Master’s Students

The federal government has specialized loans, grants and federal work-study programs for master’s students. Education tax credits and even tax deductions can also prove beneficial. A few of the most common federal loan varieties include the following:

  • Federal Perkins Loans: these are distributed among universities and provided to students that have the biggest need for financial assistance. Federal Perkins Loans have the school rather than the student as a lender. Thus, the amount will be repaid directly to the school upon the completion of the program.
  • Federal Stafford Loans: Stafford Loans come in two varieties – Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP) and the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FEELP). FDSLP grants the sum to the student directly. In the second instance, private lenders are the ones that provide government-sponsored loans that are characterized by low interest rates.
  • Lifetime Learning Tax Credit: not a loan exactly, this opportunity can be used to decrease annual taxes by up to $2,000 per year (20% of tuition up to $10,000).

Choosing the Best Financial Assistance Option

Paying for your master’s is an expensive endeavor. You’ll need to dedicate sufficient time reviewing all of your financial assistance options in order to understand the terms and conditions, and choose the best one.

Most master’s students are capable of obtaining at least a small amount of assistance that will help them cover expenses. Depending on the opportunities they pursue, some students are able to accumulate no more than 10,000- 20,000 dollars in debt, an amount that can quickly be paid off with the increased salary of an employee with a graduate degree.

When applying for graduate financial assistance, it’s a good idea to pursue more than one of the opportunities listed in this guide. Many people use both a scholarship and a loan to finance their studies. Combining possibilities will decrease the financial burden, especially if you also find an employment opportunity while studying.

University administrators and professors understand how difficult it may be for students to pay for their master’s, so they are typically willing to help students through the process. Discuss your situation with university representatives and you’ll likely get a couple of suggestions that will lessen the burden of paying for your degree.

When it comes to taking out a loan, many young people feel reluctant and scared. If you choose the right opportunity, however, the amount you’ll have to repay after graduating may be much less than you think. Think of it as an investment, and an opportunity to fulfill a dream and ensure your career success in the long run. If you have a good idea about your goals and your career path, overcoming the financial obstacles won’t be such a challenging task.