5 Ways to Cut Graduate School Costs

Seeking a graduate degree is an excellent way to advance your knowledge and potentially further your career, but students who aren’t independently wealthy often need to find ways to cut graduate school costs. Even if your finances aren’t the primary deciding factor for your choice of a graduate program, reducing your costs can help you avoid excessive debts and loans. A thorough search for an affordable program and looking for ways to finance your education can help you defray the costs of your graduate program.

1. Shop Around Before You Pick a School

You’re unlikely to buy the first car that you shop for; choosing a school for your graduate program should be the same. Comparing different schools and programs can help you reduce your graduate school costs and may even help you find a hidden gem that you’d overlooked in your first search. Start your search with schools in your local area. Paying in-state tuition can help reduce the costs of your program significantly. Be sure to look at non-traditional graduate schools and programs as well, including online schools and short-term programs at traditional universities.

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2. Talk to Your Employer

Some employers are willing to help finance your graduate school studies, especially if you hope to pursue a program that directly relates to the company’s interests. It’s important to know the conditions your employer sets for this type of financial support upfront, however. Some companies may require you to stay for a set length of time after graduation, and you may be restricted to certain degree paths. If you’re not sure if your employer offers financial aid for a graduate program, set up a meeting with your manager to discuss the possibility.

3. Search for Financial Aid Options

If you’re willing to put in some hours researching financial aid options, you can find a variety of funding to cut your graduate school costs. Financial aid can come in multiple flavors, including scholarships, grants and fellowships. Many students choose to start their search for financial aid with the federal government. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the first step of this process. Grants can come from a number of sources, including the federal government, nonprofit organizations and universities. Fellowships are typically geared towards advanced degrees and may require extra work to acquire, including interviews and presentations.

4. Consider an Assistantship

If teaching or conducting research sounds appealing to you, shop around for universities that offer assistantships. These programs typically give you a stipend for living expenses and pay for all of your tuition, giving you a big helping hand with the costs of your graduate program. If you select a teaching assistantship, you’ll be asked to help out in a college classroom. Your duties may involve grading assignments or leading a discussion. With a research assistantship, you’ll spend time working in a lab and helping a faculty member. Some universities also offer assistantships for students willing to help out with the administrative needs at the school.

5. Apply Early

Waiting too long to apply to the graduate schools of your choice can limit the financial aid options available to you. Graduate schools don’t have an infinite supply of financial aid; you’ll need to compete with hundreds or thousands of other students to get the offered funding. Print out a list of important deadlines for each school so that you’re sure to avoid missing out on financial aid. It’s a good idea to keep in frequent contact with the financial aid office at the schools you’re considering.

During your graduate program, focusing on your studies should be your primary goal. Using some smart ideas to help cut graduate school costs can help you focus on your grades instead of your bank account.