What Types of Financial Aid are Available for Graduate School?

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financial-aidSo you are thinking about getting your Masters or PhD at a school of higher learning. Maybe you have already chosen a school and have been accepted into a program. Without a doubt, you have been thinking and planning as to how you will pay for your graduate or post-graduate education. Though the cost for graduate school may seem daunting, there are many types of financial aid available to the proactive student.

The US Department of Education awards $150 billion a year in grants, work study programs, and low-interest loans. In order to receive any federal aid you must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your financial eligibility. Once this step is completed, your school should send a package that tells what types of financial aid you are eligible to receive. Your package will include such options as grants, fellowships, scholarships, assistantships, and loans.


Grants are gifts given by a government or private agency to a student in need. Grants can be used to pay for tuition and fees, books, room and board, transportation and computers. The federal grants that the US Department of Education offers are:

  • Federal Pell Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

You should not overlook your state government as a valuable resource for college grants.

Scholarships and Fellowships

Every year there are thousands of scholarships that go unused. The internet is a valuable tool to help you search for the millions of scholarships offered that add up to $20 billion a year. You will want to file the FAFSA as soon as possible so that you can apply for scholarships early. Another option offered to graduate students are fellowships. Graduate fellowships, similar to scholarships, are awarded through the government, private organizations or institutions based on a student's need, merit, and the institution's grant.


Assistantships are a form of financial aid provided to graduate students through part-time employment. The assistantship program requires the student to work as a teacher assistant, research assistant, or assistant to a professor. The teaching assistant program allows the student to work as a teacher in exchange for tuition remission or stipend, whereas a research assistant will receive aid for assisting a professor with his or her research.


Student loans are still the most common form of financial aid to students. Unlike grants and scholarships loans must be paid back to the institution (government, bank, etc.) from which it was received. Some of the loan options for graduate students are:

  • Stafford Loan
  • Private Loan
  • Graduate Plus Loan
  • Graduate Loan Consolidation

When one looks at the many options and types of financial aid offered to the graduate student today, it almost seems foolish for one not to apply to graduate school. For the diligent and industrious soul, worrying about how to meet the great cost of graduate school doesn't seem to cause the anxiety as it did at the beginning of the journey.

Further Reading:

100 Great Scholarships for Master's Degree Study