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Investing in your future: A proactive guide to funding graduate school

A proactive guide to funding graduate school

The financial aspect of higher education can be intimidating, but don’t let it deter you from pursuing your academic and career goals. Numerous opportunities within and independent of universities exist to support graduate students. Learning about such opportunities, as well as other financial best practices, can go a long way in reducing the cost of graduate education. As you embark on the application process, utilize this roadmap to enhance your financial peace of mind:

  1. Inquire about Scholarships
    Many schools and graduate programs offer scholarships, which are typically merit-based. At some schools, to be considered for these scholarships, faculty members often conduct a holistic review of applicants, taking into account factors such as GPAs, past experiences, affiliations, admissions, interviews, and more. Some graduate schools offer guaranteed scholarships for those admitted into a qualifying program. For example, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and Human Development guarantees 65% scholarships for students admitted to the Teaching and Curriculum program and 40% scholarships for those admitted to the School Counseling program. Contact your graduate school directly to find available scholarships and inquire about their scholarship opportunities.
  2. Seek Graduate Assistantships
    Graduate assistantships offer an excellent employment opportunity to gain financial support during your graduate studies. Typically offered to PhD students, these positions come with a stipend and sometimes even a scholarship. While a University-level assistantship may not include a scholarship, the funds earned from such a position go directly to the student, helping to offset educational costs. Some assistantship roles, such as residential life hires, may also offer free or reduced-cost room and board benefits. Students can apply directly for assistantship positions after the admissions process, so be sure to explore this option at your chosen institution.
  3. Explore Fellowship Opportunities
    Fellowships are another excellent avenue for securing financial support during your graduate studies. These merit-based awards provide financial assistance to outstanding students. Many graduate programs offer fellowships, and at the Warner School, faculty members can nominate students for three prestigious University Fellowships: Spraull, Provost, and Provost Promise. These fellowships are typically awarded after the admissions process, so be sure to explore this option when considering your graduate education funding. 
  4. Complete FAFSA Paperwork
    When considering financing options for graduate school, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be your starting point. Although most graduate programs don’t typically provide need-based financial aid, the FAFSA can help you access loans to support your graduate education. The FAFSA application opens in October, allowing you to complete it in the academic year before your graduate program’s start date. The FAFSA calculates your eligibility for loans based on the total cost of attendance for your chosen school, minus any institutional awards you receive. Unlike undergraduate school, the graduate school FAFSA application is solely based on the student’s information and does not consider the financial status of parents or families. It’s crucial to note that if you are in default on a previous loan, you may not be eligible for an additional loan. 
  5. Beware of Additional Fees
    Many educational institutions, especially public universities, often require additional fees on top of tuition costs. These fees, like technology and graduation fees, add up quickly. To avoid unexpected financial surprises, consider selecting a university with an all-encompassing tuition rate. For example, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education provides a tuition structure without additional fees, allowing you to budget more effectively.

Funding your graduate education requires careful planning and exploration of available financial support. In the 2022-23 academic year, the Warner School demonstrated its commitment to students by awarding over $6.5 million in financial support, underscoring the potential opportunities awaiting graduate students at Rochester. 

By following these steps and seeking opportunities, such as assistantships, scholarships and fellowships, you can make your graduate journey more affordable and attain your academic and career aspirations while ensuring a high-quality graduate school experience. If you have further questions about financing your graduate school education, consider speaking with an Admissions representative who can provide valuable insights into available opportunities.