Getting that exciting acceptance letter to the graduate school of your choice can be an exhilarating moment! But following this exciting news, you’ll have to grapple with a very important question: How will I go about financing graduate school?
It’s true that a graduate degree is an investment — one that requires meticulous financial planning — but with the right resources and actionable steps, the process of financing graduate school can actually be a fairly straightforward and relatively stress-free process.
If you have the means to pay for grad school outright, that’s fantastic, but the reality is that more and more students find themselves needing financial aid from a number of different public and private sources. Let’s dive into a few of the considerations you should take when figuring out how you are going to pay for grad school — including the reality of tuition inflation and a few specific financial aid options you should know about.
Understanding the Value of a Graduate Degree
First things first: Let's discuss the value of a graduate degree. Due to a variety of factors, going back to school for a graduate degree will never be as affordable as it is right now. That said, it's important to remember that while graduate school can be costly, obtaining a graduate degree is an investment — a valuable investment that will most likely result in higher earnings and increased opportunities for career advancement.
For instance, graduates of a master’s degree program often earn thousands of dollars more per year as opposed to those who only hold a bachelor’s degree. As an example, those who have a bachelor's degree in business administration are "projected to earn a starting salary of $57,133" while a professionals who graduate "with an MBA can expect to earn $84,580 — a differential of nearly $27,500."
When it comes to career advancement, obtaining a master's degree will make many career opportunities available earlier in your career: "For a person to obtain the marketability and credibility that a master’s degree holder has, they would have to put in a lot more time in their career just to prove that they are capable and respectable employees, but with a master’s degree, you will already have an achievement that proves all of these things already, and it will take significantly less time to earn a master’s degree than it would to prove these things with just your work history."
There are many other reasons that we could discuss when it comes to the true value and ROI of a graduate degree, but now that we've discussed two of the main reasons, salary and advancement, let's talk about the importance of financing graduate school.
Financial Planning for Future Graduate Students
When researching financial aid for graduate schools, you should make it a priority to do your research and figure out what makes sense for you when it comes to financing graduate school. The more confident you are in financing your education, the more you’ll enjoy the process of choosing graduate school as a way of transforming your future.
If you’re unsure of what makes the most sense for you, do some old fashioned Internet research, contact your school of interest and ask some specific questions, figure out if you can work while earning your degree, and at the most basic level, start by looking at your finances and figuring out approximately how much you’ll need to borrow or be awarded in order to attend graduate school comfortably. By taking these few steps, you’ll be well on your way to enrolling in a graduate program and obtaining the graduate degree that’s needed to propel you forward.
Now, let's talk about the FAFSA and graduate school scholarships.
FAFSA Application and FAFSA Deadline
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is not reserved for undergraduate students. In fact, the FAFSA serves as the baseline for many other types of financial aid for graduate students, so the FAFSA application is the perfect place for graduate students to start.
The application is comprehensive, looking at your background and financial history to help you (and eventually, other funding sources) determine exactly how much aid you can expect from federal sources, which will then help with determining how much to supplement from private and other sources (mentioned below).
- The deadlines for the FAFSA application vary by state. The list of FAFSA deadlines for 2020-2021 can be found here: https://www.edvisors.com/fafsa/deadlines/.
- Complete the FAFSA application, and learn more at www.fafsa.gov.
Additional Helpful Loan Resources:
- Information about income-driven repayment and student loan repayment plans can be found at https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/plans.
- StudentLoans.gov can help with your financial aid planning and assist you in managing your finances.
Graduate School Scholarships: Merit-Based and Need-Based
Graduate school scholarships are a wonderful way to connect your talents and achievements to funding for your intended program of study. These scholarships may be need-based (proving need via a detailed application such as the FASFA) or merit-based, for students demonstrating academic excellence.
Pro Tip: Not all graduate schools offer scholarships, so it's important that you do outside research for graduate school scholarships, especially those related to your intended field. As an example, here are five graduate school scholarships specifically for future human resource managers.
Joining the SHU Community
Here at Sacred Heart University, we’re standing by to provide answers to any of your questions and to help guide you in the direction of which funding sources will be right for you. Just like the choice of a graduate degree program, financial aid is a very personal and important decision, and we’re here to help you figure out how to fund the graduate degree that's going to transform your career.
We encourage you to request more information to learn more about joining the SHU community!