Can You go to Graduate School for Free?

Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Brian Jenkins of BrainTrack

investinternals.com | moneyhackerYou've decided to go to graduate school. Now how do you pay for it? You can take out loans, but plenty of fellowships, grants, and teaching and research assistantships are available. Let's take a look at ways to go to graduate school for free.

Most graduate school awards are based on qualifications. Good grades, superior exam scores, and excellent letters of recommendation are important. Kalman Chany, author of Paying for College Without Going Broke, said, "Grad schools give awards based more on merit than need.

Doctoral Candidates

The more the faculty at a particular schools wants a candidate, the more money that candidate will receive. If a school really wants someone, the degree will probably be free. Also, doctoral candidates have a better chance of receiving awards than master's degree candidates."

Government Financial Aid

Some states do provide need-based financial aid for graduate school. Many have restrictions on programs of study, travel, and required research. Some awards may be reserved for minority students. Besides state aid, federal student aid is also available.

Need-Based Financial Aid

Colleges which require the Profile or the Need Access forms are more likely to provide need based aid. Need based aid is also provided by some public universities with state funded programs as well as private colleges with the biggest endowments.

Fellowships

Graduate fellowships are provided by universities, the federal government, and independent organizations. Portable fellowships, also known as external fellowships, are based on academic need, academic record, or merit. You can use a portable graduate fellowship for practically any graduate program at any institution of higher education. Here's a large list of organizations providing portable fellowships.

Students in economics, physical sciences, religion, engineering, and theology have the best chances of obtaining fellowships.

Bidding War

Even highly ranked graduate schools fiercely compete for the best candidates. Karen Klomperans, Dean of Michigan State University graduate school, said, "We want to attract the best MBA students and there is a lot of competition among the top 30 institutions for those students."

If applicable, contact the head of a school's graduate department and politely explain why the school is your first choice. However, you may not be able to attend because you've received a better offer from another school. If they really want you, they will more than likely up the ante.

Financial Sources Focused on Women

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) provides fellowships and grants just for women.

CollegeScholarships.org. provides information about scholarships for single mothers.

Employers

Most employers only pay for courses they consider work related. Even if your employer doesn't have a formal employment benefits program, you can still make a request for tuition money. The federal tax codes allow employers to pay as much as $5,250 per year in tuition for work-related courses.

Assistantships

Many schools hire graduate students to assist with faculty research projects or to teach courses. The school pays for the graduate school tuition and fees and some schools provide a monthly stipend and health insurance. Most graduate students are funded by teaching or research assistantships.

According to the notable publisher Kiplinger, in 2007-08 assistantships which required an individual to work in return for a stipend paid, on average, $14,055 for research assistants and $11,763 for teaching assistants. Almost half of the full-time students in master's degree programs in the sciences are paid assistants.

Through grants, scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships, you just may be able to attend graduate school without paying for it.

Brian Jenkins, a BrainTrack.com staff writer, contributes feature articles about careers and college degrees in management, among other topics.

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