It is likely that a major consideration will be costs and financial aid. Begin your research by identifying what institutions offer the program you seek regardless of perceived affordability. Rather than automatically rejecting a program from consideration based on cost, apply and make your final decision about attending when you know what financial assistance you'll be offered.
Investigate all financial aid possibilities in and outside of the particular school or program. But start early. Financial aid deadlines are not always the same as application deadlines and you want to be sure to make the most of every opportunity!
Types of Assistance Available
A variety of financial assistance is available for graduate study including graduate assistantships, fellowships, work-study, grants, traineeships, or scholarships offered directly by the university, foundations or other organizations. Financial aid can be obtained through the department of study (graduate assistantships), through the university, or from outside sources such as federal government loans, professional associations, community organizations or businesses. Some aid is need-based and some merit-based.
When completing graduate school application forms there may be a section to indicate type(s) of financial assistance for which you would like to be considered. Check them all! Research outside sources early in your application process and apply for as many as you can.
A Word about Graduate Assistantships
Graduate assistantships are an opportunity to work for your graduate institution. In exchange, you will most likely receive a tuition waiver and a stipend, although compensation varies by school. As a graduate assistant, you may work as a teaching assistant, a research assistant, or in an office on campus. Besides being a fantastic way to finance your education, your assistantship can provide excellent experience in your field of interest. Each school's application process will be different and the availability of graduate assistantships will vary by academic program, so be sure to inquire about them early on in your search. Don't be afraid to explore assistantship opportunities outside of your academic unit either! If the university will fund your education in exchange for you working part-time in an unrelated office on campus, go for it!
Resources for Identifying Scholarships
Most students finance their graduate education by drawing from different sources rather than from a single source. Don't leave a stone unturned! Seek as many potential sources as possible and apply.
Last Updated: 9/27/12