Kaplan's Grad School Financial Aid Hub

Financing Your Graduate School Education

No matter what you are planning to study in graduate school, you need to figure out how you will pay for it. Learn how to navigate the financing process, and understand your options for student loans, grants and scholarships. Watch a recording of our recent event.

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Financial Aid Tips

With a master's degree, the unemployment rate is 3.4%, while the unemployment rate for the entire US is 9.2%.

Those with a master's, professional degree or PhD earn, on average, $12,000 to $26,000 more per year than those with only a bachelors degree.

76% of master's degree candidates borrow money for grad school. 80% of PhD candidates do not borrow money for grad school.

68% of admissions officers report that there will be more financial aid available for 2011-2012 than there was for the previous admissions cycle.

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FAFSA unlocks all federal and state aid for graduate school, including federal loans, federal and state grants, work study and school student assistance.

You should submit FAFSA as early as you possibly can, as many aid sources are "first come, first served."

Student Loan: Money advanced for educational purposes by the government or a private institution. A student borrows the principal, and pays it back the lender in installments, with interest.

Subsidized loan: A loan eligible for interest benefits paid by the federal government

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Unsubsidized loan: interest begins accruing immediately.

Interest rate: How much interest a borrower is obligated to pay in addition to the principle.

Grace period: The period of time between the date you leave school (or drop below half-time status) and the date you begin repayment.

Repayment period: The period in which a borrower is responsible for repaying a loan

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Origination fee: Money that is deducted from each loan disbursement and sent to the federal government to help pay the cost of subsidizing the loan

Guarantee fee: A fee up to 1% of the total loan amount charged by the guarantor. It ensures the lender against financial loss in case you go into default on your loan

Federal Stafford Loan: Available via FAFSA. Borrow up to $20,500 per year and $138,500 total. Interest rate is fixed at 6.8% t.

Federal Perkins Loan: Only for grad students with "exceptional need." Borrow up to $8,000 per year and $60,000 total for grad school. Interest rate is fixed at 5%

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Graduate PLUS Loan: An "add on" loan after a student maximizes Stafford or Perkins borrowing. Interest rate is 7.9%, and there may be more affordable alternative loans available.

The recent debt ceiling bill ends the "in-school interest subsidy" on subsidized Stafford loans for graduate and professional students.

Pell Grants: You must fill out a FAFSA form to be eligible. Maximum available to borrow for 2011-2012 is $5,550. 98% of recipients have a family adjusted gross income of less than $60,000.

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Important factor for merit-based aid: Your GPA. Programs look for both strong performance in relevant classes and overall excellence across all coursework.

Important factor for merit-based aid: Your GRE. It is considered a barometer allowing schools to compare across programs.

Important factor for merit-based aid: research/work record/portfolio - proving you can do gradaute-level research or work is a sure way to boost funding opportunities.

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Important factor for merit-based aid: Leadership potential. Graduate programs are looking for future leaders in industry and academia. Leadership experience in student government, athletics, military or volunteer work is highly prized.

"66% of graduate school admissions officers say a strong GRE score will help a student receive merit-based scholarships, teaching assistantships or grants."

Ambitious students turn to scholarships, fellowships and research/work studies, which offer funding that does not need to be paid back. www.fastweb.com is a good source for locating scholarships for free.

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Learn more about Fulbright grant programs for graduate students. You can also learn about the Fulbright program on YouTube.

Marshall Scholars are fully-funded for graduate study in the United Kingdom.

Rhodes Scholars are provided with fully-funded graduate studies opportunities at the University of Oxford.

Teaching Assistantships let you earn your tuition by assisting a professor, teaching a seminar, or leading a section.

In the Sciences, 82% of full-time PhD candidates and 55% of full-time master's degree students have assistantships.

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In the Humanities, 50% of full-time PhD candidates and 40% of full-time master's degree students have assistantships.

Research Assistantships let you conduct important research while earning your tuition.

Part-time programs (and some full-time programs) will allow you to work while in graduate school.

Some employers have tuition reimbursement programs.

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Teaching and research assistantships are a great way to defray the cost of grad school (or get a stipend).

Understand the trade-offs in loan options; if you have exceptional need, maximize Perkins Loans and Pell Grants first; otherwise, start with Stafford Loans.

Apply for all scholarships and fellowships where you are a qualified candidate.

Incorporate your application deadlines, GRE test date and financial aid research into your calendar.

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