For some students, the process of finding graduate school loans to fund their continued education can be a challenge. For example, some may not have needed financial aid as an undergrad or may have had their parents help in obtaining it. Even if you do have experience under your belt, there may still be challenges.
The types, amount, and nature of financial aid available to graduate students tends to be comparatively less. Additionally, your financial situation may have changed significantly, impacting the type of need-based aid you may qualify for.
Luckily, you may have federal, state, and private options to explore when figuring out how best to fund your graduate education. The exact aid you qualify for may vary based on your unique situation, when you’re applying, your school and program, and other factors.
Federal Student Loans for Graduate School
As is the case for undergraduate student aid, federal graduate school loans are administered based on the information provided in your FAFSA. As such, completing your FAFSA is an important early step in this process.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s a form that helps to determine your level of financial need and the types of grants and loans you may qualify for. Filling it out early could be advantageous, because some of the aid offered by your school may be limited, and could potentially run out.
Many states also have their own student aid, though what exactly they offer, especially to graduate students, may vary. In most cases—though not all—this is also disseminated based on the information in your FAFSA. However, different states have different processes, so it may be a good idea to double check.
While not every type of federal student loan is available to graduate students, you may still have a few options to consider, provided that you qualify for them. The types of federal student loans offered, the amount of aid available, and other details are subject to change.
Federal Direct Loans
Graduate students may qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans, also known as Direct Stafford Loans. An unsubsidized loan is a federal loan in which, unlike with subsidized loans, the Department of Education does not pay any of the interest. Interest continues to accrue while you’re in school and during deferment or forbearance. If you choose not to pay it during those periods, the interest in question will capitalize.
The amount you’re able to borrow with a Direct Unsubsidized Loan may vary, based on your level of need and the cost of attendance at your selected school. This may not cover your full cost of attendance. If that’s the case, one option may be to apply for a Direct PLUS Loan. This is a fixed interest loan. If you choose to apply for a graduate PLUS Loan, your credit history may be a factor in whether you qualify.
Federal Grants & Work Study
In addition to Direct Loans, some graduate students may have options for federal student aid that may not need to be repaid. Not every student may qualify for these programs, and the prerequisites for each may vary.
Three potential options include:
- The TEACH Grant: An acronym for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, this grant may be open to graduate students who are preparing for a career in teaching. If you qualify, you may be required to maintain the grant by taking specific coursework and, once you graduate, working in a high need or underserved school for a certain amount of time. If you do not satisfy these conditions, the grant converts to a loan.
- The Federal Pell Grant: In most cases, the Pell Grant is only open to undergraduate students working toward their first bachelor’s degree. However, graduate students enrolled in a teacher certification program may sometimes also qualify. The maximum award is subject to change annually, and depends on your cost of attendance, level of need, and your enrollment status in a qualifying program.
- The Federal Work-Study Program: This need-based program allows undergrad and graduate students to earn money to cover some of the cost of attendance through part-time employment with the school in question. Available hours may be limited based on your award amount. When possible, this may be related to your area of study, but specific opportunities may vary by school.
Private Graduate Student Loans
You’ve filled out your FAFSA and figured out what types of federal aid you qualify for. But what if it doesn’t cover your full cost of attendance? Graduate school is a big investment. In addition to the tuition and fees, you may end up needing to pay for books, materials, transportation, technology, and more—and those needs may change each semester.
This is where Private Graduate School Loans come in. Private loans are administered, not through your FAFSA, but by other organizations. They typically hinge on a credit check as with a Direct Plus Loan. Other than that, the application process, often fairly straightforward, may vary by loan provider.
When considering private graduate student loans, it’s important to be aware of a few key differences from federal and state aid.
- Approval for a private loan is typically annual, meaning you’d need to reapply next year if you need it. On the other hand, this means you could borrow only what you actually need each year, even if that need changes.
- Private student loans may be applied for at any time, rather than being limited by the FAFSA deadline. Funding is often available quickly once the approval process is complete. The application process is often fairly straightforward, though it varies by provider.
- You may need a cosigner if you do not have enough credit to qualify for the loan on your own.
- You may need to choose between fixed and variable interest.
Because each lender might offer borrowers unique benefits, limitations and options, it’s important to identify the ones that work for you. To help you begin this search, we’ve collected information on four providers you might consider.
Apply for Student Loans with Our Private Loan Partners:
Applying for a private loan can often be done online with your result happening in a matter of minutes. To apply with one of our loan partners online, click the links below!
- Looking for last-minute money for college? Check out the Smart Option Student Loan by Sallie Mae, which offers 3 repayment options and competitive interest rates to fit your financial needs Learn more and apply today!
- The Ascent Tuition Student Loan features affordable variable rates, flexible repayment options and no application fees. Co-signers such as a parent or guardian are strongly recommended to increase your chance of approval. Click here to apply now.
- The College Ave Student Loan can help you get the money you need for college or graduate school with a fast application and instant credit decision. Click here to apply now.