Edited by Laura Morrison, for GradSchools.com, March 2014
If you've decided that enrolling in graduate school is the next logical step in your academic career, you should start thinking about the best way to earn your degree. School officials understand that graduate students are often older than the average college student. As a result, you'll find that graduate programs are often available in different formats.
What type of graduate program is right for you?
Full-time graduate school
Do you want to finish your graduate studies as quickly as possible? If the answer is "yes," you may want to consider becoming a full-time student. However, before you go with this option, there are a few things you should know.
For starters, attending graduate school full-time will be different from your undergraduate experience. The key difference is you'll spend the majority of your time in school doing work related to your graduate degree, rather than taking courses in multiple fields. Your classmates are also likely to be more diverse than those you knew during your pursuit of a bachelor's degree. As you'll be following a regular schedule, you should also expect to finish your graduate school requirements at a faster pace than you would as a part-time student.
So who should consider attending graduate school full-time? According to Idealist, this option is a good fit for individuals who wish to continue their studies soon after college, want to switch careers or have a desire to advance in one they currently work in.
Part-time graduate school
If your schedule lacks the flexibility you would prefer, but you still want to pursue a graduate degree, going to school as a part-time student may be right for you.
Should you choose this grad school option, balance may be one of the key benefits. Whether you currently hold a job or would prefer to have one while you're working toward your degree, part-time options allow you the flexibility you need to juggle employment and school. Idealist noted that part-time learners are still eligible to receive financial support if they qualify, such as student loans.
Think about your lifestyle before choosing to go to graduate school part-time. In addition to factoring in your professional responsibilities, consider your personal commitments, whether as a spouse or a parent. Never underestimate the amount of time and effort that must go into your studies. If you want to give graduate school your all, but feel your other responsibilities could get in the way, consider working toward your degree at a slower pace with this option.
Online graduate school
Even more flexibility may be available to you should you choose to become an online graduate student. Every school structures its Web-based graduate programs differently, so you'll want to seek out the graduate school option that's best for you.
Some online degree programs may follow very strict schedules, while others allow you to work at your own pace. Ultimately, one of the biggest advantages to these offerings is you don't have to be on campus to learn. In that regard, the same people who are attracted to part-time graduate school may gravitate toward earning a degree over the Internet.
Find the right financial aid for graduate school
Once you decide on the right graduate school option for you, make sure you find a compatible way of reducing the cost of your studies. According to the Federal Student Aid office, graduate students may be eligible for various forms of financial support, including Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Perkins Loans.
Fortunately, you don't need to guess whether you'll be able to benefit from these financial aid options. You can find the information you seek by visiting StudentAid.gov/eligibility.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.