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One relief about graduate school is by now, you’re not new to financial aid. After all, you managed to get your undergraduate degree(s). But, is it déjà vu all over again? Not quite. For grad school funding, it’s time to change your game plan. There are some major differences: For one, types of aid change. For another, admissions processes change. Are you ready for both changes? Below, we’ll explore the differences while refreshing your undergraduate experiences.

Graduate financial aid: A different ballgame

Tuition for undergraduates tends to be lower than graduates. Likewise, aid options differ. As an undergraduate you (and your parents) may have filled out the 8-page Financial Aid Federal Student Application (FAFSA). You may have applied for grants like the National SMART Grant or the Pell Grant. You may have applied for the Stafford or Perkins Loans, or scholarships, as well as working part-time off-campus.

How does the picture change when you aim for a graduate degree? In addition to the Federal financial aid options, as a graduate student, you have additional funding opportunities to choose from. These methods may include:

  • Research assistantships
  • Teaching assistantships
  • Tuition waivers
  • Fellowships
  • FASFA
  • Research assistantships

Research is very much a who-you-know field: You should contact a faculty member for a position. A research assistant works on externally-funded research grants as an employee, with duties ranging from conducting experiments to writing reports.

Teachers’ assistants, or TAs, are employees as well as students. They oversee labs, grade assignments and hold office hours. Unlike research, you must send in an application.

With about 10 hours of teaching or research per week, out-of-state tuition and matriculation fee waivers are reserved for full-time graduate assistants and fellows, and subject to federal income tax.

Portable fellows can earn a degree anywhere, as they are funded by external parties. Institutional fellows are funded under the condition that they do research and/or study at a specific institution only. While fellows are not employees, they get a stipend and sometimes waivers and a research allowance.

With those opportunties availabot to you, it's also important to know that just like undergrad, as a grad student you still have FAFSA available to you. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form used by universities for the awarding of federal student aid and most state and college aid. For the most up-to-date deadlines and filing options, visit Federal Student Aid Forms on StudentAid.Ed.Gov.

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