Graduate and professional students often graduate with far more debt than undergraduate students. However, there are a variety of financial aid options to help fund your advanced degree. The specifics vary according to the type of degree you are seeking. The two main options are student loans (which must be repaid, with interest) and scholarships.
With borrowed money, maximum interest rates are regulated for all federally-guaranteed loans. Many lenders choose to lower the interest rates to attract borrowers, and federal education loans tend to offer lower interest rates and more flexible payback plans than regular consumer loans.
Since rates and payment plans differ, be sure to research the best possible plan for your specific budget and circumstances. A simple key word search for student loans will produce a number of helpful (official) sites to aid in the decision making process.
How to Search for a Scholarship
Unlike student loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid. The best way to see how you may qualify is to use an online resource for a scholarship search based on your profile. Personalized searches match your specific background with a database of awards. There are several online search engines, many of which allow you to join a mailing list and be notified when a new scholarship matches your profile.
There are also small, local scholarships not listed on the vast online databases that you can find on bulletin boards at the library, high school, college and university guidance offices. In addition, college alumni and other private sponsors occasionally create scholarships with extremely unique eligibility requirements. Just be sure to check your school’s policy on outside scholarships.
Many students believe that scholarships are ”too hard to find” or that they are only available to those with the most exceptional record. However, there are other types of scholarships you may not be aware of. Always check your information carefully though, as there are also a number of scholarship scams.
The first step is to make sure you have completed the appropriate testing for your graduate studies admission requirements.
With graduate programs, each type of education has its own set of programs to help provide funding, but here are some than offer assistance in business, law and medicine:
The companies listed above offer different customized business school loans to fit the needs of students.
Access Council is the largest non-profit provider of private loans and services for law school students. Specific loans include the Law Access Loan, Bar Examination Loan and Federal Stafford Loans.
Some organizations specialize in loans for medical students:
- AAMC Med Loans
- Education Funding Services Inc– Offers chiropractic, optometry and veterinary loans.
- IHELP- Offers medical and veterinary loans for students who wish to study outside the US.
- MEDFUNDS- Offers the HEAL loan, and other alternative loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
Most scholarships for medical students are offered through the schools themselves. The largest notable scholarship and loan programs for medical students are the National Health Service Corps and the National Health Institute, both of which offer a variety of useful information and services.
There may be other options available to you in these areas:
- US Federal Government Aid
- US State Government Aid
- Volunteer and Community Service Scholarships
- Military Aid
- Education Tax Benefits
College Controlled Aid
- School Financial Aid Office Websites- Policies, procedures and applications deadlines.
- Tuition Payment Plans- Installment plans that divide tuition into monthly payments.
- School-Specific Programs- Scholarships, Fellowships and Grants offered at particular schools.
Student Profile Based Aid
Here are some of the more popular categories:
- International Students
- Canadian Students
- Students with Disabilities
- Older Students
- Jewish Students
- Minority Students
- Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Students
- Undocumented/Illegal Alien Students
- Cancer Scholarships
- Prestigious Scholarship and Fellowships
Once you find out what you may qualify for, there are plenty of online resources that offer “calculators” to help you better understand your borrowing options and cost of interest. If repayment becomes too difficult, there are also Loan Forgiveness programs that allow you to pay off debt through work or community service.
Financing an education can be quite a challenge, and many students are unaware of the resources available to them. But educational funding deserves careful consideration. The benefits are worth it!