Tuesday, November 20, 2012

7 ways to pay for graduate school

I never thought I could go to graduate school. 

For me, graduate school was for "other" people. "Rich" people. "Academic" people. Doctors. Laywers. Professors. Not someone like me...

But then I won the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship and all of that changed. I fell to my knees and cried my eyes out because for the first time in my life I had realized I was holding myself back

Sure, it was easy for me to realize it was possible because in a moment it was paid for - but I cried at the knowledge that I could have gone to graduate school no matter what. I could have made it happen if I wanted it too. If only I believed I could. 

If you're like me and are the first in your family to attend college, graduate school can seem even more daunting and impossible. And yes, it can seem like too much money, and in some cases, going to graduate school doesn't guarantee making more money. 

But I want you to know that if you want to go to grad school, or if it's a little dream in the back of your head that seems impossible or unaffordable, it's not. 

Below are seven ways you can go to graduate school for incredible cheap or even free!

1. Fellowships/Teaching Assistantships: Search the graduate section of the college website and click on any information they provide about fellowships or teaching assistantships and the application process (it is usually a separate process from your admissions application). If you can't find the information online, contact a graduate admissions counselor. These programs allow you to work for the college in the classroom (or doing research) and have it cover most or all of your tuition (similar to work-study, but more focused on your subject area). 

2. Programs where acceptance covers tuition: Some graduate programs allow you to attend for free if you get accepted, such as Harvard's E.D.L.D.

3. AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps is a volunteer program that provides a financial education award, as well as living expenses and a stipend during service. They place you with non-profits across the country. I'm not an expert on this but the people I've met who've done it are incredible! Check out AmeriCorps.gov to learn more. 

4. Teach for America: Teach for America is a program that pays new teachers to serve in low-income areas. You will get a salary while teaching and an educational award

5. McNair: The McNair Scholars Program is a branch of the TRiO program, which serves first generation students. Check this list to see if your undergraduate institution has a McNair Scholars Program. McNair prepares undergraduates to gain acceptance to graduate school. The McNair website also has a great comprehensive list of graduate funding opportunities at institutions across the country, categorized by discipline. 

6. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship currently allows for scholars to "reapply" after they receive their undergraduate degree to win a $50,000 graduate award. You do not compete against others, but only your previous record. JKC also awards $50,000/year graduate scholarships in the arts, as well as a dissertation fellowship

7. Work for a college or company that covers tuition: Once you've received your Bachelor's degree, you can consider working full-time at a college or company that covers college tuition. Many companies will do this if you are pursuing a degree in their industry. You can also check out job openings at the college's where you'd like to attend graduate school, as most colleges and universities allow their employees to take classes tuition-free. 

There are endless options. If you decide it's something you want, then let nothing stop you, especially money. You can do it!

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