Scariest Part of Graduate School

BOO! Image taken from

Image taken from

TUITION! FEES! BILLS! Words scarier than the most blood curdling horror story for a graduate student.  I think the biggest concern for graduate students right after getting accepted, is figuring out how to pay for your new life as a burgeoning academic. It should come as no surprise that the pathway to higher education is never one paved in gold, with money trees and cash bushes lining the sides; the “poor college student” narrative tends to transform itself into the slightly more adult sounding “destitute graduate student” memoir. This should be looked at as an expectation, rather than a fear, however. There are ways of paying for it!

The first step to figuring out how to pay for graduate school starts with the amount of funding available in your department (or even outside of your department). Start here first. The department usually has applications for funding electronically “stapled” to the application form. Here you can apply for department specific awards and funding such as Associate Instructor positions, or TA positions. Fellowships and other scholarships that don’t require extra work outside of writing a smashing essay, and maintaining a certain GPA are also viable routes.

Trick or Treat, smell my feet...give me some funding. Photo by

Trick or Treat, smell my feet…give me some funding.
Photo by

Then, there is the possibility of trick or treating at someone else’s house: you can apply for funding in locations that are from an entirely different area of study altogether. Naturally, these departments are going to favor their own students over outsiders, but the possibility is there, and is one that should not be overlooked. There are also a number of research specific scholarships, grants, travel grants, and other positions that will aid you in your quest to find monetary sustenance.

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Don’t fear the L word!
That’s right. Loans. They may have been the bane of every college student’s existence, however, much like ghost stories, the story is often much scarier than the actual monster itself. Think of it like a continuation of building up credit on your Khol’s card, with much less interest, and more time to pay it back. Think of it like buying  a really, really expensive sweater that will keep you warm through the frosty nights of job searching.

In addition, let me introduce you a new friend: deferment. Those loans you incurred through undergrad can be put off until after you complete your degree(s)! Think of the possibilities!

School issued loans are generally going to have a lower interest rate than ones taken from a bank. Fill out the FAFSA as an independent early as possible. After the inevitable life crisis of having to fend for yourself in the cruel world of financial responsibility (maybe this was a me problem…), budgeting your spending, finding affordable housing, and class expenses will need to be examined. If you are an out of state student, the estimated cost of graduate student living is in the ball park of $40,000. This is an extremely high estimation; however. I tend to stay somewhere south of a gross of $26,000 a year.

There is funding available; it may not always be easily obtainable, but it is there. Don’t be afraid to poke around a bit and try applying for funding by way of AI ships in other departments that utilize your skills. Have you taught English in another country? Try talking to the TESOL and Applied Linguistics department. Do you have public speaking skills? Try looking at general studies programs in need of Public Speaking AIs. There are also opportunities (usually for those who are a bit later in their program) to design and teach your own class.