Funding your graduate education can feel like a completely different process from your undergraduate experience. Most institutions have fewer financial awards available for graduate students than there are for undergraduates, while simultaneously charging a higher tuition rate for graduate credit hours. Hopefully you started thinking about how to fund your graduate education before you even began your application, but here are a few things to keep in mind no matter what stage of the game you may be at.
Learn about the different types of aid for graduate students.
Your aid package will probably be different than what you were offered as an undergraduate. Just like as an undergraduate, you’ll need to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form as early as possible to be considered for any financial aid opportunities. Graduate students can be considered as an independent on the FAFSA.
All master’s degree programs at SUNY Plattsburgh are federal aid eligible but not all graduate programs are. If you are enrolling in a short certificate program, such as the Teacher Leadership post-master’s certificate (12 credit hours), you will not be eligible for federal aid. Check the list at the top of this link to be sure you are eligible:
Seek funding opportunities at your particular university or graduate program.
Individual schools offer a variety of graduate funding options such as scholarships, graduate assistantships, and graduate fellowships. These are often a significant source of aid for graduate students, and come with no obligation to re-pay the award.
At SUNY Plattsburgh, we offer approximately 25 graduate assistantship positions campus-wide, with some part-time (1o hour/week) positions that fund half of a student’s in-state graduate tuition, and some full-time (20 hour/week) position that offer full in-state graduation tuition funding. We also award a Diversity Fellowship to five first year applicants each year, who are US citizens pursuing full-time graduate study. Both of these financial awards require an application to be submitted by February 15.
Financial Aid Opportunities May Change as You Move Through Your Program
Opportunities for first year students may no longer be available for continuing graduate students, for example, continuing graduate students at Plattsburgh are not eligible for the Diversity Fellowship, which can only be awarded for first year study. Continuing students may, however, apply for graduate assistantship positions if they didn’t receive one in their first year.
If you submitted your FAFSA and all other paperwork correctly, you can still run into a few speed bumps. With grad school, it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure that everything is submitted correctly and to follow up when necessary. Being proactive can make the financial aid process go much more smoothly. If you are unsure of what your options are or how to apply for or accept financial awards, check with SUNY Plattsburgh’s Financial Aid Office (firstname.lastname@example.org or (518)564-2072.
Still an Undergraduate?
Talk to your advisor about adding some graduate level coursework to your undergraduate schedule during your senior year if you are a full-time student with room in your schedule to do so. Undergraduates at SUNY Plattsburgh are eligible to take up to 12 credit hours of graduate coursework at the undergraduate tuition rate. As long as these courses are not used to fulfill undergraduate degree requirements, they can be applied toward a graduate program when you enroll in one.
Avoid consumer debt
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that as a graduate student and moving forward after graduate school, you may be in the position where you are earning little or no income but tempted by the consumerism that surrounds us in America. Don’t fall victim to our materialistic culture! (Do you really need another pair of shoes, even if it’s on sale?)
Be careful with using credit cards – only spend what you could pay for in cash. Save up for major purchases instead of buying now and repaying for years to come. Be patient with getting the things that you want, it takes a long time as you establish yourself in a career and build a home, to get all of the things that you need (and want!).
Avoiding debt will make life much easier in the long term and will help you to establish stronger personal credit ratings for further down the road when you may wish to purchase a home or new car. Responsible behavior now will help you secure these dreams later on!