So, your kid just got into graduate school or medical school. That’s great! Now you’re wondering, “What can students do to get their grad school paid for?” Here are the 12 ways to get grad school paid for that I give to my clients at GetIntoMedSchool.com.
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1. Try to become an employee of the school you got into.
Call 10 different numbers at the school you got into, and try to become an employee of that institution. Keep trying. Maybe you become a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course, or maybe you serve food, or maybe you work in the university’s daycare center, as my friend Susie did years ago at the University of Minnesota. One of your employee benefits may very likely be reduced tuition. Ask the school you got into if this is ever done. If you want to get your grad school paid for, this should be one of the first strategies you try.
2. Try to get a well-paying job off-campus.
Find out what your schedule will look like while you’re in grad school. Will working off-campus be a possibility? Work as many hours as you can at the highest paying job you can find the entire time you are in grad school. Put the largest amounts you can toward loan repayment every single month.
To get huge extra benefit from a paid job (besides just a paycheck), look for jobs that include tuition reimbursement as an employee benefit.
And while you’re thinking about off-campus employment—please at least consider the scholarship opportunities provided by the U.S. military. The U.S. military will pay for graduate school. You can see the article I’ve written on this subject here.
The U.S. military will also pay for medical school—as well as osteopathic, dental, veterinary, nursing, optometry, and physical therapy school. Learn more about getting the military to pay for your health professions education here.
3. Slash your grad school living expenses to the bone.
If you’ll eat keto with intermittent fasting, for example, you’ll save hundreds on your grocery bill each month. You can put that money toward paying off loans early. (Keto with intermittent fasting is great for generating the kind of intense mental focus needed for grad school.)
Find a parent or an elderly relative to live with, and do all their meal planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and other household chores in exchange for rent. Do everything you can to slash your living expenses during grad school. The rest of your life will thank you.
4. Fill out the FAFSA form every October 1st that there’s even a chance you’ll be in grad school the following fall.
This is important, because the FAFSA form provides you two things: 1) access to the lowest interest loans with the best possible terms if you do end up needing them, and 2) the only doorway on the planet to possible future public service loan forgiveness, just in case you ever decide you want that. The FAFSA is a must for anyone hoping for help getting grad school paid for.
Be sure to fill out the FAFSA even if you’re rich.
5. Remember, leave your parents’ income off of your grad school FAFSA form.
Once you’re accepted to grad school you’re automatically considered independent of your parents for FAFSA purposes.
6. Ask your grad school or med school for a list of scholarships they know of that you can apply for.
Call multiple numbers at the school. The first person you reach may not know how to help you.
7. Call other grad schools—schools you didn’t even apply to—and ask the same question.
It doesn’t matter that you’re not a student at those schools. Just ask. Remember, call multiple numbers at each school. The first person you reach may not know how to help you.
8. Make a list of companies that sell products you’ll be using once you begin professional life after grad school.
If you’re in a grad school for physical therapy, for example, ask yourself, “What company makes the Theraputty?” Google the name of the company with the word “scholarship.”
If the scholarship description tries to tell you that the scholarship is only for undergrad students, apply anyway. If you were one of my medical or grad school consulting clients, tweak the main essay I helped you with and use it as your scholarship application essay. Add a paragraph to the essay where you make the case that it makes perfect sense for this company to give you a scholarship for grad school. I’ve had multiple clients who made this argument and won.
9. Do a Google search for scholarships offered by associations in your future professional field.
Make a list of all the associations that exist in your future field, and then Google each of them along with the word “scholarship.” Just for fun, I googled “American Medical Association Scholarship” and got to the list of generous scholarships you can see here.
10. Google the name of your field along with the word “scholarships.”
If you’ve been accepted to an occupational therapy program, for instance, google “occupational therapy scholarships.” Dig way down in the Google results. If it seems like the scholarship is only for people of a different race from you, or only for single moms, or only for people with a 4.0 GPA, apply anyway. Students get scholarships they’re not 100% qualified for all the time.
11. Apply for at least 10 scholarships every year you’re in grad school.
Don’t quit applying for scholarships the first day grad school classes start. You can apply for scholarships all the way through.
And please—don’t worry about the scholarship essays. I know the essays are a pain to write—but I can offer you more than sympathy on this topic. I can teach you to write one scholarship application essay you’ll use over and over again. Sign up for a free 50-minute phone consultation with me, and we’ll talk about both your main program application essays and how you can turn those into superstar scholarship application essays. Go to getintomedschool.com, read over the homepage, and then choose GET HELP NOW.
(Do what other students have done—ask your parents to give you my help as a birthday present!)
12. Don’t turn your nose up at military service without getting all the facts first.
Before you rule out military service as a way to pay for grad school, contact your local Army or Air Force recruiter, and get specific detailed information on what it would take to get the military to pay for your grad school. Don’t assume you know how this works. Get the facts.
<Bonus 13.> Remember, having a powerful application to the program in the first place is the #1 way to get money for grad school.
When you write your initial law, medical, business, or grad school application essays, remember—your goal is to convince the committee that you’re such an outstanding candidate for the program that they’ll say, “Wow! We’ve got to have this person here! Let’s give her free tuition if she’ll agree to enroll here!”
I work hard to help my clients get exactly this reaction in the application advising work I do at GetIntoMedSchool.com. When you get there, read over the homepage and then click on GET HELP NOW and request a super helpful, free 50-minute phone consultation with me. Our time together will put you in the best position possible to put together the most outstanding law, medical, business, or grad school application.
And if you’re looking ahead to applying to med school, remember—med schools such as the ones at Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, New York University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Washington University in St. Louis, and UCLA provide free or reduced-priced med school tuition based on merit and/or financial need. As you consider these elite schools, please fix this thought firmly in your mind: “Merit” is not just about having high grades and test scores. I urge you—put together the best quality med school application you can, and then boldly apply to generous, high quality schools like these.
Get started paying off undergrad and grad school debt well before you finish grad school.
Be sure to read the three kind, helpful articles I’ve written on the subject of freeing yourself from student loan debt. The information in these articles will start you off on a fantastic financial path years earlier than most other students.
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Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if the kid you love is already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier parents start it—especially if they’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to jump directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.
This article was updated on October 27th, 2022.