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.
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 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 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 Dental Association Scholarship” and got immediately to a generous scholarship listed here.
Applying for scholarships is a great way to get grad school paid for.
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 that you’ll use over and over again. Just subscribe to email updates on this website, add me to your “safe senders” list using the directions you see here so you’ll see me in your primary email inbox, and watch for the next time I’m teaching my 2.5-hour class MAKE THEM SAY WOW: How to Write Brilliant Scholarship Application Essays. You’ll end up with one brilliant essay that will make every scholarship a breeze to apply for. (Do what other students have done—ask your parents to give you this class 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, click on GET HELP NOW and you’ll learn how to get a free, super helpful 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.
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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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move 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.