If you’re applying for graduate school, you’ve probably thought about the cost of tuition. But what about all the expenses just to get in the door?
You need to pay application costs, test fees, and travel expenses for campus visits. Plus, you may need to put down a hefty deposit to hold your place in the incoming class.
If you’re stressed about trying to pay for all this, there are options that can help you. Below are four suggestions for handling the costs of applying for graduate school.
4 ways to cover the costs of applying for graduate school
1. Request application and GRE fee waivers
Two major costs of applying to grad school are application and testing fees. Applying to graduate school at UCLA, for instance, costs $105, which is non-refundable. If you’re applying to multiple programs, the application fees add up quickly.
Many graduate programs also require scores from a graduate exam, such as the GRE. Taking the GRE just once costs $205, but some students take it two or three times to achieve their target scores. Plus, there’s also the cost of test preparation books and classes.
Fortunately, schools offer fee waivers to students in need. For an application or GRE fee waiver, contact the financial aid offices of your prospective schools. You’ll have to provide documents to prove that paying for the application and exam causes financial hardship.
If you qualify, the school will issue you a Fee Reduction Certificate that covers part or all of these fees.
2. Sign up for a new credit card
Another way to pay for the costs of applying to grad school is with a low- or no-interest credit card. Some credit cards offer 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) financing for the first six to 12 months after you open an account.
Whatever purchases you make during this period, you can pay them off without accruing any interest. If you’re confident that you can pay off your balances before the promotional period ends, then you’re effectively getting a 0% interest loan.
The risk here is carrying a balance once the promo period ends. Credit card interest rates are sky-high – the average credit card APR is 15.07%. Credit card debt is one of the most unforgiving kinds of debt, so only go this route if you’re sure you can track your spending and pay off your balance before the real APR kicks in.
Also, note that opening a new credit card can make a dent on your credit score. But as long as you spend responsibly, your credit score will bounce back.
3. Take out a personal loan
If you have big expenses and no way to cover them, consider taking out a personal loan. Unlike student loans, personal loans are not tied to a specific purpose, which means you can spend the money however you want. If approved, funds from a personal loan will be deposited straight into your bank account.
That being said, you’ll need to pay back this debt over time. Your loans will have an interest rate attached to them, so you’ll end up spending more than you took out in the long run.
That’s why you should only take out a personal loan if absolutely necessary. Furthermore, you should only take out the minimum amount you need to cover the costs of applying for graduate school.
Compare rates from private lenders
With a quick pre-application process online, you can see if you qualify. Lenders set different requirements in terms of credit scores and annual income.
Contact your local credit union or community bank
Credit unions and local banks also offer some of the best loan terms. Credit unions, in particular, are non-profit organizations that provide perks for their members, including lower interest rates for loans.
Credit unions have certain requirements to join. For instance, you may need to live locally or be part of a professional organization. To find credit unions, check out the locator tools on the National Credit Union Association website.
When applying for a personal loan, shop around for the best terms. Look for a lending company, credit union, or bank that offers a manageable repayment plan with low interest rates.
4. Find ways to earn more money
Going to graduate school is a great way to acquire skills and make progress in your career, but loan or credit card debt will hold you back as you’re trying to move forward.
Try to reduce the amount of graduate school loans you need to take out by increasing your income. Perhaps you can find part-time work with a flexible schedule, or maybe you have a certain talent or skill that you can turn into a lucrative side hustle.
Once you start your program, consider part-time work on or off campus. Juggling your time between classes and work is a big challenge but you’ll be glad you did if it saves you from excessive student loan payments in the future.
Remember, graduate school is a worthy investment
Hopefully, your graduate degree has a high return on investment. If that’s the case, then the money you spend now will pale in comparison to the earnings you’ll make in the future.
Choose a program that will bring about tangible benefits in your income and career. Although you’re investing some serious start-up costs, Future You should be able to reimburse the bill and then some.
Which graduate degrees have the highest return on investment? See the 10 valuable degrees that can make you $100K or more.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.04% – 13.04%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 11.10%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.92% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.72% – 9.68%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|