4 Smart Tips to Cover the Costs of Applying to Grad School

applying for graduate school

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

A few reputable lenders for personal loans are SoFi, CommonBond, and AvantSoFi, for example, approves personal loans of between $5,000 and $100,000 with fixed interest rates that start at 5.25%.

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.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderRates (APR)Loan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
  2. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.29% APR to 11.44% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of December 1, 2017 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.29% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.34% plus 4.20% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 5.99% – 16.24% (5.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Benefit: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7.39% - 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
5.29% - 14.24%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
8.00% - 25.00%$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
5.99% - 16.24%2$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
5.99% - 35.89%$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.25% - 14.24%$2,000 - $50,000Visit Earnest
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