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

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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.

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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 4.99%.

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.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.