How to Finance Your MS in the US

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How to Finance Your MS in the US

Getting a Master's Degree from a US college or university is a huge accomplishment that can open many doors for you. However, to reach the goal of earning your degree, you first have to figure out how to finance your education. It is no surprise that the costs of getting a degree can be quite high. Trying to pay for all the costs yourself is almost impossible. Like most students, you will probably need to find help covering your tuition, books and other expenses. If you are a US citizen, have permanent residency in the country, or are from Mexico or Canada, then you have many options for accessing financial assistance, which are outlined below. However, if you are an international student, you will have more limited options because you cannot qualify for government financial aid programs or many scholarships, which are restricted to US residents or those with resident status. Please keep this in mind as you review the following financial aid options.

  • 1. Government Loans

    The most common way to finance your education is through government loans. These loans are borrowed money that you will have to pay back after you graduate. However, while you are in school, you usually are not required to make any payments. Repayment typically starts six months after you are no longer enrolled in school. These loans are available with different options and in different amounts, depending on your needs and financial situation. You may need to have a co-signer, which is someone who will agree to pay the loan if you default. Many loans are designed for students with little to no credit history, so you should be able to qualify without a co-signer. In addition, the impact to your credit is minimized with this type of loan. Even if taking out a loan will result in debt, it is not calculated the same way as other debt – having large student loan debt will not damage your credit. You may have heard of subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans are those which are based on financial need, and the government pays the interest of the loan while you are in school and during periods where your payments are postponed or deferred. Unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need, and you are responsible for paying all interest that is accrued from the moment the loan is taken out. You cannot get a subsidized loan as a graduate student, so unsubsidized loans are your only option. Keep this in mind as the interest on the loan will add to your overall costs. Another important thing to remember about loans is you must pay them back. While there are some programs that will forgive some loans, in general, you should expect to pay back the complete loan amount. Another thing to know is you cannot get rid of this debt through bankruptcy. It’s important to make sure you understand the repayment process and that you are prepared to pay the debt back. Many students end up with serious issues pertaining to student loan debt, which is why it is better to try to get money from other sources first and use loans only when absolutely necessary.

  • 2. Family Help

    If you are lucky, your parents have a college fund that they have been building for you throughout your life. This money is typically a gift that parents give to students to use for school expenses. However, when it comes to a graduate education, most of these types of college funds have been depleted. If this is the case for you, then you may still be able to get some help from family. It really just depends on your financial situation. It never hurts to ask! It may help your cause if you did very well in your undergraduate program. Getting good grades and doing well in school shows you are committed and that the money they give to you will be used wisely. Consider showing your transcripts to help convince your family members that you are a good investment. It is also worth noting that help from family is one of the options available to international students because the money is private and not part of a government program.

  • 3. Private Donors

    You may be able to find a private donor, which is someone who is financially well-off, to give you money for school. International students can use this funding option too. Typically, this requires knowing the person well or having some previous connection to him or her. If you know someone who could be a private donor, then you can try approaching him or her to ask for help. Again, it can go a long way toward getting a yes if you prove you are a good student. A donor may also want to know that you have a clear plan for your future and that your career plans will make good use of the degree. Private donors often look at this type of funding as an investment, so it also helps if you can offer something in return. For example, if you are going to school for a business degree and your donor is an entrepreneur, you may agree to work for him or her for a certain amount of time as a condition of the donation. If you do not personally know someone who can be a private donor, you may be able to find one. There are online funding campaigns that you can use to find a donor. You may want to also talk to your network and put the word out through them that you are looking for a donor. You may find someone in your chosen field who is interested in helping you further your education. There are no hard rules when it comes to private donors. Every situation is different. Keep that in mind as you look for a private donor.

  • 4. Bank Loans

    If you have good credit or a co-signer with good credit, then you may be able to get a bank loan instead of a government student loan. In some cases, you may be able to get better terms on this type of loan. In addition, you may be able to pay it off more quickly. The downside is that you cannot qualify for special repayment programs or any of the other benefits that come with government loans, such as deferring payment while you are in school. You will likely have large monthly payments that are due right away. In addition, your credit rating and ability to pay back the loan will play a larger part in whether you can get the loan or not. Also, bank loans are treated differently on your credit. The large debt from a bank loan has a more negative impact than a large debt from a government student loan. You may also not be able to get a loan if you are not a US citizen.

  • 5. Scholarships

    Scholarships are another great option if you can get them. There is a lot of competition for this type of funding. It is also restrictive in many cases. Scholarships are often available only for those who qualify and meet the scholarship requirements. This could mean that you have to have a certain major, be from a specific area or even go to a certain school. Some scholarships are available for international students specifically, making this an option worth checking out if you are not a US citizen. There are many different types of scholarships. Generally, you will have to fill out an application and write an essay. There might be some that require you to do or have done something specific to qualify for the scholarship, demonstrated leadership skills or engaged in community service activities, for example. It often takes more time to apply for this funding option than for loans because your application will be compared to other candidates’. Scholarships are offered by many different sources. You could get them from an organization, company or even your school. When applying for one, you must read through all application details to ensure you submit everything that is required and that you do not miss any deadlines. Because scholarships are offered in different amounts, you may need to send multiple applications to get enough money to pay for school. Also, because there is a lot of competition, you probably should not rely solely on scholarships to fully cover all your academic expenses because you likely will not get everyone you apply for.   Getting money to fund your graduate education is a little more difficult than funding your undergraduate education. You may have already tapped out some sources, but there are still plenty of options left for getting the money you need. Obtaining a Master's Degree is an important step in many career paths, so take this information and try out the different financing options. By giving them all a chance, you should be able to get all the money you need to afford tuition, books and the other costs of earning a graduate degree. For more assistance with this and other education topics, please visit School Apply.

Levels Explained

  • Bachelor's

    A bachelor's degree (also called a first degree or undergraduate degree) is attained after receiving a post-secondary (high school) education and generally spans four years. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as bachelor or undergraduate students. A bachelor's degree is usually offered at an institution of higher education, such as a university.

  • Master's

    A master’s degree (or postgraduate or graduate education) involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees. This degree is preceded by a bachelor’s degree and generally takes two years to complete. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as master's, or grad students.

  • Pathway

    Bachelor’s and master’s pathway programs are designed for international students who need additional English language and academic preparation before continuing to a degree program at a university. The purpose of these programs are to give students the confidence and skills needed to succeed in college.