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The Ultimate Guide to Going to Grad School for Less

Paying for graduate school can be stressful, especially when you are juggling a multitude of responsibilities, including family and work (and are probably still paying off undergrad!). But don’t let cost be the reason you abandon your academic and career goals. With a bit of resourcefulness, some or all of the cost can be covered. Here are some ideas and resources to get you started.

For U.S. Students

Federal Student Aid

U.S. citizens are still eligible for financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education as graduate students. As a very first step, you’ll want to complete the free FAFSA® form to determine your eligibility. You also can estimate how much aid you may be eligible to receive. This brochure contains more detailed information on federal student aid.

GRE® Fee Reduction Program

To keep the cost of taking your admissions test from being a barrier, ETS provides a Fee Reduction Program for U.S. test takers with financial need. As of July 1, 2019, vouchers for the reduced GRE® test fee even include preparation materials at no cost. Learn more about the program (including how to apply, which should be done well in advance to allow for processing time).

For All Students

Application Fee Waivers

Just applying to graduate school can be expensive. One idea that could help save a bit of cash for some: ask about application fee waivers. Many schools offer waivers or other incentives to applicants from underrepresented groups — just inquire with the admissions or financial aid office.

Contests and Competitions

An often overlooked yet incredibly valuable resource for graduate students is contests and competitions. Participating can be fun! And your winnings can help pay for classes, books or other program costs. Many contests don’t even require you to do more than simply enter to be eligible.

Take a look at a few of these opportunities:

And be sure to ask around once you are on campus for competitions specific to your program and interests.


A dual-graduate degree holder in STEM fields, Tiffany advises leaning on an array of resources to help pay for your education. She found competitions to be exciting and valuable.

Work Study

Research and teaching assistantships are a valuable way to help pay for your education, as they have the added bonus of building your network and boosting your resume. You probably encountered a teaching assistant (TA) during your time in undergrad — many professors lean on TAs to help lead class discussions and grade papers. If you can commit the time, it’s a great opportunity to establish deeper relationships within a department or program.

By being in front of the classroom or helping with research, you can earn a stipend through your full tuition. Research the options at your target schools to see what positions and compensation are available. Then, proactively pursue any opportunity that suits you, as they go quickly.


Scholarships are really an ideal option — they do not have to be repaid and there are thousands available! They can be merit-based, need-based, or awarded based on your talent, background, job, gender, field of study and more — you name it, and there is probably a scholarship for it. You will just have to spend time looking and applying. For advice on where to begin, if you are a U.S. student, read this information at

If you live outside the United States, contact education authorities in your home country, as well as universities directly to see what assistance you may be eligible to receive. You also can search a variety of scholarship opportunities in this free online search tool, and you may want to look into exchange programs like the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, which provides thousands of scholarships each year to foreign students in the United States.

Did you know your GRE scores also can play a part in earning you scholarship money during the application process? Your scores will help you stand out and identify you as a qualified scholarship candidate.

Quote from student Angela: 'Thankfully I had scholarships as well as federal financial aid completely covering it.'

Angela was the first in her family to attend college. She learned to navigate scholarship applications and federal aid programs and was able to completely pay for her degree with those funds.


Employer Reimbursement

If you are pursuing a degree that will enhance your capabilities at your current company, it’s worth it to them to invest in you. And many employers have programs in place that can fund part or even all of your graduate education.

As you begin to research graduate programs, reach out to your human resources manager to see what your reimbursement options are, along with any required obligations. For example, you may have to commit to staying with the company for a specific amount of time once you graduate. Get some advice that can help you negotiate with an employer that needs convincing. It never hurts to ask.

The key here is that you will have to remain in your job and pursue your degree part time. The Muse offers solid tips on how to balance work and school.

When tackling the financial obstacles of your education, the main things to remember: you are not alone, you have options, and it will all be worth it. If you desire to excel via an advanced degree, you will find a way. The GRE Program is committed to supporting students on the path to more possibilities.


Roswell holds two graduate degrees and is pursuing a doctorate. A smart combination of financial aid, scholarships and assistantships has made it possible.