Many students are, understandably, concerned about how they might pay for graduate school.
Generally speaking, master’s-level programs are often (but not invariably) “unfunded” - this means that the student will be responsible for paying their own tuition and living costs through the program. In contrast, most Ph.D.-level programs are “funded” - Ph.D. students are offered some kind of source of income/tuition remission (through fellowships or assistantships, discussed in more detail below) for a set period of time (for 5 years, for example).
Some advice: if you have been accepted into a full-time Ph.D. program, but have not been offered any possibility of funding, do not enter this Ph.D. program.
Ph.D. students should be funded, at least for part of their study - this funding is not only necessary from a practical level, but it represents a vote of confidence in potential Ph.D. candidates. The program thinks you are a good investment, and that you will eventually produce research which will benefit your program’s reputation. If you have not been offered Ph.D. funding, this suggests a program is less interested in your potential as a scholar, and more in your ability to pay tuition.
Apart from simply paying tuition costs out of pocket, here are a few ways students pay for graduate school, and some resources to help locate funding:
As is the case with undergrad, students can receive loans from a variety of governmental and private sources.
This brochure from StudentAid.gov offers a great overview of the types of federal student aid available for graduate education.
Of course, you will need to complete the FAFSA to be eligible for any of the forms of aid described in this brochure - so be sure to review the application information available on the FAFSA website, and abide by all deadlines.
In some cases, incoming graduate students will be offered some kind of employment (as a research assistant, in a lab, or as a teaching assistant), in exchange for tuition remission and a stipend. Assistantships may be offered at the start of your graduate career - or, opportunities for these positions may pop up as you complete a semester or two of graduate studies.
Fellowships are a common way for Ph.D. programs to fund their candidates through their studies. Like an assistantship, a fellowship will usually cover tuition, health insurance, and often provide a living stipend; unlike an assistantship, a fellowship will not necessarily have a work requirement. Fellowships are often given purely to support a student’s ability to pursue coursework or research.
Sometimes a program will include a fellowship as part of an initial offer of admission - again, this is usually the case for a Ph.D. but not a Master’s (although not invariably). However, there are also a number of options for external fellowships, that you could apply for either in a program, or in preparation for application to graduate programs.
The NYU GSAS Financial Aid page has a useful list of federal and private fellowships, as well as databases to search for fellowships. Also, if you scroll a little bit further up the page, you’ll see an example of how a graduate program provides funding for students at different levels.
Don’t forget to think about pursuing one of a number of highly prestigious global awards that will support graduate study. Check out the Office of Global Awards to learn more!