How to Finance a Doctorate

Talk to friends and acquaintances about how they financed their graduate educations.
Talk to friends and acquaintances about how they financed their graduate educations. (Image: Marcy Maloy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The majority of graduate students get some type of financial aid to help defray the costs of another degree. A combination of financial aid options may be the best answer to paying for a doctorate degree. Work and fellowships can cover a large portion, if not all, of your Ph.D. education. Planning ahead and conducting thorough scholarship, grants and fellowship research can get you your doctorate without paying a dime out of your own pocket. Give yourself plenty of time to research options to pay for your doctorate before you apply to a Ph.D. program.

Check out from the federal government to find a listing of grants available to graduate students. Look at your state’s government websites to find grant information. Check with the departments most similar to your field of study to find grants if your state does not maintain one site with all of its state grants listed.

Contact your school’s financial aid department to see what grants or fellowships it offers. Ask other students, faculty and staff how they paid for their educations. Fellowships or grants they received may be available to students in your field of study. Ask department staff if they have fellowship or grant recommendations. Contact private organizations such as foundations or professional associations to see if they offer grants or fellowships to doctoral students. The Cornell University Graduate School offers an online, searchable fellowship database.

Look through free scholarship search sites such as FastWeb and Sallie Mae’s Scholarship Search. Focus your search on grants available to graduate students.

Apply for a graduate assistantship at your college. You will gain valuable research and/or teaching experience as well as some extra money to help pay for your classes and living expenses. Also consider working in another capacity on campus to help pay the bills.

Contact your employer to see if it offers a tuition reimbursement program. Your employer may require you to work for the company for a certain amount of time after you get your Ph.D. and make passing grades during your time in school.

Ask if college accepts life learning credits. Some of your previous life or work experience may translate into credits for Ph.D. classes for which you do not have to pay.

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