Unconventional Ways to Raise Money for Graduate School

Teaching in a low-income school can help you raise money for graduate school.
Teaching in a low-income school can help you raise money for graduate school. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

After graduating from college, you likely amassed thousands of dollars in debt, including student loan and credit card debt from your first years of juggling budgets. Attending graduate school has its perks, including gaining new knowledge, participating in research projects, enhancing your resume and boosting competitiveness on the job market. But graduate school can be expensive. Not all schools can afford to fund their graduate students, leaving their students looking for ways to raise money without taking on thousands more in debt. If you’re looking for unconventional ways to raise money for graduate school, there are some credible and unusual ideas out there.

Lily’s List

If you’re paying for graduate school by taking out student loans, post the loans on Lily’s List for a chance at raising money to pay them off. Graduate students can create an account on Lily’s List and post student loan debt so that viewers can see how much you still owe. Then friends, family members or other donors can opt to donate money toward paying down your student loan debt. This is an effective option if you’d rather receive help with paying down student loans than unwrap another festive sweater during the holidays, or replace birthday gifts of pointless scented candles. Instruct loved ones to visit your website instead of purchase celebratory gifts. In 2011, students paid $15 per year to join the website. Donors pay a $2.75 processing fee.


Another unconventional way to raise money for graduate school is through Gradefund. Graduate students can register through this website, upload their transcripts and then invite friends to become sponsors based on the attractiveness of their grades. The program dispenses money to you or your chosen graduate school, depending on arrangements you’ve made with your sponsors. Processing money through you school account includes a 5 percent transaction fee.


As a graduate student, you’re quickly building a network of professional colleagues involved with research. Put the word out that you’re willing to participate in focus groups or research studies, since these often pay a per-visit stipend that can add up over time if you’re participating regularly. As you develop a reputation for being on time and not cancelling appointments, you’ll become a more regular research guinea pig invitee. It’s also an opportunity to meet and work with other professors or local business leaders more closely.


Some professions, including teaching and medicine, offer service rewards for working in underserved areas. After finishing graduate school, work a stint as a teacher in a low-income area or join the Peace Corps. Some organizations offer service grants that you can put toward your student loan debt -- others offer loan forgiveness. Either way, you’re raising money for graduate school while making a positive contribution to the world.

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