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College Budgets & Borrowing
When finalizing your financial aid, it's important to borrow responsibly. Research all your options and make an informed decision. Learn more.


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Graduate School

If you've decided to go to graduate school, you are investing more time and money in your education so that you'll have a bigger payoff later. For some graduate school is the pursuit of advanced knowledge and for others their desired career requires skills or knowledge beyond an undergraduate program. No matter your reason for pursuing a graduate degree, remember that

  • College costs (and your potential debt level) will continue to increase with additional schooling.
  • You may not be able to work while attending graduate school full-time.
  • Graduate school will probably be more demanding in academics and practical experiences than your undergraduate program.

To make the most of your effort, use these steps to apply for graduate school:

  1. Begin the search.
    • Start researching different graduate programs as early as possible, preferably in your junior year.
    • Narrow your selections to the schools you have the best chances of being admitted into.
    • Understand the commitment. The application process may take several months. The application cost can be high because it includes:
      • Application fees.
      • Transcript fees.
      • Test registration fees.
      • Your time to fill out everything and track down documents.
  2. Request information.
    • Contact the schools you're interested in to request catalogs and application materials.
    • Ask for information on the school's financial aid process.
    • Attend graduate and professional school recruiting fairs.
  3. Find out what's needed to apply.
    • Ask what standardized tests are required.
    • Determine if you need any letters of recommendation, sample projects or portfolios.
  4. Take graduate entrance exams.
    • Make sure you know when registration materials are due.
    • Study for the tests in advance. Check online or at your school's library for test prep materials.
  5. Apply.
    • Send in applications to your school choices before the deadlines.
  6. Begin interviewing.
    • You may be interviewed before you are accepted.
    • Prove yourself to the graduate school by:
      • Researching the college.
      • Understanding the school, the graduate program as a whole and the department where you are applying.
      • Asking questions and answering their queries in a way that sets you apart.

Paying for Graduate School

Fortunately, as a graduate student, you have a couple of additional options for financial assistance with your education. Besides personal savings or earnings and scholarships, you may be eligible for the following.

  • Grants and Fellowships. 
    Many types of grants for graduate students are sponsored by the federal government. Fellowships are similar to grants and are often grouped with them. Graduate schools and a variety of entities fund fellowships, which don't need to be paid back.
  • Assistantships
    Colleges and universities offer graduate students money in return for work as a teaching or research assistant. Many assistantships require full teaching responsibility for at least one class. If you're carrying a full course load as well, think carefully about how you'll manage your time as an assistant.
  • Tuition Help From Employers
    Many companies offer some type of tuition reimbursement program. Your employer sees tuition reimbursement as an investment – you receive training for your job or advancement in the company. You also obtain a great source of financial assistance.
  • Federal and Private Loans
    Loans, because they must be repaid with interest, should be the last financial aid option you use. Consider loans only after you use savings, earnings and other types of financial aid. If you do consider loans, federal loans will generally offer lower fees and better terms than private student loans. Besides the federal loans available to all students, graduate and professional students are also eligible for the Federal Grad PLUS Loans, which are funded by the federal government.
    To be eligible for Federal Grad PLUS Loan funds, you must:
    • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible.
      • The FAFSA is a free form that may be completed without professional assistance via paper or electronic forms provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
      • The form can be confusing, and ICAN offers assistance without charge at any of its locations.
    • Pass a credit check to borrow through the program.
    • Apply for the annual loan maximum you are eligible for under the Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loan program before applying for the Federal Grad PLUS Loan.
    • You'll also need to know these important facts about Federal Grad PLUS Loans:
    • You'll also need to know these important facts about Federal Grad PLUS Loans:
      • The interest rate is fixed. Check current Grad PLUS loan interest rate.
      • Your loan limit equals the Cost of Attendance (COA) minus other financial aid you receive.
      • There is no cumulative lifetime maximum.
      • There is no federally guaranteed grace period.
      • Repayment begins 60 days after the final loan disbursement for the academic year, however, lenders may defer repayment while you're enrolled in college on at least a half-time basis.
      • If your loan was first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008, you may also defer repayment for an additional six months after you cease to be enrolled at least half time.

Entrance Exams

GMAT® (Graduate Management Admission Test)

Standardized test used around the world as a requirement for admission into graduate business programs.  
(800) GMAT-NOW

GRE® (Graduate Record Exam) 

Standardized test used around the world as a requirement for admission into general graduate programs.
(866) 473-4373

PraxisTM (Professional Assessments for Beginning Teachers)

Used by colleges and universities to qualify individuals for entry into teacher education programs.
(800) 772-9476

MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) 

Required by almost all U.S. medical schools. Medical college admission committees consider MCAT scores a part of their admission-decision process.
(319) 337–1357

DAT (Dental Admissions Test)

Conducted by the American Dental Association and is used by all dental schools as a requirement for admissions as well as in their admissions evaluation.
(312) 440-2689

OAT (Optometry Admission Test) 

Sponsored by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) for applicants seeking admission to an optometry program. All schools and colleges of optometry in the United States, as well as the University of Waterloo, Canada, require the OAT.
(312) 440-2693

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
(877) 863-3546

LSAT (Law School Admissions Test)

Required for admission to all ABA-approved law schools, most Canadian law schools and many non-ABA-approved law schools.
(215) 968-1001

PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test)

Required exam for admission into any pharmacy school.
(800) 622-3231

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