Many college students understand the need for graduate student loans. With the cost of a graduate degree ranging from tens-of-thousands to hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, most future graduate students have no way of coming up with that kind of money every year.
The reality is that most graduate students don’t receive enough fellowships and grants to pay for their education, although every bit of free money helps. In addition, graduate students are considered independent, and parents are rarely prepared to contribute to the overwhelming cost of grad school, and are only able to give small amounts without taking away from money needed for everyday life. That leaves most graduate students with one option: take out graduate student loans to pay for college.
If you are a graduate student in need of money to pay for college, make sure you look at your overall college financial aid picture. Before taking any graduate student loans, make sure you have looked for college scholarships and reported any changes in your family’s financial situation to your school’s financial aid office.
The most popular graduate student loans are Direct Stafford Loans. The Direct Stafford loan is the most widely-used, low-cost student loan available. There is no credit or income check to qualify; you need only be enrolled at least half-time at an accredited school.
Federal Grad PLUS loans are also available to graduate and professional students. PLUS loans require a modest credit review, but not a full credit or income check.
In order to qualify for federal graduate student loans, you will need to fill out the FAFSA each year. You should look to borrow federal graduate student loans once you have maximized free money, like scholarships and grants.
Depending on your financial need, you may also qualify for other federal college student loans, such as the Federal Perkins Loan, if you received a Perkins Loan during the previous year. Check out our Student Loan Guide for specific information about each loan type, including interest rates and how to apply.
Many students find that even after borrowing the maximum available federal college student loans, they still need more money to pay for grad school. Private graduate loans are credit-based college student loans made in your name. You can use private graduate loans to pay for all of your educational costs, including tuition, room and board, travel, food, a computer and more. If you have little income or credit history, you will likely need a parent, relative or friend to co-sign a private loan with you in order to get approved. But if you have a solid, established credit history, you may qualify on your own. For more information, check out our section on Find a Co-signer.
One way to reduce your need for graduate student loans is to stick to a college budget. Even if you've been living on your own for years, expenses for food and extracurricular activities can get out of control while you are in grad school. Once you draft a college budget, you might find that your lease is too expensive, or your cell phone charges are too high. Use our Monthly Budget Calculator to help you plot your expenses and get your finances organized. Remember, the less you take out in graduate student loans, the more money you can save in interest and the lower your payments will be after graduation.