Working for Your Professors May Offer Graduate Financial Aid

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Free money for graduate school can be hard to come by because even though it's out there, it's just not as prolific as what's available to the undergraduate world. If you've scrounged for grants and scholarships and have come up virtually empty-handed, there are still options available that may help you attain graduate school financial aid. Can you recall student teachers or assistants teaching some of your undergraduate classes? Undoubtedly graduate students, they were working hard for their money!

Assistantships a common form of graduate financial aid

Assistantships are a common way that many students receive financial aid for graduate school. They earn a small salary and in some cases, have some or all of their tuition waived in exchange for facilitating professors' scholarly or research duties. They can be great deals if you're willing to put in 15 to 20 hours of work each week. It might sound impossible, but it's not. There are graduate students all across the country working for their schools while studying for their futures. 

Assistantships from your future program or department are essentially a job you work in exchange for a taxable stipend or salary. You may also receive a partial or full tuition waiver as part of your assistantship. Most graduate financial aid from large public universities is granted in the form of assistantships.

Teaching assistantships can be way of paying for graduate school

It's no secret that large universities need many teaching assistants (TAs), particularly in departments like English and psychology where many undergraduates take courses. As a TA, you usually work 15 to 20 hours a week helping a professor by conducting small discussion classes, grading papers and exams, counseling students, and supervising lab groups. You may even teach a section of an introductory course or design and teach an upper-level course on your own.

You may subsequently end up taking a lighter course load so you aren't overwhelmed by work. It might take you a little longer to earn your degree with this type of assistantship, but you might feel that the experience you gain and the graduate school financial aid you receive more than compensates for the extra time spent in school.

Research assistantships offer financial aid for graduate school

Research assistants (RAs) help faculty members with research. Research assistantships are generally awarded by a specific department and are paid for from research grant money obtained by a professor from the federal government or a private organization.

Most research assistantships are offered in the sciences and social sciences, where RAs work under the direction of a faculty member, assisting with lab research or fieldwork. Although less common, there are RAs in the humanities, and they might commonly perform research in libraries, assemble bibliographies, or check citations for a professor in their department.

Learn graduate financial aid requirements

If you are awarded an assistantship, be sure to ask if it's likely to be continued in subsequent academic years. You should also determine if there are any tuition waivers that come with the assistantship. Some tuition waivers are worth thousands of dollars and could make the difference between having enough money to cover all your costs and frantically scrambling to find other methods of paying for graduate school.

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