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Financing Graduate School

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Direct and Indirect Costs

The direct costs of attending graduate school include tuition and fees. Students are also often required to buy themselves health insurance in order to be enrolled. Each school has different tuition and fee charges and different insurance costs. Tuition and fees also vary at state schools for in-state residents and out-of-state nonresidents. The indirect costs include things like room, board, books and supplies, travel, loan fees, and personal expenses. This handout provides a comparison for different types of programs, costs associated, and contributions expected from students.

Internal Funding

Full funding is offered for most doctoral programs; in exchange, students are often required to complete teaching assistantships, research assistantships, fellowships, and trainee-ships. Although it may take longer to complete your degree if you have teaching, research, or other obligations, such experience may also be crucial preparation for your career. Teaching assistantships are generally awarded to second-semester or second-year graduate students and may include a tuition waiver and stipend in exchange for leading a discussion section, supervising a lab, or grading papers. Research assistantships are also awarded by the institution, typically to second-semester or second-year graduate students. In return, you will receive a partial or full tuition waiver and a stipend. Some examples of the internal aid at Yale are available at the Yale Graduate Financial Aid Offices.

Internal funding opportunities generally provide full tuition support and health insurance in addition to a stipend for living expenses. Different programs offer different amounts over a different number of years. You will need to check whether a program you are considering offers this kind of support and complete any necessary application materials.  If you are considering a state school where you are not a resident, you need to make sure you understand if, and for how long, the support they offer would cover the extra cost of out-of-state tuition and the likelihood of gaining residency within that period.

Master’s-only programs are less likely to offer such support than doctoral programs; however, some do offer some kind of support. In addition, funded doctoral programs that provide a master’s on the way to the doctorate generally offer full tuition, health insurance, and a stipend while students are earning the master’s degree.

External Funding

External grants and awards can sometimes provide better funding and support than internal assistantships and fellowships offered. Sources of funding can be explored at Yale's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Fellowships page and a list of nationally competitive external fellowships can be found on Yale's Fellowship and Funding page. The following sites also have lists of external funding that students can explore:, Fastweb!, ProFellow,, Peterson's,, and MSU's Grants for Individuals.  

Need-Based Funding and Loans

Financial aid is also available through a school’s office of scholarships and student aid (names of the office may vary) in the form of need-based loans or grants. Be aware of the terms of any loans and the fact that loans can accrue interest while you are still in school. 

Federal Stafford Loans: Offer low, fixed-interest rates, Subsidized Stafford Loans are based on financial need, while Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are not needs-based. Students must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible.

Graduate PLUS Loans: A federally-guaranteed student loan that helps meet financial needs that exceed Federal Stafford Loan limits. Grad PLUS is a credit-based loan. In order to be eligible, you cannot currently have adverse credit. Students must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible.


You must be sure to pay attention to all deadlines when applying for any kind of financial aid especially because they can be earlier than each school's application due dates. Many forms of aid require elements in their application packets like letters of recommendation, transcripts, and test scores that require time to prepare. Begin all application processes well in advance of their due dates!