If you’re applying for graduate admission and hope to receive funding, it is particularly important to pay attention to deadlines—your school’s deadlines for admission and aid consideration, any additional deadlines for scholarship materials, and any deadlines for funding from private sources or outside agencies.
Here are some things you should keep in mind:
1. Some programs that have rolling admissions will post an earlier deadline for full financial aid/scholarship consideration. Similarly, many programs with spring semester admission will only consider funding applications for fall admission—so make sure you take all deadlines into account if funding is important to you.
2. Take your tests (GRE, TOEFL, etc) with enough time for your scores to be processed and sent to your schools before the deadline. If you take a paper test, allow 6 weeks for delivery. For computer-based tests, 3 weeks is a safe guideline.
3. Allow plenty of time for your recommenders to submit their letters—and follow up to make sure all docs have been submitted and received. A polite thank you note, before your deadline, can serve as a gentle reminder to a busy recommender.
4. To qualify for need-based aid and federal student loans, file your FAFSA on time. States may have their own deadlines [fafsa.ed.gov].
5. If you are an international student, contact the financial aid office at your university for the appropriate forms to demonstrate financial aid eligibility. International students are not eligible for US federal student aid and do not use the FAFSA.
6. Many states have extended some financial aid eligibility and in-state tuition to undocumented students who meet certain requirements (see for example CA’s AB 540). If this is your situation, make sure you file the necessary paperwork before enrolling.
7. For each application you are working on—whether it’s for admission, scholarship funding, etc—make a checklist, with dates. Keep track of everything that you need to submit (transcripts, resume, letters of rec, essays, test scores), and when you have requested and/or uploaded each item.
Funding for graduate school may include scholarships, grants, loans, assistantships (such as teaching or research assistantships), fee remissions, or any combination of the above. While PhD programs often fund most or all of their students, it can be harder for Master’s students (or students in professional degree programs) to find funding. Do your research, and look for funding opportunities both at your university and through outside sources. Good luck!
By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, Accepted.com editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.