FAFSA Information for Graduate and Professional Students

Getting FAFSA for graduate school is easy to do, as long as you are familiar with the correct protocols to follow in your financial aid process.

It is no secret that colleges and universities are expensive, and that fact is driven home when you are considering further education after a bachelor’s degree. In order to help students to cover their ever-rising college tuition costs, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has created the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for students from all walks of life to apply for. Luckily for graduate students, this program contains many specialized loans and other types of aid just for them.

However, your FAFSA for grad school process may take some time and effort, even if you are already used to the process from your prior schooling. Making sure that you are knowledgeable and confident with this financial aid process is extremely valuable, as graduate students should likely already be familiar with the dangers of getting a bad loan. If handled improperly, FAFSA could very well become more of a financial burden in the long run than an actual benefit for grad students. This article will aim to inform you of how financial aid can impact a graduate student, and how you can get the help that you need today.

Does FAFSA cover graduate school in the same way as an undergraduate school?

While the answer to “Does FAFSA cover graduate school?” is a resounding “yes,” there are many differences between the program for graduate students and the same program for undergrads. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two schooling types is that all graduate-level students are considered to be independent for the purposes of determining their household income.

While many undergrads can consider their parents’ incomes when determining their expected family contribution (EFC), graduate students cannot. Thus, their cost of attendance (COA) for graduate school is generally much higher than this EFC figure, causing a greater need for financial aid. There are also many differences in the availability of certain aid programs for grad students. Generally, these programs are harder to find, which can lead to many graduate students to take out a variety of loans at high interest rates.

Types of Graduate School FAFSA Coverages

Getting the right financial aid for grad school is often as simple as finding the type of aid that fits best with your financial situation and field of study. There are many different kinds of FAFSA plans, which include:

  • Loans. These are the most common form of financial aid that graduate students can get. Interest rates on these loans are often at a slightly higher rate than undergraduate loans.
  • Work-study Programs. These are also quite common among graduate students, as they are more inclined to look for work experience in their chosen field of study. Most universities offer these programs to grad students to help them pay off their tuition while getting job experience.
  • Grants. These are much less common for graduate students than they are for undergrads. However, the grants that do exist for grad students are usually industry-specific, such as the TEACH Grant for prospective educators.

The grad school FAFSA award amounts that you can be awarded are based mostly on your immediate family’s annual household income, although it is also impacted by your citizenship status, university of choice and more.

It is also important to consider that all loans, grants and work-study programs that were designed for undergraduates alone are no longer available to grad students. This includes Pell Grants, one of the most popular forms of FAFSA aid for undergraduate students. Even if you are working on an additional undergraduate degree while taking graduate classes, most schools will not allow you to apply for undergraduate-only aid programs.

FAFSA for Law School & Other Professional Schools

In addition, FAFSA for law school, medical school, engineering school and more exist as individualized programs for each field. These types of students may be applicable for special FAFSA aid, depending on the type of field that they are in. For example, the American Medical Association provides specialized grants to medical students who qualify, such as the Minority Scholars Program, the Physicians of Tomorrow Scholarship and more. There are also even more specific types of aid that you can qualify for if you are in a specific field with a unique history, such as Veterans Educational Assistance benefit programs for those who are pursuing law degrees.

Related Article: FAFSA Deadlines

If you are looking into FAFSA for medical school or any other type of professional school, it is a smart idea to consult your professors and university’s financial aid office for ideas on specialty aid that is right for your needs and eligibility. They may even be able to tell you about university-specific scholarships that you can apply for without needing to file your FAFSA at all. Once you are able to identify the types of financial aid that are catered towards your specific field, you will have a better chance of getting the aid that you need.

How to Apply for Graduate School FAFSA

Your graduate school FAFSA coverage can only be considered if you submit the correct application at the right time of year. While the deadlines change each year, it is often a good idea to apply for coverage during the fall before the next school year that you would like to be considered for coverage. This is because certain loans and grants have a limited supply, so you should always try to be one of the first applicants considered. Additionally, you can apply for grad school financial aid by:

  • Preparing your identifying information, Social Security Number, driver’s license number and most recent tax return information.
  • Researching the income limits for aid at your school of choice, and using FAFSA calculators to determine how much aid you should expect.
  • Submitting your FAFSA form online through the ED by inputting all of your information, and waiting for your confirmation of benefits to be processed.

By following the graduate school FAFSA application process carefully, as well as fulfilling any additional requirements set by the loan, grant or work-study program of your choice, you can get the financial aid that you need to make graduate school more affordable.

Related Article: Receiving Your Federal Student Aid

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