Learn More About the Grad School Application Process

by Darwin on May 29, 2013

If you are considering going back to school for a master’s or doctorate degree, you may have questions about the application process, expenses that go along with it and student loan information. It’s a good idea to start thinking about these issues while you’re a junior in college. By the time you’re a senior, it will be time to choose programs and prepare applications. Here’s an overview of the process to get you started.

  • Decide if you need a graduate degree to obtain a position in your chosen field. Speak to others in that field and your college professors to find out. Sometimes, especially for MBAs, some experience first would be beneficial to your higher education. You should also consider postgraduate school employment rates as compared to undergraduate studies.
  • Be certain about the degree you want to pursue. This will not only help you choose schools, but it will also help you save money as it may limit the likelihood you drop out of a program or change concentrations.
  • If you are working already, find out if your company has tuition assistance, as some employers will offer you financial aid to obtain a degree that would further your expertise in your field of employment. If you are going to medical school or law school, you’re probably starting right out of undergraduate studies, so this won’t be an option. Regardless, work hard to control credit card debt so that you can maintain or improve your credit score. A good credit score can help you qualify for better student loan rates, which will potentially reduce your total cost of borrowing.
  • Prepare your application and start looking for projects that will help you stand out among other applicants. Then, study for required standardized tests like the GRE, LSAT or MCAT. Don’t forget to budget for the cost of these exams and their prep courses as they can be expensive and you may wish to retake them to boost your scores. Some graduate programs may also require you to take subject tests.
  • File your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to plan your aid from scholarships and grants. As you may recall from undergraduate borrowing, this is the first step when applying for financial aid. Look for schools that offer strong financial aid packages or graduate assistantships. Plus, if you’re getting your doctorate you can consider national fellowship programs, check your school’s website for information on available programs.
  • Finally, look into student loan information and compare student loan rates on federal and private student loans to find the best lending options. See if you can defer undergraduate loans and consolidate all your loans after you have finished grad school. A student loan calculator may be a good resource for information when outlining your repayment scenarios each year. It can show you how much you may owe should you choose the private or federal loan highlighted based on current rates and terms. Then, talk to your lender or a financial aid advisor to find out how different structures affect repayment.

Ask plenty of questions while applying for graduate school
Applying to graduate schools may seem stressful, but if you understand what needs to be done and create a timeline, it can be much more manageable. Talk to other students about the best time to take exams like the GRE, making sure you leave enough time to get scores to the schools you apply to.  Once you know what you want to do and where you want to go, it’s time to fill out your applications, which generally require essays, a curriculum vitae (CV), recommendation letters and solid test scores.

Ask your lender for student loan information so financing your graduate education is one step in the process you don’t need to worry as much about. You’re lender can help you choose the right loans and work to find you a competitive student loan rate.

Sponsored content was created and provided by RBS Citizens Financial Group.

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