FINANCIAL AID CONSIDERATIONS
Paying for graduate school can be an expensive venture; therefore, knowing your options and planning accordingly can save you money and time. Weigh the cost versus your potential future income. It is important to compare tuition rates when making your final decision of which program to attend.
Contact the university’s financial aid office, as well as the program directly, to inquire about the availability ofloans, assistantships, fellowships, tuition remission, scholarships, and grants within the university. There are also private funding sources available that can be found through doing an Internet search. The most common ways to pay for graduate school are through loans and graduate assistantships. The first step in securing financial aid is filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). This determines your eligibility primarily for direct loans, but also explores your eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and grants. You can file a FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov or pick up an application in the financial aid office of any university. Filing early ensures more availability to funding, since the system is designed to provide on a first come, first served basis.
Graduate assistantships (GAs) typically cover a portion or all of your tuition and usually offer a small stipend. GAs are commonly available in counseling programs and other departments within the university. Some universities post vacancies in one location, such as the Graduate School, while others are offered directly through the specific college or department. We encourage you to complete the assistantship application available through the Graduate School, as well as inquire about potential openings outside of the counseling program. Do your legwork here and look all over campus; it may pay off. If you have experience, now is the time to use it. Typically, there are assistant- ships available through departments and other areas of campus life, including Residence Life, the Career Center, Health and Counseling Services, Student Affairs, Greek Life, the Campus Center, and Campus Facilities.
Scholarships are based on your merit and are available through private sources, universities, and specific colleges and programs within universities. Inquire at your prospective university about scholarship programs offered, and continue to do so even after you are admitted into the program. Additional, smaller funding options are available through professional counseling organizations such as the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International (CSI), and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) also offers a loan repayment program once you are licensed as a counselor. The NHSC is a loan repayment program designed to reimburse health care providers for their service in providing health care in communities with limited care in exchange for loan repayment up to $50,000. They offer two levels of funding based on two years of services working either full- or part-time. The amount of reimbursement is dependent on the score given to the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) where you are a provider. To be eligible you must be a fully licensed professional counselor. To apply and determine which sites are eligible in your area please visit www.NHSC.hrsa.gov/loanrepayment/.
Other types of funding available include grants and scholarly competitions. Grants are based on need and are available through private sources, universities, and specific colleges and programs within the university. When applying for grants it is important to write a letter that demonstrates your need. Follow the previous guidelines for writing a personal statement to get ideas on writing a grant application letter. Lastly, scholarly competitions, such as essay or video contests, are often sponsored annually by various professional counseling organizations such as Chi Sigma Iota, CACREP, ASCA, and ACA (see Box 7.4).