6 Ways to Save Money for Grad School

June 23, 2023 · 6 minute read

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6 Ways to Save Money for Grad School

Figuring out how to save money for grad school can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s possible to save for grad school without picking up a side hustle or taking on more debt — if you plan ahead and adjust your current budget.

Here’s how to save money for grad school and help make it more affordable.

Strategies to Save Up for Grad School

1. Splitting Up Your Paycheck

If you are currently working and get regular paychecks, one of the simplest ways to start saving for grad school is to automate as much of the process as possible. If your workplace has direct deposit, you could contact HR and see if you are able to add another bank account, and designate a certain amount from every paycheck to go into your savings account.

It can be as much or as little as you’d like, but putting the money directly into savings makes it harder to spend right away. By automating your savings account, you eliminate the hassle of manually parting with it.

If your company doesn’t offer the option to split your paycheck to multiple accounts, you can contact your bank directly or check online to see if they offer a recurring transfer. Banks are typically able to set up transfers for you automatically on your payday.

To decide how much to save for grad school, review your monthly budget before starting. If you don’t have one, put one together.

2. Opening a Separate Savings Account

While you shouldn’t necessarily open a new account for every savings goal in your life, as that could get messy fast, setting up a new, separate savings account with your bank for grad school is another way to potentially maximize your money.

Opening a new account with a specific goal of how much to save for grad school could help you keep track of the goal and make your progress tangible. Having a separate account specifically for school can also help you manage and keep track of spending on books and other school-related costs.

These first two ideas can work together to get you progressing on your savings goal. It can be intimidating to commit to allocating some of your budget for savings, but if you make the process regular and automatic, you may be surprised to find how little you miss that extra cash.

3. Don’t Forget Financial Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is not just for student loans—you could also receive work-study and grants by filling out the FAFSA®. Just like undergraduate applications for federal financial aid, students must demonstrate need, be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, and be enrolled or accepted as a regular student pursuing a degree beyond a bachelor’s.

However, when graduate students fill out the FAFSA, they may be considered independent, meaning their parents’ income is no longer taken into consideration.

Recommended: Independent vs Dependent Student: Which One Are You?

For some people, this might actually mean they are eligible for more financial aid as an independent individual. The amount a student is awarded will be based on factors including their income and financial assets. Students cannot be in default on a prior student loan to be eligible for additional aid.

Regardless of dependency status, graduate students may be eligible to receive PLUS Loans. These unsubsidized loans can be taken out in amounts up to the cost of attendance, but be aware you can’t have an adverse credit history to qualify.

There’s also the option of financial aid that isn’t typically repaid, in the form of scholarships or other grants, or scholarships from your state based on field of study, interest, or school type.

File your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1, the year before each enrollment period. Since there are limited funds, the sooner you file, the better chance you may have of getting the most aid possible.

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4. Checking With Your Current Employer

Even if you are not in a career where your employer is expected to pay for a graduate degree, a lot of companies may offer some contribution to ongoing education if it’s possible to show that it will be relevant to your job.

Tuition reimbursement varies depending on your company and industry, but some may offer tuition assistance to their employees. While it might not cover your entire graduate school cost, a tuition reimbursement benefit from your company could significantly lower the amount you need for school, which in turn could lower your dependence on loans.

If you have existing student loan debt from your undergraduate education, check to see if your company offers employees a match (up to a certain amount yearly) on payments made toward student loan debt every year. In this way, employers can make a regular contribution to help with your student loan balance, while you make your regular payments, too.

5. Considering Schools Abroad

Schools in Europe, South America, and Africa may be significantly less expensive than universities in the United States, which can help with saving for grad school. But, before enrolling in graduate school abroad, make sure you understand how your industry will accept and transfer over any foreign degrees. You’ll want to make sure that your grad school degree is a decent ROI.

While the cost of living might be higher in some other countries, international graduate programs can also save you time; some PhD programs in Europe are only three to four years, as compared to six or seven in the U.S.

6. Refinancing Current Student Loans

If you are currently paying off undergraduate student loans, the idea of juggling paying for grad school and paying off undergrad loans may seem daunting. It’s helpful to get your current debt situation under control before saving for grad school. One option you might want to consider that could potentially result in monthly savings is student loan refinancing.

Refinancing your student loans could possibly result in a lower interest rate, which could mean lower monthly payments (depending on the loan term), potentially freeing up room in your monthly budget. A lower interest rate might also mean spending less money over the life of the loan. Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

However, it’s important to know that loan refinancing means you’re no longer eligible for federal student loan forgiveness, deferment, and income-driven repayment.

A lower overall interest rate could help you with your goal of saving money to pay for graduate school, helping to make your savings goals more manageable as you embark on this exciting next step in your career. A student loan refinance calculator can help you figure out if refinancing makes sense for your situation.

The Takeaway

Graduate school doesn’t necessarily mean taking on more debt. Those looking to focus their savings plan for graduate school can review their monthly budget and automate as much of their savings as possible.

Additional options to pay for college include federal student aid including federal student loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study. Some students may even consider pursuing their graduate degree abroad to attend a more affordable university. And refinancing is an option that could help some students with undergraduate loans reduce their interest rate.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

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If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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