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Thinking about attending graduate school? Getting an advanced degree can be a great career move, but it may come with a hefty price tag. In addition to the cost of tuition, going to graduate school (if you go full-time) may mean a year or more of missed paychecks. That doesn't mean it's not worth getting an advanced degree. It’s just means you have to plan for covering your expenses while in school. Here are some ways to pay for graduate school and keep your out-of-pocket costs as low as possible.

Before You Apply To Graduate School:

Start Saving

If you're sure you're going back to school, it can be a smart move to start putting money aside now in a 529 account. The money will grow tax-free, and you'll be able to withdraw it tax free for qualified educational expenses. Keep in mind, however, that if you change your mind and decide not to go to school, you may incur a tax penalty to access those funds for purposes other than education. We recommend you consult a financial planner or tax advisor when comparing savings accounts.

See If Your Employer Will Pay For It

Many employers will offer tuition reimbursement for all or some of employees' continuing education as part of their benefit package. Talk to your HR department to find out whether your company will contribute to the costs, and whether there are any strings attached. Many employers, for example, will require that you remain with the company for a year or two after receiving reimbursement, or require you to return the funds if you leave earlier than the designated time.

Research the Net Price of School

The sticker price for graduate school can be intimidating, but many students pay far less than the published figure, thanks to scholarships and financial aid. Talk to the school's admissions department to get a more realistic sense of what graduate school will cost you.

After You Apply To Graduate School:

Look For Free Money

Since they don't need to be paid back, grants and scholarships are the best way to pay for graduate school. In addition to seeing if you qualify for merit scholarships or other grants from your school, see whether there are any scholarships available from industry trade groups or organizations in your local community. You can search 3 million scholarships worth more than $18 billion with our Discover Student Loans Free Scholarship Search. No registration required.

Consider a Teaching/Research Position Or a Fellowship

Schools may offer a stipend and reduced or free tuition to graduate students who help teach undergrad classes or work on research projects for the school. Some schools and external organizations also offer fellowships to graduate students that will cover the cost of their education in a particular field.

Fill Out the FAFSA®

Even if you don't think you'll qualify for federal aid, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid may be necessary for some scholarships or grants.

Understand Your Loan Options

Once you have figured out how much you need to borrow, shop around to determine the best lender for you. Be sure to consider and understand both your federal and private loan options. In addition to comparing the interest rates on loans, you'll want to know whether there's any flexibility in repayment.

FAFSA® is a registered service mark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.

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