There are financial aid resources to help offset the upfront cost of graduate school. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be used for graduate school, but the process is slightly different as compared to applying as an undergrad.
What is FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used by colleges and universities to determine if a student is eligible for federal, state, or school financial aid. This includes educational loans, grants, and work-study programs. The FAFSA is used by the U.S. Department of Education to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for college. The lower the EFC, the more aid a student is able to receive.
Types of FAFSA Graduate Loans
There are two types of federal loans available to graduate students: Stafford Loans and Grad PLUS Loans. With a Stafford Loan, a student can borrow up to $20,500 or $40,500 for med school with a fixed interest rate of 6%. Grad PLUS Loans allow for the borrowed amount to equal the cost of school including tuition, room and board, and supplies with an interest rate of 6.2%.
How is FAFSA Different for Graduate Students
Undergraduate and graduate students both complete the same form for financial aid. However, the form needs to be resubmitted every year so if a student completed the FAFSA as an undergraduate, it still needs to be completed for every year the student is in graduate school.
The differences in the financial aid are as follows:
- No Subsidized Loans. Unlike undergraduate students, graduate students are not eligible for subsidized loans. Any loans taken out as a grad student are unsubsidized, meaning they start accumulating interest immediately.
- File as an Independent. Graduate students are considered independents, whereas undergraduates are still dependents of their parents. The majority of graduate schools only ask for the financial information of the student, not the family.
- Higher Loan Rates. Graduate students can take out more loans than undergraduates, but the federal interest rate on the loans are higher.
The FAFSA is used to determine financial aid eligibility for graduate students, but there are some key differences as compared to the process for undergraduates.