I knew that after completing my BS in Marketing, I wasn’t ANYWHERE near ready to put on my big girl pants and step out into the real world. Not only that, but I wanted so desperately to have the opportunity to teach at the university level someday. The best way to make it happen was to attend graduate school. As I filled out and submitted the application to my Master’s program, the questioned loomed over my head… How am I going to pay for this s***?!
Education is absurdly expensive, but nobody deserves a heaping pile of debt for wanting to better themselves and expand their horizons. After several interviews, Google searches, and email exchanges, I found the answer to my question. That’s why I’m sharing my story in hopes of helping or inspiring those who would like to pursue their Master’s or PhD.
The following is simply my personal story, but I hope it will give you an idea of where to start looking for funding. The little known truth is that graduate assistantships are an awesome way to receive experience and pay for school. It seems these positions are not well-advertised within universities. In fact, I never would have known if it wasn’t for a brief conversation with a coworker that led me to find out. Now, both of us are working for the school to pay for our education (shout out to Nick Bertini if you’re reading).
Through my university, George Mason, I first received a graduate assistantship from my program in Communication. After receiving my acceptance to the MA program, I was emailed about an opportunity for graduate students to teach in the program. I interviewed and received a position teaching Communication 101 to undergraduate students. Unfortunately, it didn’t cover much tuition because I’m a master’s student. However, I’m nearly certain that PhD students have their program covered by teaching full time.
Receiving this assistantship of course was a blessing, but I needed to find something that would help me even more. Cue scouring the inters of net for another assistantship, and I found several positions through the housing department and applied for all of them.
I interviewed, but was rejected from every position. My pride was hurt and I wondered what I would do.
Some weeks went by, and by a miracle I received a call that they reopened the interview process. The second time around, I received my blessing. Not only do they cover tuition (minus books and student fees), but they’re also providing graduates with housing accommodations for the free. Don’t give up, you all!
Even though not every assistantship will cover as much as mine do, they’re truly a hidden gem when it comes to paying for school. If you have Resident Advisor experience, Orientation Leader experience, or any general experience that could translate to an available assistantship, use it to your advantage! Polish your resume and differentiate yourself from others with a well-written cover letter. If you think your experiences are relevant to an assistantship, even a little bit, make a list of how your skills translate to the job description and incorporate it into your cover letter.
How to Search for Graduate Assistantships
Search every department within your university of interest – housing, orientation services, athletics, university life, admissions, academic integrity, financial aid, etc. I mean EVERY department. Public universities are massive and often have more than one grad assistant per office.
Make sure to conduct your search on Google, Indeed, and Glassdoor as I’ve seen assistantships listed on all of these websites. An additional idea is to contact someone within your program of interest to ask if there are assistantships available.
The first step is to go on Google (or Bing.. if that’s what you’re into) and search “*insert your university name* graduate assistantships.” See what comes up and find out where your skills fit in best.
Here are a few other avenues to consider to pay for your graduate education:
Merit or financial based scholarships and grants
Going straight into a PhD program – these are more likely to be fully funded by universities than Master’s programs
Crowdfunding through platforms such as GoFundMe to cover the cost of books and hidden fees
Serving in the military can potentially offer the Post 9/11 or Montgomery GI Bill. This commitment should not be taken lightly.
Consider trying to find a full-time job that offers tuition assistance or incentives prior to joining a graduate program.
I’m hoping the best for you and your future career as a graduate student. Sending happiness, adventures, love & light.
– Marissa Daily