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America is one of the sought after places for higher studies in the world. But the colleges and universities are highly expensive and tuition fees cost a lot. The longer the course of duration the more money you need to spend. Just for tuition fees, a student can spend up to $30,000 per year or even more.
But with proper research, detailed information and most importantly awareness you can find out about various financial aids that the U.S universities provide else you have to spend lots of your money unnecessarily either through savings or student loans.
Most students who do not have much savings end up borrowing money through student loans with the thought that after they graduate and get a job they can pay the debts in installment wise.
But we know once we get a job there may be other financial commitments too and it and be quite hard to repay it. With assistance, it can help you to ease your family’s financial burden and you can work either full time or part-time and earn money besides studying too.
So let’s discuss in brief the types of financial aids that are offered to both domestic and international students. They are:
1. Assistantship– it is a form of paid employment awarded to full-time Masters or Ph.D. students to either teach or help professors in research work. Generally to avail assistantship students are required to work either as a teaching assistant (TA) or research assistant (RA).
In exchange for work, assistantship provides students with a monthly stipend, waiver in tuition fee and coverage in health insurance. This financial aid is offered to both national and international students to a very limited number of 4 to 8.
For international students proficiency in the English language is needed. This is very competitive where selection is made purely based on merit.
Teaching assistant (TA), Research Assistant (RA), Graduate Assistant (GA), and Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) are four general categories under which assistantship is given. The work is related to your major or closely related one. The work hours are 15- 20 hours a week for TA, RA, GA, and GRA.
Teaching assistant (TA) – They are the ones that directly work under a teacher. They support the teacher to teach a class or to complete a course. A Teaching assistant who gets selected by the university has to work on an average is 15 hours per week.
Research Assistant (RA) – Research Assistant is selected directly by the department or faculty. They are hired to work in the academic department to assist the faculty in academic research like data collecting.
Graduate Assistant (GA) – Graduate assistants are Masters or doctoral graduate students who can work in any department. Supporting administrative functions are the main responsibilities of the Graduate Assistant.
Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) – A Graduate Research Assistant’s primary focus is on thesis or research related to degree mainly from his/her major. To apply and master research concepts and practices are the main duties of the Graduate Research Assistant. Proficiency in the English language is a requirement to be qualified for a Graduate Research Assistant.
How to apply?
There is no separate form to fill out for assistantship. Departments, fields, and Principal Investigators usually reward you with an assistantship.
One disadvantage of the assistantship is that since it requires you to work for a long hour your focus on your studies may be hampered if you cannot balance between the two.
How is assistantship different from scholarship or fellowship?
While both are a form of financial aid but assistantship does not provide you money for free, unlike scholarship or fellowship. This is a type of work-study program where you have to work as a teaching assistant or help in research related to your field of study rather than working in the cafeteria or the library.
2. Fellowship– Fellowship is also a financial aid provided to graduate students’ i.e. Masters or Doctorate students free of cost to continue their graduate studies along with performing some research activity without them not needing to work as teaching assistance or research assistant and working professional.
This is also a merit-based award awarded based on academic achievement or financial need and often funded by a private organization to support your course of study. This award is also competitive and requires students to submit a personal statement regarding their professional goals.
These are the type of grants that covers all related expenses like tuition fee, accommodation, and food. You can apply for a small or large amount depending upon your field of study. Humphrey Fellowship Program is one popular fellowship program in the USA.
There is an umpteen fellowship program offered by various schools and organizations. The best way to look for fellowship is to directly look for opportunities in your school regarding the types of fellowship it is offering. That way the school can recommend the right program depending on your course of study and also for advanced degrees.
3. Scholarship- Scholarships are purely merit based financial aid and offered to all undergraduate, graduate and prospective students who have exceptionally good academic records to support their studies. The minimum amount award a student can get is $500 and can exceed up to $50000. Once you receive this amount you do not have to repay it. The Fulbright Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world.
How to apply for scholarship and fellowship?
To apply for scholarship and fellowship and you need to directly contact with the head in your university. The school will give you information regarding the requirement for the aids and the deadlines. Then you can apply directly through your school mentioning what makes you a deserving candidate for the award.
4. Grants– Grants are also financial aid given to students to help with their studies out of need-based without any repayment of money. Depending upon the family’s financial situation grant is given. Since grants are provided by federal and state government it applies only for US students and those students who have permanent citizenship. The Pell Grant is a popular grant program. International students can avail of the above three listed financial aids.
How to apply for grants?
The steps to apply for grants are:
- Fill out the FAFSA application form- the first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The school will then determine how much money you are eligible for.
- Submit the FAFSA form– even before the deadline arrives you should apply as rolling begins based on first come first serve. Tax return documents of the family are needed to be submitted along with the form.
- Flick through the offer letter- if you are eligible or not for the grant the college will send you financial aid offer.
What are the differences between Grants vs. scholarships?
- While grants are need-based money provided to students with the financial crisis on the other hand scholarships are merit-based either on academics or extracurricular activities.
- While the source of funding for grants comes from state and federal government, scholarships come from various sources such as organizations, schools, universities, philanthropists, businesses, alumni, etc.
- Grants are provided only to US citizens whereas scholarships are awarded to both U.S. and international students.
These financial aids provided by many universities and private organizations are worth trying for. Even if you are not accepted there is nothing to lose. You can always work full time or part-time to support your studies given that your academic grades are not deteriorating. But you can always try for as they are free money and you don’t have to pay back. If you are a student currently doing your undergraduate program without any financial aids, try-scoring good grades so that you can apply for assistance in your postgraduate studies.
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