Going to graduate school does not necessarily mean you'll have to take student loans to fund your studies. Financial assistance can come in the form of a grant, research or teaching assistantship, or a fellowship, which entails a financial package that may include a combination of yearly funding and teaching or some other form of part-time employment. Doctoral programs in particular frequently offer prospective graduate students full or partial fellowships that include tuition remission, a stipend, and a teaching assistantship. Masters and professional programs unfortunately tend not to offer such expansive financial packages, but there are many sources of funding outside the university. The key to increasing the possibility of securing this funding is starting early , as some deadlines are in the Fall prior to the year one plans to begin graduate study.
Where to Look:
For current USC undergraduate students looking to fund research or continuing education:
For USC graduates who are looking to fund graduate school:
Websites and publications of professional associations may offer lists of subject-specific fellowships and grants.
Websites and publications of many professional associations offer lists of subject-specific fellowships and grants. The Doheny Reference room is a good place to begin, as are books such as Financial Aid for African Americans/Hispanic Americans/Native Americans are now available online and can be accessed through Homer.
USC subscribes to a searchable database called SPIN that can be accessed via a USC connection at: http://www.infoed.org/new_spin/spinmain.asp. Go to “advanced search.” Specify that you are an individual seeking funding for graduate study and any “target groups” (e.g. women, minorities) with which you identify. You can expand or narrow the search with keywords and other specific criteria.
Resources for Under-represented Students
For some excellent resources for under-represented students and a list of fellowships for all U.S. citizens compiled by the Graduate School at USC see http://www.usc.edu/dept/GRADSCHL/finaid.html.
Nationally Competetive Fellowships
For nationally and internationally competitive fellowships, see http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/LSS/arp/.
Please note that many of these fellowships are among the most prestigious and offer full funding, but they are also highly competitive and have very early deadlines that even precede the deadlines of most applications for graduate school.
Indiana University has also compiled a helpful list of links to funding: http://www.indiana.edu/~gradgrnt/sponsors.html.
If you find you need student loans, then these not-for-profit organizations offer information and advice: http://www.accessgroup.org/ and http://www.finaid.org/.
Please note that doctoral programs can require anywhere from three to six (or more) years to complete, so rather than finance your PhD with loans, take the amount and availability of funding that various programs offer into consideration as you decide where you will apply. Many doctoral programs only admit as many students as the department can fund; some departments simply do not have the financial resources to do so. Again, by starting early and researching thoroughly, you can take the time to find a group of programs that fits your needs and interests – and that also fund their graduate students!