Insider tips: funding postgraduate study in the US

Thinking about studying at postgraduate level in the USA, but worried about the cost? Well, don’t panic: there’s plenty of financial support available if you know where to look.

According to Sonya McGuinness of the Fulbright Commission (speaking at the postgradireland Further Study Fair last week), a whopping 50 per cent of international students across the pond manage to secure themselves funding, either from their universities in the shape of Fellowships, Assistantships, accommodation stipends or other grants, or via external bodies.

Fees vary greatly between US colleges, and between individual degree programmes. Initial tuition fees and rates are lower at state universities – an MA at a public university can cost around $22,000, whereas at a private college the same course could set you back a cool $34,000.

However, there are ways you can minimise costs.

  • Think strategically, and apply to universities where you’ll be nearer the top of the pile when it comes to eligibility for funding.
  • The general costs of living are lower in rural, southern or Midwest areas. New York and Boston are the most expensive US cities for students, so bear this in mind if you are set on studying in one of these cities.
  • Once you are in the US, sniff out fellowships and other funding options offered by your university. Teaching and research fellowships often become available to PhD students in science and technology about six months into a doctorate, so if you are looking to do a PhD in these areas then it’s well worth researching this option.

As well as loans from Irish and US banks (or the Bank of Mum and Dad, if you’re lucky enough to have an account with them), there are other sources of funding, too.

The Fulbright Commission offers Irish postgraduates a number of grants and awards, ranging from foreign language teaching assistantships and all-discipline awards to the prestigious Fulbright Science and Technology Award, which provides a fully-funded PhD in science, technology, engineering or maths at one of the USA’s top US institutions. (That translates into $60,000 per academic year, for a maximum of five years.)

Don’t forget – and this is really important – that financial aid deadlines fall before the admissions deadlines for US institutions. The submission deadline for Fulbright awards is November.

To find out more about the Fulbright Awards, see www.fulbright.ie.

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