Currently viewing the tag: "Financial Aid"

Just in time for those of you wisely calculating the financial resources you’ll be able to draw on for your graduate education, our friends at APSIA have created a new list of scholarship and fellowship opportunities.  Of course, incoming Fletcher students will also want to check the Fletcher financial aid page, too.

Now that you’re all up to speed on admissions decision options, it’s time to turn to the other piece of information many applicants will receive when decisions go out — scholarship awards.

As you may have read or heard us say, Fletcher awards scholarships on the basis of merit and need to both U.S. and international students.  For a given level of merit (as determined in the admissions review process), the largest awards go to students with the greatest need.  There are no need-only scholarships, in that everyone who is admitted has merit.  But there are also no merit-only scholarships, except for commitments we have made to match grants from other organizations.

The award that an incoming student receives is renewable for the second year of Fletcher study.  There’s a renewal process, through which we double-check that students will be on campus taking the expected number of classes in each semester.  But students who remain in good academic standing can plan their second-year finances based on the knowledge their scholarship will be renewed.

Fletcher has always believed that it’s in the interest of admitted students to have upfront information on their scholarship awards for both years.  It’s important for incoming students to have a complete financial plan (which, it should be clear, doesn’t mean waiting until year two to see what happens).

Separate from the scholarship award are student loans.  For U.S. students and permanent residents who have completed the FAFSA, the University’s Student Financial Services office will, in early April, email details of the complete financial aid package, including loan availability and work study funds.

One last note — many Fletcher students work as research or teaching assistants, but the Admissions Committee doesn’t make those arrangements, and scholarship awards carry no RA or TA obligations.  (We don’t presume to know how you’ll want to spend your out-of-class time.)  Once students arrive in the fall, there are opportunities to find campus work, whether you want to share your expertise in political science or sociology, or hand out reserve reading materials in the library.

I’ve added a new category to the blog page.  Organizing posts on the topic of Paying for Grad School seemed long overdue.  Just knowing the category is there might prompt me to write more on the topic, and not necessarily only about Fletcher policy.  Sometimes it will be more along the lines of, “Stop ignoring this big issue.  Let’s talk about it.”

And here’s the first bit of info.  A short while back, the Admissions staff sat down with our contact in the University’s Student Financial Services office.  She helped us understand better how she puts together a student’s overall financial aid package.  (Within Fletcher, we only award Fletcher scholarships, and have no official responsibility for loan programs.)  She said she often refers students to, specifically because of the site’s useful calculators.  Check it out soon!  If you’re just getting started on applying to grad school, now is also the perfect time to start thinking about how you’ll pay for your education.

We hear lots of questions about scholarships and how they’re awarded.  (It was the hot topic at Monday’s event.)  Must be time to shed a little sunshine on this murky topic.  Let’s start with the terminology.  When we, at Fletcher, talk about “scholarships,” we’re talking about the funds drawn from the Fletcher pot of cash — not loans, or any other type of financial aid.

Fletcher awards scholarships on the basis of need and merit together.  That is, there are no merit-only scholarships, and there are no need-only scholarships.  Merit is determined through the admissions process, and need is assessed when we review the two-page scholarship application.  For a given level of merit, the largest awards go to those with the greatest financial need.

(This is the moment to mention that we review scholarship applications after admissions decisions have been made.  Applying for a scholarship will not affect your admissions chances.)

We offer a few full-tuition scholarships, but we never “waive tuition.”  (In the end, what is a tuition waiver, anyway, except a full-tuition scholarship?)  Most Fletcher scholarships do not cover the full cost of tuition, and our students usually fund their education through a combination of personal savings, family contributions, the Fletcher scholarship, income earned while a student, loans, and external scholarships or fellowships.  Even students receiving a full-tuition scholarship will need to cover living expenses.

Different graduate schools have different scholarship/financial aid policies, and we’ve tinkered around with ours quite a bit over the years.  Is our current structure perfect?  Nope.  But it makes a certain sense.  We try to give students with financial need a start toward the cost of attendance.  It’s up to the student to line up the remaining funds.

Also up to the student is the task of finding teaching assistant, research assistant, or office positions.  The Admissions Committee doesn’t assign students to professors as research help.  The professors do their own hiring, and many Fletcher students are TAs within the School or in other units of the University.  To be honest, it’s very difficult to line up a teaching assistant position before you’re actually on campus, but some students will be TAs in their second semester.  Research assistant and office positions are advertised at the start of each semester, and are particularly readily available in September.

You may be wondering what you can do now to be sure you can afford graduate school.  The first thing you shouldn’t do is sit back (possibly biting your nails with worry) and wait until you have heard from all the schools to which you applied.  After admissions decisions are released, you only have a short time (about a month) to get all your financial ducks in a row.  Don’t miss the opportunity to do some research and planning now.  What personal and family sources can you draw upon?  Is there any scholarship or fellowship available to someone with your academic or professional or national background?  (These external scholarships are often for small sums, but every bit helps.)  Do a little financial analysis — how much can you afford to borrow?  Finally, it’s not too late to SAVE!  If there’s any way for you to put some money away each month, then do it!  Even if your savings only cover the cost of books, you’ll be glad to have the cash.

Since not all of our applicants and blog readers are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, I won’t say too much here about government loans and work study.  Just this:  if there’s any chance you’re going to want to apply for loans, you should complete the FAFSA, and now is as good a time as any.  That way, when the University informs you of your financial aid “package,” you’ll learn about loan funds in addition to the Fletcher scholarship.

Affording graduate study is a challenge.  Your first step toward meeting the challenge is a little advance preparation.

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