A Challenge: Paying For School

The admission season is filled with ups and downs for applicants.  You may receive admission offers from some schools and not from others.  Those who are admitted may experience the exhilaration of all their hard work paying off only to experience the worry of how to pay for the tuition and all of the related educational expenses.

When I speak with prospective students I always try to be upfront and state that I do not like surprises.  I do not want people to be surprised by the fact that the cost of attending SIPA for two years can well exceed $100,000.  This figure includes tuition, fees, housing, food, travel, health insurance and everything it will take to support your studies for approximately two years in a city known for a high cost of living (slightly combated by selling pizza by the slice).

I also do not want to hide the fact that we are only able to award funding to approximately 15% of first year students.  I am happy to say that 70% of those who apply for funding in their second year at SIPA and qualify (by achieving a 3.2 GPA in the first year at SIPA) are awarded a scholarship in the second year.

Having worked in higher education for many years now, I can say that it is quite common to have very emotional conversations with students about money and financial aid.  I can both empathize and sympathize with students I speak with because I attended graduate school and took a considerable amount of loan funding to do so.  I am also happy to say I did apply for and receive scholarships to attend school, although no where near the amount to cover the full cost of attendance.

Unfortunately when I speak with students and ask them about the effort they have put into searching for scholarships or other sources of free funding, very few are able to respond in the affirmative.  It is common to hear responses such as: “I simply don’t have time.”  “I don’t know where to look.”  “I started to look but there was nothing out there.”

For me searching for scholarships is like many other things in life – the effort you put in equals the result.  If you want an “A” in a class you have to put in the time.  If you want to find an apartment in New York City you have to search, talk to people, and expend a great deal of energy.

In a way searching for scholarships is like saving for retirement.  First, the sooner you start the better off you are.  Second, it is wise to keep researching for ways to make your money and opportunities grow.  So my question to you applicants out there is, “How much time have you spent looking for funding?”

My hope is that you have been looking but if not it is never too late to start.  My advice to you would be to make scholarship searches a part of your normal routine.  Most of us have things we like to do that we will not miss.  It can be watching a T.V. show, going to the gym, or taking time to write a letter to a friend.  Schedule a time once a week to look for scholarships and it literally can pay off.  Here are some ways to get started:

• Check out SIPA’s own fellowship database. We search for scholarships for you and post them to the database.  The database is not SIPA specific.  As we search for and hear about funding, we make the information available to you.

• Use RSS technology to deliver news to your email account or RSS Reader.  RSS allows for news to be delivered to you without having to go look for it every day.  As an example, Gmail accounts have something called the “Alert” tool and I am sure other providers have the same capability.  All you have to do is put in text for searches and a search engine will perform the searches daily and deliver news to your email account.  You can type in search terms like “Graduate School Scholarships” or “International Affairs Scholarships.”  You can also utilize an RSS reader.  They are free and if you do not know what an RSS reader is, click here for a YouTube tutorial.

• Talk to people you know who have gone to graduate school and find out if they were able to find scholarship opportunities.

• Contact people who are willing to write you a letter of recommendation and have them make multiple copies of the recommendation letter and give them to you in sealed envelops so you are ready if a scholarship opportunity arises and there is a tight deadline.

I will not say the process of searching is easy and it can take a considerable amount of effort.  However, if you wish to reduce the amount of loan funding you might need to pay for school it is well worth the effort.

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