Financial Considerations

Students who are considering enrolling in programs to obtain a graduate degree in counseling or a counselor certification must consider many factors when selecting which program to attend. For many people, the financial aspect of continuing their education beyond the four years they will have already spent in an undergraduate program is one of their most important considerations and one that can be daunting. Expenses such as tuition, books, and supplies all add up. On top of that you may have housing and living expenses, plus costs for membership to student or other academic organizations. Or, you may already be employed and concerned about making payments for your home and family obligations. By spending some time, however, you can discover many ways to help fund your graduate or continuing education.

  • One option for financial aid assistance can come in the form of a fellowship. A fellowship is a financial grant that is awarded by a university, agency, or some foundation to cover a portion of a student’s advanced studies or research. Because of the limited number of fellowships a school can grant each year, obtaining a fellowship is very competitive. What’s more, as a fellowship is not automatically renewable, the student must re-apply for the fellowship for each academic year they need it. Factors such as grade point average, GRE score, recommendations, and interview results are taken into consideration when a school awards fellowships. If you qualify for a fellowship, in addition to receiving financial assistance, you will also be gaining valuable exposure and experience in your field of study.
  • Depending on the program, a graduate school and/or its affiliate organizations may offer other grants, scholarships, or financial awards to those students who are working to make advances in a specific field. Awards can also be in the form of an internship, a commendation, or for some achievement. One example is the field of psychology, where students, researchers, and practicing counselors who intend to promote further understanding of behavior, health, and human welfare are eligible to apply for an award, regardless of the stage they are at in their careers.
  • Some grants are available to certain minorities. For example, there are fellowships for American Indians, and fellowships and grants for African American graduate students. Students who belong to a sorority or fraternity may be eligible to receive a grant from their national organization.
  • Another source of financial aid is through a student loan. Apply for a loan or submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA ) application, which will determine your eligibility for need-based financial aid. When applying for loans, however, you should keep in mind your future ability to pay off the loan, which may become due shortly after completing your schooling or if you reduce the number of hours you attend school. If you are attending school in the state where you reside, you may be eligible for financial aid from your state’s higher education commission.
Financial Considerations

Many established employers offer a college tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance plan as part of their employee benefits package. If you are currently employed, your company may pay for you to attend school while remaining employed at the company. Eligible employees may be able to receive several thousand dollars for each semester of studies. You need to familiarize yourself with your employer’s requirements, as they vary from one company to another. In some cases, you must maintain a “B” grade or higher in order to be reimbursed for the tuition payment. In other cases, the employer will reimburse payment only after the employee has successfully completed a course, which means the employee has to pay the bill upfront. Some employers will delay payment by many months, to ensure that the employee does not leave immediately upon receiving the degree that the company just paid for. In most cases, the courses for which an employee may receive tuition reimbursement must relate to one’s job. Most companies allot a certain dollar amount toward employee development; even if the employer does not offer tuition reimbursement, it may make online university classes available to employees up to a certain dollar amount.

Graduate school or continuing education for counselors is a tremendous financial investment. Your time in graduate school or in a counselor certification program should provide you with many learning opportunities; it should enhance your job prospects, and ultimately increase your financial worth. Make sure you will receive a solid return on your time, energy, emotional, and financial investments.

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