I got accepted into grad school. How to afford?
March 10, 2009 12:32 PM   Subscribe

I got a phone call telling me I got accepted to grad school. Trying to work out funding options before the package gets here and whether it's worth it (sorta complicated situation, details inside). Help?

Okay, so I applied to one school-- the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. A bit atypical, but I applied for their Illustration as Visual Essay MFA, and I applied based on the program rather than just the degree, so hopefully that makes sense. I live in Arizona right now and work as a freelance illustrator; while of course I don't need the degree to do what I do, the program and all its networking and focus seem like they could really push my skills and help my career in the long run. I got a phone call yesterday telling me yes, I got accepted and I'll be receiving more details in the mail next week. Of course though, I'm impatient and want to get the ball rolling to find out any financial options I have.

Few issues:

1) While I know SVA does have some merit based fellowships, they don't have a heck of a lot of options besides loans. Everyone I've talked to has mostly loved the program but have admitted it's expensive. (For the record, it's about $30,000 for '09-10, and I believe tuition will go up a bit the next year.)
2) Unlike a lot of my friends, I went to school in-state and while I did have debts, it's around $17k versus the $80-100k they had. So for two years incurring maybe $60-65k of debt... I don't know. I hear that it's the good kind of debt though?
3) Due to my laziness frustrations with doing my taxes, I only submitted my FAFSA on the 6th of this month. The SAR says my EFC is $1961. (While my career has been growing, I'm still not well off yet) Which as far as I know means I have a lot of financial need. I don't know if that'll make much of an impact or what?
4) I just looked on the school website and found out that the optimal filing deadline for the FAFSA was February 1. Unfortunately, the website and catalog don't always match up so I wasn't aware and the site is not the best laid out. Which means I'm potentially screwed if there's no funding.
5) I do know one of my professors (she decided to send me an open copy for my file) wrote a glowing letter and specifically suggested if they had scholarships that they consider me for it. I don't know if professors usually do that, but it seemed really nice anyhow...
6) Since I'm self-employed I can't do tuition reimbursement or anything. I do have a part time job that offers college scholarships but it's only for undergrad.
7) There just aren't a heck of a lot of arts fellowships that I can find. But maybe I don't know where to look? I have checked out Fastweb and their brethren, but I never find much. I do know that Threadless has a scholarship, which I think I'm going to try for (SVA does match outside scholarships by 25%, so)...

So I'm wondering hivemind: what can I do in the meantime? I know next week I'll receive more details, but I'm trying to get the jump on alternate funding. Is there something I'm not thinking of?

And I'm also wondering your opinions re: the debt vs. value of going. I know it's a lot of money and while it's not going to get me one job that can justify it, the building upon my skills and the networking with a lot of industry people in New York could turn into a lot of jobs and different avenues of projects down the road. (For those who don't know, it's more of a practical vs. theory-based MFA) It seems like a good thing for me. So to me it seems worth it to invest in my future for two years (and then unless I did find some kind of steady employ there, I'd probably leave). But I can't tell if I'm nuts.

Thanks! I know this is a little more complicated than your standard grad school AskMe thread (I did read a ton of them too, so sorry if it retreads a common question), but hopefully it makes sense. I can respond to questions as needed.
posted by actionpact to Education (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
The deadline your schools suggests is an internal deadline for any merit and/or financial aid scholarships/loans/etc from the school itself. It means you might be SOL on direct school aid for this semester and/or year depending on how they work. But you might not. It just means you are further back in line.

You can get government student loans, but that's only up $20,000 per year total. So that won't even cover your tuition, let alone living expenses.

Is there anyway that you can delay entry for a year? That would give you a chance to research some arts foundations that might be able to provide loans or grants. (Also Rotary clubs do that.)

But seriously, you're talking tens of thousands of dollars to afford living expenses alone in NYC, not to mention, school costs.

Not to say don't do it but.....

If you can, you can also take out personal loans to cover education/living cost expenses. But you'd have to have STELLAR credit and own something of value, like a car or house or boat, to get say, $20,000. Or have a co-signer who trusts you implicitly and ALSO has STELLAR credit.

I do not have a even good credit, nor a cosigner with great credit, so I am not in grad school right now.

Sorry to be a downer......
posted by sio42 at 12:55 PM on March 10, 2009


It's really not that complicated. They may provide you with a limited amount of funding, or they may not. Probably not, but you won't know that yet for at least a few weeks (often these decisions are made after admissions). Most places like Fastweb are execrably useless. Your SAR indicates that you have few assets and that you will qualify for significant student loan funding, which may or may not cover the entirety of your remaining tuition. You should be okay as far as the deadlines, they do mean something, but the real-real deadline for fall is much later. As far as whether it's worth it or not, that really depends on what's important to you. It sounds like a great opportunity that is very expensive. You should think about it in terms of financial return on your investment, whether it will lead you to a better place in your career, overall satisfaction, etc.
posted by mrmojoflying at 1:00 PM on March 10, 2009


I know it's a lot of money and while it's not going to get me one job that can justify it, the building upon my skills and the networking with a lot of industry people in New York could turn into a lot of jobs and different avenues of projects down the road. (For those who don't know, it's more of a practical vs. theory-based MFA) It seems like a good thing for me. So to me it seems worth it to invest in my future for two years (and then unless I did find some kind of steady employ there, I'd probably leave). But I can't tell if I'm nuts.

okay, so already you've got three great reasons to go:

1) build on your skills
2) very good networking possibilities
3) new york!

and just one reason not to:
1) it's kinda expensive

because the economy is in the crapper, going to a grad school right now—especially a very good program at a good school in a city which is a center of your industry—is an even better idea than usual. if you can get student loans, it's far better to take them and be in school improving your skills and widening your network and prospects for the next two years somewhat buffeted from the bad economy, than it is to just keep working through the recession. since you already make your living as a freelancer and can do the same work from nyc, you're in a great position to keep working on the side while you're in school and bring in extra cash. as far as i'm concerned, you'd be crazy NOT to go!

n.b. some of my classmates when i was in grad school at nyu taught classes to undergrads and got some/all of their tuition waved; ask your department if sva has similar positions that you'd be eligible for.
posted by lia at 1:36 PM on March 10, 2009


lia is talking about graduate assistantships. This is how I got though the first couple of years of my doctoral program. The pay is measly, but it covered my tuition and books, and gave me a stipend. It can take several forms: GA (grad assistant): assisting professors in the classroom by helping students, holding study sessions and office hours for students, proctoring and grading exams. RA (research assistant) helping a professor with a book s/he is writing or a study s/he is conducting, usually. TA (Teaching assistant) Normally you cannot teach your first year or two, but I don't know what is available at your institution.

Have you looked at grants? There are grants for women, people of a certain age and/or ethnicity, people with disabilities, etc. This is a site listing grants for female artists.
posted by Piscean at 7:57 PM on March 10, 2009


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