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Advice on Financial Aid for Graduate School — From a Graduate Assistant

Posted by Shelly Quance on 7/13/22 2:48 PM

  July 13, 2022    


We've talked before about the value of a graduate assistantship, and we're here to give you one more real-life story about one graduate student who participated in a grad assistantship as a way of gaining professional experience and off-setting the cost of graduate school.

Here's what Amelia, a teaching graduate assistant at West Virginia University, had to say about her experience. 

️Download WVU's Financing Graduate School Guide!

Tell us a little bit about yourself: name, age, and hometown?

My name is Amelia Whitaker. I am 26 years old and from Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

I graduate with my bachelor’s from the University of Arkansas in May of 2018. I triple majored in Anthropology, Spanish, and Latin American Studies. 

What graduate program are you pursuing at WVU? When do you anticipate graduating?

I am pursuing an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages with a Linguistics certificate. I plan to graduate in May of 2022 (yay!).

Other than financial aid, how did you go about budgeting and/or changing your lifestyle to offset the cost of graduate school?

I looked into scholarships and loans to pay for grad school, but ultimately did not feel it would be worth the financial stress unless I was able to pay for school fully by being a graduate teaching assistant. If I hadn’t been hired as a graduate assistant, I probably would not have gone to school as the financial stress would have been too much. 

To budget for grad school, I am living with my parents who have graciously allowed me to stay with them. I also put as much money as I can into savings to pay for other expenses like food, books, and anything else I need. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle, but I am confident that the budgeting and saving will pay off down the road. 

How is WVU preparing you to achieve your long-term career goals?

WVU is preparing me to achieve my long term career goals by preparing me to be a great teacher and professional. My coordinator, Dr. Susan Braidi, especially, has been a constant encouragement and resource throughout my development as a young professional.

I have had the opportunity to teach multiple subjects including writing, vocabulary, and communication skills. The university also offers numerous job fairs and resume building events throughout the semester. I have also received emails from my advisors and professors any time they hear of a job opening that we might be interested in.

WVU is very invested in the success of their graduate students!

Tell us about participating in a paid graduate assistantship.

I am a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) in the Intensive English Program at WVU. I teach two classes each semester to international students that are learning English and preparing for university life. This pays my tuition and provides a stipend for other expenses.

️Download WVU's Graduate Assistantship Guide!

This has been my main source of income through graduate school. It has been a wonderful (and stressful) experience as I have learned how to teach in a professional setting. It is hard to balance student and GTA life at times, but it is worth it to come out of grad school without any debt. 

What is your best piece of advice for financing graduate school at WVU (especially for prospective students who are concerned with the cost!)?

My advice to prospective students is that there is always a way to go to school. There are a number of scholarship options, campus jobs, and assistantships that are offered to students — you just have to find them!

Don’t ever give up if you want to go to school. There are so many people that are willing to help if you just ask. You also have to decide if it is worth it to you. If you don’t receive any scholarships or assistantships, is it worth it to get loans and go into debt? It may or may not be, but you have to decide what is best for your future.

Looking for financial aid for graduate school? Connect with us at WVU!

As you consider the key questions regarding how to fund your academic and career goals, it is important to collect the facts about financial opportunities. Also, remember that the return on your personal and intellectual investment may be measured not only monetarily but also personally and professionally.

West Virginia University offers many excellent graduate programs designed to prepare you for a successful career. For a list of current programs, visit our graduate programs page. If you like what you see, use the easy five-step application process and let us tell you more about the opportunities that await you at West Virginia University.

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Topics: Funding Your Graduate Education

Posted by Shelly Quance

Shelly Quance has spent almost 20 years working in higher education marketing communications. She currently serves as Director for West Virginia University’s Office of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment where she works collaboratively with College leadership to develop, implement, and evaluate creative and effective comprehensive communication and marketing plans to increase graduate student enrollment.


About the Blog

Deciding what graduate school to attend can be daunting at times, and navigating the admissions process can be that much more difficult. We hope to make the journey from considering graduate school to enrolling in a graduate program easier by publishing content that will be helpful to you as you discern if, when, and where, to pursue your next degree.

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