I am almost done with my course work, in fact I am only 9 credit hours and a dissertation away from graduating. My problem is that due to sequencing, I am only able to take 3 hours this semester, which puts me at part time status. Since I am not a full time student, not only will I lose my financial aid, but I will have to start paying back my loans. What can I do?

--Ineligible for Fin Aid

Dear Ineligible,

First of all, congratulations on getting this far. I know it has been a bumpy road at times, but you are getting there, so continue going strong.

Also, be encouraged because you’re not ineligible just yet. You have many options open to yourself right now.

I can see your issue with the clash between scheduling and financial aid. The first thing that you’ll want to do is research your graduate program to find out the credit hour requirements that you need to meet to be a full time student. You’ll also want to double check the requirements of your financial aid office to question if part time students are able to receive any financial aid.

When you find out about what your program and financial aid office require, you might find that you will, in fact, need to take another class or two. I know you are concerned about sequencing with certain classes in your department, but you could try to research other departments in your university. Find out about other classes that might interest you and that might give you a cross-learning experience. You could probably even take undergraduate courses if you find that you are interested in some; just try to make sure that they are somewhat related to your field, or at least will give you relevant skills. These types of situations happen all the time with students, and once they dip their toes into other subjects that are related to their chosen field, they find it to be a valuable use of their time because of the amount of diversity they gain in their skillset and knowledge base.

Another avenue you could investigate is asking your graduate advisor about opportunities in individual studies. These studies are basically one-on-one ‘classes’ that involve you and a professor. Different universities and different departments may vary in their structure of individual studies, but the idea is the same: you will work on a project on your own while a professor supervises you. You might also look for an internship outside of your program. You can gain real world experience and course credit. Be sure to check with your program, as they will want the internship to be relevant to your field.

These options should open a few more doors that you didn’t think about before. I hope they help, but just in case you haven’t found what you were looking for in my answer, take a look at some of our articles in the Succeeding in Grad School section of our website!

Best of luck in the rest of your journey.

They provide great tips about how to conduct a meeting and how to stay on track the whole time. Make sure you take time to prepare far in advance and think about each meeting from your advisor’s point of view. Good luck with your future meetings!

--René Paulson, PhD

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