Graduate Students

Applying as a Graduate Student

Admission as a graduate student at Michigan State University requires your application to be reviewed at several levels within the university including the academic department and Office of Admissions. Only after the process is fully completed will your financial aid be processed with a correct graduate level budget and aid.

Current Undergraduate Students Admitted Into Graduate Program

If you are currently an MSU undergraduate, your graduate status will not be active until your undergraduate degree is conferred by the Registrar. This will happen in May for Spring Semester graduates, and in August for Summer Semester graduates.

Students Returning to MSU for a Graduate Program

If you have attended MSU in the past as an undergraduate, but graduated elsewhere, you will be processed as an undergraduate until you are officially admitted by your academic department, MSU Office of Admissions, and your information is updated in our Student Information System by the Office of Admissions.

New MSU Graduate Students

If you are new to MSU as a prospective graduate student, your aid will be processed as a graduate student.

Sources of assistance

Federal and MSU need-based aid

Graduate students who are US Citizens or Permanent Residents may apply for federal and MSU need-based loans and grants by filing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). See Types of Aid for programs available.

Sample Financial Aid Packages

The financial aid packages below are samples of what a masters, PhD, or student completing their teacher internship may qualify for based on 2014-2015 information:

Michigan Graduate Student

Type of Aid Amount Offered
MSU Student Aid Grant* $1,900
Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan $20,500
Graduate PLUS Loan Recommendation $2,674
Total $25,074

Out-of-State Graduate Student

Type of Aid Amount Offered
Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan $20,500
Graduate PLUS Loan Recommendation $16,548
Total $37,048

*MSU Student Aid Grant is available to resident students with high financial need based on FAFSA results

Most federal programs require enrollment at half time or more as shown in the Enrollment Chart. Some graduate students have special requirements, however, which are discussed below.

Aid such as Pell Grant, MSU Assistance Grant and Spartan Advantage are not available to graduate students. If you are offered these initially your financial aid package will change significantly once your graduate admissions information is updated from undergraduate to graduate in the university student information system which may be several weeks after you are admitted into a graduate program.


Fellowships are aid programs that do not have to be repaid. They are based on merit criteria, such as grades or program of study, not financial need.  Michigan State University funds many fellowships including awards for conference attendance and internships as well as normal cost of attendance. The Office of Financial Aid does not award fellowships, so contact your department for information. Fellowships can reduce the amount of Grad PLUS or Direct Loan offered.


Assistantships are employment awards granted by individual departments or by administrative offices such as Residence Life. The work can be either as a teaching assistant (TA) or a research assistant (RA). More than 3000 graduate students hold assistantships at MSU.

To qualify, you must be in a graduate degree program and make satisfactory academic progress. A 3.0 grade point average is the minimum requirement, though it is higher in some departments or colleges.

Benefits include a stipend (monthly paycheck), tuition waiver of 9 credits per semester (fall and spring), and health insurance.

If you received an award package as a regular grad student prior to receiving an assistantship, your package may have included more aid than you're actually entitled to and would therefore need to be reduced. MSU is required to follow federal rules in the awarding of aid and MUST reduce certain types of aid if you originally had a regular graduate budget and now have a graduate assistantship. This is because we may only cover your actual costs. While it may seem that something is being taken away from you when we adjust your award package, it is actually being replaced by the benefit of free tuition.

Special status

Not all graduate student programs are created equal. If you fall into one of these special categories, you may be ineligible for aid or have your aid reduced:

Students who are provisionally admitted or dual enrolled may be ineligible or have limited eligibility.

Doctoral students who have completed their comprehensive exams and have been coded by their department as being in the dissertation phase of their program (code DD in SIS) will have their financial aid budgets adjusted to ACTUAL tuition costs as opposed to AVERAGE tuition costs. This may result in reduced financial aid eligibility.

Students who exceed the published timeframe to earn a degree will be denied further aid pending a successful appeal. Most Master’s programs must be completed within five calendar years of matriculation. Doctoral degrees, including dissertation, are limited to eight calendar years. You will see a Financial Aid Warning hold placed on your account in your final term of eligibility, and a Financial Aid Denial will be placed for the next term of enrollment. More information on the appeal process is found on the Satisfactory Academic Progress web page.