Graduate Students: Loans, Fellowships & Aid

Finding money for a master's degree, Ph.D., MD or law degree is easier than you think.

A graduate degree can open the door to the career of your choice — but first you’ll need to find a way to pay for it. With a SunTrust private student loan, you’ll have the funds you need for your graduate school expenses. However, before applying, you should learn about all of your funding options.

Scholarships, Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships

The first kind of college funds you should look for is money you won’t have to pay back, such as scholarships, fellowships and teaching assistantships, or TA jobs. TA awards or research assistantships usually have an internship or work assignment associated with the award. For example, a TA often works as an assistant to a professor, doing tasks like printing out handouts and grading papers. If you receive a TA award, the monetary value could be considerable, possibly covering your full tuition and may offer you a stipend.

What’s the difference between scholarships, fellowships and teaching assistantships?

The first thing to know is that there isn’t a hard and fast label for these awards. Some people think scholarships are only for undergrads and fellowships are only for graduate students — but that is not always the case. Similarly, scholarships and fellowships are often based on achievement, but some may also have a need-based component. It depends on the particular award and the college or university a student is attending. However, in general, here are some distinctions:

Type of Award Features


  • Usually merit-based
  • Available to undergraduates and some graduate students
  • Does not usually have a work assignment associated with the award


  • Usually merit-based
  • Available mostly to graduate students and recent graduates, but there are some undergraduate awards
  • Are intended to let students focus on studies so work options or requirements are typically less than a teaching assistantship; in some cases, there are work restrictions
  • Typically covers all or part of tuition
  • May or may not have a stipend

(Such as teaching assistantships and research assistantships)

  • Are often merit-based — however some programs are need-based and are structured like a work-study program
  • Available to graduate students
  • Requires a work assignment
  • Typically covers all or part of tuition
  • Usually includes a stipend for work

A good place to look for scholarships, fellowships and TA awards is the website of the school(s) you are interested in attending; most have a database of scholarships and financial awards. You should also try sites or search tools that are specifically designed for finding scholarships, like CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, which typically has thousands of graduate awards and Peterson’s Grad School Scholarships search. You can also find helpful scholarship resources here.

Federal Student Aid

The federal government is one of the best places to turn for college grants and student loans. The U.S. government provides access to grant money to qualified students every year. The U.S. government, through the Federal Direct Loan Program, also provides l a variety of student loans to both undergraduate and graduate students. There are multiple types of Federal Direct Loans that have similar-sounding names, so it’s good to note the differences:

  • Federal Direct Subsidized Loans – NOT available to graduate students, the interest on these loans is paid, or subsidized, by the federal government for the time period that an undergraduate student is in school.
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans – available to undergraduate and graduate students; the student is responsible for the interest that accrues while the student is attending school.
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loans – available to graduate students and parents of students; this is a non-need based, unsubsidized loan that factors in the applicant’s credit history.

As you review federal aid options, one thing you’ll notice is that there is a difference in the loans offered to undergrads and graduate students. For example, the Direct Subsidized Loan is not available to graduate students. Grad students, however, have the option to apply for a PLUS Loan. Unlike other federal student loans, Grad PLUS Loans factor in an applicant’s credit history for approval.

Key facts to know about the Grad PLUS Loan program:

  • The U.S. Department of Education is the lender.
  • You must not have an adverse credit history.
  • The maximum loan amount is the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received. 

To apply for federal aid, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Private Student Loans

If you’ve looked at other financing sources and you still need more money for school, a private student loan could be a good way to fill in the gap. SunTrust offers several private student loans for those seeking a graduate degree. Compare our private student loans.

A Summary of Federal and SunTrust Graduate Student Loan Options

Loan Loan Type Need Based? Credit History Considered?
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan Federal No No
Graduate Direct PLUS Loan Federal No Yes
Custom Choice Loan (SunTrust) Private No Yes
Union Federal Private Student Loan (SunTrust) Private No Yes
Graduate Business School Loan (SunTrust) Private No Yes

Employer College Assistance Programs

Many employers, and particularly large corporations, offer scholarships or tuition reimbursement programs. If you’re a grad student who is employed, you might want to check with your employer’s human resource department to see if they have student aid programs. You could also potentially qualify for assistance programs through your parents’ employers.

How much do you need for school? Enter your tuition, expenses and financial aid and find out.


Calculate Your Loan

Apply for a new SunTrust private student loan and you may be able to transfer the balance of an existing loan.


Learn More

Important Information

Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. View and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans.

Union Federal is a federally registered trademark of Cognition Financial Corporation used by SunTrust Bank under license. The Union Federal Private Student Loan is funded by SunTrust Bank and is not offered in connection with any other lender or the federal government. Cognition Financial Corporation is not an affiliate of SunTrust Bank.

Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue these programs without notice. These loan programs are subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.

It only takes 15 min. to apply!

Apply for a new SunTrust private student loan now and get a quick decision.

Loans Resource Center

  • Contact

  • Wires

      For more details about Wire Transfers with SunTrust, call 800.947.3786.


      SunTrust incoming wire instructions:

      • For domestic incoming wires, use Routing ABA: 061000104
      • For international incoming wires, use SWIFT/BIC: SNTRUS3A
      • Beneficiary account number: SunTrust full account number
      • Beneficiary name: The name as it appears on the SunTrust account

      SunTrust incoming wire instructions are also available by calling 800.947.3786 - option 1

Investment and Insurance Products:

Are Not FDIC or any other Government Agency Insured   Are Not Bank Guaranteed  May Lose Value 

© 2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc

equal housing logoSunTrust Bank is an Equal Housing Lender. Member FDIC

equal housing logoEqual Housing Lender. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc

SunTrust, SunTrust Mortgage, SunTrust PortfolioView, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, SunTrust Premier Program, AMC Pinnacle, AMC Premier, Access 3, Signature Advantage Brokerage, Custom Choice Loan and SunTrust SummitView are federally registered service marks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Services provided by the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: Banking products and services are provided by SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. Trust and investment management services are provided by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company and SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited. Securities, brokerage accounts and insurance (including annuities) are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a SEC registered broker-dealer, member FINRA, SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory services are offered by SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered adviser. GFO Advisory Services, LLC is a SEC registered investment adviser that provides investment advisory services to a group of private investment funds and other non-investment advisory services to affiliates. Mortgage products and services are provided by SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.

SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. - NMLS #2915, 901 Semmes Avenue, Richmond, VA 23224, 1-800-634-7928. CA: licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, IL: Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee #MB-989, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, 100 W. Randolph, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60601, 1-888-473-4858, MA: Mortgage Lender license #-ML-2915, NJ: Mortgage Banker License - New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, NY: Licensed Mortgage Banker—NYS Department of Financial Services, and RI: Rhode Island Licensed Lender.

"SunTrust Advisors" may be officers and/or associated persons of the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: SunTrust Bank, our commercial bank, which provides banking, trust and asset management services; SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a registered broker-dealer, which is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency, and which provides securities, annuities and life insurance products; SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered investment adviser which provides Investment Advisory services.

SunTrust Private Wealth Management, International Wealth Management, Business Owner Specialty Group, Sports and Entertainment Group, and Legal and Medical Specialty Groups and GenSpring are marketing names used by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., and SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc.

SunTrust Bank and its affiliates do not accept fiduciary responsibility for all banking and investment account types offered. Please consult with your SunTrust representative to determine whether SunTrust and its affiliates have agreed to accept fiduciary responsibility for your account(s) and if you have completed the documentation necessary to establish a fiduciary relationship with SunTrust Bank or an affiliate. Additional information regarding account types and important disclosures may be found at

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC.