How to Pay For Film School: Student Financing Options

February 10, 2015

It would be disingenuous to pretend that attending film school – or any higher level education, for that matter – isn’t a costly endeavor. At the same time, it should be recognized that the costs associated with attending film school should be considered as a great investment rather than an unnecessary expense; graduating from film school can accelerate your whole career to follow and lead to better paying work, faster.

how to pay for film school

But the question of how to pay for film or acting school in the first place remains, and it’s one of the biggest concerns most prospective students have. Luckily, there are numerous ways to ease the financial burden. The main two for most students are loans and grants.

Student Loans for Film School

In the absence of a personal sponsor (i.e a family member willing to cover costs), most students rely on student loans to cover the bulk of the tuition fees and living expenses alongside part-time work in some cases. In fact, around 60% of the country’s 20 million college students rely on student loans to see them through.

The idea of taking on any kind of loan can be a daunting one, but bear in mind that a student loan can be one of the most affordable types of credit anyone is likely to be offered during their lifetime. Certain types of federal loans – given directly to the student by the government – are actually offered without any interest while attending school, these are known as ‘subsidized’ federal loans, so you won’t begin accruing interest on the loan until you begin repayment 6 months after you have completed or left the program. However, given that the government pays the interest for you in this scenario, subsidized loans are naturally more tricky to apply for as you’ll probably have to provide evidence that you’re really in need of the money. All applications for Federal student aid start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The Financial Aid staff is available to assist with this application and can be contacted by emailing:

Federal loans

Unsubsidized federal loans are made available to nearly every student who applies, and the interest rates are still remarkably low. And regardless of whether it’s a subsidized or unsubsidized loan, in most cases you won’t need to start paying it back until six months after you graduate.

How Much Will I Receive for my Student Loan?

There really isn’t a blanket answer to this question that wouldn’t run over multiple pages. This is mainly because the amount you’re eligible for varies on a wide number of factors, the main ones being:

  • Whether the loan is subsidized
  • If the US Department of Education determines you to be a dependent or independent student
  • To what level of education you’re studying (mainly under or post-graduate)
  • Your demonstration of financial need

In addition, the maximum limits for borrowing are set by Congress and are subject to change in any given year, but at the time of writing loan limits range between $5,500 to $12,500 depending on the factors listed above. Before borrowing, you should be clear on the total amount you will be required to re-pay and all repayment option available to you. The best course of action is to speak to one of our friendly Financial Aid experts who’ll be able to provide more personalized information and assist further.

Private Student Loans

While private loans offered specifically for studies come with attractive interest rates, they usually cost more in the long run than any kind of federal loan.

That said, if the maximum amount being lent by the government doesn’t quite cover your expected tuition fees and living expenses they can be the most affordable way to ‘top up’ your borrowing. Just be very aware of all the terms, rates and fine print before signing on the dotted line (as with any financial contract), and make doubly sure you understand the repayment terms and the implications of lapsing on these. More information on Private Loans can be found here.

Film School Grants and Scholarships

Who doesn’t like free money? That’s essentially what grants and scholarships are, but of course there are a few hoops you’ll need to jump through in order to find out if you’re able to get some. Once again, it largely depends on personal circumstance and the best thing to do is speak to the Financial Aid department. As an overview, the main distinction between grants and scholarships is that the former is usually awarded to those who are struggling financially, and demonstrate significant financial need, whereas scholarships are given to those who have displayed extreme academic prowess prior to applying.

Federal Pell Grants are offered to students that have completed a FAFSA and have been determined by the US Department of Education and the Financial Aid office at NYFA to be eligible for this grant program. Federal Pell Grant funds are gifts from the government and are not repaid. Grant awards vary per year and may range between $500 and $6,195 per calendar year.

Additional resources include State grant awards as well as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG). The Parent PLUS loan program is another option.

NYFA is a proud member of the Yellow Ribbon program, a voluntary grant program which supplements the educational benefits given to veterans under the Post 9/11 GI Bill – factoring in the combination of educational benefits and tuition assistance offered by NYFA, it’s often the case that all of the veteran’s tuition fees are covered. Similar tuition assistance are offered to those who are registered with a disability, and the New York Film Academy also offers tuition assistance to students demonstrating financial need.

film school scholarships and grants

All in all, there are plenty of options out there for those wondering how to pay for film or acting school. All that remains is to check out the various options based on your individual situation, decide which is best for you, then prepare to embark on the biggest turning point of your career in cinema.