Financial Aid, Fellowships, and Grants
In March and April, you will begin hearing from the programs to which you have applied. When you are accepted, a new stage in the process begins. If you are accepted to more than one program, you will want to start comparing programs again. Although you might have distinct preferences, you will want to begin taking some practical matters into account.
Programs differ, markedly, in the manner in which they support graduate students financially. You will want to know about the structures of support when you apply, but after you have been accepted, you will want to understand, precisely, what each program is willing to commit to you. You will want to understand the precise costs of the program, if there are any grants to cover fees, what kind of financial aid is available. The goal is to avoid paying fees yourself (or taking loans out to pay them). Secondarily, you will want to try and secure some money to live on. Some programs offer you money in the form of grants, others will let you earn your keep by acting as a Teaching Assistant or preceptor.
When you are accepted, reply with a polite letter acknowledging the receipt of the good news. You will want to wait as long as possible before committing to any one program so that you can see where else you have been accepted.
When you have received enough letters of acceptance, you will want to evaluate the programs more specifically. If necessary, you might have to visit them in order to speak with faculty and students directly. Don't be hurried.
Your goal at this point will be to secure a fellowship from the department. You will want to mention that you have offers from other programs. It is best, naturally, to state that you are most interested in attending X, but program Y is offering you enticements that make it difficult to refuse. Having said this, don't be too greedy. You will never "make" money at graduate school. Even after you have accepted a particular offer, you can still inquire if there is any fellowship money to be had; sometimes other candidates who have decided to attend graduate school elsewhere free up some moneys late in the process.