Scholarships for Graduate StudentsOctober 7, 2021
Updated May 31, 2022
The cost of graduate school varies by program and academic institution, but students can typically expect to spend upwards of $30,000 per year in tuition to earn a graduate degree.
The good news is, graduate school scholarships can help make earning this advanced degree more affordable. The key is to start looking early for scholarships for graduate students and explore all of your options to find free funding. Here are some tips to help and some grad school scholarships you may wish to apply for.
Why it pays to max out grad school scholarships
Graduate school scholarships provide free money for school. You will not have to pay back the money you receive, unlike when you take out federal or private student loans. And, while most grants are awarded based on financial need, scholarships can be available based on merit or professional affiliation so they may be more accessible to students pursuing a graduate degree.
Types of graduate school scholarships
Although grad school scholarships are not as widely available as scholarships for undergraduates, there are still plenty of options for scholarships for graduate students. These usually can be categorized into a few different types, including:
- Scholarships awarded by graduate degree programs: Colleges and universities may offer scholarships along with need-based grants and fellowship opportunities. You’ll typically need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to become eligible for school-based scholarships.
- Career-based scholarships: Sometimes, grad students pursuing a career in a particular field can qualify for scholarships based on their fields of study. Teachers and nurses are a few examples of fields where career-based scholarships and grants are especially common.
- Scholarships from professional organizations: Members of professional organizations may also be eligible for scholarships if they pursue graduate degrees within their fields.
- Research fellowships: The National Science Foundation and other similar programs provide fellowship opportunities to students pursuing research-based graduate programs. Like scholarships, fellowships fund the cost of earning a graduate degree.
- Fulbright Scholarships: The Fulbright Scholar Program awards funding for U.S. professionals to teach or conduct research abroad. If you are interested in pursuing an international education, this could be an option for you.
If you’re considering grad school, research each of these different sources of graduate school scholarships to determine which ones could help you to pay for your degree.
How to find graduate school scholarships
The best place to look for graduate school scholarships is your school’s financial aid office. Most financial aid offices maintain databases of scholarships for graduate students. This will provide comprehensive access to school-based scholarships as well as other funding opportunities.
There are also online websites where you can search for graduate school scholarships, including:
It is best to start searching early, as many grad school scholarships have application deadlines, and there is often intense competition for free financial aid.
Examples of grad school scholarships
Most scholarships for graduate students are awarded based on professional affiliation, academic discipline, or the school you are attending. However, some examples of grad school scholarships you may be interested in include:
- The Graduate Awards Program from the AIAA Foundation: Provides funding for graduate students researching the air and space sciences.
- The Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship: This provides scholarship funding to students who are racial or ethnic minorities who are enrolled in healthcare management graduate programs.
- The David H. Clift Scholarship is available to U.S. or Canadian citizens or permanent residents enrolled in an ALA-accredited program and earning a Masters of Library Science.
There are many more grad school scholarships, so if none of these work for you, don’t give up hope of finding accessible sources of college funding.
Alternatives to scholarships for graduate students
Although grad school scholarships can help you fund the cost of your education, most often, you will not be able to pay your entire tuition and the cost of attendance with scholarships alone.
You may also need to obtain student loans for grad school. The good news is, both federal and private student loans are available to grad students to help fund their advanced degrees. It’s generally best to exhaust eligibility for federal loans first due to the low fixed interest rates, flexible repayment plan options, and easy qualifying requirements, but grad students can typically qualify for private loans at competitive rates as well.
So, while you should apply for scholarships first to reduce the amount you’ll have to borrow and pay back, shopping around for loans also will likely be part of your process of paying for grad school, as well. With the right loan, earning your degree should still be achievable, so give yourself time to find the funding that works for you.