How to Find Scholarships and Grants for Grad School

Pursuing a graduate degree is a smart decision for numerous reasons. You’ll not only increase your earning potential and enhance your career prospects, but you’ll also have an easier time switching to a new field if that’s what you desire.

Furthermore, some professions require at least a Master’s degree, and this could be why a growing number of college students are looking to earn one. The number of people seeking a graduate degree in the U.S. has risen by over 50% since 2000, totaling over 21 million.

grad student

However, graduate school can come with a hefty price tag, particularly if you don’t intend to work during your studies. On average, graduate students accumulate over $57,000 in debt. Fortunately, there are various options available to fund your graduate studies in 2024.

5 Ways to Pay for Grad School

The following are the top five methods for financing college education:

  1. Student loans: You can obtain federal student loans from the government or opt for private student loans from private lenders. Remember, both types of loans will need to be repaid.
  2. Work-study programs: This program offers financial aid in exchange for part-time work while you attend college.
  3. Fellowships: Ideal for graduate students, a fellowship provides funding to help cover the cost of education. These awards are usually merit-based and given to individuals with the potential to make a significant impact on society.
  4. Scholarships: Scholarships are financial awards that don’t require repayment and are given to students based on merit, such as academic achievement. Graduate students can choose from numerous scholarship options to apply for.
  5. Grants: Grants are funds offered to help students pay for college or career school. These are often based on financial need and can be obtained from your state, college, or the federal government. The simplest way to be considered for federal grants and scholarships is by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

4 Ways to Find Graduate School Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants

Many graduate students will resort to taking out student loans. However, this means starting your career with a lot of student loan debt. But according to Sallie Mae, only 15% of graduate students will use grants, fellowships, scholarships, or tuition waivers to cover their tuition costs.

Scholarships are free money that you’ll never have to repay. And what most graduate students don’t realize is that there are hundreds of graduate school scholarships you can apply for if you know where to look. Here are four ways you can get started:

Use a Scholarship Search Engine

One of the easiest ways to get started is by checking a scholarship search engine. These online databases have information about scholarships that are available for graduate students. You can try one or two from the following list:

  • Career One Stop: This scholarship search engine is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. It lists more than 3,000 graduate school scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial aid award opportunities. You can narrow your search by keyword, award type, your location, and more.
  • Sallie Mae: Do you ever wish that someone else would sift through all the available scholarships, and then tell you what you qualify for? If so, Sallie Mae has you covered with their Graduate School Scholarship Search. You’ll start by registering online and creating your user profile, where you talk about your skills and field of study. From there, you’ll receive alerts whenever scholarships matching your criteria become available.
  • Fast Web: Fast Web has a financial aid database of over 1.5 million scholarships. When you sign up, you can easily and keep track of targeted graduate school scholarships. You can keep track of the scholarships you’re interested in, ones that you aren’t interested in, and scholarships you’ve already applied for.
  • Unigo: Unigo is designed for high school seniors, college students, and graduate school students. It has many free resources as well as an online searchable scholarship database. Plus, Unigo awards its own $10,000 scholarship every year and has awarded $500,000 in scholarships to date.
  • Scholarship America: Scholarship America has a searchable database of scholarships, and they also award their own. Many organizations offer scholarships for graduate students, but the majority are relatively small. Scholarship America is different in that it awards scholarships up to $25,000 for a Master’s degree.
  • Scholly: Scholly is a mobile app that is designed to make it easier for grad students to get connected with grad school scholarships. And you can even use Scholly to edit your scholarship essays.

Check Professional Organizations

One of the best ways to discover scholarship opportunities is by joining professional associations in your field of study. They exist for pretty much every field of study you can think of.

Student membership to these organizations tends to be pretty low-priced, and the benefits you gain will pay for themselves. Not only will you get valuable networking opportunities, many offer graduate school scholarships that are only available to members of that organization.

For instance, The NCPA Foundation provides the following scholarships for pharmacy students:

  • Presidential Scholarships
  • J.C. and Rheba Cobb Memorial Scholarship
  • William B. Simmons Memorial Scholarship
  • Partners in Pharmacy Scholarship
  • Neil Pruitt Sr. Memorial Scholarship

Check With Your Employer

The Society for Human Resource Management reports that 54% of employers provide tuition assistance. Prominent companies such as Google, Best Buy, and Home Depot have already implemented these programs.

If your company offers such benefits, consider inquiring about graduate school assistance. Ensure that you are aware of your company’s terms and conditions before enrolling. For instance, some companies may demand a commitment of 2–5 years in return for tuition reimbursement.

Check With Your College

If you haven’t yet decided on your graduate program, inquire about funding options with the schools you’re considering. Most educational institutions offer scholarships for high-achieving graduate students.

Additionally, many colleges provide scholarships specifically for students pursuing certain fields, such as STEM degrees. Contact a recruitment advisor to determine if your academic record makes you eligible for any scholarship opportunities.

How to Win Scholarships for Graduate Students

Applying for graduate scholarships, grants, and fellowships is an excellent way to secure substantial funding for your graduate studies. Although the application process may be tedious, the reward is well worth the effort. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Start early: To avoid feeling overwhelmed, it’s best to begin the process well in advance. Some colleges have deadlines up to a year before the start of classes, so start your search as soon as possible.
  • Stay organized: Keep track of the scholarships you’ve applied for and those you’ve received responses from. Also, keep a record of the essay questions you’ve answered, as you can reuse them in future applications.
  • Diversify your options: It’s crucial to search for scholarships in various categories such as gender, field of study, academic achievements, hobbies, etc.
  • Be selective: Although scholarship applications are usually free, some may require additional documentation that may cost money to access. Focus your energy on applying for scholarships that are lucrative and that you believe you have a good chance of winning.
  • Write strong applications: When applying for grad school scholarships and grants, a well-written and compelling application is essential. A strong application can make all the difference in securing funding for your education.

7 Grad School Scholarships and Grants

Here are some examples of the many scholarships and grants that are available to graduate students. This is just to give you an idea of what’s out there.

  1. Fulbright Scholarship: Offers research grants for graduate study and research in over 140 countries.
  2. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program: Supports three years of graduate study in STEM fields.
  3. The Hertz Foundation: Offers graduate student fellowships for study in physical, biological, and engineering sciences.
  4. Ford Foundation Fellowship Program: Supports doctoral-level study in humanities and social sciences.
  5. American Association of University Women: Offers fellowships for graduate study in fields where women are underrepresented.
  6. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program: A one-year fully funded fellowship for US citizens and permanent residents pursuing a PhD in biomedical sciences.
  7. The Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award: Provides up to $50,000 per year for students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in visual, performing, or creative arts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of scholarships and grants are available for grad school?

Scholarships and grants for grad school vary widely, depending on the school and program you are applying to. Generally, scholarships are merit-based and may be awarded for academic excellence, research excellence, or special talents. Grants are typically need-based and awarded to students who demonstrate financial need.

How do I apply for scholarships and grants for grad school?

The application process for scholarships and grants varies depending on the program and institution. Typically, you will need to complete an application form and provide documentation such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal essays.

How do I find out about scholarship and grant opportunities?

Discover opportunities for graduate scholarships and grants by exploring the websites of the schools and programs you’re considering. Contact their financial aid office, conduct online research, and ask alumni or professionals in your field.

Are there scholarships and grants available for international students?

Yes, international students can access scholarships and grants as well. Both colleges/universities and private organizations offer financial support to international students.

The eligibility criteria for grants and scholarships vary, including financial need, academic achievement, leadership abilities, and nationality. Research the scholarships and grants offered by the institution you wish to attend to determine your eligibility.

Jamie Johnson
Meet the author

Jamie Johnson is a freelance writer who has been featured in publications like InvestorPlace and GOBankingRates. She writes about various personal finance topics including student loans, credit cards, investing, building credit, and more.