Attending graduate school next year? Secure funding for your degree by researching scholarship opportunities.
In this post, we break down the different types of grad school scholarships you’ll want to consider, and where to find options to help you start your grad school journey.
Types of scholarships
Scholarships for graduate school may be offered by universities, professional organizations, states, private companies, and more.
These scholarships are based on a student's and/or their family’s financial situation. Eligibility requirements may vary based on the kind of scholarship.
Based on achievement, merit scholarships are awarded in areas like academics, artistry, and athletics. Some merit scholarships take financial need into consideration but their primary objective is to reward talent.
These awards often relate to your field and are typically need-based. Grants are like scholarships in the sense that you don’t have to pay them back.
Fellowships for graduate students usually fund short-term opportunities to study or conduct research in a specific field. They are typically awarded for academic excellence and can include an internship, service commitment, or offer a stipend. Fellowship opportunities can be found in most graduate fields.
Scholarships are awarded for different criteria. As you explore opportunities, here are a couple ways to consider your search:
- Field: Look for scholarships based on your field, particularly if you’re involved in STEM subjects or other areas where your expertise may be in high demand. Research councils in most disciplines also provide grants for research-based study.
- Region: There are a lot of national scholarships with name recognition, but it can be easy to miss scholarships offered by your community or region. Search for scholarship opportunities by state, or contact your local department of education.
- Demographic: Scholarships are available to promote study for specific populations and support students with diverse racial, religious, and/or ethnic backgrounds and orientations. These include but are not limited to scholarships for women, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities.
- Service: If you are a current or former service program member—such as through AmeriCorps or Peace Corps—you may be eligible for an educational award through your program, and/or scholarships through your school. There are also graduate school scholarships for veterans available to those with military service.
Pro Tip: If you’re a current or former participant in a service program, check out our list of helpful tips and resources for applying to grad school.
Where to look for scholarships
Within your network
Consider making connections through informational interviews, as well as building relationships with your colleagues and supervisors. In addition to securing potential funding through employer tuition assistance, those you work with may have connections to funding opportunities in the sector.
Alongside this more formalized networking, tap into your connections through family and friends. Those who know you best can act as an extra set of ears and eyes for opportunities. They may also know of scholarships beyond those available in your specific field.
At your undergraduate institution and prospective grad schools
Tap into the resources available to you through both your undergraduate and prospective graduate institutions. Career centers, professors, department chairs, and academic advisors are all great sources of information.
Through professional associations
Professional associations can be found across most disciplines and may provide scholarships and grants for members to advance their education or develop professionally. Use your network to make connections and pursue opportunities at these associations. Additionally, consider signing up for newsletters or publications from these associations, as they may advertise scholarships and funding opportunities in the field.
In your local community
Institutions, organizations, and businesses usually offer scholarships to assist students in their communities. Civic clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions are great local sponsors.
At your library
Contact your local library for help with finding information and resources about available grants and scholarships, as well as educational materials to help you apply for grad school funding.
How to apply for grad school scholarships
Scholarship selection committees receive many applications, so it's important that you're clear and concise. When sharing about yourself, talk about your unique skills and achievements and how graduate school (and this scholarship in particular!) will support your long-term goals.
Be sure to also communicate your achievements in relation to the priorities and goals of each scholarship you’re pursuing. For example, a scholarship sponsored by your state might be most interested in how you would take your learnings from a law degree and support civic engagement in your local community. A professional association scholarship that wants to support the next generation of legal scholars may want to hear about how your studies will support the field and contribute to the values of the association.
Finding and applying for scholarships can be time consuming, so it’s important to begin the process as early as you can. Make sure to leave time to request additional application materials like official transcripts or letters of recommendation, and keep copies of your application for your records.
Considering grad school, but unsure of which type of program is right for you? Take our quiz to determine whether you should pursue a full-time or part-time grad degree program to narrow your options when applying.