Grants for Graduate School Students

Tips for Securing Funds for Advanced Degrees

For those who want to advance in their careers, graduate school can be a good investment to help them meet their goals. However, this investment can be extremely costly, so students may rely on different types of financial aid to help them pay for their advanced education. Grants are an excellent form of financial aid because, like scholarships, they do not have to be paid back. This guide discusses the places where students can find grants and how they can increase their chances of winning them.

FAQ: Understanding Grants for Graduate School

Students who are looking for funding for their graduate studies may have many questions about how to receive grants. The following are the answers to some of those questions.

What is a grant for graduate school?

Grants are a form of financial aid that do not have to be repaid and are often provided to students based on their financial need. In some cases, the organization providing the grant may also consider other factors, like academic performance, when awarding these funds.

Who is eligible to receive a grant in grad school?

Generally, students must be enrolled in an accredited college or university in order to be eligible to receive a grant. Also, depending on the award, there may be other eligibility requirements, such as minimum grade point average, type of degree program, and research goals.

What’s the difference between grants and fellowships?

Grants are generally offered to students based on their financial need, while fellowships are often based on academic achievement and research.

What is the application process like?

The application process for grants is similar to that of scholarships. In some cases, as with some governmental awards, students can be considered by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In other cases, students are required to fill out a separate application to receive a grant, and in addition to being asked for financial information, they may be required to submit a statement about their academic achievements and goals.

What are the different types of grants for grad students?

Grants can be provided by public and private sources, such as government agencies, professional organizations, corporations, and the schools that students attend. Some grants are provided based on the students’ demographic or the field of study they’re pursuing.

  1. Federal. The federal government offer grants to graduate students that are based on financial need, including the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, Fulbright Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
  2. State. Just as students can receive grants from the federal government to fund their graduate studies, they may also be able to receive grants from the state they live in. For example, the Colorado Graduate Grant provides up to $5,000 for students who demonstrate financial need, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers $2,000 grants for earth science graduate students to conduct research.
  3. School specific. Schools want to attract the best students to their graduate programs, so they may offer grants to help those who show promise pay for their education. For example, the State University Grant Program is available to graduate students attending schools in the California State University system, and Michigan State University provides funding for master’s and doctoral fine arts students through its University Fellowship Programs.
  4. Organization and corporate grants. Professional and non-profit organizations, as well as private companies, offer grants to help students get the advanced education they need to enter their professions—which goes a long way toward building a strong workforce.
  5. By demographic. Demographics may also play a role in the grants that graduate students can receive. Some grants are provided to members of a certain race, for example, to help bridge the gap of underrepresentation in a specific field.
  6. By field. Colleges and universities, as well as professional organizations, may offer grants based on what program the student is enrolled in.

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Expert Tip

Students can find grants in a variety of untapped places. There are community-based organizations that provide scholarship support in various interest areas (e.g., business) and there are small trusts/foundations often administered by community foundations and local banks. In addition, many national organizations provide scholarship and grant support for students who meet their defined criteria. Students should monitor philanthropy websites and take the time to do Internet searches. A number of professional organizations also sponsor writing/research competitions that often come with scholarships or cash prizes.

Patricia E. Salkin, Provost and CAO of Graduate and Professional Divisions at Touro College

18 Grants for Graduate School

Grants for graduate school can come from a variety of sources, so students should be aware of all of their options in order to win as many awards as they can. The following are some examples of these grants, and the qualifications students are expected to have in order to win them.

Federal Grants for Graduate Students

Fellowships for Graduate Students

Organization & Corporate Grants for Graduate Students

Grants for Graduate Minorities

Grad School Grants for Women

Field-Specific Grants for Grad School

Expert Tip

When students seek funding (that will not need to be repaid) for graduate studies, they typically look at two sources: graduate assistantships and fellowships. However, graduate assistantships tend to be the most plentiful funding source. Students can be awarded one of three types of competitive graduate assistantships: graduate teaching assistantships, graduate research assistantships, and graduate administrative assistantships. These assistantships pay students' tuition and/or a monthly stipend.

Kimberly L. Douglass, Associate Dean at Middle Tennessee State University College of Graduate Studies

7 Expert Tips to Landing Grad School Grants

Once students have found the graduate school grants they are eligible for, they need to present themselves in the best way in order to win them. The following tips can help students increase their chances of winning these awards.

  • Search organizations that cater to a profession.

    Every occupation has organizations--such as professional associations and research councils--that cater to the people who work in the field. These groups often provide grants and scholarships to help ensure that their profession has a constant stream of highly-educated workers, so they are an excellent place to look for graduate school funding.
  • Pay attention to writing.

    "Take your time, make sure your written application is grammatically correct, uses proper punctuation, proper spelling, and that the format/layout is ‘clean’ and consistent," said Patricia E. Salkin, Provost and CAO of Graduate and Professional Divisions at Touro College. "Use the same font and spacing throughout the document. Write your narrative in complete sentences and don't use abbreviations. Presentation matters."
  • Explain a low grade point average.

    Some awards may require a minimum grade point average, but if students have otherwise strong credentials, they should apply anyway. "If a student's GPA is lower than they would like and they have been admitted to a program, write a clear narrative about how all of their qualifications make them a strong applicant," said Kimberly L. Douglass, Associate Dean at Middle Tennessee State University College of Graduate Studies.
  • Tailor information.

    In some cases, organizations issuing grants will ask for similar information on their applications. Although they will use the same basic details, students should tailor their responses to each individual organization. Committees want to know that students take this process seriously and can generally tell when information has been cut and pasted from one application to the next.
  • Incorporate history.

    "Grant applications should contain just the right amount of background information to let the reader know who you are and why they should invest in your education," Salkin said. "This is your chance to win the hearts and minds of the readers (usually there is more than one reader). However, keep it real. Be honest and do not exaggerate. This is, after all, your professional identity and you may very well come face-to-face with your funder."
  • Build a relationship with faculty members.

    "Students should talk with faculty in the program to which they are applying to make sure they are aware of the students’ qualifications," said Douglass. "The majority of admissions and funding decisions are made by students’ academic program. To get a feel for the program and to understand the availability of funding, applicants should reach out to faculty members as soon as they become interested in a program."
  • Always look for funding opportunities.

    Even after students have won some grants, they should always continue looking for funding sources because these awards are offered throughout the year. When paying for a graduate school education, there’s no such thing as having too many options, so the extra effort can go a long way toward defraying the cost of tuition.

Additional Resources to Help Pay for Grad School

Graduate students can never have too much information about funding their education. The following are additional resources that students can use to help them find financial aid.