While there certainly are more scholarships available to undergraduate students, graduate students still have plenty of scholarship opportunities - if they know where to look. Keep reading to learn where to find graduate student scholarships, how they work and how to apply.
What is a graduate student scholarship?
Graduate student scholarships are given to students who have completed their bachelor's degree and are looking for funding for graduate or professional school. Tuition for graduate school can be much more expensive than tuition for undergraduate school. The average cost of a graduate degree is $62,650, and some programs can cost more than $100,000 in total.
If you want to avoid graduating with tens of thousands in student loans, then applying for graduate school scholarships should be a primary strategy. You can start by contacting your prospective school's financial aid department and asking them how to apply for grants, scholarships and fellowships.
Many graduate students can work as teaching assistants or research assistants to help cover their tuition. However, this work can be time-consuming and make it harder for students to focus on their studies.
That’s why applying for graduate student scholarships is a better idea. You can use the funds for almost any education-related expense, and you don’t have to trade your valuable time for money.
How to apply for a graduate student scholarship
Graduate student scholarships are less common than awards for undergraduate students, so you need to be more aggressive when looking for scholarship opportunities. Start the application process as soon as you decide you're going to graduate school.
Our Scholarship Directory lets you search for graduate student scholarships, even breaking it down by year. For example, you can search for scholarships for first-year graduate students to fourth-year graduate students.
The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship award in the world. 32 young students from the United States are selected annually as Rhodes Scholars, through a decentralized process representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. Applicants from more than 320 American colleges and universities have been selected as Rhodes Scholars.
Some graduate scholarships are exclusively for US Citizens who want to study overseas. The Marshall Scholarship, for example is only offered to US citizens who will be studying at any school in the UK that is accredited to award degrees. This includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It can be used for any course of study, provided the scholar meets the eligibility requirements.
Some scholarships are open to all graduate students, while others are only designed for those in a specific major or career path. Some scholarships may be available for both undergraduate and graduate students, while others may only be given to a graduate student.
The Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Frequently asked questions about graduate student scholarships
Can professional students also apply for graduate student scholarships?
Professional school is typically defined as post-graduate studies for professional training, including medical school and law school. This is slightly different from graduate school, which is available for other types of studies.
There are many types of scholarships for professional school students. For example, the Earl Warren Scholarship is given to a current law school student interested in civil rights. Also, the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program is awarded to students pursuing a career in the healthcare industry, including those in medical school.
Can Ph.D. students also apply for graduate student scholarships?
Some graduate student scholarships are available to anyone pursuing a degree other than a Bachelor's or associate's degree. This includes a graduate, professional or even a Ph.D. If you're currently getting your Ph.D., there are plenty of scholarship opportunities available.
There are a substantial number of Ph.D. scholarships, grants and fellowships offered by universities. For example, the Mercatus Center PhD Fellowship is offered to students pursuing a doctoral degree in economics at George Mason University.
Is a fellowship the same thing as a graduate student scholarship?
A fellowship is a special kind of merit scholarship that often covers all tuition expenses. Fellowships are usually granted by the school itself, not a third-party provider. They often have competitive applications and a limited number of spots. There is usually no work component to a fellowship, unlike a teaching or research assistantship.
Fellowships are similar to graduate student scholarships in that students can use the funds for the same kinds of expenses.
Can I get a graduate student scholarship if I attend part-time?
Many graduate students attend school part-time so they can keep working and take out fewer loans for living expenses. There may be some graduate student scholarships that require full-time attendance in order to qualify, but many will still allow part-time students.
If you can’t find enough scholarship funding as a part-time student, you can still qualify for federal student loans. Just make sure you don’t drop below part-time status or you will no longer be eligible for federal financial aid.