From increasing your salary to helping you climb the corporate ladder, graduate school can open many doors for your career that would have otherwise been impossible. Unfortunately, paying for a graduate school degree doesn’t come cheap. According to Nerd Wallet, the average student loan debt for graduate students is a staggering $71,000, not including undergraduate loans.
However, you shouldn’t have to choose between advancing your education and collapsing into a pile of student debt. While there are multiple ways to pay back student loans, there are also other options available including graduate school scholarships, grants, and fellowships to help you (and your bank account) out. While applying for undergraduate scholarships is common, far fewer students are aware of scholarships available at the graduate school level. While graduate scholarships do not typically cover your entire tuition, fellowships and grants most commonly pay for about 15% of school costs – which truly goes a long way. When it comes to paying for graduate school, every penny counts. If you’re looking for means to help fund your graduate school education, look no further! Below are some tried and true tips and tricks to help you land the graduate school scholarship or grant of your dreams.
What’s the Difference?
First things first: what’s the difference between grants, scholarships, and fellowships? Before you start applying for any graduate school financial aid, it’s important to understand the difference between all of your available options. This way, you can figure out what type of financial aid suits your individual needs.
Grad School Scholarships
Graduate school scholarships are awarded based on merit, talent, demographics, and sometimes needs. There are scholarships available for all types of students depending on your major, or the occupation you are pursuing, that help make graduate school an affordable option for people of all backgrounds.
Grad School Grants
Grants are typically awarded based on financial need or a committed service period. Like scholarships, this is money that you never need to pay back, but grants also have particular eligibility requirements. If you withdraw from school or fail to meet the requirements of the grant, you may need to refund some or all of your grant money. Therefore, it’s important to understand and commit to all of the grant requirements before accepting this money.
Grad School Fellowships
Fellowships are generally awarded based on merit and academic performance, and most commonly include an internship or a service commitment. Fellowships can help pay for living expenses, or include a stipend, and are available for most graduate fields. If you are interested in a short-term study opportunity or are considering researching a certain field, this may be a financial aid opportunity for you.
Search the Web
One of the easiest and most effective ways to land a graduate school scholarship or grant is to look online. But with an overwhelming amount of resources out there, it can be difficult to nail down the best place to start. To help you kick start your search, here are some of the top resources available for finding grants and scholarships for graduate students.
One of the most effective methods for finding scholarships online is utilizing scholarship-specific databases. If you are looking for a great place to start your search, bold.org is one of the best scholarship databases available for you to take advantage of. Bold.org is an easy-to-use platform that provides current or prospective graduate school students with exclusive scholarship opportunities, as well as frequently updated lists of scholarships, at no cost to you. Additionally, bold.org also provides students with grant opportunities featured by universities such as Harvard, Vanderbilt, University of Michigan, Berkeley, UCLA, Georgetown, and more.
Bold.org‘s user-friendly lists are broken down into opportunities for different demographics, including women in STEM, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, to help students conveniently and effectively find relevant scholarship opportunities for them. This database clearly states the eligibility, deadline, and worth of each scholarship available. To get started, students are invited to create a free profile, which allows each student to conveniently promote their background, experience, and skills to multiple scholarship panels. Your personal profile also allows you to easily manage all of your scholarships in one place, receive immediate status updates on scholarships, as well as skip the typical required paperwork upon receiving a scholarship.
Aside from utilizing scholarship-specific databases, government websites are another fantastic resource for discovering available graduate school grants. The United States Department of Education offers three different types of grants: discretionary grants, which are awarded using a competitive process, student loans or grants, to financially aid students in attending college, and formula grants, which are determined by Congress and involve no application process. Prospective students should also consider contacting the department of education, the higher education agency, special education agency, and adult education agency in your specific state for state-specific government grants and scholarships.
High School and University Scholarship Listings
Do you already know where you want to attend graduate school? Contacting the financial aid office at specific colleges and universities is another resource you should certainly take advantage of as a way to learn more about university or school-specific scholarships. While hundreds of people may be applying for general, online scholarships, there’s a good chance that fewer people will be applying for graduate grants and scholarships through specific schools. Thus, university-specific scholarships will have a smaller application pool, which will immediately give you a competitive edge. Additionally, contacting a high school college counselor or TRIO counselor is another resource you can take advantage of to learn more about scholarships tailored to suit your needs.
Tips for Applying for Graduate School Scholarships
Once you’ve compiled a list of the graduate school scholarships and grants you wish to apply to, the last step will be applying for each one. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are filling out your applications.
Broaden your search
When searching through graduate scholarship and grant databases, make sure to filter and customize your scholarship search whenever possible and in different ways. Try filtering your searches by the schools you are interested in, by the field you wish to study, by your ethnicity or religious affiliation, and by scholarships available in your home state or region.
Create essay templates
When you are applying to scholarships, especially scholarships geared towards your field or desired occupation, the required personal statements might start to get repetitive. Instead of writing entire essays from scratch, create several templates that you can work from to help fast-track the process.
Read the fine print
While it may sound obvious, make sure that you carefully read all of the application details before applying for a scholarship or grant. Write a list of all of the materials you need to gather for each application and mark the deadlines down on your calendar. If you need to ask for letters of recommendation, this is something you will want to do well ahead of the deadline. Additionally, triple-check the eligibility criteria before applying for a scholarship or grant. The last thing you want is to go through the trouble of applying for financial aid, only to realize you were never eligible for that award in the first place.
Boost your grades
While not all graduate school scholarships and grants are merit-based, maintaining good grades is a significant way for you to gain a competitive edge in application pools. If aren’t satisfied with your current GPA, don’t panic! It’s never too late to boost your grades, and there are resources you can turn to for assistance — including working with a private tutor.