People may want to go to grad school for different things, especially since graduate studies are an exciting opportunity that can open even more doors down the line. Going to school for a master’s degree or a doctorate can potentially improve careers, increase annual salaries, and provide a deeper understanding and knowledge of a subject matter. Regardless of why someone might want to go to graduate school, one thing’s for certain: some people may struggle with funding their education.
Although graduate studies can provide many opportunities later on, many see grad school as an impossible goal because of its cost. To afford school, some may choose to take out loans to pay for their studies. However, many are deterred from grad school entirely because they don’t want to go into too much debt. Thankfully, other things can help pay for grad studies, too.
If you’re grappling with the idea of going to grad school and worried about its cost, you might be glad to know that there are many scholarships, grants, and fellowships that can help. Scholarships may cover some or all of the cost of grad school without requiring you to pay a single cent back. Knowing how to get scholarships for graduate school is half the battle.
What are the Requirements for Graduate School Scholarships?
The requirements for grad school scholarships may vary, depending on which school or program you’re in. You may often see requirements including but not limited to:
Supporting Documents – Most scholarship organizations will require you to provide a few supporting documents with your application. These may include the application itself, your transcripts, various proof (proof of enrollment or acceptance, proof of citizenship or residence, proof of financial need, etc.), essays, letters of recommendation, and more.
Citizenship – Many scholarships require applicants to be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. Sometimes, they will allow exemptions for DACA recipients.
Proof of Financial Difficulty – Scholarship organizations often seek evidence of financial need to weed out applicants who are only out for a quick buck. They also do this to ensure that any scholarships awarded will go to people who actually need financial assistance.
Proof of Acceptance or Enrollment – Scholarship organizations will commonly seek proof of acceptance or enrollment from their applicants. You may have to prove that you are currently enrolled or will be enrolled during a certain period specified by the organization.
Minimum GPA – Most scholarships will require a minimum GPA — some higher than others. Scholarships based on merit or academic performance will almost always require higher GPAs. Others may only require a minimum GPA of 2. It’s best to look into several scholarships that you can apply for instead of putting all your eggs into one basket. It’s also good to know that many scholarships judge applicants not solely on their academic merit but also on other factors such as experience and volunteerism.
Field of study – Many scholarships are only awarded to students in specific areas of study, such as medical school, law school, and business school. Other scholarships may only be for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students. If you’re in a particular field, you may want to see whether scholarships and grants are available for you.
Volunteerism – Some organizations want scholarship applicants to have experience in volunteerism and other extra-curricular activities.
Tips on Acquiring a Graduate School Scholarship
If you want to get awarded a grad school scholarship or grant, there are quite a few things that may help.
Know where to look for scholarships. If you don’t know where to begin searching for a scholarship that might suit you, the first place you can always start is your school itself. Many colleges and universities have scholarships awarded from their funds to help entice students with strong academic performances. You can also look within your local community or religious organization for any grants or scholarships that may be available. Barring that, you can also see whether your professional association (if you have one) has a grant program. You may also look for scholarships on the internet, although it’s a good idea to be careful as there are many scams online.
You can also use other search parameters such as field of study, region, and demographic.
Go for more than one. As with anything, it’s not a good idea to put all your eggs in one scholarship basket. This is especially true for scholarships and grants for graduate studies since the award amounts tend to be lower on average compared to undergrad scholarships. If the amount is only for $1,000 to $2,000, but you get awarded several grants, that total adds up quickly. You can apply for as many scholarships as you want, provided you have the time to do so.
Make a budget for your search. It’s free to search for scholarships, but a few costs are involved in applying for them. Most of these costs are for documents, particularly for transcripts. You may also rack up some postage costs.
Myths About Graduate School Scholarships
Many people won’t bother applying for scholarships because of a few misconceptions that are often untrue.
There’s no harm in applying for a scholarship, especially if you meet the minimum academic requirements to do so.
In fact, there are times when organizations and other entities might still award scholarships even when people vying for them just barely qualify — especially when there are extenuating circumstances.
Check out this list of scholarship misconceptions below!
Minorities have a better chance to get a scholarship.
While it is true that there are tons of scholarships made available specifically to students of minority and special populations, that doesn’t mean you need to be a minority to get a scholarship.
There are tons of scholarships available to all, and a majority of them still go to Caucasian students. In fact, minorities only receive 28% of available scholarships. This means Caucasians have a significantly higher chance of receiving a scholarship, especially from private entities.
I shouldn’t bother to apply because there’s too much competition.
Many people might think they shouldn’t bother applying for any scholarships because there’s way too much competition. They feel like their chances are low because many others are vying for the same scholarships they are. If you think this way, you might be glad to know that this isn’t entirely true.
Yes, there certainly is a lot of competition, at least when it comes to scholarships that don’t have many requirements. Many will apply for scholarships that don’t need a ton of supporting documents, difficult applications, recommendations, personal statements, or intense essays. If you’re willing to put in the extra work and go through the rigorous application requirements, you might find that there may be far less competition than you originally thought. Stringent requirements weed out applicants who are just looking for a quick buck.
My grades need to be perfect.
It’s easy to assume that to get a scholarship, you need to have perfect grades. And yes, that might be the case when you’re applying for academic or merit scholarships. However, many scholarships focus on other things aside from grades like extracurricular activities, your intended major, experience, and any volunteerism you’ve done. The number of scholarships given by private entities based solely on academic performance is in the minority.
My scholarship will pay for everything, and I won’t have to pay out of pocket.
Graduate school scholarships and grants can help to reduce the cost of your graduate studies significantly, but unless you have a full-ride scholarship, they won’t pay for everything. It’s likely that you’ll still need to pay for a smaller percentage out of your pocket or with a small loan.
Sadly, the number of students able to pay for all their costs only with their grants and scholarships is very small: less than 1%.
That said, it’s a good idea to seek your funding from multiple sources. You can apply for as many scholarships and grants as you think you can qualify for to help cover costs.
Applying for scholarships takes too much time.
We’ve talked about how much work it might take to complete the rigorous applications for some scholarships, but don’t let that scare you from applying to multiple. Yes, applications can take a lot of work and time, but many scholarships have similar requirements. Similar requirements mean that once you’ve done the work for one application, you can simply use the same information and adapt it to another scholarship application. If you keep your work thoroughly documented, it makes it easier to look at your previous answers and work so you can adjust them as needed.
The scholarship money comes from the government.
The government does provide some funding for scholarships. However, these government grants only count for a small portion. Most funding comes from institutions and private entities. In 2020 alone, 140.9 billion dollars was awarded in scholarships and grants. 12% of that came from private sources, and 49% came from institutions.
I have to pay to get a scholarship.
It’s good to practice vigilance when you’re looking into various scholarships to apply for. There are many scholarship scams, especially online. Shady operations eagerly look to take advantage of students desperate for extra funding. Often, they’ll help you look for “untapped funds” — but only for a fee.
It’s best to save yourself the money and the trouble by searching for and submitting your own applications to scholarship providers. You shouldn’t need to pay for any processing fees, and you don’t need to have somebody else submit your applications for you.
The University of New Mexico details what you need to look out for regarding potential scholarship scams.
What Kind of Special Scholarships are There?
Aside from general scholarships, grants, and fellowships, “special” scholarships are awarded to people who qualify. Here is just a taste of some special scholarships out there.
MBAs are notoriously some of the most expensive graduate studies programs around. The costs of a program may vary, depending on whether you’re doing an executive program or a full-time course. It only makes sense that there are scholarships and grants specifically for those who want an MBA. Poets and Quants says the value of scholarships in the three years leading up to 2020 has grown significantly, to the tune of 33% to 50%.
It’s true — some of the top business schools are also rather generous when offering grants and scholarships. If a candidate’s application is desirable enough, many schools may jump at the chance to get them to come to their institution.
Schools may compete against each other to entice the candidate to come, offering varying levels of endowments. A candidate may receive anything from several thousand dollars to a full-ride scholarship.
If you’re looking for an MBA scholarship, your first stop would often be the school you’re looking to study at. But, if you find that their offer isn’t quite enough to cover costs reasonably, you can also seek funding from foundations, organizations, and professional associations.
Here are some MBA scholarships you may want to look into:
Must be a currently-enrolled full-time student at a degree-granting school
Minimum GPA: 3.0
Must be able to demonstrate community involvement and service
Scholarships for Women
The women of today have far more opportunities than those of only a century ago. Nowadays, women are earning advanced degrees, but there’s no denying that paying for their education may be a challenge in some cases. This difficulty is especially true since oftentimes, women’s salaries still lag behind men’s.
Luckily, many organizations offer graduate scholarships to help women fund their graduate studies. If you’re seeking help, you can approach your local community, professional association, religious organization, or school to see whether they have any scholarships available.
You can also seek help from outside organizations, such as the scholarships below:
Must be pursuing a PhD, able to demonstrate academic merit
Must be in the field of space sciences or aerospace engineering
Must not graduate before April 2023
Not eligible for students doing post-doctoral research programs
Military and Military Family Member Scholarships
Advanced education isn’t only available to civilians. Graduate studies are also available to military veterans looking to transition into a civilian career. The government enacted the G.I. Bill to help military members accomplish the goal of pursuing higher education. However, G.I. Bill benefits expire, and not everyone can qualify for them anyway.
Thankfully, there are military scholarships to help veterans (and their spouses or children) with the cost of their graduate studies.
Pursuing a bachelor’s or a graduate degree (must be from an accredited 2 or 4-year institution in the US)
Must be studying public relations, marketing, development, production, and entertainment or a similar course
Must be currently enrolled and able to provide proof of enrollment (transcript)
Proof of military service
Minimum GPA: 3.0
Scholarships for Minorities
The high costs of graduate and post-graduate studies can deter many minorities from pursuing their dreams of higher education. While it is true that the percentage of minorities earning their master’s degrees has grown over time, the growth is quite small, only 1-6%.
Minorities may feel deterred from going for advanced degrees because they might think they can’t afford the costs and various trade-offs involved. Thankfully, many organizations, government or otherwise, offer scholarships to those part of a minority group.
Here are some examples of scholarships for minorities:
Must be studying advertising, public relations, or marketing
Must be US citizen or permanent resident, or a DACA recipient
Must be a part of one of these minority groups: African American or black, Pacific Islander, Asian American, Latinx or Hispanic, Alaska Native or Native American
Must be enrolled full-time carrying 9 or more units per semester in an accredited 4-year US institution
Minimum GPA: 3.2
Must have minimum 2 semesters or 1 year (summer semesters not included) left for the completion of master’s degree from May 2022
Other Resources for Minorities
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is an organization that advocates for and provides scholarships to college students coming from low/moderate-income families. This minority education organization has members that include 37 colleges and universities that are historically black.
As the largest organization providing scholarships for American Indians, AICF (American Indian College Fund) also offers other resources such as internships, fellowships, and college/career readiness programs.
Many Hispanic students from low- to moderate-income families may find it difficult to pay for graduate studies. It may even be impossible for some who might be undocumented and thus ineligible to apply for student aid from the federal government. It’s because of this that there are many graduate scholarships specifically for Hispanic and Latinx students.
If you’re Hispanic and looking for additional funding for your graduate degree, you can start with asking your local community, professional association, religious organization, or school for any scholarship opportunities.
You may also seek additional funding from outside organizations such as:
HSF (Hispanic Scholarship Fund)supports Hispanic Americans in their pursuit of higher education. They have awarded more than 500 million dollars in scholarships to date.
Many might struggle when they wrestle with the idea of going to graduate school because they don’t quite know how to fund their studies. If you find yourself in the same boat, we hope that this comprehensive guide on graduate school scholarships may help you figure out how to find scholarships for grad school and the steps that follow.
Remember, there’s no reason not to try your hand even if you think there is too much competition — the strength of your application plays a big part in your chances of consideration.