One of the biggest misconceptions about student debt is that it is mostly impacting college students. The reality is that the graduate school student debt is growing at an even more rapid pace. Luckily there are a number of great graduate student scholarships available!
These graduate school scholarships, when combined with graduate assistantships and fellowships and institutional aid, can make graduate school much more affordable. So, whether you are a masters student or a doctoral student, you can receive funding to help pay for college and eliminate your student debt burden with these opportunities!
Program-specific graduate school scholarships
If you are pursuing a specific graduate program, you can check out these program-specific scholarship guides:
- Accounting Scholarships
- Computer Science Scholarships
- Law School Scholarships
- MBA Scholarships
- Medical School Scholarships
- Nursing Scholarships
- Dentistry scholarships
- Pharmacy school scholarships
How to win scholarships for graduate students
As someone who has already gone through the process of earning your undergraduate degree, you probably have some experience with applying for scholarships. However, students applying for graduate scholarships would do well to emphasize a few different points to help ensure successful applications.
Graduate students typically have a more specific idea of their future career goals than undergraduate students. Make sure to emphasize this in your application and include all the particular things you hope to accomplish. If you have gained work experience between undergraduate and graduate school, frame your pursuits in this context. The more you demonstrate that you are working towards the plans you hope to further with your graduate degree, the more impactful your applications will be.
Writing strong applications
While your circumstances may have changed since undergraduate, the principles of writing a strong essay haven’t! We have a whole host of guides for writing strong scholarship essays and applications. That includes writing 250 word essays, 500 word essays, writing essays about yourself, or starting or finishing your essays. We also have a guide on writing a winning scholarship essay and can help you with finding local scholarships.
Graduate school funding sources
Students will generally pay for graduate school using a few different funding sources. The most common sources are private scholarships, need-based financial aid and grants, and university-specific scholarships.
Private graduate school scholarships
There some great private organizations that offer scholarships for students pursuing their masters or doctoral degrees! These scholarships support graduate students of all stripes including medical school students, law school students, business school students, masters students, and doctoral students!
Need-based financial aid for grad school
Need-based financial aid is another important way to pay for graduate school. For graduate school, need-based aid can include both grants (that don’t need to be repaid) and student loans (that do need to be repaid).
For need-based graduate school financial aid, students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. This allows students to be considered for both need-based grants and federal student loans. Some colleges may also require additional forms, so always check with your specific graduate program for more details about their financial aid process.
Many colleges may also require students to submit the CSS Profile, which is a financial aid application that is hosted by the College Board. The CSS Profile is how students can access institutional financial aid from the universities.
University-specific merit scholarships
Many graduate schools will also offer university-specific scholarship opportunities. You should check with the graduate programs that you are applying for for more information about scholarship opportunities that you may be eligible for.
Some graduate students may qualify for fellowships or assistantships that allow them to gain valuable experience and also receive funding to pay for grad school.
Tips for paying for graduate school
Paying for graduate school has a few key differences from paying for undergraduate. Here are some tips to help you take advantage of every form of financial aid out there:
Look for scholarships and fellowships at your school
Check out your school’s website and reach out to the financial aid office to learn about scholarships and fellowships. They may refer you to institutional opportunities, or, since they are experts in the field, they may know about specific opportunities that suit your interests or demographics. You can’t go wrong by reaching out to the financial aid office for advice.
Also see: How to win local scholarships
Apply for scholarships early and often
Remember, it’s never too early or late to apply for scholarships. Each opportunity has a different deadline, so you should be looking for opportunities regularly. Our scholarship finder is a great way to keep up with the latest opportunities. We will match you with vetted scholarships that automatically update as deadlines pass and new scholarships open.
Proofread your application essays!
Essays are one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd in a scholarship application! Check out our guides to writing about yourself, writing a 250 word essay, and writing a 500 word essay. We also have a guide to writing a winning scholarship essay. Even if you are a confident writer, it’s a good idea to check out these guides. Scholarship essays are written with a different intent than the essays you write in school.
Check with your employer about tuition reimbursement
An increasing number of employers now offer tuition reimbursement. With tuition reimbursement, your employer will help pay for your continued education. Since employers generally prefer hiring from within instead of hiring new employees, this works out for both employer and employee.
Some employers only offer opportunities to pursue education to advance your career at their company. But others, such as Starbucks, Chipotle, or Amazon, allow you to pursue different fields of education that you can use to get hired elsewhere.
Consider inexpensive online options
Online educational programs are becoming increasingly popular, especially after the pandemic. You can find a lot of reputable online graduate programs through Coursera. Schools offer a wide breadth of programs through Coursera, including iMBAs. There are also many scholarships available specifically for online students.
Consider certificate programs as an alternative
For some students, graduate school might not be a financial option at the moment. But there are still ways to advance your career through further education. College alternatives, such as certificate programs and coding bootcamps, can raise your earning potential with significantly less time and financial commitment.
Investigate graduate assistantships
Graduate assistantships, including teaching and research assistantships, are great opportunities to help pay for college while gaining firsthand experience in your field of study. As an added bonus, they help you to forge relationships with professors and other accomplished professionals in the field. Helping to teach undergraduate courses can help complement your graduate studies and decrease your loan debt!
Frequently asked questions about graduate school scholarships
Is graduate school worth it?
Assessing return on investment (ROI) is an extremely important part of the grad school search and selection process. In some cases, it is better for students to go to the more expensive grad school if the payoff is higher. Employment statistics and average starting salaries are important metrics to look at when comparing different masters and doctoral programs. But make sure not to take out more in student loans than you can repay.
As far as the necessity of graduate school, you should figure out whether your aspirations require it. If you want to become a doctor, lawyer, or professor, then yes, graduate school will be required. If your aspirations are unclear or you are interested in a field that does not absolutely require a master’s degree or doctoral degree, then you may want to hold off on grad school. For many students, work experience will be more valuable than a graduate degree.
How do I get a full ride to grad school?
Another way to get a full ride to grad school is through graduate assistantships. These typically do not offer a full ride, but some students with especially impressive accomplishments may receive one. You can also look for merit scholarships either at a private level or an institutional level. Make sure to check out the opportunities that your potential university may offer for full rides.
Does FAFSA pay for grad school?
Can I get scholarships for a master’s program?
Another option is to look for scholarships from your institution. You can find out about these on your institution’s website and by reaching out to their financial aid office. They may offer scholarships specifically for students who take on graduate assistantships.
When can I start applying for graduate school scholarships?
You can use our scholarship search tool to keep your finger on the pulse of new scholarship opportunities. We will custom-match you with vetted scholarship opportunities which will automatically update as new deadlines approach.
Do graduate students get Pell Grants?
Related: Grad school financial aid options
Explore these other scholarship categories:
- Top law school scholarships
- Top med school scholarships
- Scholarships for college seniors
- Easy scholarships to apply for
- Top scholarships for women
Join for exclusive scholarships, personalized matching, and application tracking. 0% Spam, 100% Free.