Graduate school is expensive. But you can lower the amount of debt you take on by applying for graduate school scholarships. This means you don’t need to choose between furthering your education and falling into a mountain of student loan debt.
To help pay for graduate school before taking out student loans, your options are grants, work-study and scholarships.
Grants are awarded based on financial need or a committed service period.
Work-study is part-time employment offered to students to help pay for their education and is based on financial need as well as availability of jobs.
Scholarships, on the other hand, are awarded based on merit, talent, demographics and sometimes need. There are scholarships out there for all kinds of occupations and pursuits, which can help make grad school an affordable endeavor.
Types of graduate school scholarships
Before starting your scholarship search, you’ll want to consider the types of scholarships you could be eligible for. Scholarships are offered for more than just your degree type. Some categories of scholarships include:
- Scholarships by state
- Scholarships by type of student, such as single mothers, first-generation graduates, etc.
- College-specific scholarships
- Company-sponsored scholarships
- Merit-based scholarships
- Minority scholarships
- Scholarships by major or degree
There are even scholarships for things you do on a regular basis, like volunteering. Beyond these specific types of scholarships, there are also general scholarships for graduate school students.
Take time to create a list of scholarship types you may be eligible for. You might be able to apply for something in a niche area, giving you a better chance of receiving the funding. After making a potential list, you can begin your search.
12 places to find graduate school scholarships
You can find scholarships for graduate school in a multitude of places. Thankfully, there are some major search engines that will help you get started.
Peterson’s is used most often for college searches. However, it also offers a scholarship search, which will allow you to look at scholarships specifically for graduate school students.
Peterson’s has over 1.9 million listed scholarships and grants you can search. You’ll need to complete a profile and create an account before you can begin your search.
Fastweb is large database of scholarships that’s free to search. First, you’ll need to create a profile so Fastweb can help match you with scholarships. Fastweb has a database of 1.5 million scholarships and a user-friendly interface, making it easy to apply often.
GoGrad has scholarship resources in addition to updated lists of scholarship opportunities. It offers specific lists that can help women, veterans and members of the LGBTQ community find scholarships. GoGrad has an easy website to navigate and clearly lists deadlines and application details.
Scholarships.com is another free scholarship search site that houses over 3.7 million college scholarships and grants. You must complete a profile before you can begin your scholarship search. Scholarships.com will then work to match your profile with potential scholarships. It also offers a scholarship directory that lists the many categories for scholarships you can search.
Unigo can connect you with over $3.6 million in scholarships. Similar to Fastweb, Unigo is free to join and has just three easy steps to get started. Create an account, fill out a complete profile and then complete scholarship applications. Don’t forget to apply for the $10,000 scholarship offered by Unigo itself.
6. Scholarship America
Scholarship America is an online resource that works to help everyone pay for college. Its goal is to provide opportunities to remove financial barriers for all students. Scholarship America has distributed $4.2 billion dollars worth of scholarships to students. You can peruse scholarships before creating an account to see what’s available. When browsing, you can sort by specific states and availability of scholarships.
Scholly is a search engine for scholarships that offers a customized experience. You’ll create an account and profile, and then Scholly will offer you a list of scholarships with a personalized rating. The higher the score, the more relevant the scholarship is for you. This helps prioritize your applications.
Scholly also offers scholarship essay editing software that will check your submissions so you can make corrections. There’s also a mobile app for easy access. The only downside is that you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee to access Scholly’s services.
8. Your prospective school
If you’re flexible when it comes to what school you’ll attend, consider searching for schools based on the scholarships they offer. Some schools have very competitive scholarships while others only require you to apply early to get a scholarship.
Create a list of potential schools and call their financial aid departments individually to get an up-to-date list of scholarships currently offered to graduate students.
9. College Scholarships.org
College Scholarships.org asks for no information from you. Instead, it houses a scholarship search page for you to start your browsing. The website looks clunky and isn’t very user-friendly. However, it provides a guide for search terms and how to navigate the resource.
You can search for scholarships in a less-traditional way by heading over to Reddit. There’s a subreddit specifically for college scholarships. You can post an inquiry for suggestions along with what you’re studying, and you may get an inside tip from a community member. Keep in mind that these are open platforms, so information isn’t guaranteed.
HuntScholarship.com is a platform geared toward graduate students, especially Ph.D. candidates. Instead of being a search engine, it has an open submission form that universities and companies can fill out to post their scholarship, fellowship or grant opportunity. While the website is simple, the descriptions are detailed, and a link is always provided to the application.
12. Local organizations
While traditional search websites can be helpful, you should also tap into your community resources. Your local grange and rotary clubs offer scholarship opportunities to graduate students. Don’t feel bad about letting your community know you’re on the hunt for scholarships — it could lead to additional funding for school.
Finding and applying for scholarships can be a bit like a part-time job. It will take effort and time, but there are a few strategies that can help keep you organized and streamlined in the process.
7 strategies to use when you apply to grad school scholarships
Before you dive into applying for scholarships, try these strategies to make the application process a little less daunting.
1. Remember, it’s never too early to apply
Begin your research a few months before filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This means you’ll start your search about a year out. Many scholarship applications close by May and are awarded the summer before the start of the school year. Keep an eye on deadlines and create a calendar specifically for applications so you don’t miss out.
If you’re starting school soon, don’t let this stop you! You may have missed the deadline, but you can apply for funds to use the following year.
2. Have a template for your applications
Many scholarship applications require the same or similar information from you. This can include a personal statement, essay and resume. Have a bare-bones version of these things that you can tweak based on the scholarship.
3. Collect your letters of recommendation ahead of time
Many applications will require you to submit a recommendation letter. It’s good to have both personal and professional ones ready to go. If you’re still a student, ask a professor for one.
4. Request transcripts and have a digital copy
Scholarship applications will also ask for transcripts, especially if they’re merit-based scholarships. You may have to order sealed official transcripts; other applications will allow you to submit your unofficial transcripts in digital format. Keep both available before you start your hunt.
5. Follow all directions
This is old news, but still important: If there is a word limit or specific instructions, be sure to follow through. Reading and completing all the steps in the application process will keep you in the running. Don’t be afraid of a little extra work! It can be worth the effort.
6. Create a new email specifically for scholarships
All the websites that require a profile above also require an email. You may not want all the scholarship reminders, lists and such coming to your main inbox, so create a new email for scholarships — and check it often. If you use this email on applications, keep it professional.
7. Keep in mind, no amount is too small
When applying for scholarships, it can be easy to get caught up in the numbers. Remember that every little bit helps. Have a system, keep your essentials ready to go and don’t overlook the smaller scholarships.
It can also help to have a set schedule for applying. If you can, dedicate one afternoon a week to submitting applications.
If you don’t get every scholarship you apply for, don’t get discouraged. Review your financial aid award letter from your school. If this isn’t enough even with federal student loans, consider asking the financial aid office for additional funding or work-study during your graduate program. More often than not, your school will help you out.
What if you don’t get enough funding through scholarships?
Ideally, grants, work-study and scholarships will cover your tuition. However, with the high cost of graduate school, you’ll likely have to fund a portion of your education with student loans. When considering student loans for graduate school, pay attention to the loan terms and if you can afford to pay the loans with your future salary after grad school. Compare schools’ tuition and awards, including scholarships. These steps will help you make a sound financial decisions for graduate school.
You can use the Student Loan Planner calculator to estimate your graduate school loan payments to get started. We specialize in creating plans to help people get out of student loan debt. If you think you’ll need to take out student loans to pay for graduate school, the best time to start planning is now.
The team at Student Loan Planner offers a pre-debt consultation to keep you from having to choose between furthering your education or being buried in student loan debt.