Ann van der Merwe - October 2013
Finding scholarship opportunities for graduate school may be challenging. Assistantships, in which the student performs research or works as a teaching assistant in return for a small stipend, tuition remission, and other benefits, may be far more common than scholarship awards at the graduate level. Still, there may be a number of scholarship opportunities out there for those who qualify. You just have to be thorough in your search.
Your first step may be to think about any and all reasons you might be eligible for a scholarship. These could include your general area of study, your achievements (academic and otherwise), and your affiliations (both professional and personal). Anything from your race or religion to your dissertation topic might make you eligible for a particular award, so think broadly.
Once you have a list of your attributes, you can start looking for scholarships to match. Use the web as well as your existing personal contacts to find organizations offering awards to someone with your profile. In some cases, you might need to join a group to be eligible for the scholarships they offer. This may be true of professional and/or academic organizations. In other situations, though, you could simply apply for an award based on how your background matches the selection criteria. You could also try a searchable scholarship database such as http://www.careerinfonet.org/scholarshipsearch/. This enables you to enter information about your interests and personal traits and generate a list of relevant awards that are available to those who qualify.
As you look around, keep in mind that scholarships sometimes go by other names. Fellowships, for instance, are very similar to scholarships; both are monetary awards given for academic excellence rather than appointments to an apprentice-type position. Fellowships may have more specific stipulations than scholarships (such as a required course load), but you do not have to do any work to earn them beyond your own academic performance. As such, the effect for you is much the same.
Once you create a list of awards for which you want to apply, make a note of all the materials required for each. There will undoubtedly be some overlap, but there may also be a few unique items, too – especially if you are applying for awards based on different types of criteria. And, some items required by multiple awards may need to be tailored if not entirely customized, such as essays. Of course, you’ll also want to keep track of deadlines to ensure you submit everything on time.
If you are diligent in your search and in your applications, you may well find a scholarship for graduate school before you begin. Even if you don’t, though, try not to be discouraged. You may be eligible for a scholarship in the not-too-distant future. Some awards are limited to students at advanced stages of their graduate education, such as when they are working on a dissertation. So, keep looking even as you continue your studies.
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About the Author: Ann van der Merwe is a singer and music historian based in southwest Ohio. She holds a B.M. in music performance and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in music history.