By Ann van der Merwe, January 2013
For many graduate students, an assistantship – whether in teaching or research – may be an excellent way to get tuition reimbursement. In some circumstances assistantships may not be available, or they might not be as attractive to everyone as a fellowship or scholarship. A fellowship or scholarship is a monetary award rather than compensation for a job done. If there is limited availability of assistantships in your discipline, if the work you would perform in one will not contribute to the career path you have in mind, or if you simply want to keep your options open, you might like to know where you could find scholarships to potentially help finance your education.
Some programs may offer their own awards to incoming students. These are typically given to the best-qualified candidates, so they may be highly competitive. That should not deter you, though. Find out the criteria used for assigning the awards, and put your best foot forward. You never know what might come your way.
You’ll also want to consider any and all organizations to which you belong – or to which you have been a member in the past. This includes your undergraduate institution, fraternities or sororities, honor societies, and professional groups in your field of study. These organizations might offer scholarships to current and former members. Of course, you might not be eligible for a scholarship if your current plans do not relate to the organization and its mission. There are exceptions to this, though, so check out all of the options. Just be sure to find out the requirements for each scholarship and make sure you qualify before you apply.
There may be scholarships available for individuals in specific circumstances pursing degrees in different disciplines. For example, if your personal situation is applicable you may be able to find scholarships for demographics including: minority scholarships, scholarships for women, or scholarships for veterans. You can look for scholarships like these on the web or by contacting the financial aid office at your institution.
Finally, you might want to consider scholarships designed to fund a specific kind of educational experience such as a Fulbright Scholarship. These are usually short-term awards and they may not help you pay for the majority of your degree, however; they can be very prestigious and both the award itself and the knowledge you gain by participating may help you secure additional funding from other sources in the long run.
Applications for scholarships can be time-consuming, so start early and ask for help or advice when you need it. Financial aid professionals and university contacts are a great resource, of course, but your peers and colleagues can also provide assistance – especially if they have applied for the same scholarship or type of scholarship in the past. Good luck!
Learn More about Financing Graduate School
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.