Graduate School Scholarship Information: How to Find Funding for Advanced Education

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Are you considering pursuing a graduate degree but concerned about the cost? According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of graduate school tuition and fees was $19,749 in 2021. The price tag for earning an advanced degree could be a barrier for many students. Fortunately, a variety of graduate school scholarships exist that might help alleviate the financial burden.

In this article, we explore different types of scholarships available for graduate students, provide tips on how to find and apply for scholarships, and offer advice on how to potentially increase your chances of receiving scholarships based on your qualifications. Whether you are just starting your graduate program search or are already enrolled, this article may provide valuable insights on how you could secure funding for graduate studies.

Understanding Graduate School Scholarships

Graduate school scholarships are awards of financial assistance given to students pursuing an advanced degree. Scholarships must be applied for and are usually awarded based on financial need or merit. In addition, scholarships come in all shapes and sizes. An award might cover the whole cost of your graduate school tuition, or it might be a smaller, one-time gift. Large or small, every scholarship could make a difference in helping you pay for grad school.

Advantages of graduate school scholarships

Earning a scholarship could be considered a clear win since it may help reduce the cost of your graduate education. Some of the advantages of scholarships include:

  • No repayment. Unlike student loans, scholarships generally do not need to be repaid.
  • They’re diverse. You could find scholarships geared to applicants from a variety of backgrounds, identities, interests, and goals.
  • They could help put grad school within reach. Scholarships might cover some or even all of your tuition, making graduate school more accessible.
  • You may apply to as many scholarships as you want. Feel free to apply to any opportunities you might qualify for! You may be able to combine multiple awards to help pay for grad school.

Sources of graduate school scholarships

According to Federal Student Aid, scholarships may be offered by the following types of organizations:

  • Schools
  • Employers
  • Private companies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Communities
  • Religious groups
  • Professional and social organizations

To learn more about potential scholarship opportunities, visit your school’s financial aid office. Libraries, your state grant agency, and online scholarship search tools may be other good resources for finding scholarships. Be careful to avoid scams — remember, you should never have to pay to learn about financial aid or scholarships.

Types of Graduate School Scholarships

Many organizations offer scholarships, including for graduate students. You’ll need to do your homework to make sure you qualify for an award before applying—and that means understanding the various types of graduate school scholarships that may be available. Here are some common scholarship types to look for:

Merit-Based Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are awarded according to standards set by the organization awarding the scholarship. Often, that means you need to demonstrate strong academic achievement. However, sometimes a talent, interest, or another characteristic is also part of the criteria.

Need-Based Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are awarded according to standards set by the organization awarding the scholarship. Often, that means you need to demonstrate strong academic achievement. However, sometimes a talent, interest, or another characteristic is also part of the criteria.

Need-Based Scholarships

Need-based scholarships are awarded to students based on their income. They’re designed to help make higher education more accessible to students who have financial need. Financial need may be assessed in different ways. For instance, you may need to submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Program-Specific Scholarships

Program-specific scholarships are awarded to students who are enrolled in a particular graduate program. Unlike scholarships you could potentially apply to before being accepted into grad school, program scholarships are usually awarded to accepted students. They may be funded by your graduate school or by outside organizations affiliated with the school.

Diversity Scholarships

Diversity scholarships are awarded to students who belong to underrepresented groups, such as women, minorities, or individuals with disabilities. These scholarships are designed to promote diversity and inclusion in graduate programs or in a particular field. Both universities and outside organizations may offer these awards.

Professional Association Scholarships

Professional associations frequently have scholarship opportunities. These are typically open to students pursuing degrees related to the association’s mission and purpose—such as furthering professional growth or innovation in a particular field. Such opportunities are often intended to help underrepresented students, or those with financial need, so they might access the education they need to pursue a particular career path.

Employer-Funded Scholarships

Check with your employer to see if they offer scholarships to employees. Often, these programs are designed to help employees within an organization build new skills and pursue professional development opportunities.

graduate degree scholarships

Finding Graduate School Scholarships

Not sure how to get started finding scholarships? Don’t worry—there are many resources available to help you find potential opportunities. These include:

Financial Aid Offices

The financial aid office at your prospective school is a good place to start your search. This office helps students understand their financial aid options. So, they could provide information about available scholarships and even help you apply.

Online Databases

You could also search online databases to learn about potential graduate school scholarships. These databases make it easy to search for scholarships based on factors such as your field of study, the deadline to apply to the scholarship, keywords, and more.

Professional Associations and Organizations

Professional associations and organizations related to your field of study may offer scholarships. Check directly with these organizations to see if they have any opportunities available and whether you qualify—their websites are a good starting point.

Your Employer or Future Employer

If you are currently employed with an organization that offers scholarship programs for employees, ask to learn more. Your manager or HR professional could be a good resource.

Tips for Applying for Graduate School Scholarships

Found some potential scholarship opportunities? That could be the easy part! The next step—applying for scholarships—could be a time-consuming process, but following these tips may help the process go more smoothly.

Start Early

Some scholarship deadlines are as early as a year out from the date you plan to start your academic program, so it helps to begin researching and applying early. That said, if you’re getting a late start on looking for scholarships, don’t give up—there may be opportunities you could still apply for.

Follow Directions Carefully

Every scholarship has its own requirements, and these might be complex. Make sure you read the directions, follow them carefully, and fill out the application completely. If you don’t, your application could be disqualified.

Tailor Your Application

Since each scholarship may have different requirements, it’s generally wise not to take a one-size-fits-all approach. For instance, if written statements or essays are required, you may need to address questions or themes unique to each scholarship. Approaching every application thoughtfully could help you stand out.

Highlight Your Accomplishments

While many students might apply for a scholarship, not everyone is awarded a financial gift. So, make sure to showcase your strengths when filling out your application. Depending on the type of scholarship you’re applying to, you may need to provide anything from written statements about your achievements and goals to a portfolio of your creative work. These are opportunities to let your talents shine!

Seek Feedback and Edit Your Application

It’s often wise to get others’ advice and feedback on your scholarship applications. Professors, mentors, or peers may be able to help. Use their feedback to revise and improve your application.

How You Could Increase Your Chances of Receiving Graduate School Scholarships

Increasing chances of receiving scholarships is top of mind for many students. While scholarship opportunities may be competitive, some of these tips may help you stand out as a candidate:

Maintain a High GPA

Merit-based scholarships often reward academic achievement, meaning high grades are a must . In some cases, scholarships list a minimum required grade point average (GPA). If you’re still in your undergrad program but looking ahead to applying for graduate school scholarships, working on raising your GPA could be a smart move.

Participate in Extracurricular Activities

Participating in extracurricular activities as an undergrad isn’t just fun—it could help to demonstrate your leadership skills and other talents. In addition, you may be able to find scholarship opportunities aimed at students with certain extracurricular interests. Whether you’re passionate about journalism, business, or social work, there’s probably a campus organization for you.

Develop Strong Relationships with Professors and Advisors

Some scholarship applications may require one or more letters of recommendation from people such as professors, colleagues, and coaches. So, forming strong relationships with those in a position to recommend you could be helpful when the time comes to apply.

Pursue Relevant Work and Volunteer Experience

For some graduate scholarships, you may need to provide your resume and/or a statement of purpose that references your work and other experiences. Having a background full of professional, academic, and volunteer experience—especially if it’s relevant to the scholarship or your intended area of graduate study—might help you stand out.


Graduate school scholarships may help make post-baccalaureate education more accessible and affordable for students. By understanding the types of scholarships available, where to find them, and how to apply, you’ll be ready to embark on your search for funding opportunities that could help put grad school within reach!


Q. How do I know if I qualify for need-based scholarships?
A. To qualify for need-based scholarships, you typically need to submit financial documentation such as the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It’s important to follow the instructions in the scholarship application, as the information you need to submit may vary depending on the scholarship.

Q. Can I apply for multiple scholarships at the same time?
A. Yes, you may apply for multiple scholarships at the same time. In fact, it is recommended that you apply for as many scholarships as possible to help fund your graduate education.

Q. What should I include in my scholarship application essay?
A. That varies by scholarship, so it’s important to follow the application instructions. Often, you will be asked to speak to topics such as your experience, career goals, and how you plan to make a difference.

Q. How many scholarships are available for graduate students?
A. The number of scholarships for graduate students is hard to tally, but there are many opportunities available based on your qualification—whether offered by your prospective university, professional associations in your field, or even your workplace.

Q. When is a good time to start searching for graduate school scholarships?
A. Some scholarships have deadlines as early as a year before the student anticipates starting their academic program. So, aim to begin researching over a year out so you have enough time to find opportunities, gather application materials, and apply before the deadlines.

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