Graduate students come from all walks of life. Some grad students come from straight out of undergraduate school while others return for an advanced degree after being in the workforce for a number of years. One thing most students have in common is a desire to come out of graduate school with no or minimal debt. Some students may receive full funding from their college or university and simply need funding to support their research or professional development. Other students attend programs that traditionally offer no funding and scramble to fund their education plus living expenses. Below is a list of graduate grants that can help grad students, regardless of their individual situations:
Fulbright Program: The Fulbright program offers a number of different scholarships to graduate students. Some of these awards are geared towards students who wish to engage in research abroad while others are geared towards enabling students to obtain teaching experience. One program, called the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, is open to any graduate student who wishes to teach or conduct research abroad. Additional support is given if the student plans to attend a program in one of the countries where a critical language is spoken. The program length can span from six to twelve months. In order to be eligible, students must have language proficiency in the country where they wish to study. Only U.S. citizens are eligible to apply. Additional information can be found at the following website: http://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/fulbright-us-student-program.
National Women’s Studies Association Graduate Scholarship: This award is open to students who are working on their Master’s Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation and who are pursuing a degree in a women’s studies area. The student must pursue a project related to the foundation’s mission. Students must be a student member of NWSA in order to be considered to the award and applications must be received prior to the May 15 deadline.
The Association for Psychological Science Student Awards: APS hosts a number of different awards for graduate students, including the student grant competition, the student research award, and the RISE research award. In addition, they also offer travel grants to psychology students who wish to present their research at the annual APS conference. The amount of the award varies and students must be members of APS in order to be considered. Additional information about these awards can be found here: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/members/grants-awards-and-symposia.
In addition to the above awards, students are strongly encouraged to check out funding sources from professional organizations. Many organizations offer competitive scholarships for promising students. Students may also want to contact their college to determine whether there is funding in the form of a teaching assistantship, research assistantship, or grants. Often, individual schools and departments have funding available to support students who are willing to work a certain number of hours per week for the department or for students who have outstanding test scores. Large organizations, such as the National Science Foundation, also has scholarships for graduate students.
Graduate students face a number of daunting decisions. Should they take time off and work prior to attending graduate school? Or should they apply to graduate schools directly after completing their undergraduate degree? Which schools offer the best match for their interests? Who should they ask to write a letter of recommendation? At what point should they take the graduate entrance examinations? Yet, perhaps one of the most difficult questions that graduate students encounter is: How do I fund my graduate studies?
Many graduate schools offer scholarships to incoming graduate students. These awards may take many different forms. Some students are offered assistantships, which typically cover the cost of tuition plus a stipend for living. The most common assistantships are teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or administrative assistantships. Prior to accepting a graduate assistantship, graduate students should ask whether there is a limit on the number of credits covered by the assistantship, whether their assistantship will cover student fees and health insurance, and whether their assistantship is renewable. These criteria will vary from program to program. Additionally, students may also want to consider speaking with current assistantship recipients in order to understand the time commitment and responsibilities for the various positions.
In addition to assistantships, most graduate schools offer merit based scholarships that are highly competitive. Typically, these range from a couple thousand dollars to full ride scholarships. Check out the admissions website of the schools you are interested in to see whether you meet criteria for these awards. Often, students will need to submit separate applications for the awards.
Graduate students will find it especially beneficial to speak with the Chair of the department in which they plan to major. Often individual academic departments maintain their own budgets, hire their own teaching and research assistants, and often have funding for other positions. Thus, you should make it known that you are seeking funding in order to attend the program.
In terms of seeking external support for your studies, there are a variety of scholarships open to graduate students. Some of these awards are based on academic merit while others are based on financial need. Additionally, some awards are open to students from specific minority backgrounds while other are open to anyone. Additional restrictions may be imposed based on the following criteria: ethnicity, major, year in school, and other unique background characteristics. One of the best way to minimize your search time for graduate scholarships is to use a scholarship search engine, such as scholarships.com. This website will enable you to create a free account and match you with eligible graduate school scholarships, such as the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the Fulbright Program, and the ASA Minority Fellowship Program.
In order to maximize your chances of receiving an award, start your research early! Often, applications are due months in advance. Be sure to take time to write creative and passionate essays. Save enough time to proofread your work. Request letters of recommendations from faculty and supervisors who know you well. Finally, be sure to submit all requested documents.