11 Ways You Can Find Free Money for Grad School
March 10, 2021
11 tips to help you find scholarships, grants, awards, and opportunities to finance your graduate school education.
If you’re thinking of going back to school, the prospect of paying for another tuition can be intimidating. Here are 11 places where you can begin your search for ways to finance your education.
1. Research Grants and Scholarships
If you will be pursuing research-based studies, look up research councils in your fields. These organizations will often offer grants to graduate students. For example, Postdoctoral and Senior Research Awards are distributed by the Research Associateship Programs in the National Academies to students pursuing the sciences, social sciences, mathematics and engineering. Visit National Academies for more information.
Research grants are also offered by universities and professional organizations and associations in your field. For example, someone studying sociology could look up opportunities at the American Sociological Association or Alpha Kappa Delta - The International Sociology Honor Society.
2. Programs at the Institute of International Education
Interested in going to graduate school abroad? This organization offers a variety of programs to students looking to study certain fields around the world. Their most renowned scholarship is the Fulbright Program, a competitive grant that allows students to live and study abroad. However, IIE offers many other opportunities, like corporate scholarships, grants for engineers wishing to study in another country, and financial support to students specializing in endangered languages.
3. Write to Grant Management Branches
Institutions at private and government agencies, like the National Institute of Mental Health, sometimes fund schools through grants. Request a list of schools that they financially support and apply to those universities.
4. Apply to Diversity/Minority Scholarships
These kinds of scholarships seek to help students from diverse ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds and are sometimes rewarded without taking into account financial need. Look up associations that represent your background, nationality, or religion and ask whether they offer scholarships. Some examples of places you can start your search are The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, The American Indian Graduate Center, or UNCF (United Negro College Fund).
When you are researching, make sure to look for scholarships in your specific field of interest. For example, there are diversity/minority scholarships for graduates pursuing advertising, marketing or public relations (through the LAGRANT Foundation;)nutrition, physical education or culinary arts (through CANFIT;) and business or public administration (through the Smithsonian Institute).
5. Apply to Disability Scholarships
There are scholarships out there for students with physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities. For example, 180 Medical or the American Association on Health and Disability offer this kind of financial support.
6. Read Related Journals and Magazines
Often, journals and magazines will advertise scholarship and grant opportunities. Make sure to look through publications that are related to your field of interest.
7. Join a Service Program
Becoming a volunteer for a program like AmeriCoprs, Peace Corps, or Teach for America can allow you to receive awards and scholarships at certain schools. Make sure to explore the benefits each program offers before committing.
8. Be a Research or Teaching Assistant
Many universities offer graduate students to make money by collaborating on research with a professor or helping in an undergraduate class. While this option may be time consuming, it’s also a good way to forge relationships with faculty or students who are also interested in your field.
9. Seek Employment at a University
Working full-time for a university can sometimes mean a discount on tuition. This possibility is not available at every school, so make sure to ask whether this option exists at the universities that you are considering.
10. Ask Your Current Employer
If you are currently working, ask your employer about funds or scholarship opportunities that the company may offer as you decide to go back to school. For example, if you are working as a journalist, your employer may allow you to take a leave to pursue the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard.
11. Build Your Network
Reach out to people in your academic and professional network. Contact professors, bosses, co-workers, and advisors you have a connection with and let them know you are thinking of going to graduate school. They may know of scholarship opportunities or put you in touch with someone who does.
For more tips on how to effectively network, read our Ten Must Do's of Networking: Face-to-Face Contact in a Digital World article.
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