The Ultimate Guide to Graduate School Scholarships

paying for graduate school
October 19, 2023 6 min read Liaison

In this article, you'll find everything you need to know about graduate school scholarships, how they work, the types of scholarships available, and how to apply.

Key Takeaways

Some scholarships are merit based. They are provided based on your academic achievements or extracurricular activities. You can apply for more than one such scholarship.

There are institutional scholarships offered by schools and universities and local and national scholarships offered by private groups, churches, and other organizations.

To apply for a scholarship, you need to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible each year, write an essay, and provide recommendation letters.

Scholarships work on a first-come, first-served basis, so you need to act swiftly.

Scholarships usually don't have to be repaid, but you should double-check the terms and conditions.


Are you looking for ways to fund your education? Graduate school scholarships can be a great source of money to pay for tuition and other student expenses. According to the Center for American Progress, approximately 40% of all federal student loans are issued to graduate students each year.

To get a scholarship, you have to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Scholarships, which can be awarded by educational institutions and other organizations, are based either on a student’s financial need or merit, i.e., accomplishments in fields such as academics, the arts, or community leadership.

In this article, we define scholarships, explore different types, describe the application process, and list websites where you can find scholarship opportunities.

Graduate School Scholarships — Essential Information

Merit-based scholarships are awarded according to academic achievement or extracurricular activities.

You can apply for more than one scholarship at the same time. You can find scholarships for graduate students online. To apply for scholarships, you need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which you can send from October until June for the upcoming school year. Also, you need to write an essay and provide recommendation letters.

There are two types of graduate scholarships — institutional and private.

  • Institutional scholarships — Check with the school's financial aid office or program advisor to inform yourself about the scholarships at your chosen school.
  • Private scholarships — Organizations, churches, and groups offer this type of scholarship.

When to Apply for Scholarships and Grants?

You should start applying for scholarships for master's degrees or doctoral degrees as soon as you're accepted into a graduate program — preferably before the school year starts so that you can find funding options. Deadlines for scholarships are between October and May.

You should know that scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Always check for new scholarships to make sure you’re not missing out on any good opportunities. Usually, scholarships don't have to be paid back, but be sure to read the terms and conditions.

There are full-ride scholarships for graduate school that can cover all expenses and those that can cover only a part of the costs.

How to Apply for Scholarships?

If you need financial aid, here are the steps to applying for scholarships for graduate school:

  1. Submit the FAFSA — You have to fill out the FAFSA each year for which you need funding. Governments and graduate schools use your FAFSA information to evaluate your eligibility for student loans, grants, and scholarships.
  2. Apply for multiple scholarships — You can apply for more than one scholarship and combine that funding to reduce grad school expenses.
  3. Check the deadlines — When researching opportunities, keep the application deadlines in so you can prepare everything you need to submit on time. Be sure to follow the instructions. Once you’ve finished preparing the documents, ask someone to proofread your essay to ensure you've written a good one that’s free of typos and other mistakes.


  • American Indian College Fund — AICF gives out scholarships in the amount of $1,000 to $2,000 to eligible American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native students pursuing a graduate or doctoral degree.
  • Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund — This institution gives up to $15,000 to graduate students who plan to advocate against homophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression.
  • The Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives — This scholarship gives up to $5,000 to students in their final year of a healthcare management program.
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation — This organization offers $5,000 for those enrolled in a communication sciences and disorders graduate program.


  • American Association of University Women — Women enrolling in graduate schools to advance in their careers or change fields can obtain between $2,000 and $20,000. It covers graduate studies in the fields of education; health and medicine; sciences, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); or social sciences.
  • TEACH Grant — With this grant, you can get up to $4,000 per year, and you subsequently must teach for at least four years in elementary or secondary school serving low-income students.


Fellowships are awards given to graduate students to help support themselves during their studies. They often allow students to work in a job related to their studies, such as in a research assistant position. Fellowships come with a stipend that can help you with tuition and other student expenses; in some cases, there are additional benefits.

Colleges and universities, government agencies, and foundations usually offer fellowships.

searching for grad scholarships

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Graduate School Scholarships — Conclusion

Scholarships for graduate students are provided based on either financial need or merit, taking into account factors such as academic achievements and extracurricular activities. You can apply for multiple scholarships simultaneously.

There are two primary scholarship categories — Institutional scholarships offered by schools and local scholarships offered by professional organizations, churches, and civic groups.

Here are the steps to follow when applying for scholarships:

  1. Submit the FAFSA — It will determine your eligibility for student loans, grants, and scholarships. This form must be filled out annually between October and June.
  2. Apply for multiple scholarships.
  3. Check the deadlines — Ensure all required documents are sent on time, including well-crafted essays and recommendation letters. It's advisable to have someone proofread your essays and provide comments if necessary.

Places where you can find graduate school scholarships:

  • Scholarships — American Indian College Fund, Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund, Foster G. McGaw Graduate Student Scholarship, American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation
  • Grants — American Association of University Women and TEACH Grant

Fellowships differ from scholarships as they typically provide the opportunity to work for pay during your studies. They also include stipends to help with tuition and expenses.

Scholarship applications should commence as soon as you’re accepted into a graduate program, preferably before the school year begins.

Scholarships are often provided on a first-come, first-served basis, so staying vigilant for new opportunities is crucial. Scholarships generally don't require repayment, but you should carefully review the terms and conditions before committing to one.


Organizations, groups, and schools offer scholarships to graduate students. You can research your options in detail online.

You need to have some academic achievements or extracurricular activities to get a scholarship. Scholarships are either based on merit or financial need.

To apply for scholarships, you need to fill out the FAFSA, which is used to determine whether you're eligible. Start researching scholarships early, and apply as soon as possible.

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