Earning a graduate degree is essential to certain careers. In others, it can open up more opportunities and higher pay. In addition to the practical aspects, increasing your expertise in an area that excites you can be personally rewarding. What’s more, the relationships you develop with fellow students may turn into lifelong friendships and professional networks. Cost is certainly a factor in deciding whether and where to further your education, though.
As a prospective grad student, you may have already exhausted any resources your parents had saved to fund your education. You may be carrying student loan debt from earning a bachelor’s degree, too. For these reasons, graduate students need scholarships just as much as (if not more than) college students. Across all fields of study average tuition and fees at a public graduate school are nearly $30,000, while the average private nonprofit school charges nearly $40,000, according to Peterson’s. Those sums don’t include living expenses. It’s well worth trying to get scholarship money to cover part or all of the cost of earning your graduate degree. (Student loan tax credits and deductions can also help defray costs.)
Best Scholarships for Graduate School
While graduate scholarships can be competitive, with hundreds of applicants, you should apply if you meet the criteria. Many programs give multiple awards each year—not just one.
You typically have to be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, though sometimes citizens of certain other countries and U.S. residents with DACA status are eligible. It’s important to check each individual scholarship’s eligibility requirements related to citizenship, field of study, location, school, and so on before spending time on your application.
You’ll usually have to write an essay as part of your scholarship application. In addition, you’ll often need to submit at least one letter of recommendation, and some prestigious scholarships also require an interview.
If you can handle that, we think the following ten scholarships are some of the best available in terms of the amount of money they provide, the unique experiences they offer, or both.
We’ve also included four grants and fellowships you might be interested in.
You could earn one of 32 Rhodes Scholarships if you can demonstrate outstanding scholarly achievements, character, commitment to others and to the common good, and leadership potential.
This scholarship provides full financial support to pursue your graduate degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Applicants must not be older than 23 on October 1 in the year they apply and must be endorsed by their university, among other requirements.
Each year, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, offers seven scholarships of $2,500 apiece to graduate students pursuing a career as a school superintendent.
Only one applicant per school is allowed, so you must be nominated by your school if you want to apply.
If you’re studying educational administration in a school of education, why not go for it?
If you’re interested in earning your graduate degree in the United Kingdom, this scholarship is another one to apply for.
It’s awarded to up to 50 scholars each year to pursue any field of study.
This generous scholarship covers university fees, living expenses, books, grants for research and daily travel, writing your thesis, travel to and from the United States, and even provides some support for a dependent spouse.
You’ll need a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.7 to qualify.
The Society of Women Engineers sponsors this $5,000 scholarship for women pursuing degrees in all areas of engineering, including construction, chemical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, and more. The school you plan to attend must be ABET accredited (an indicator of the program’s quality).
Even better, this scholarship is renewable for up to five years. While it’s available to both undergraduate and graduate students, it’s encouraging to know that the society gave out a whopping 238 new and renewed scholarships in 2017.
By completing a single application, you will be considered for every scholarship for which you qualify.
The Truman Foundation awards 55 to 65 scholarships of $30,000 each to students nominated by their undergraduate institutions. You must apply as an undergrad.
To qualify, you must have an extensive record of campus and community service and a desire to be a change agent who will work in government, education, the nonprofit sector, or the public interest and advocacy sector for at least three of the first seven years after completing your scholarship-funded graduate degree, among other qualifications.
Are you a young journalist? If you would like to receive $20,000 to study for one year at any recognized Latin American or Caribbean journalism school and you are fluent in that country’s language, apply for this scholarship.
Applicants must be 21 to 35 years old and in their final year of journalism school or already working as journalists.
Future nurses who are enrolled in or have been admitted to a higher degree program at an American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) member institution affiliated with CastleBranch (it’s a long list) can apply for this scholarship.
It’s awarded four times a year in the amount of $5,000 to two nursing students each time.
Applicants must have a GPA of 3.2 or higher in their current program or last school attended, and the application is simple.
If you want to earn a law degree, consider applying to law school at the University of Pennsylvania, where all admitted applicants are automatically considered for eight different merit scholarship programs.
Nominees may be asked to submit an additional essay, but there is no separate application.
Awards are given to students with high academic achievements and intellectual ambition. Leadership, service, and professional or life experiences are also considered.
The most generous of these scholarships covers all three years of a law student’s tuition and fees and provides unique access to faculty for mentoring and research assistantships.
This scholarship supports students pursuing the arts, humanities, and social sciences with a reward of $30,000 toward a graduate degree, plus $4,000 immediately before entering grad school.
Applicants must be nominated by their participating undergraduate institution, must be in their junior year, and must have a documented history of receiving need-based financial aid. Eighteen students received this award in 2018.
The Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States awards 15 scholarships, mostly in science, math, and engineering, to students nominated by their undergraduate institutions.
Awardees will have all their university fees covered for one year of study at the University of Cambridge toward a Master of Philosophy or Master of Advanced Study degree.
Winners receive a living allowance, travel allowance, and potentially a special research grant of up to $2,000 that may be used for travel expenses, either to present at international conferences or to study at other universities or institutes. Additional support may be available for married students.
To apply, you should be a senior at a participating undergraduate institution or have graduated from one in the last 12 months.
(For more ideas, see Your Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Applying for Scholarships.)
Grants and Fellowships
Fellowships, grants, and scholarships are all similar in that you don’t have to pay them back. Some fellowships are tied to study in a particular area or have an internship or service requirement, so make sure to check individual requirements.
Graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals, and artists are eligible to apply for the Fulbright fellowship, which provides for one academic year of study abroad. Scholars can also earn an award to conduct research abroad for up to a year.
This international educational exchange program, sponsored by the U.S. government, will expect you to have a compelling reason for studying at an eligible institution overseas and a commitment to engaging with the community in your host country.
The Rotary Foundation awards up to 50 fellowships each year for graduate study.
To qualify, you cannot be a current or recent rotary member, relative of a member, or employee.
You must be willing to attend one of the foundation’s international partner universities, which are located in Japan, England, Australia, and Sweden, and complete a degree in one of the available programs, such as social science or international studies.
You’ll need three years of full-time work or volunteer experience, excellent leadership skills, and a demonstrated commitment to international understanding and peace.
Immigrants and children of immigrants are eligible to receive one of 30 graduate fellowships each year offered by the Paul & Daisy Soros trust.
This $90,000 merit-based fellowship funds study in any degree-granting program in any field at any university in the United States.
The qualification criteria are broad, too. You must have demonstrated creativity, originality, and initiative; accomplishment requiring sustained drive and effort; and a commitment to the values expressed in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The NPSC aims to boost the number of U.S. citizens earning graduate degrees in the physical sciences and related engineering fields. Minorities and women receive preference because of their historic underrepresentation in science, but anyone can apply.
The fellowship provides a $20,000 annual stipend for up to six years in partnership with a sponsoring employer. It also provides one or two paid summer internships with a government agency, plus a mentor.
Recipients can attend any participating NPSC member university or college.
Resources to Help Find Scholarships
If you don’t already have a specific scholarship, fellowship, or grant in mind, it can be hard to know what you might qualify for and be interested in.
Fortunately, plenty of websites have been designed to aid your search. Here are five:
Other resources include schools themselves, professional associations, employer assistance programs, nonprofit organizations, federal grants, and state grants.
And don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA: federal financial aid is not just for undergrads. And it can be easier to qualify as a graduate student than as an undergraduate student since qualification is based on the student’s independent income; parental support is not a factor. (See Everything Grad Students Need to Know About the FAFSA to learn more.)
Finding a Scholarship for Grad School
You have many options when it comes to grad school scholarships—far more than we can list here.
If we haven’t described one that you qualify for, don’t worry. We just wanted to give you an idea of the wide range of opportunities that are out there.
Numerous organizations offer scholarships to graduate students because they know the financial struggle is real and they don’t want money to prevent top students from earning advanced degrees.
Finally, while scholarships are the best form of college funding since they don’t need to be paid back, there are other options available to cover the gap between what you have and what you need. Check out CommonBond’s grad school loans for competitive interest rates and award-winning customer service.