Financial Aid and Scholarships for Graduate School

Financial Aid Information for Veterans, Students with Disabilities, Women, LGBTQ and MBA Students Pursuing a Graduate Degree

Graduate school is a time for students to build nuanced skill sets that increase their knowledge and earning potential, but before any of that can happen, prospective grad students have to figure out how to pay for their educations. More graduate students today are borrowing money than ever before and are also paying off their loans at a slower rate. This guide can help prospective grad students find and acquire scholarship and grant money — the “free money” for education that you do not have to pay back — and reduce the amount of money you need to borrow. It includes an extensive list of graduate school scholarships for LGBTQ students, MBA students, students with disabilities, veterans and women, as well as information on other ways to garner additional financial aid for grad school.

Scholarships for Graduate Students

In the sections that follow, you can find helpful information on grants, scholarships and fellowships to help you pay for a graduate degree. In sum, scholarships are widely considered “free money” that you do need to pay back. These are usually merit- or need-based awards. Grants for graduate school also do not require repayment unless you withdraw from school. If you leave a program without finishing, you may need to repay part of the grant. Fellowships are short-term research positions or jobs at a university or affiliated institution in your area of expertise. They are temporary paid positions that help you advance your skill set and career.

Scholarships for All Graduate Students

Rick Guggolz Memorial Scholarship

  • Amount $1,500
  • Application deadline June 2019

The Association of Insurance Compliance Professionals offers up to three scholarships of $1,500. The scholarship money is intended to help students with tuition and fees. Graduate applicants must be taking at least two courses and have completed four graduate courses in their program. Prospective recipients need at least a 3.0 GPA to be competitive.

I Have a Dream Scholarship

  • Amount $1,500
  • Application deadline January 31, 2019

Offered by Unigo, this award is for any student enrolled in a post-secondary institution of higher education. Applicants must submit an essay of 250 words or less describing one of their major educational or professional goals for the future.

Education Matters Scholarship

  • Amount $5,000
  • Application deadline November 30, 2019

Any student enrolled in an accredited college or university may apply for this one-time award. In 250 words or less, applicants must provide a response for the essay question, “What would you say to someone who thinks education doesn’t matter, or that college is a waste of time and money?” Scholarship money may be used for tuition, fees and other expenses incurred while pursuing one’s education.

The Point Foundation Scholarship

  • Amount $10,000
  • Application deadline January 28, 2019

This is an annual non-renewable award for undergraduate or graduate students. Financial support is intended to help students cover tuition, books, supplies, room and board, living expenses and transportation to meet college demands. A student’s financial need, academic achievement, leadership skills, personal merit, professional goals and involvement in the LGBT community are taken into consideration.

Technology Addiction Awareness Scholarship

  • Amount $1,000
  • Application deadline January 30, 2019

High school, undergraduates and graduate students in the United States may apply for this one-time award. Applicants must submit a 140-character message about technology addiction. Then, 10 finalists will be asked to write a 500-1,000-word essay on the topic. The winner receives $1,000 to help cover school expenses.

Josephine De Karman Fellowship

  • Amount $25,000
  • Application deadline April 15, 2019

Approximately eight graduate fellowships are awarded by the De Karman Fellowship Trust each year. PhD students in any discipline may apply, provided they are scheduled to defend their dissertation in or around June 2020 and are eligible for a 2019-2020 fellowship. Applicants do not have to be United States citizens but must be enrolled in a accredited institution in the country at the time they apply.

Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship

  • Amount ~$39,000
  • Application deadline Fall 2019

This fellowship award is merit-based and consists of both a tuition allowance and a personal stipend. The scholarship provides the necessary funding for students to pursue a PhD in any field and comes with mentorship and counseling through the Hertz Foundation community. Some fellows may be able to receive an additional $5,000 if they have dependent children.

Fulbright Student Program

  • Amount Varies
  • Application deadline Fall 2019

The Fulbright scholarship is a prestigious financial aid program primarily designed to fund master’s students’ educations abroad. The program covers all college-related expenses, airfare, health insurance and comes with a living stipend. Eligibility varies between countries but the awards are highly competitive and typically go to students who graduate at the top of their class.

Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship

  • Amount Up to $20,000
  • Application deadline December 2019

This fellowship is for advanced students seeking graduate degrees in art, dance, architecture, music, theater, or urban planning. Graduate students may study abroad or in the United States. There is no age limit for applicants, but preference is given to applicants who are under the age of 25.

Littleton-Griswold Research Grant for U.S. Legal History Grant

  • Amount $1,000
  • Application deadline Varies

Presented by the American Historical Association, this research grant is for graduate students working in history, law and society and related fields. Winners are expected to use the money for travel expenses to utilize libraries or archives and other for expenses incurred while conducting research.

LGBTQ Scholarships

Audre Lorde Scholarships

  • Amount $1,000 or more
  • Application deadline May 20, 2019

This award is for lesbians of color who are 40 years of age or older. They should be enrolled in a technical school, undergraduate or graduate program located in the United States with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Gamma Mu Foundation

  • Amount $1,000-$2,500
  • Application deadline March 31, 2019

The scholarship is for gay men under the age of 35 who have completed high school or a GED and are United States citizens. Applicants should have acceptance to a college, university, or vocational school for the following fall or spring.

Women in Medicine Leadership Scholarships

  • Amount $5,000
  • Application deadline April 1, 2019

Up to four students can receive this LGBTQ scholarship. The award is for female medical students in their first, second or third year of naturopathic, osteopathic or allopathic medical school in the United States or Canada. Applicants must demonstrate a history of leadership activity in the LGBTQ community.

Jonathan Lax Scholarship

  • Amount $5,000-$10,000
  • Application deadline November 2019

In honor of Jonathan Lax, this one-time scholarship award is provided to gay men who are either from the greater Philadelphia area or attending a graduate school in that region. Applicants must reside in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties and be enrolled in a degree program at an accredited school.

Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship

  • Amount Up to $5,000
  • Application deadline May 31, 2019

Offered by The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, the Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship is for a LGBTQ student planning on a career in journalism. They must align with the association’s commitment to fair and accurate coverage of the LGBTQ community.

Lesbian Caucus Award

  • Amount $500
  • Application deadline Varies

This research award recognizes a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation written in LGBTQ studies that resonates with the mission of the National Women’s Studies Association. Applicants must be a current member of the association and submit one letter of recommendation for consideration.

Out to Innovate Scholarship

  • Amount $5,000
  • Application deadline June 1, 2019

Offered by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals Incorporated, the scholarship is for two members of the LGBTQ community. Applicants may be graduate or undergraduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Point Scholar Program

  • Amount Varies
  • Application deadline January 28, 2019

This scholarship is for members of the LGBTQ community who are enrolled full-time at a college or university in the United States. Those enrolled at a community college must have plans to transfer to a four-year school. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and have documented experience of working for the betterment of the LGBTQ community.

Queer Scholars Program

  • Amount $1,000
  • Application deadline February 14, 2019

Offered by the Queer Foundation, this essay contest is for high school seniors planning on attending college. Applicants must identify with and actively participate in efforts for the betterment of the LGBTQ community. They must also demonstrate effective writing skills and have plans to build a more stable future for queer youth.

Wayne F. Placek Grant

  • Amount $10,000
  • Application deadline March 1, 2019

Offered by the American Psychological Foundation, this award is for doctoral-level researchers or graduate students affiliated with an educational institution or nonprofit research organization. Graduate students and young professionals are encouraged to apply. The award supports empirical research on any behavioral or social science topic related to LGBTQ issues.

Scholarships for MBA Students

Stanford Africa MBA Fellowship

  • Amount $170,000 (full tuition and fees
  • Application deadline September 2019/January 2020

Applicants for this Master of Business Administration Fellowship must be citizens of an African country. Dual citizens may apply as long as they hold citizenship in an African nation. Prospective recipients must have completed or be in the final year of their undergraduate studies.

Brightest Minds MBA Scholarship

  • Amount $25,000
  • Application deadline April 2019

Offered by The Economist, applicants for this award must take a full-length GMAT practice test, including 75-minute verbal and quantitative sections. The highest-scoring participant earns the scholarship money to be used for tuition at one of The Economist’s business school partners.

Fertitta Veterans Scholarship

  • Amount $30,000
  • Application deadline Spring

This award is designed for United States military veterans and active duty students preparing for business school at New York University. Approximately 20 full-time MBA students can receive the award upon admission to the program. Those with veterans benefits will remain eligible for assistance regardless if they are selected for the award or not.

Full-Time MBA Scholarships

  • Amount $5,000 to Full-Tuition
  • Application deadline October 15, January 5, February 15, March 31, or May 1

All applicants to the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester may be considered for the award, provided they answer “yes” to the scholarship question on the application. Domestic and international students are welcome to apply.

National Reach Scholarship

  • Amount Varies
  • Application deadline Due with Application

Applicants must be first-year MBA students at Willamette University. The scholarship is intended to attract top students from around the globe and provide substantial funding for their graduate career. Applicants should have a 3.3 GPA or higher by the end of their first year. Scholarships are renewable for the student’s second year provided they remain in good standing.

Berkeley MBA Grant

  • Amount Full Tuition
  • Application deadline April 2019

Prospective recipients must be accepted to the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley and demonstrate financial need. Applicants must self-report income and asset information to be considered. There is no financial “cut-off point” to determine one’s eligibility. All students interested in need-based funding should apply.

Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship

  • Amount $10,000
  • Application deadline January 2020

This award is for one outstanding minority student interested in pursuing a career in state or local government finance. Applicants must be full- or part-time graduate students or upper-level undergraduates in business administration or a related field. Applications must include one letter of recommendation.

Reaching Out LGBT MBA Fellowship

  • Amount $10,000-$20,000
  • Application deadline Varies

Interested students must apply to a business school participating in the Reaching Out LGBTQ MBA Fellowship Program. If accepted to the school and program, students are notified at the same time from their school. Each participating school to which a student applies is responsible for selecting its fellows, so there is no formal application process with the fellowship program directly.

SHRM Foundation Scholarships

  • Amount $5,000
  • Application deadline August 15, 2019

Applicants must be degree-seeking students in a master’s or doctoral program, studying business or a related field. They should have at least one full semester remaining before graduation or beginning their program within six months of winning the scholarship. Competitive students have at least a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate program or a 3.5 graduate GPA if they are already in a program.

Toigo MBA Fellowship

  • Amount Varies
  • Application deadline March 22, 2019

Applicants should be a minority student interested in pursuing a two-year, full-time MBA, JD/MBA or master’s in real estate. Prospective recipients must be a United States citizen, permanent resident or have the legal right to work in the country.

Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation Scholarship

  • Amount $1,000-$2,000
  • Application deadline June 1, 2019

This award is for women in graduate programs who have physical disabilities. Competitive applicants have both a history of taking on leadership roles and a strong academic record. The purpose of the award is to provide supplemental financial assistance for tuition and fees.

Family Epilepsy Scholarship Program

  • Amount Up to $10,000
  • Application deadline February 5, 2019

Offered by the Epilepsy Foundation, the scholarship is for up to $5,000 for 30 applicants each year. Additionally, up to two applicants may receive the leadership scholarship, worth up to $10,000. Competitive recipients demonstrate a strong academic record and impressive history of personal achievement. Applicants must be a legal resident of the United States and be a person living with epilepsy or be a family member of someone living with the disability.

Jackson-Stricks Scholarship

  • Amount $2,500
  • Application deadline March 29, 2019

Provided by the National Council of Jewish Women New York, the Jackson-Stricks Scholarship offers financial aid for students with physical challenges to pursue academic study or vocational training that ultimately leads to independent living. In some cases, multiple applicants may receive an award up to $2,500. Competitive applicants may be full-time or part-time graduate or undergraduate students and must have a documented disability.

James “Rhio” O’Connor Memorial Scholarship

  • Amount $1,000
  • Application deadline Monthly

Applicants for this award must answer one of several writing prompts on the website. Essay responses must be 700-1,500 words in length. Up to $1,000 is awarded to a winner each month. Applicants may be undergraduate or graduate students.

Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation

  • Amount ~$1,000
  • Application deadline March 28, 2019

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation encourages applicants with Cystic Fibrosis who can demonstrate financial need and have a record of strong academic achievement and leadership skills. Competitive applicants are enrolled in at least nine credit hours per semester. Single-year and multi-year awards are available.

Business Plan Scholarship

  • Amount $2,500
  • Application deadline Spring and Fall

This award is for both undergraduate and graduate students working toward a degree at an accredited college, university or trade school. Applicants must have a documented disability to apply for the scholarship. Awards are given twice a year and based on applicants’ 500-1,000 word essay. The money is intended to help students further develop an entrepreneurial venture or idea while in school.

NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

  • Amount $5,625
  • Application deadline Varies

The American Association of People with Disabilities offers up to eight scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities. Applicants should be pursuing a career in communications, entertainment or media. Applicants do not need to be United States citizens but must be currently enrolled in a college or university in the country.

Linda Cowden Memorial Scholarship

  • Amount $1,000
  • Application deadline April 1, 2019

Open to undergraduate or graduate students, bridges for the deaf and hard-of-hearing offers this $1,000 scholarship. Applicants must be a United States citizen, have documented hearing disabilities and reside in Tennessee. Applications should include a completed form, original essay, and participate in an interview.

Baer Reintegration Scholarship

  • Amount Varies
  • Application deadline January 2020

This award is for undergraduate and graduate students who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Applicants must be a United States citizen or legal resident and plan to attend a college or university in the country. Prospective recipients must also be currently receiving medical treatment for their disability.

Brother James Kearney Scholarship

  • Amount Up to $15,000 per year
  • Application deadline June 30, 2019

Applicants must be a legal resident of the United States and be legally blind or severely visually impaired. This need-based scholarship offers up to $15,000 per academic year for up to four years. Applicants must also plan on attending one of the 11 participating private colleges located in New York and New Jersey.

Scholarships for Veterans

American Veterans Scholarship

  • Amount $4,000
  • Application deadline April 30, 2019

This award is for veterans, active duty, guard or reserve members. Up to three recipients receive $1,000 for each year they are enrolled in a college or university. Competitive applicants will have a strong academic record and standardized test scores.

Disabled Veterans Scholarship

  • Amount Up to $1,000
  • Application deadline February 5, 2019

Offered by the Feldman Law Firm, the scholarship is for a veteran of any branch of the United States Armed Forces. Applicants should have a disability rating of 30% or higher. Applications must include a short statement discussing the student’s educational goals.

Ankin Law Office Scholarship for Disabled Veterans

  • Amount $1,000
  • Application deadline July 15, 2019

The Ankin Law Office scholarship is for disabled veterans enrolled in full-time course work at an accredited community college, university, college, trade school or vocational school starting in the fall of 2019. Applications must include a 1,000-word essay on a topic chosen by the firm. Recipients must provide proof of military service and school enrollment.

Paralyzed Veterans Scholarship

  • Amount $1,000-$10,000
  • Application deadline Applications for the 2019-2020 academic year will be available April – June 2019

Paralyzed Veterans of America offers this scholarship to service members, the spouse of a member, the unmarried children (under 24) or dependent of a veteran. Applicants must be a citizen of the United States and be accepted and enrolled as a full-time or part-time student at an accredited college or university.

Grantham Heroes Program and Scholarship

  • Amount Reduced Tuition and Resource Waiver
  • Application deadline With School Application

Grantham University offers graduate students a $75 per credit hour scholarship. Some recipients may also qualify for the textbook and software grant. Applicants must be active-duty service members, reservists, National Guard members or another member of the military. This award is also open to spouses and dependents, emergency first responders, law enforcement personnel, fire fighters, EMTs and paramedics.

Troops to Teachers Program

  • Amount Up to $10,000
  • Application deadline Varies

Established in 1993, this program provides financial assistance for those transitioning from military service to new careers in K-12 teaching. Interested veterans must submit an application within three years of their active-duty separation date. All former and retired members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Reserve and National Guard may apply.

Captain Jodi Callahan Memorial Scholarship

  • Amount $1,000
  • Application deadline April 30, 2019

Sponsored by the Air Force Association, this award provides financial assistance to active-duty, full-time Guard, or Reserve airmen pursuing a master’s degree in a non-technical field. Applicants should have a 3.0 GPA or higher, proof of admission to a master’s program, and one letter of recommendation from their Air Force supervisor.

Colonel Loren J. and Mrs. Lawona R. Spencer Scholarship

  • Amount $5,000
  • Application deadline April 30, 2019

Available to all United States Air Force personnel, this award is based on an individual’s academic achievement, job performance and supplemental application materials. Multiple recipients may receive an award in the same year. Applications must include a completed application form, one letter of recommendation from a supervisor, proof of acceptance into a master’s program and an essay. Competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 GPA.

National Scholarship Program

  • Amount $500
  • Application deadline January 2020

Presented by the National Association of Veteran Program Administrators, this award is for honorably discharged military veterans, active-duty, Reserve or Guard members or a dependent of veteran or service member. Applicants should be in United States Citizens with a 3.0 GPA or higher and enrolled as a full-time student.

Scholarships for Women

Federally Employed Women Scholarship

  • Amount Varies
  • Application deadline April 2, 2019

Federally Employed Women partnered with Grantham University to offer this award for undergraduate and graduate students. Applicants must be a member of the Federally Employed Women in good standing or be the spouse or dependent child of an active member. Applications must include a 1,000-word essay, proof of financial need and a list of community involvement, organization associations and references.

Career Development Grant

  • Amount $2,000-$12,000
  • Application deadline November 15, 2019

Presented by the American Association of University Women, this grant helps support female students in their graduate school pursuits. Students must be a United States citizen and enrolled at an accredited school in the country. Applicants must already possess a bachelor’s degree. Competitive applicants demonstrate financial need and a commitment to education and equity for women.

Ford Emerging Voices Scholarship

  • Amount $2,000
  • Application deadline May 2019

Presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation and the Ford Motor Company Fund, the emerging voices scholarship is for undergraduate or graduate students pursuing careers in journalism. The award is for up to two promising female students for $2,000 each. Applicants must submit an original essay responding to the supplied writing prompts, a letter of recommendation and proof of enrollment.

Lifetime Adoption Foundation Scholarship

  • Amount Varies
  • Application deadline Three months prior to the start of classes

This is an educational scholarship in appreciation to birth mothers who have chosen adoption for their children. Recipients must currently be part- or full-time students or intend to enroll in a educational institution or trade school. Prospective recipients must be a birth mother who has placed a child for adoption anytime after 1990.

P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education

  • Amount Up to $3,000
  • Application deadline Varies

This one-time need-based grant is for women who are United States citizens or legal residents who have taken time off from school and are now returning to complete their degree. Grant money may be used for tuition, books and supplies, testing and graduation fees, transportation, childcare and a necessary equipment or tools. Applicants do not have to be members of the P.E.O. organization to apply.

Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship

  • Amount $2,000
  • Application deadline July 1, 2019

Presented by the Zonta International club, this award is for a full-time female student at any age pursuing a business or business-related program. Applicants must get in touch with and apply through their local/regional Zonta club to determine any specific requirements for that district. Zonta clubs are located around the globe.

Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Graduate Scholarship

  • Amount $10,000
  • Application deadline February 15, 2019

The NCAA offers 26 awards of up to $10,000 each for women and ethnic minority students. Recipients must be entering their first year of graduate studies and are active members of the NCAA. Scholarships can be used for one academic year only. Applicants should have a minimum 3.2 GPA and be seeking an athletics-related career.

Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund

  • Amount Varies
  • Application deadline March 1, 2019

This need-based scholarship is for women who are 35 or older. Applicants must be from a low-income family, a United States citizen or permanent resident and pursuing a technical or vocational education at a not-for-profit, regionally accredited institution. Students may also be seeking an associate or first bachelor’s degree.

Society of Women Engineers Scholarship Program

  • Amount $1,000-$15,000
  • Application deadline May 2019

Presented by the Society of Women Engineers, this award is for students planning to study in a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Applicants must be women and planning to enroll as full-time students. Undergraduate and graduate students may apply.

National Physical Science Consortium Minority Women Fellowship

  • Amount $16,000
  • Application deadline August 25, 2019

This fellowship program offers financial support for minority women studying chemistry, geoscience, engineering, physics or astronomy at the graduate level. Competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 GPA and are enrolled in a graduate program recognized by the National Physical Science Consortium.

For more graduate school scholarships for women, check out ACO’s Scholarships for Women guide.

FAFSA for Graduate Students

Like undergrad students, graduate students have access to federal financial aid. Similar to when you applied for your undergraduate degree, you need to complete a FAFSA as part of the graduate school application process. When you applied as an undergraduate, you may have included your parent(s)’s financial information as part of the equation. Graduate students, however, are considered independent and only their personal financial information is taken into consideration for aid. They also only have access to unsubsidized loans, which have fewer perks and higher interest rates. Federal Pell Grants, which students do not have to pay back, are typically for undergraduates, but graduate students enrolled in a post baccalaureate teacher certification program may be eligible.

Types of Federal Aid for Grad Students

When you apply to graduate school and you submit your FAFSA, you will be considered for four types of federal financial aid; this does not include private, non-federal options for financial aid. Bear in mind that loans must be repaid. If you receive a grant, however, you do not have to repay it.

Below are the types of federal aid available to grad students:

  • The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program Also known as “Direct Loans,” the Ford Federal Direct Loan Program offers students a way to pay for their education through loans provided by the United States government. Not all colleges and universities participate in the loan program. Students who attend schools that participate may receive one of four types of loans: Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loans; Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loans; Federal Direct PLUS Loans; or Federal Direct Consolidation Loans. Graduate students can only take out unsubsidized loans.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant This grant (up to $3,752 a year) is for students planning on becoming teachers in a high-need field in a low-income area. Unlike other federal grants, the TEACH grant comes with specific guidelines that require you to take classes to be eligible for the money. Additionally, should you receive the grant and then change careers, the grants will turn into a loan that you must repay. Not all colleges and universities participate in the TEACH grant program. Contact your school’s financial aid office for more information.
  • Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program FWS jobs are open to both undergraduate and graduate students. These need-based positions are typically part-time jobs, located on- or off-campus, while the student is enrolled in classes. FWS positions help students earn money to offset the cost of their education and related expenses while providing a service for the school. Not all schools participate in FWS programs. These positions are similar to a regular job, and you do not repay any of the money you earn.
  • Pell Grants Federal Pell Grants are need-based financial awards for students who do not have a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree. This option is typically available to undergrads; however, some graduate students may be eligible for a Pell Grant if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program. Federal Pell Grants are not available to those who are incarcerated in a federal or state penal Institution or are convicted sexual offenders. Students do not have to repay these grants.

5 Tips for Getting More Financial Aid for Grad School

If you receive financial aid offers from multiple schools, you can use that information to make well-informed decisions about your education. You may also be able to use that information as leverage to get more financial support, especially when negotiating with schools that have low acceptance rates. Below are five tips to help graduate students enhance their financial aid package.

  • If you have a good reason, ask a school to reconsider or re-evaluate your financial aid offer In some cases, schools may be willing to reconsider their offer should you have a definite reason for them to do so. Outside of having a concrete “better offer” from another school, perhaps you miscalculated what you can actually afford to spend on graduate school. Or maybe your expected family contribution information you originally wrote on your FAFSA has shifted. Having a well-supported reason to ask for a modest amount of additional aid shows that you are a thoughtful individual who wants to find a financially responsible way to make it through graduate school.
  • When negotiating with your prospective schools, be thankful, polite and concise Your very first interaction with anyone regarding a financial aid package should be of the “thank you” variety. Be explicit about your gratitude for their generous financial offer. Then, proceed with a well-supported and brief argument for more aid. Bear in mind, the professors, department chairs and financial aid office employees that you may contact are busy. Their time is valuable and they are often on tight deadlines. Write clearly, politely and to the point.
  • Approach one school and describe the “better offer” from another for comparison If your top choice offers you a less than desirable financial aid package but another program came through with better options, it is okay to let your top school know in a polite manner. It is best to be upfront and transparent. Schools may ask for proof of the better offer, so honesty is the best policy.
  • Calculate what you will need; do not just ask for “more” Don’t be greedy when negotiating your aid package. When making the argument for more money, have a clear amount in mind, along with supporting evidence as to why that amount is needed. For example, you may want to discuss need-based concerns, extenuating circumstances or recent hardships. Regardless of the reason, however, having an amount in mind rather than simply asking for “more” shows you’ve thought carefully about your future and circumstances and have a plan for achieving your educational goals.
  • Persistence can pay off After you have accepted an offer, it is okay to occasionally check-in with the financial aid office, graduate school or your home department about additional funding opportunities. The financial situation for all programs can change over the course of a semester or academic year. If there are merit-based funding opportunities and you maintain an outstanding record, you have every right to pursue those options. Additionally, paying positions such as graduate assistantships may become available throughout the year. Let everyone know that you are on the lookout for those opportunities.

Expert Advice on Grad School Scholarships

Stephanie Hanigan works at Southern Oregon University to ensure grant and scholarship funding is current and up to date. She offers the following advice for graduate students applying for scholarships:

Given the high cost of graduate school, how can potential students go about deciding if the cost is worth it?

One of the best methods of determining whether or not additional educational expenses would be a wise investment for graduate students is to research the average salary for positions specific to the degree of interest. Since income earned can vary significantly by geographic location, students would profit from further researching the pay and benefits offered in the area in which they plan to reside as well as the cost of living of that area. Additionally, a student will want to calculate the current monthly expenses they will need to budget for and then determine whether or not the additional expense of a loan repayment is something they will be able to afford. Lastly, securing funding that does not require repayment, like grants and scholarships, is the absolute best method in financing education.

There are countless opportunities to assist with the cost of higher education! Putting forth the effort to research and apply for them is time well spent, especially of it results in being the recipient selected for the grant or scholarship. Students should always look for funding specific to the academic department they plan to enroll in, grants or scholarships offered by the institution, grants or scholarships specific to the career or degree the student plans to pursue, grants or scholarships offered through the community, especially service groups, and educational funds specific to them, like military, tribal, or cultural funding.

What are a few ways that students can go about standing out on their scholarship application?

In order to stand out on your scholarship application, think outside the box and when you think you are doing so, go further. It is extremely common for students to answer a scholarship application question in a manner relatively common to other submissions. For example, if the question posed is, “What is your greatest achievement to date?” the vast majority of students will provide an answer similar to, “Being accepted to college.” This answer may be the exciting truth, however, now the student has become part of a group who have all submitted a similar answer and who have become less identifiable as a result. Focus on what makes you stand out! Consider your responses and whether or not they will be memorable. Be open with the information you share so the reader can connect to your story, however, be mindful of and comfortable with the information you include. Do not share anything that will make you feel emotionally exposed. Take your time to contemplate your responses, consider the many potential answers to the application question and utilize the one that will leave a positive, lasting impression.

When considering potential programs and universities, how should students think about their return on investment and how that is influenced by their pick?

When pursuing a higher education and/or a potential program, students are investing in the academic content as well as the reputation of the school they attend. They become a member of the community that is the foundation of the college or university and as such, they are as much of a reflection on the school as the school is on the student. Students must consider this aspect when considering the return on their investment; in what way(s) can the student positively impact the school’s reputation moving forward and in what way(s) can the school positively impact the student? Being awarded a degree from an institution of higher learning forever ties the student to that institution, so all applicants should consider this when researching and selecting a school. Students will also want to weigh the support offered by the college or university as this is a reflection of the school’s investment in the student. Will the amount and type of support offered by the school make the process of completing the degree more achievable, more enjoyable, and less stressful? Ultimately, the experience of mastering the academic curriculum to earn the degree and the support available to the student population as they complete their courses will offer a return on investment that extends beyond graduation.

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