A Primer to Paying for Your Graduate Education
Scholarships, Fellowships, and Assistantships For Graduate Students
Congratulations! You’ve (finally) finished your undergraduate degree and are ready to move on to grad school. If you thought tuition, fees, room and board were costly for your four-year school, then you are in for real sticker shock with graduate education.
The good news is that unlike undergraduate students, grad students may be eligible for a host of school-based and outside funding opportunities specifically designed to support advanced education. These opportunities include work-based tuition-support programs, such as teaching assistantships and research assistantships; research fellowships; and graduate student scholarships. For more on navigating each of these funding opportunities, read on:
Many universities offer graduate assistantships through their various departments. GAs, or graduate assistants, are not only entitled to a tuition and fee waiver, but also often receive health insurance and a monthly stipend that helps to cover living expenses.
Many academic programs, with the likely exception of law, medical and business schools – hire graduate students to teach undergraduate classes. TAs, or teaching assistants, may be either the primary instructor for small enrollment classes or the facilitator for break-out sections from a larger lecture class. Additionally, academic programs, particularly those in the natural and social sciences, may hire graduate students to assist faculty members with their on-going research projects.
Both teaching and research assistantships (RAs) are highly competitive. To avoid missing out, start researching opportunities in the middle of your junior year – or one to two years before you plan to start your graduate program.
Another funding option for graduate students is the fellowship. Some universities, particularly large, research institutions, may offer graduate fellowships. More common, however, are graduate fellowships that come from the federal government or from an outside organization that has a strong interest in research. Fellowships are most prevalent in the fields of natural science, computer science and engineering.
For more information about science-based fellowships, check out this extensive list of government funded opportunities. Or look at GrantsNet, the US Department of Health and Human Service’s comprehensive site for grant opportunities and graduate fellowships to students pursing a career in the sciences.
More information about non-government fellowships can be found at the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program or The National Academies.
Your university’s financial aid office, as well as your specific department, will have a wealth of information on graduate student scholarships. Regardless of your field of study, most schools have a cache of merit-based aid for graduate students, funded from long-standing endowments.
There is also a host of national scholarships earmarked for graduate students. To learn more about these opportunities, try running a search through one of the on-line scholarship engines, such as:
– Fast Web
– College Board
– Scholarship Monkey
– Scholarship Experts