How to Find Scholarships for Graduate School

28 FEB 2022

If you’re thinking about applying for graduate school, you may be concerned about the price tag on your degree program. In some cases, it can be difficult to tell exactly what a program costs. What, for example, is the start-up cost of enrolling in a PhD program versus a Masters degree? How can you get funding to support your education? This blog will explain how to find scholarships for graduate school (1).


Internal Scholarships

The first step to getting a scholarship is understanding what kinds of academic funding are available to you through your degree program and university. Every university has its own, unique opportunities to apply for “internal” funding, from financial aid to merit-based scholarships. If you get into a PhD program in the US, you most likely will not need to apply for funding to pay for your tuition, stipend, and healthcare—the university will take care of that for you. Many doctoral programs in the UK also offer merit and need-based internal scholarships. For example, the University of Cambridge’s funding webpage reports that 74% of their doctoral students received funding in 2020 (2). However, only 26% of their Masters students received funding. Attention all Masters students: my advice about how to apply for scholarships is, first and foremost, for you.

If you are an admitted or current Masters student, your first port of call for scholarships should be your departmental administrator. Even if you have yet to arrive on campus, request a meeting to discuss the following topics: internal merit-based scholarships, research funding, named prizes, essay contests, and financial aid. Departmental administrators tend to know a lot about their universities: far more than professors, where funding is concerned. Your administrator may be able to point you towards a combination of small research funds and prizes that could add up to a significant scholarship—and a number of fancy line items  of your CV. 


External Scholarships

If your university does not offer much in the way of internal funding or if you want to get a scholarship before applying for your program, then you’ll need to seek out “external” scholarships: that is, any funding that comes from outside of a university. These scholarships are merit-based and highly competitive. 

Some external scholarships aim to help young scholars with specific identities and interests. For example, the Beinecke Scholarship, for which undergraduates may apply in their junior year, is an incredibly generous source of funding for students in the humanities from lower-income backgrounds. The Mellon Mays Foundation funds undergraduates from under-represented minorities who wish to pursue academic careers. Although this foundation has an early deadline—you must apply in your sophomore year—it comes along with a support network that can help you get scholarships throughout your career. Likewise, the Truman Scholarship, which funds junior-year students who intend to pursue graduate degrees and careers in public service, offers applicants a career-support network that is every bit as valuable as its funding package.

If you are not a current undergraduate student, then you’ll need to look elsewhere for your graduate school fellowships and scholarships. I recommend using the following university web pages and nonprofit services to find external funding that suits your degree program and needs:****

When you’re looking through these websites, I recommend starting a spreadsheet of fellowship, links, deadlines, and application components to keep yourself organized. Usually, these components will include personal statements, letters of recommendation, and transcripts. Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog post on how to write a personal statement for graduate school scholarships—and how to recycle one personal statement for a wide variety of funding opportunities. It can be challenging to keep track of different external scholarship deadlines and components, so feel free to reach out to a Crimson Strategist if you’d like some personalized assistance!


Scholarships For Masters Abroad

Thus far, you’ve learned about “internal” versus “external” funding—but those aren’t the only categories that matter in the world of scholarships. Academic funding can be incredibly specific. Another rich category of scholarships for Masters students is for foreign nationals who wish to earn their degrees in the UK. Several of these scholarships are only open to applicants from the US, but some will fund students from a long list of countries: 

For anyone interested in earning a Masters outside of the US and UK, the Fulbright Program funds students to study and teach in a wide variety of countries. To get a Fulbright or any of the scholarships listed above, you will need stellar grades, excellent letters of recommendation (up to 8 for the Rhodes), an endorsement from your school (in some cases), a clear personal statement, supplemental essays, and excellent interviewing skills. The process of applying to all of these scholarships generally begins the summer before the year that you plan to apply to graduate school. If these scholarships excite you, or if you’re curious to learn more, reach out to Crimson, and a mentor will work with you to help you find funding for your degree!

Reference List

  1. Note: this blog will not explore sources of funding for professional degrees (e.g., JD, MD, MPP). If you’re looking for an expert on JD or MD funding, check out “Dear Future Colleague,” a 501(c)(3) organization! 
  1. Loginova, Elena. “Postgraduate Admissions: Funding.” Text. The University of Cambridge, August 19, 2020. https://www.postgraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/funding.