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4 tips for finding graduate school scholarships

Grad school • November 20, 2018 • Cody Sain


What you’ll learn

  • Sometimes you can use undergrad scholarships for grad school
  • Clubs and organizations often offer grad scholarships
  • To ask around for grad school scholarship opportunities


I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. However, thinking about paying for that education didn’t cross my mind until I got accepted to my first medical school. Then reality set in, and I had to figure out how to pay for it all. I decided to start with scholarships.

Here are my tips for finding graduate school scholarships

  1. Use undergrad money if you can

    When I first started thinking about how to pay for graduate school, I got lucky—one of my undergraduate scholarships could be utilized for graduate school within ten years. However, it wouldn’t cover the whole bill and I knew there had to be more opportunities out there. The next step in paying for graduate school was searching for graduate school scholarships.

  2. Don’t give up

    My grad school scholarship search wasn’t as easy as it had been four years earlier when I was applying for college. Back then, I could find several scholarships within minutes that all seemed to be applicable to me, but the search for scholarships for grad school (and professional school on top of that) was more difficult.

    Graduate school scholarships do exist, but I found that many are limited to students already in graduate school or are state- or region- specific. Still, I continued to spend my extra time searching for graduate school scholarships that fit me.

  3. Take chances

    During my search, I received an email from a financial aid officer encouraging students to apply for a new graduate school scholarship from Sallie Mae.

    As soon as I received the email, I quickly combed through the eligibility for the scholarship, expecting to be excluded, but I discovered that I was free to apply! Although I figured I had little chance of receiving the scholarship because of its few awardees, I worked on my submission materials for a few weeks, had my sister review my essay, completed any edits, and hit submit.

    I’d soon learn I was one of the scholarship winners, but I didn’t know that yet. At the time, I just felt relieved and accomplished because I had finally found a scholarship that could help me pay for medical school. Then I reoriented myself and continued the search for more!

  4. Join clubs and organizations

    After discovering there were few national scholarships available to me, I began to search in new areas. Luckily, a national organization that I was a member of offered an annual scholarship, so I saw that as another opportunity to help pay for graduate school.

    In retrospect, I wish I had joined more national organizations. I was put-off by some because of their high membership fees, but many offer scholarship opportunities that could have been useful.

    Pro tip:
    Take advantage of professional organizations in your field—they might come in handy during your own scholarship search and beyond.

Remember the scholarship motto

In all, searching for scholarships isn’t always easy, and for students wanting to pursue graduate school, the search might be even more strenuous. However, there are corporations that offer national graduate school scholarships, and there are scholarship search tools for graduate students that can help you along the way.

When searching and applying for scholarships, I always treat it like a part-time job because it could literally pay off. Never be afraid to do the extra work that some scholarships take, because with great commitment comes great reward. Speaking from experience, you can’t win them all—but if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t get them.

The scholarship motto is to search often, apply as applicable, and reapply if necessary!


Cody is a medical student with a background in service learning. He hopes to become an anesthesiologist or work in palliative medicine. He is a 2018 Bridging the Dream for Graduate Students scholarship winner.


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Sallie Mae does not provide financial, tax, or legal advice and the information contained in this article does not constitute tax, legal, or financial advice. Sallie Mae does not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Sallie Mae.