Find graduate school scholarships

Learn why scholarships—free money that you don’t have to pay back—are important and how to search for them to help you pay for graduate school.

Free money for your graduate degree

The first step of the 1-2-3 approach to paying for graduate school is to look for—and use—free money that you don’t have to pay back. Free money can be that missing piece of the puzzle to help you pay—every little bit can help. The most likely sources will be from graduate school scholarships, grants, and fellowships for graduate students.

The difference among scholarships, grants, and fellowships for graduate students

Graduate school scholarships are available through organizations, companies, states, and more. They can be need-based or merit-based, but you have to apply for them.

Grants for graduate school are like scholarships in that you don’t have to pay them back. If you withdraw from school or otherwise fail to maintain eligibility for the grant, you may have to refund part or all of the grant, so know the individual grant’s rules. While scholarships are often merit-based, grants are need-based and can relate to your prospective field.

Fellowships for graduate students generally relate to a short-term opportunity to study or conduct research in a specific field. Awarded for academic excellence, they can include an internship or other service commitment and can pay for living expenses, or offer a stipend. Fellowship opportunities can be found in most graduate fields.

of grad students take advantage of “free money.”

Source: How America Pays for Graduate School, from Sallie Mae and Ipsos.

How Tevin is using scholarships for graduate school

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More ways to find graduate school scholarships

Scholarships are available through organizations, companies, states, and more. They can be need-based or merit-based, but you must apply for them.

Scholarship award amounts for graduate students tend to be more modest than for undergrads, but they can add up. An extra $1,000 – $2,000 can help reduce your living expenses for a month. Here are some different ways to customize your search for graduate school scholarships:

  • By school: Many universities offer scholarships to graduate students from their own funds to attract students with the strongest academic performance. Your school or program is a great source to learn about these opportunities.
  • By field: If you’re entering a program where your expertise is in short supply—especially in the STEM areas—focus on graduate scholarships from corporations, professional organizations, and foundations.
  • By demographic: Graduate school scholarships are available for specific populations, such as women and minorities, including African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans. They’re also available for students, foster children, first-generation college students, and non-traditional students who are cognitively and physically disabled.
  • By region: There’s often more attention paid to national scholarships. But don’t forget to search for scholarship opportunities for graduate students from your home state or region—a smaller candidate pool can increase your chances. Call your state’s Department of Education for information.

Tips for applying for graduate school scholarships

  1. Be methodical. Keep track of the essay questions you’ve already answered—you can use them in additional applications.
  2. Don’t box yourself in. Along with field-specific scholarships, consider the criteria that you used as an undergrad. Broaden your search and look for graduate school scholarships based on your region, ethnicity, interest, religious affiliation, or hobbies.
  3. Make a scholarship budget. Searching for graduate scholarships may be free, but some documents that you need for your application may come at a cost, like transcripts. Be sure to keep your budget in mind when paying for these documents.

Meet the grad students who won our Bridging the Dream Scholarship

Four students shared their inspiring journeys to grad school with us and earned a $20,000 scholarship for their graduate or professional education.

Read the winners’ stories

Still need money to pay for graduate school? Explore our specialized student loans for graduate students to find the support you need.

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footnote 1. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Ends 12/31/2024. See Official Rules.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.