Graduate school-based fellowships, assistantships, and scholarships
Many schools offer fellowships, assistantships, grants, and scholarships for their graduate students. Grants are usually need-based while scholarships may be need- or merit-based.3 Graduate fellowships and assistantships are generally merit-based, so if you graduated from college with a high GPA, you may qualify for one.
Assistantships for graduate students can be research-based (RA) or teaching-based (TA). Both roles may include tuition remission, which means the school will pay for you to attend. They also may give you a living stipend to help pay for food and rent. In exchange, graduate students generally work 15 – 20 hours for a professor on campus, either assisting with research or helping teach a course. You may also have the option to work as a graduate resident assistant (GRA). This role may offer you free room and board on campus and a stipend, which will cut down on your living costs. In return, you work part-time in an on-campus residence hall, usually with undergraduates.
Graduate fellowships are like assistantships, but don’t require you to work on campus for a set number of hours. A fellowship may include tuition remission and/or a living stipend.
Schools offer different graduate assistantship, scholarship, and fellowship programs with different ways to apply. You may need to fill out a separate application or complete an essay to qualify. Check the websites of the schools you’re applying to or talk to their department heads to find out more about these ways to pay for graduate school.
Other fellowships and scholarships
Depending on your area, you may be eligible for graduate fellowships, grants, and scholarships that aren’t associated with your school (sometimes called “outside” scholarships or fellowships on college websites).
Organizations like the National Science Foundation, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and others offer fellowships to graduate students. These fellowships are usually awarded to outstanding students in their field of study, and give them a set amount of money to cover the cost of tuition and/or living expenses.
Professional associations related to your field also may offer grants and scholarships to graduate students, or have the resources to help you find them. For example, the American Economic Association offers information on funding for professionals and students. You can search for more graduate school scholarships for free using our Scholarship Search tool.
Ask department heads for more information on what fellowships, scholarships, and grants have helped previous students pay for grad school.
Learn more about finding graduate scholarships and grants and fellowships.
2. Explore federal student loans to pay for graduate school
After you’ve researched scholarships and assistantships, you may be able to receive federal financial aid for your graduate degree through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). You could be eligible for the following:
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans (sometimes referred to as “Stafford Loans”) have a fixed-interest rate and are unsubsidized, which means you’re responsible for paying all the interest on these loans.
- Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans: Direct Graduate PLUS Loans are credit-based and have a higher fixed-interest rate than Federal Direct Loans.
- School-funded aid: Your school may offer additional financial aid, including Federal Work-Study positions that enable students to work on campus part-time to help pay for living expenses. The type of aid available will vary, and you may need to apply for it separately. Check with your school’s financial aid office to learn more.4
- State aid: You may also get state assistance. When you fill out your FAFSA application, you’ll get more information on whether graduate student aid is available in your state. You can also check your state’s website for opportunities.5
Learn more about applying for financial aid for graduate students.