So, your hard work has paid off and you’ve made it into grad school. The question now becomes how to support yourself during your education. While loans, scholarships, and part-time work are all potential ways of funding graduate school, grants are an often-overlooked option.
Grants are money given by an institution (public, private, or government) to fund a specific purpose. Unlike scholarships, which are based on academic merit, grants are awarded based on a wide variety of criteria, including financial need. Each grant has different eligibility requirements, so it pays to search and review grant offerings diligently. Keep reading to discover the different types of grants and find some you can apply for right away.
Different Types of Grants
Grants for graduate school vary according to source, purpose, and requirements. Many are for specific types of educational programs or for students from specific locations or populations. This wide variety means that most graduate students are eligible to apply for at least some grants.
The sheer number of grants available can be intimidating, though, and make it difficult to dive into your search. To simplify things, it helps to understand the different types of grants available. Grants are usually organized by what kind of institution is offering them. Understanding the following categories helps narrow your search.
The United States federal government offers four distinct grant programs. These are Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants. Pell Grants and FSEOG are awarded based on need, while Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants and TEACH grants are meant for specific student populations.
Students apply for these grants via the FAFSA, which is required every year a student receives the grant. The FAFSA is also required to prove income for many state and institutional grants.
Many states offer grants to their residents. Like federal grants, state grants may be based exclusively on need, such as the California State University Grant. On the other hand, some grants exist to promote specific industries or fields of research that a state is known for. For example, the Ohio Geological Survey offers a grant to students conducting research in geology.
Students at public universities can be automatically considered for some grants when they complete the FAFSA or other general financial aid application. Others, particularly those for specific areas of research or study, require separate applications.
Institutional grants refer to any grant offered by an independent group. These include educational institutions, nonprofits, government organizations, professional groups, and private companies. In many cases students are automatically considered for grants offered through their university, while grants from other institutions typically require an additional application.
One example of institutional grants offered by a nonprofit are the grants offered by the American Chemical Society(ACS). The ACS provides a wide variety of grants to graduate students studying chemistry and chemical engineering.
The Big List of Graduate School Grants
Now that you understand the broad categories of grants, it’s time to jump into specifics. Below is a selection of federal, state, and institutional grants. While you will likely have to do some searching on your own, these provide a great jumping off point. They’ll also give you a good idea of the wide variety of grants available across institutions and fields.
- Pell Grant: Federal Pell Grants are a need-based grant typically only given for students pursuing an undergraduate degree. However, some students in post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs are also eligible for Pell Grants. The amount of each Pell Grant varies by year and by person. For the 2022-23 school year, the maximum possible Pell Grant is $6,985. Awards vary by the student’s expected contributions, whether they’re a full or part-time student, and the length of time they plan on attending school. Students must submit the FAFSA annually to maintain eligibility for the grant.
- FSEOG: These grants are reserved for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. The FSEOG is meant to allow for flexibility in granting more money than FAFSA limits allow. Awards vary between $100 and $4,000 and are determined exclusively by student need. The FAFSA is also used to apply for FSEOG. Students must submit the FAFSA annually to maintain eligibility for the grant.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants: Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are for students who have a parent or guardian who died serving in the military or in Afghanistan following 9/11 and were either under 24 years old or were enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of their parent’s death. These grants are intended for undergraduate or professional education for students who aren’t eligible for a Pell grant because their expected family contribution is too high. Students apply for Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants by submitting the FAFSA. For the 2022-23 school year, the maximum Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is $6,895.
- TEACH Grants: TEACH Grants require students to commit to working as public school teachers for low-income students after completing their education. In 2023, these grants provide funding of up to $3,772 a year for students completing degrees necessary to become a teacher. Eligible programs include bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and post-baccalaureate programs. Students who don’t complete their service will have their grants converted into direct unsubsidized loans. TEACH Grants are also administered via the FAFSA. Applicants must complete TEACH Grant counseling that explains the terms and conditions of the grant and details their period of service.
- California State University Grant Program: California State University offers need-based grants to graduate students in the state university system. Awards are available for California residents and others who meet requirements, such as AB-540 eligible students given an exception under California law. Students must have an expected family contribution of less than $4,000. Exact award policies and requirements vary by campus. Awards are typically $7,176 for graduate/post-baccalaureate students, covering the entirety of the state university fee. Students are automatically considered for the State University Grant program when they submit either the FAFSA or the California Dream Act Application.
- Colorado Graduate Grant: The Colorado Graduate Grant is a need-based grant offered to residents of Colorado attending graduate school at a state university. To qualify, the student’s estimated family contribution must be $10,000 or less. Additionally, they must take a minimum of four credit hours. Award values vary depending on the student’s major and estimated family contribution. The award is intended to support a complete financial aid offer. Students must submit the FAFSA to be considered for the grant.
- Maryland Graduate and Professional Scholarship Program: The state of Maryland offers the Maryland Graduate and Professional Scholarship Program, which is need-based financial assistance for Maryland residents pursuing a select range of degrees at select Maryland schools. Students must be pursuing degrees in dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work, or veterinary medicine. Award amounts range between $1,000 and $5,000 and are renewable for a maximum of eight semesters. To apply for the award, students must complete the FAFSA, then contact their school’s financial aid office to let them know they would like to be considered for the award.
- Virginia Commonwealth Award: The Virginia Commonwealth Award is a state-sponsored grant for both undergraduate and graduate students at public schools in the state of Virginia. For graduate students to be eligible, they must be enrolled in a degree-granting graduate program at a Virginia public university or college and be compliant with all selective service requirements. Funds may be given to both in-state and out-of-state graduate students. Specific eligibility requirements vary by university. Award amounts are based on the availability of funding. Students are automatically considered for the Virginia Commonwealth Award when they submit either the FAFSA or the Virginia Alternative State Aid Application.
- NYS Math and Science Teaching Incentive Program: New York State’s Math and Science Teaching Incentive Program is a grant designed to lower the financial burden of pursuing the education necessary to become a math or science teacher. Students must attend their program full-time and agree to serve for five years as a math or science teacher at a New York public school after graduation. They must also maintain a 2.5 or higher GPA in school. The award fully covers tuition for a New York State resident at any SUNY school ($7,070 in the 2022-23 school year). To apply, students must complete the FAFSA, NYS Tuition Assistance Program application, and a supplemental grant application.
- Texas Public Educational Grant Program: The Texas Public Educational Grant Program is a need-based grant offered to all students studying at a public school in the state of Texas, including nonresidents and foreign students. While the award is available to both undergraduate and graduate students, individual colleges and universities may set their priorities on which student populations are eligible. Award amounts vary by college and by program. Students are automatically considered for this grant if they complete the FAFSA and will be notified by their school’s financial aid office if they receive the grant.
- American Association of University Women Career Advancement Grant: The American Association of University Women offers a Career Advancement Grant for women with bachelor’s degrees looking to advance or change careers. They must be pursuing an additional degree or certification in education, health, STEM, or social sciences. Funding is not available for JD, MBA, MD, or DO programs. The applicant’s most recent degree must have been received prior to June 30, 2015. Awards range from $2,000 to $20,000. Preference is given to women pursuing nontraditional degrees and those from underrepresented backgrounds. The application includes information on the applicant’s background, a proposal for how they will use the grant, and a letter of recommendation.
- ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable Research Grant: The ACS CGI Pharmaceutical Roundtable Research Grant is designed to help fund research for more efficient synthetic chemistry processes for pharmaceutical development and production. The awarding body, the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable, is dedicated to promoting environmentally conscious green chemistry and engineering. The award is open to students as well as faculty and industry professionals. The request for proposals opens annually in March. Each year’s request highlights key research challenges in the pharmaceutical industry, with project proposals designed to address these challenges. Awards are between $25,000 and $50,000.
- Harry S. Truman Public Service Scholarship: The Truman Foundation offers a scholarship for students planning on pursuing a graduate degree to support a career in public service. The program is open to providing funds for any graduate degree other than an MBA. The Truman Scholarship award is $30,000. Recipients also participate in a Truman Scholars Leadership week and are invited to participate in affiliated summer internships and post-undergraduate fellowships. Applicants must be nominated by their current school and work with an advisor at their school. Applications are due during a student’s next-to-last year of undergraduate education.
- ASHRAE Grant-in-Aid Award: The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) offers a grant for graduate students pursuing a degree related to heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. The $10,000 award is designed to support tuition and to pay for the recipient’s attendance at ASHRAE’s winter meeting or annual meeting. Grant recipients receive an additional $1,500 if they write and present a peer-reviewed paper at an ASHRAE meeting or publish an article in the journal Science and Technology for the Built Environment. Applications include student history, a description of the student’s thesis or research project, official transcripts, and information from the applicant’s faculty advisor.
- Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) Graduate Education Fellowship: The SLAS offers a grant for students pursuing degrees related to research and development in life sciences. Students don’t apply for the grant themselves; rather, their application must come from the student’s academic institution, submitted by their primary research investigator or mentor. The award is worth up to $50,000 per year for two years, with at least 70% of the money going to the grant recipient as a stipend and no more than 30% being spent on cost-of-education allowances for nontuition fees. Additionally, all tuition/fees must be waived for the recipient.
- Clara Mayo Grant Program: Administered by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), the Clara Mayo Grant Program is designated to support master’s theses and predissertation research on sexism, racism, or prejudice. The grant is open to SPSSI members studying psychology, applied social science, or a related discipline. Each grant is worth up to $1,000; applications in which the university matches the amount requested receive preferential consideration. Applications are available online and must include a grant proposal, faculty advisor’s recommendation, and any institutional agreement to match the funds.
- Wayne F. Placek Grants: Wayne F. Placek Grants are awarded by the American Psychological Foundation to promote research that supports the general public’s understanding of homosexuality and sexual orientation and to support the LGBT community. The program is open to both doctoral-level researchers and graduate students affiliated with an educational institution researching LGBT issues and concerns and heterosexual attitudes towards the LGBT community. The award is worth $15,000. Online applications must include a project proposal, which is the main feature on which the application will be evaluated. Other criteria include the applicant’s research history as it demonstrates their scholarship and skill in the research process.
- Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship: Goldman Sachs offers a fellowship to first-year MBA students applying to work as summer associates. Applicants must be Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Indigenous, women, or a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This program covers positions in asset management, consumer and wealth management, or investment banking. Award recipients receive $35,000 in addition to their salary as a summer associate. Upon successful completion of the program and the acceptance of a full-time position, recipients receive $40,000 in addition to any signing bonus. Applications can be submitted through the Goldman Sachs website.
- Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans: The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans are graduate school fellowships for American immigrants and children of immigrants determined to be poised to make a significant contribution to US society, culture, or their field of study. Students from all fields and degree types are encouraged to apply. The fellowship award is up to $90,000 over two years, based on the cost of tuition and other factors. Students apply for the fellowship while applying for graduate school or within the first two years of their program. Fellows are expected to attend an annual conference in New York City, paid for by the program.
- Smithsonian Institution Fellowships: The Smithsonian offers a variety of fellowships for graduate, doctoral, and postdoctoral researchers. The fellowships provide opportunities to research or study Smithsonian collections and facilities or to conduct research in line with the interests of the Smithsonian. Subjects of study are varied, and interdisciplinary research is encouraged. Students enrolled in a graduate program who have completed at least one semester are eligible. While program awards vary, the minimum award is an $8,000 stipend for the Ten-Week Graduate Student fellowship. Applications must include an abstract, research proposal, timeline, diversity statement, budget and justification, bibliography, CV, transcripts, and two letters of reference.
How to Earn a Grad School Grant
Once you’ve found a grant to apply for, the process can still be intimidating. Between strict deadlines and requirements and fierce competition, starting the application can be daunting. Below are some tips to make your application successful.
Be on the Lookout for Grant Funding Opportunities
Different grant applications are open at all points of the year, meaning there are always new opportunities to apply for. Check out websites such as grants.gov or the websites of financial institutions such as Sallie Mae. Pay attention to your email inbox—your school may send out alerts for new opportunities. The more applications you complete, the more likely one will be a success.
Build Relationships with Professors and Advisors
It’s their job to guide you through this process, and they have strong networks of their own. While national databases feature the largest, most public grants, many local organizations also offer funding opportunities. These typically come to the attention of professors and school financial aid offices, so make sure to keep in touch with those contacts to stay on top of new opportunities.
Search Organizations in Your Field for Funding Opportunities
Many trade, research, and educational organizations offer grants themselves, such as the ACS and the Institute of Education Sciences. These grants are industry-specific and can often be quite competitive. However, that prestige can provide a great way to boost your resume in addition to saving you money on your education.
Complete the Application Correctly
Applying for grants is difficult enough; you don’t want to lose out on an opportunity due to a sloppy mistake. Double-check all requirements, and make sure to confirm that your application has been received. Have another trusted person, such as a program advisor or colleague, look over your work for completeness, accuracy, spelling, and grammar.
Let Grant Directors Know Who You Are
Discuss your school accomplishments and professional goals, along with a little bit about what drives you to tell your story and help you stand out. While many people may be applying for a grant, you’re a one-of-a-kind applicant. Make sure that your application reflects both your qualifications and your personality. Remember, grant directors read huge piles of applications, so balancing your personality with your professional qualifications makes your application stand out.
Stay Organized and on Top of Deadlines
With so many different grants to apply for, it can be hard to keep track of when everything is due. You can’t earn a grant if you don’t apply on time. To stay organized, create a central calendar for all your deadlines. Applications take a fair amount of time, so it’s also helpful to set goals for how much progress you want to make by a certain date.
Interview with a Financial Aid Advisor
We sat down with Amanda Gomes, a PhD Student at the Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies, Hokkaido University in Japan. They share their experience with applying for grants as a way to fund their master’s degree and PhD. Amanda is an experienced researcher and educator with a demonstrated history of working in the museums and institutions of higher learning. They have a Master of Arts (M.A.) in both Public Archaeology from UCL and East Asian Studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
1. When did you start considering grants as part of their graduate funding plan?
Whenever I look into graduate programs, I will immediately add financial aid/grants to a list of my considerations.
2. How long did you devote to financial aid applications?
It’s difficult to estimate the amount of time I have dedicated to financial aid applications, as resources are dependent upon the university, the program, and personal factors. If I met the criteria of financial aid provided or accumulated by the institution, I would be sure to apply provided that the process required about the same time and energy as the application for the program itself. However, I was more discerning with the time I allotted to searching and applying for alternative funding bodies on my own.
3. Who would you recommend graduate students develop relationships with to guide them through funding their degree?
I would recommend graduate students reach out to the university’s financial aid office for initial guidance. I’ve also found success with networking with other graduate students in similar fields. I have not found much success in speaking with advisors or other professors, but I have heard of others having more success with that option.
4. Other than additional funding, what benefits have grants provided you?
One grant I received has connected me with a network of international scholars. I list it on my C.V. as it recognized as a major achievement in my field of study. Additionally, grant writing has helped me develop the ability to concisely frame my research to meet the criteria of a given application, which is necessary for future scholarship.
5. Did anyone provide you any feedback on your grant applications?
On occasion, I have turned to fellow students, advisors, and colleagues to look over my applications prior to sending it in. I feel more confident with my application knowing that it has already been reviewed by at least one other person.