Picture this: a future where you have the education and qualifications to excel in your graphic design career. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Yet, for many master’s students, the financial pressure of getting your graduate degree in graphic design looms heavily, casting a shadow over those dreams.
We get it. Earning a master’s degree can put quite a strain on your wallet. And you’re not alone. According to The Education Data Initiative, master’s students in the visual and performing arts carry the second highest amounts of debt, at a whopping $63,830 on average. But here’s the silver lining: scholarships and resources for graphic design students can help you pay for grad school and significantly reduce the financial burden.
Ready to get started? Use this guide to find scholarship opportunities to fund your graduate degree in graphic design and make your dreams of affordable higher education a reality.
Graphic Design Scholarships for Master’s Students
Choosing the right master’s program can be tricky and demands an honest assessment of your strengths and ambitions. Setting your sights on a master’s in graphic design can feel both exciting and daunting. While academic challenges lay ahead, it’s often the financial aspects that raise the most concern for grad students.
Fortunately, there are plenty of scholarships available to graphic design master’s students. Whether you’re a game design guru, a digital design maven, or an aspiring art director, there’s a scholarship for you. The following list provides opportunities to empower graphic design students and lighten the financial load.
General Graphic Design Scholarships
AIGA designed this award for students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in graphic design, illustration, or photography. While race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability/disability, and other factors are not requirements for eligibility, judges consider these factors to elevate representation in the profession.
Scholarship amount: $2,500 – $3,750
- All applicants are asked to submit portfolios that exemplify work and desired career path, along with a statement of purpose.
- Graduate students must express a plan to inspire social and environmental responsibility and cultural awareness in upcoming artists and designers.
- Applicants must demonstrate a clear career path and point of view, such as teaching, mentoring minorities, or serving in a specific capacity.
The Dow Jones News Fund Digital Media Internship was created for full-time students in all visual media-related fields. In this immersive program, students learn various visual and audio storytelling techniques in areas like video production, graphic design, and website design. Awardees receive training, a 10-week paid internship, and a scholarship award.
Scholarship amount: $1,500
- Applicants must submit an online application, resume, and transcript, and take a timed online test.
- Students should submit 3-5 work samples of original digital content, data journalism-related code, or data visualization.
- Two references are required to apply for this scholarship.
The PAVE Global Student Visionary Award supports up-and-coming design students. The award is open to undergrad and graduate students studying design, architecture, or visual merchandising who aspire to work in consumer-facing environments. All submissions are judged blind by a panel of industry professionals; three students receive the award.
Scholarship amount: $7,500
- Applicants must be enrolled full time in an undergrad or grad program.
- Students are asked to submit one project that exemplifies human and community connection, sustainability, cultural awareness/DEI, universal design, or educational innovations.
- Project PDFs and current transcripts are required.
Graphic Design Scholarships for BIPOC Students
The Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship provides funding and promotion to Asian American students majoring in the performing and visual arts, journalism, and mass communications. To apply, students must be of at least 25% Asian and/or Pacific Islander ethnicity.
Scholarship amount: $1,000
- Students must have a 3.0 minimum GPA and demonstrate leadership abilities through community service, extracurriculars, or other similar activities.
- Applicants are judged according to essay and portfolio submission, academic performance, leadership, letters of recommendation, and interview performance.
- Winners must submit a 1-minute “thank you” video for social media.
The CBC Foundation has established these performing and visual arts scholarships to provide financial aid to African-American and Black students pursuing degrees in graphic design, illustration, architecture, and photography. Ten applicants are selected each year for this scholarship award.
Scholarship amount: $5,000
- Applicants must be graduating high school seniors or scholars pursuing an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree in performing or visual arts.
- Any student in the field may apply, regardless of their congressional district.
- While this scholarship is not renewable, students may apply for consecutive years if they meet eligibility requirements.
The TDC offers two separate scholarships for BIPOC individuals. The Ezhishin Scholarship is for Native American and First Nation students involved in typography, type design, or linguistic work. TheAdé Hogue Scholarship is for an outstanding BIPOC student in their junior year of college or first-year graduate or postgraduate work. To win this scholarship, a student must demonstrate talent in creating letterforms.
Scholarship amount: $5,000
- Students must submit three samples of work, detailed in up to five images, videos, or texts and a short paragraph.
- Applicants should also submit a 250-word statement about themselves and their work.
- If advanced to the second round, students must provide letters of recommendation.
Graphic Design Scholarships for LGBTQ+ Students
The API-Cutesy scholarship recognizes current or future API queer and trans community leaders. Students of any certificate or degree-granting program may apply; however, they must prove their dedication to their chosen profession and the community. Two awardees will be recognized each year.
Scholarship amount: $2,500
- Applicants must be API lesbian, bisexual, or queer women.
- Submissions must include a cover letter, resume, and portfolio.
- Applicants are asked to detail how their cultural heritage, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity influenced their educational choices, dedication to the API queer community, and future goals.
This scholarship is awarded by Gay Gaming Professionals to students pursuing a degree that leads to careers in video game creation, managing a collegiate esports team or club, or actively pursuing streaming content creation. Ideal applicants are not only academically aligned with award criteria but also dedicated to serving the LGBTQ+ communities around them.
Scholarship amount: Varies
- Must be a woman, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming, LGBTQ+, or a racial/ethnic minority.
- Show a commitment to serving the local, regional, and/or national LGBTQ+ communities.
- Be actively involved in performing service with LGBTQ+ organizations in their area.
The Point Flagship Scholarship exists to lift up LGBTQ+ students who are earning their college degrees at any educational level. In addition to financial support, recipients gain access to leadership development programs, mentorship or coaching, and a supportive alum network. Depending on financial need, students may receive this scholarship for up to four years.
Scholarship amount: Varies based on financial need.
- Must be “out” as someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
- Enrolled in a degree-granting bachelor’s, graduate, or professional program at a degree-granting institution in the United States.
- Have a demonstrated financial need.
Graphic Design Scholarships for Women
The Computational and Graphic Design Fellowship aims to increase the diversity of students pursuing graduate degrees in data and computational science. Specifically for women or students from racial/ethnic backgrounds who have not traditionally participated in the computing field, the program is open to students pursuing degrees at institutions anywhere in the world.
Scholarship amount: $15,000
- Nomination submitted by the student’s current or future advisor.
- CV and candidate statement submitted by the student.
- Brief endorsement submitted by a current or former instructor, project supervisor, or employer who can speak to the student’s past accomplishments and suitability.
The HLR Scholarship supports students who represent historically marginalized voices in the creative industry. Four recipients are chosen each year to receive the scholarship and paid internship at a Wunderman Thompson office in their region.
Scholarship amount: $10,000
- Be a woman or nonbinary individual currently studying in a creative field.
- Show exceptional talent and potential in art direction, copywriting, design, experiential design, sculpture, film, or other creative courses of study.
- Submit 3-5 pieces of work that showcase creativity and innovation in a chosen field.
The Systers Pass it On Award honors Anita Borg’s wish to support a network of creative women technologists. Any woman who works or aspires to work in the computing field may receive this award. However, recipients of this award are expected to “pass on” the benefits gained to other women.
Scholarship amount: $1,000
- Submit a detailed proposal to use the award money for projects benefiting girls or women, inspiring women to join technical fields or educational funding.
- Detail future plans to “pass on” the benefits received from the program to uplift other girls and women in technological studies and/or professions.
- Submit a letter of recommendation.
Expert Tips for Landing a Graphic Design Scholarship in Grad School
To secure a graphic design scholarship, you’ll have to do more than simply meet the minimum criteria. You’ll also need to stand out from the crowd. To go above and beyond, you’ll need to stay focused, driven, and organized. You can think of the following steps as personalized design guidelines for making your scholarship applications shine.
Tip 1: Create a Portfolio
Your portfolio is a reflection of your skills and your brand. At the graduate level, it should be more than a collection of your works; it should tell a story about user journeys and your ambition as a designer. Dribbble recommends incorporating between three and six strong case studies or projects and adding your personal touch to every piece of your portfolio. With strong branding, your portfolio won’t just be seen by judges, it will be remembered.
Tip 2: Cast a Wide Scholarship Net
Applying for scholarships can be quite competitive, and according to Forbes, only one in eight college students wins one. Bold.org advises students to apply for many scholarships—you won’t receive everything you qualify for, and the more scholarships you apply for, the higher your chances of receiving one. However, managing multiple application criteria, deadlines, and notification dates can become stressful. Stay organized with a spreadsheet that details scholarship names, deadlines, and award amounts so you never miss an opportunity.
Tip 3: Spotlight Your Unique Journey
While many students may apply for a scholarship, there’s only one you. At the graduate level, sponsors are most interested in investing in prospective industry leaders. So, make sure to shine a light on your achievements. The University of Oregon suggests highlighting recognitions, talents, and leadership roles. Every experience, be it personal or professional, adds a unique facet to your story. Don’t shy away from sharing; these tidbits can become the most compelling parts of your application.
Tip 4: Tailor Your Approach
While many graphic design scholarships are similar, no two criteria are precisely alike. And these scholarships are often funded by organizations and individuals deeply entrenched in the industry. Aligning your application with the ethos and values of the sponsors can help your application stand out. If a scholarship is offered by a company championing sustainable design, emphasize your eco-friendly projects. These minor tweaks that reflect an organization’s preferences can significantly boost your application’s appeal.
Tip 5: Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Remember, submitting a quality scholarship application takes time, and asking for and receiving letters of recommendation requires plenty of notice. Rushed submissions often lack polish and depth. Start early and treat scholarship applications like you are applying for a job. Spending quality time and care putting together each submission is a testament to your dedication and potential as a future graphic design leader.
Resources for Graphic Design Master’s Students
Ready to get started on your master’s in graphic design? Here’s a curated list of resources to guide, inspire, and support your academic journey.
- African-American Graphic Designers
This community is made up of communicators and media makers in the African-American community. They empower Black creatives by nurturing business growth, providing community services, and fostering a vibrant community.
- The Professional Association for Design (AIGA)
As the graphic design industry’s oldest and largest membership organization, AIGA provides professional development, continuing education, and networking opportunities to graphic designers and other design professionals.
Behance is Adobe’s online creative social media platform where creatives showcase and discover portfolios, spanning industries including graphic design, photography, and more.
- Design Observer
Design Observer is a digital platform dedicated to discussions on design, visual culture, and related disciplines, offering insightful articles, podcasts, and critiques from industry professionals and enthusiasts.
- The Futur with Chris Do
Chris Do hosts this podcast exploring the intersection of design, marketing, and business. Guests include leaders in the worlds of design, tech, marketing, and business.
- Graphic Artists Guild
Comprised of graphic professionals, this guild has several chapters in the U.S. They also publish the Pricing and Ethical Guidelines Handbook, which is considered the industry standard.
- International Color Association
The AIC is a global body promoting the study of color across disciplines, fostering knowledge exchange, research, and communication on color-related topics.
- The International Game Developers Association
IGDA is the world’s largest nonprofit membership organization serving all individuals who create video games, promoting professional development and networking, and advocating for the interests of game developers.
- The One Club
The One Club for Creativity is a global nonprofit organization that celebrates excellence in advertising and design, offering awards, professional development, and fostering creative innovation worldwide.
- Queer Design Club
Queer Design Club is a global community of LGBTQ+ designers, fostering representation and collaboration, providing a platform for members to share work, experiences, and resources.
- The Society for Experiential Graphic Design
SEGD is a global community dedicated to creating experiences that connect people to places through environmental graphics and design. They aim to make the built environment more inclusive, engaging, and shared.
- The Society of Illustrators
This renowned organization is dedicated to promoting the art and appreciation of illustration. Based in New York, it has hosted exhibitions, events, and educational programs since 1901.
- Society of Illustrators, Artists & Designers
London-based SIAD champions the professional interests of creatives, fostering community, exhibitions, and education in illustration, art, and design disciplines. Accreditation is open to all creatives worldwide.
- Society for News Design
SND is an international organization supporting news media professionals in creating and implementing visually compelling and informative storytelling designs.