What you need to know about grants for graduate school

Grants are a type of financial aid that are awarded to help cover education costs, including graduate school

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Grants for graduate school can help you fund your higher-education costs. Learn what they are and how to find them. (Shutterstock)

Graduate school can be a great way to expand your skill set and increase your earning potential — but it can be expensive. Fortunately, grants are available to help you pay for grad school. 

Let’s take a closer look at graduate school grants, the various types of grants available, and other graduate school funding options to consider.

If you’re curious about student loans for graduate school, you can also use Credible to compare private student loan rates and learn about your options.

What are grants for graduate school?

Grants are a type of financial aid available to college students, including those in graduate school. They’re usually based on financial need or the cost to attend your school minus how much you and your family can contribute. Unlike student loans, most grants don’t need to be paid back, which will reduce your total costs to attend graduate school

You may find grants from the federal government, your state government, a private organization, or a corporation. 

Federal grants for graduate school

Federal grants are monetary awards offered by the federal government to help you pay for college or career school. 

You may have heard of a Pell Grant, which the U.S. Department of Education only awards to undergraduate students. But federal grants for grad students are also available, including: 

TEACH Grant

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant offers up to $4,000 per year to cover the cost of your graduate degree. To be eligible, you must agree to teach full-time for four school years in a high-need field. Foreign language, mathematics, science, and special education are some examples of high-need fields. You must also teach in a low-income area in an elementary or secondary school, or an educational agency. 

It’s important to note that if you don’t complete your service obligation for the TEACH Grant, it’ll be converted into a federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, which you’ll need to repay with interest. The interest will be charged from the date each TEACH Grant is disbursed. 

To learn more about TEACH Grants, visit the Federal Student Aid website

Fulbright Grant

Administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers grants for individual study or research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs to graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals. 

To qualify for this grant program, you must commit to an academic year abroad in a different country. In addition, you’ll need to prove that you hold a bachelor’s degree, are in good health, and have sufficient language skills in the country you’ve chosen.

To learn more about Fulbright Grants, visit the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website.

American Association of University Women Career Development Grant

AAUW's Career Development Grants provide $2,000 to $12,000 in funding to women with bachelor’s degrees who want to advance or change careers or reenter the workforce in a field like education, health, medical sciences, or social sciences. To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a degree you earned before June 30, 2014. You can use the grant funds to pay for tuition, fees, books, supplies, local transportation, and dependent care. 

To learn more about AAUW Career Development Grants, visit the AAUW website.

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State grants for graduate school

Just like the federal government, some states offer grants to graduate students to help cover the cost of graduate studies. The state you live in will determine the options available to you. Here are a few examples of state grants:

California State University Grant

The California State University Grant is funded by the state of California and administered by California State University. You might qualify if you’re a California resident and enrolled at California State University at least half-time as an undergraduate, graduate, or teaching credential student. The amount you may receive is based on the availability of state funds, and you can use this grant to pay for part of your tuition and fees.

Colorado Graduate Grant

Funded by the Colorado General Assembly, the Colorado Graduate Grant is designed for qualifying Colorado residents participating in an approved graduate degree program. This grant is awarded as part of your financial aid package. If you’re enrolled in at least four credit hours and your FAFSA shows you have an expected family contribution of $10,000 or less, it’s certainly worth considering. 

Texas Aggie Graduate Grant

The Texas Aggie Graduate Grant is for students who attend Texas A&M University’s College Station campus. To be eligible, you need to be a Texas resident and enrolled full-time or half-time in a graduate program or graduate certificate program. 

Full-time students may receive up to $2,500 per semester, while half-time students may receive up to $1,500 per semester. The maximum award is $5,000 per academic year. You won’t qualify the same year you receive major scholarships or fellowships.

Organization and corporate grants for graduate school

Many nonprofit organizations and private companies provide grants to help graduate students pursue their education in fields they support. A few examples include:

APA Dissertation Research Award

The American Psychological Association (APA)’s Dissertation Research Award helps students pursuing their doctorate degrees in psychology with the costs of their dissertation research. It offers 30 to 40 grants of $1,000 each, plus several larger grants of up to $5,000 for students with research that reflects excellence in scientific psychology. 

To be eligible, you must be in good standing and enrolled full-time or working on your dissertation research for an equivalent of full-time. In addition, you need to be a student affiliate or associate member of the APA.

Forget Your Student Debt Grant

You can apply for bold.org’s Forget Your Student Debt Grant as long as you have student loan debt. Even if you’re an adult with a career and no longer earning your degree, you’re still eligible. The only requirement is that you have payments to make on federal and/or private student loans. While the $10,000 grant has rolling monthly application deadlines, it will be awarded in December. 

ACS-Hach Professional Development Grant

The American Chemical Society (ACS)’s Hach Professional Development Grant is for U.S. high school chemistry teachers. If you teach chemistry at the high school level, you can apply to receive up to $1,500 to support your professional development. You may use the funds to cover conference or workshop registration fees, travel expenses, tuition for upcoming courses, books, and substitute teacher costs. 

How to find grants for graduate school

If you’re a current or aspiring graduate student, these tips can help you find grant opportunities and potentially lower your out-of-pocket education costs:

  • Fill out the FAFSA. Before you start applying for grants, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on the StudentAid.gov website. You’ll need to create a username and password. The U.S. Department of Education, as well as many colleges and universities, will use the FAFSA to determine whether you’re eligible for grants.
  • Apply for multiple grants. Since there’s no limit to how many grants you can apply for, it makes sense to submit applications for multiple opportunities. You can find school-specific grants at your college or university’s financial aid office. To locate grants in your state, check with the Department of Education. For organization and corporate grants, look into professional associations for your field or ask the head of your department.
  • Customize each application. While it may be tempting to copy and paste your information when you apply for grants, customizing each application can increase your chances of success. If you have to write an essay, for example, make sure it’s tailored to the specific organization awarding the grant.
  • Keep track of deadlines. Application deadlines vary from grant to grant, so it’s a good idea to keep a spreadsheet of each grant’s eligibility requirements and deadlines. This can help you manage your time well and prevent you from missing out on great opportunities.
  • Continue looking for grants. Even after you’ve received some grants, don’t stop your search. Keep your eyes open for grants year-round. You may want to contact your program director or financial aid office every semester to find out whether any new grant opportunities are available.

If grants alone don’t provide the funding you need for graduate school, Credible lets you easily compare private student loan rates in minutes.

Other types of funding for graduate school

In addition to grants, you do have other ways to help cover the cost of graduate school, including: 

Scholarships

Scholarships are awards based on a variety of eligibility criteria, such as academic achievement or field of study. Some scholarships are need-based or reserved for certain demographics. Just like grants, you don’t have to pay them back. Scholarships are often available through government entities, nonprofit organizations, private corporations, colleges, and universities. 

Fellowships

Fellowships typically involve in-depth training or research projects that are worthy to the organization offering them. Private and government organizations award them to students who can demonstrate the ability to do something exceptional in their field. Unlike scholarships, fellowships require you to work in exchange for the money.

Assistantships 

Assistantships provide graduate students with full or partial tuition waivers, and sometimes living stipends or health insurance. They require you to work for a college or university performing research, teaching or assisting with residential life. They’re similar to work-study programs but typically involve work related to your major.