How to Find Graduate School Scholarships and Grants

Most graduate school scholarships come straight from the schools themselves, which means the hardest part is just getting into the program. By developing a strategy for standing out, you will improve your chances for acceptance and funding.

Know your chances. You will need to find out what percentage of those who are admitted to a program receive scholarships and grants. Simply contact the school's office of financial aid for this information. Some programs will not admit students unless they can fully fund them first.

Research the program carefully. The department will often list the scholarships and grants they offer when you request an application package. If you know anyone within the department, now is the time to start working your connections. Since there is less money available for graduate school in general, you need to take advantage of all your resources.

Look at lesser-known schools. Apply to the best graduate schools in your field, and then apply to other, slightly lower-ranked programs. They may give you a better aid package to boost their own statistics. Just be sure to balance the quality of the education offered with the grants and scholarships you receive.

Brace for tough competition. Many people are thinking the same thing you are. When economic times are tough, even more people will be applying to grad school. Prepare several financial backup plans if you either don't get in or cannot find funding.

Consider the whole package. A school might not offer many scholarships, but it may still help pay your way through grants and teaching assistantships. In some cases, a department at a state university will waive your graduate school tuition if you are an out-of-state student. You won't know unless you ask.

Investigate outside scholarships. Even though you are more likely to get funding straight from the school itself, you might be a perfect fit for one of the graduate school scholarships out there. Start your search at a site like FastWeb.com.

Keep the length of your program in mind. Since master's degree programs are shorter, you will have a tougher time getting grants and scholarships. You may need to focus your efforts on getting a good loan offer.

Grad school is all about research and study, so imagine that you are just getting started by investigating your funding options. Given the intense competition, you can't afford to be passive.

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