It's no secret that graduate school is expensive. In many cases, credits are twice as expensive as undergrad courses. In addition, government financial aid is limited for grad school, and those facts together might make you think it's out of the question to continue your education beyond a bachelor's.
What you may not realize, however, is that there are numerous scholarships, fellowships, and grants available for graduate study. Although they're not as plentiful as undergrad programs, doing some research will certainly pay off—as will the average 25 percent premium on your salary that comes with an advanced degree.
If you've been holding off on starting grad school for fear of ending up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, read on. Scholarships, fellowships, and grants are available through your graduate school, professional organizations, by career interest, and even for specific demographic groups.
[Get more tips on how to pay for graduate school.]
1. Your graduate school: Start your scholarship search right where you're thinking of attending grad school. Check out the school's website for a list of scholarships and fellowships. There may be scholarships available for specific fields of study or by graduate department, as well as scholarships for students showing leadership potential or other special characteristics.
It's definitely worth your time to find out what's available and how to apply. In some cases, such as mine, applying is as easy as checking a box (the "yes, I am interested in being considered for a scholarship" box that many of my classmates didn't seem to notice) during the graduate application.
Others will require you to submit a formal, separate application. You may need to write an essay about your career goals and polish your résumé, but even if you don't earn the coveted award, it's still good practice for future job hunting.
[See U.S. News's rankings of Best Graduate Schools.]
2. Professional organizations: You can also take your graduate scholarship search to the professional organizations to which you belong. National Political Science Honor Society Pi Sigma Alpha and the Emergency Nurses Association are two that offer scholarships for graduate work.
The American Marketing Association Foundation offers scholarships for populations underrepresented in the marketing profession. According to its website: "Through its Valuing Diversity Ph.D. Scholarship Program, the AMAF seeks to widen the opportunities for underrepresented populations to attend marketing doctoral programs." Several scholarships will be awarded; applicants must complete the online application found on the AMAF's website by June 1, 2011.
3. Career-specific scholarships: Many graduate scholarships are career specific, including:
• The American Association of Colleges of Nursing lists scholarship opportunities for graduate and undergraduate nursing students, such as the March of Dimes graduate scholarship, a $5,000 award for students pursuing maternal-child nursing.
• Nurses Educational Funds, Inc. provides scholarships for master's and doctoral programs and will consider applications of students who are pursuing a bachelor's/master's combination program.
• The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship provides three years of support for graduate study leading to research-based master's or doctoral degrees.
• The Saul T. Wilson Scholarship Program, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offers scholarships for grad students in veterinary medicine.
[Find a grad school grant in your field.]
4. What's your sign? OK, so maybe there isn't a scholarship for Taureans seeking a master's degree, but many programs are organized by specific traits or causes, such as scholarships for women.
Two big ones: the American Association of University Women's Selected Professions Fellowships provide opportunities for women to pursue graduate degrees in fields where women have traditionally been underrepresented. This includes fellowships in architecture, computer and information sciences, engineering, and math and statistics.
The Society of Women Engineers Scholarship Program offers scholarships to women admitted to accredited graduate programs studying for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science.
Janine Fugate joined Scholarship America in 2002. She is an alumna of the College of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, Minn., and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Fugate is the recipient of numerous scholarships at both the undergraduate and graduate level.