9 Approaches to Grad School Funding

9 Approaches to Grad School Funding

Mathilde Frot

Updated April 30, 2020 Updated April 30

A version of this article was originally published in the QS Top Grad School Guide 2016-2017, available to read in full here.

You’ve examined your personal motivations for attending grad school, outlined what you hope to achieve from the course and drafted a list of departments you’d die to be a part of, but one major issue still remains: money (or lack thereof).

It’s easy to become discouraged when facing high tuition fees, plus living expenses, but fortunately there are many ways to find grad school funding. Here are nine to get you started…

1. Academic scholarships, bursaries and grants

Scholarships, bursaries and grants are financial awards given to you by your institution, the government, private donors or agencies. Unlike loans, you do not need to pay them back. To find out what opportunities are available, consult your chosen university’s website, as well as government sites and national scholarship listings.

2. Assistantships/studentships

One of the main ways universities provide grad school funding is through assistantships, also known as studentships. This means your university will grant you a modest salary and/or fees waiver in exchange for a specific number of hours working each week in a teaching or a research role. Assistantships are often a requirement in PhD programs and especially common in STEM subjects, but are relatively rare in MBAs, MDs or JDs.

3. Employer sponsorship

Some employers have a tuition assistance program in place to support staff in their professional development. If this isn’t the case, you may still be able to gain some graduate school funding from your employer – it will just take a little more explanation and persuasion.

Put together a case detailing your contribution to the company and how your chosen program will increase your value. Then set up a meeting with your line manager and HR representative to discuss this possibility.

4. National research councils

Research councils are public sector investors in research, including research conducted by postgraduate students. They provide funding across a wide variety of disciplines, usually via universities. Eligibility criteria may require residency in the country where the council is based, as well as a strong and relevant academic record. This kind of grad school funding may cover tuition fees in their totality or partially, and perhaps a stipend for living expenses.

5. Charities, trusts, learned societies and interest groups

Charities, trusts, learned societies and interest groups often allocate a portion of their budgets to awards for graduate school funding. Some organizations target by demographic or specific interests, while others will focus on helping students from lower income families, who demonstrate academic excellence. Apply for as many relevant opportunities as you can find, focusing on those which closely match your own situation and interests.

6. Student jobs and part-time study

A fairly common option for master’s students, part-time study means you will take a longer time to complete your course, spreading out both coursework and fees over several years. This means you have time in which to earn an income, while also meeting your course commitments.

Having a part-time job in grad school can also be a good way to build up your work experience and network with people outside of your course. If you’re already working, speak to your employer about the possibility of reduced and/or flexible hours during the time it will take to complete your course.

7. Student and professional development loans

Dedicated student loans typically offer lower repayment rates than regular loans. These are fairly common for graduate applicants in countries such as the US, and the UK has also recently introduced postgraduate loans for master’s students.

Some UK banks also offer another option for grad school funding – Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDLs), available for students who intend to work in the UK, EU, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland upon graduation. A PCDL will cover up to two years of study, course fees and some living costs.

8. Peer-to-peer lending (P2P)

A form of crowd-sourcing, P2P lending refers to private loans given to an individual independently of a financial institution. There are a number of specialized websites designed to facilitate the process for students in particular, including StudentFunder.com and GraduRates.com.

While the lending is unsecured and would require you to have a solid credit history, P2P could provide you and your family and friends with a formal structure through which to turn favors into official business transactions.

9. QS Scholarships

Finally, you could apply to the QS Scholarships scheme, which offers a total of US$1.7 million each year. To be eligible, you’ll need to attend a QS World Grad School Tour event, and will then be able to apply online for current opportunities.

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This article was originally published in November 2016 . It was last updated in January 2020

Written by

I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.

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