Want to Go to College?
$3 Billion in Pell Grants are Unclaimed Every Year by Eligible Students

Grant Funding and Assistance
Billions of dollars are now easily available to many Americans

When it comes to financing your graduate education, you have a number of different options – everything from scholarships and loans to fellowships and grants. Of these, grants are easily the most desirable part of the funding mix because, unlike loans, they do not need to be repaid. The drawback, however, is that they are extremely competitive and often require you to meet specific guidelines and rules before this money can be disbursed to you.

Starting Your Search

When it comes to grants, there are merit-based grants and need-based grants. There are also grants that are awarded to students within specific fields and disciplines, as well as grants that are awarded for specific types of academic activity – such as fieldwork, study abroad or teaching. And, finally, there are different types of grant funders – the government (both federal and state), nonprofit organizations, private corporations and your university or college.

The first place to go to make sense of all these funding options is your university’s financial aid office. They can help you understand what types of grants their students in the past have received. They can also help you explore all the different grant opportunities that are available to specific types of students. Ask them to help you figure out if you qualify for certain types of funding that are typically only given on a “need basis.” For example, the famous Pell Grant program is open only to students with demonstrated financial need and who have not yet earned their first bachelor’s degree.

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Types of Grants

The types of grants available are wide-ranging and cover every field of study. For example, if you’re a foreign student in the U.S. studying international relations, look into the Fulbright grant program. If you’re studying in a scientific field, check out the grant programs from the National Science Foundation (NSF). If you’re considering a career in public service, then search for the Truman Scholarship Program. And if you’re a member of a minority or underrepresented group, check out the large number of grants that are available for specific ethnic or racial groups.

Next Steps

While the process of looking for a grant may seem overwhelming at times, there are a number of different websites that can help you. Focus on specific grant opportunities that fit your academic and financial profile. For example, Grants.gov provides a list of over 1,000 different government grant programs. With funding worth $500 billion in financial aid, there is likely an option for you. You can search by category, government agency or eligibility. Remember, grant programs usually have very specific requirements, so check all the details before applying.

Other resources for learning more about grants include the databases provided by universities. For example, the Cornell University Graduate School Fellowship Database lets you search by a variety of different filters. Such filters include academic discipline, demographic, citizenship, degree and keyword. Even if there isn’t an exact match, it can help to generate new thinking about where to search next. And it will give you a sense of whether you need to widen or narrow your search.

Non-Profits

And, of course, there are a variety of grant resources provided by non-profit organizations. If the process of searching for a grant on a comprehensive database becomes too overwhelming, take a step back and focus on very specialized opportunities that fit your profile. This is especially true if you are studying in a field that is considered to be a “high priority” by either your college or the federal government. In those fields, grants are usually much easier to find because there is new funding being approved constantly.

The big picture is that there are plenty of grant opportunities out there for graduate students, you just have to be patient and diligent to check out all the options. And, since many of the grant programs are highly competitive, it’s worth starting as soon as possible, so that you can gather all the necessary supporting documentation and recommendations. And be creative – there are plenty of grant opportunities that go unfunded every year simply because students did not ask!

Want to Go to College?
$3 Billion in Pell Grants are Unclaimed Every Year by Eligible Students

Grant Funding and Assistance
Billions of dollars are now easily available to many Americans