The availability of graduate school grants for those pursuing even higher education in the form of Master’s Degree or Doctorate differs in that they are targeted expressly at those who have already attained an under-graduate degree, and there are fewer grants available overall for this level of education. That is not to say that there are fewer opportunities because fewer students pursue graduate and post-graduate degrees, so what funding there is has less individuals competing for it.
The majority of graduate school grant seekers are continuing on from an under-graduate degree, already in the workforce and opting to educate themselves more specifically in their chosen field, or finding themselves mid-career and looking to specialize. A Master’s Degree can be achieved through an online university course, but obtaining a Ph.D. almost invariably requires presence in situ at a university.
The problem with funding a Ph.D. is that so much time is spent in researching and writing a doctoral thesis and dissertation that there is little or no opportunity to work part-time to fund studies. As a result, the best granting programs for doctoral degrees include cost-of-living stipends, and because some Ph.D.s take longer than expected, most of the top-notch graduate school grants are renewable for between 3 and 5 years.
By the time a student is prepared to narrow their focus to a very specific area of study, they are no longer generalists, and those who choose specialty paths in certain disciplines will find it easier to secure a graduate school grant. Among the fields of study that have more grants available for post-graduate students are:
• health sciences
• teaching (at college or university levels)
Choosing an in-demand field can mean easier access to grants, but it also must be dear to your heart and your goals or it could be many wasted years for the sake of a grant. The availability of grants should not be the only factor in the specialization of your education. Exceptional talents that have become visible during under-graduate study may find it easier to obtain grants, so making your very best effort from the day you enter college or university helps if you opt for post-graduate studies later on and need a graduate grant to complete your doctorate.
Where can Graduate School Grants be Found?
Once a degree has been awarded, a student should have become, over the years, familiar with his or her post-secondary institution and know which offices handle matters such as loans and grants intramurally. Your own college or university is the best place to start when seeking a post-graduate grant for further education. Check first with your department head and then be sure to ask at the university’s financial office. Not all universities offer doctoral studies, so a student may have to switch institutions in order to achieve a Ph.D.
Certainly the school where you presently attend, or where you earned your under-graduate degree, will have the necessary information on graduate grants they offer or can access, and if not, who does.
Some graduate grants that can be had through private funding means, and mostly are set aside for those showing exemplary skills or talents in their field, and often come with conditions, such as the successful completion of a post-graduate degree within a specified time period and the ensuing commitment to work at a certain company or in a geographical area that lacks qualified personnel. For example, the University of Phoenix offers programs and grants for adults pursuing their Master’s Degree in education and are willing to teach in locations where there is a paucity of teaching professionals.
Other places with pertinent information on graduate grants will be professional associations in your field of study. For example, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has several granting programs to encourage the careers of future accountants. Check, too, with philanthropic organizations that align with your field of specialty. Charities such as cancer societies may use part of their funding revenue to sponsor future cancer specialists as they pursue their doctorate in oncology. Academic societies often have a lively program of grants, fellowships and sponsorships for people with future plans as theirs once were.
Finally, don’t overlook individual corporations, public and private. Technology giants, for instance, need a constant flow of fresh brainpower to join their ranks and command their businesses as the current force retires or moves into different areas within the firm. Many such companies are more than prepared to help educate future experts by funding their studies.
Special-Needs Graduate Grants
People who may feel disadvantaged have significant opportunities to pursue a post-graduate degree using grants. Those who suffer financial hardship and/or are visible minorities will find a plethora of graduate grants available expressly to them. Here is a short list of just some of the minority-based graduate grants:
• Black Collegian Organization
• Cornell University Graduate School Fellowships for Minorities
• National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science
• American Indian Graduate Center
The American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) offers grants to doctoral students pursuing their post-graduate degree in areas of psychology such as clinical and counseling. The grant is quite generous, and includes tuition, fees and cost of living for up to 3 years.
The United States National Institute of Health has a granting program for minorities engaged in achieving a doctorate in behavioral or biomedical sciences. Known as the Predoctoral Graduate Award for Minority Students, it targets students who are from racial or ethnic minorities, the disabled, and those who are financially disadvantaged.
The American Institution of Certified Public Accountants has a special grant for minorities who have completed an M.A. in accounting or have had at least 3 years of work experience in the field of accounting. This grant provides up to $12,000 for education and research towards attaining a Ph.D. in accounting.
There are many more than these, and also a fairly good selection for women of all races. For example, the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship provides seven grants per year for women, in the amount of $3,000 each, to cover costs associated with researching and writing a dissertation for a Ph.D. in the subject of women’s studies.
Specific Graduate Grants
As with all post-secondary school grants, students seeking funding need to start with FAFSA. This is the same agency that handles grants and student loans. The application process is detailed and precise, and there is an opportunity to specify whether you are applying for a loan or a grant.
If a graduate school grant is not available through FAFSA’s repertoires, then students in the required fields of study may try the following grant opportunities:
• The Hertz Foundation. For students pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering or physical sciences, this grant is comprehensive and even considers family needs where applicable. The grant covers tuition and fees, together with a stipend for cost of living; that stipend may be increased if the student is supporting a family. Because a doctoral degree can take longer than expected, this grant is renewable for as long as 5 years.
• The United States Department of Education Jacob K. Javits Fellowship. This grant covers tuition and fees for students enrolled in doctoral programs in the areas of social sciences, humanities and arts. It is unusual in that it covers areas of study not commonly acknowledged in the granting system. The grant is renewable for up to 4 years.
• The United States Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. This is a renewable grant for as many as 4 years and is very thorough in its coverage of costs. Presently, the grant comprises all costs plus a $36,000 stipend per annum for students enrolled in a full-time program to obtain a Ph.D. in computer science or computer engineering.
• The Ford Foundation. Offering 2,000 grants per year to help cover the costs of research and writing a Ph.D. dissertation, this fund is aimed at those who plan to teach at the university level as full professors.
Obtaining a doctorate is a long, committed process and graduate grants are tailored specifically to the needs of post-graduate students. The higher the level of education, the fewer the student numbers, and while these grants are perhaps harder to find, their value is tremendous, often making the difference between settling for an under-graduate degree when a Ph.D. is what you strive for. Graduate school grants often support with large sums, and therefore involve a complex approvals strategy, so the application process should begin shortly after receiving your under-graduate degree.