How do I get the Best Grants for Graduate Students?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2019
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Graduate education is very expensive. Fortunately, many different sorts of grants for graduate students are available to partially or fully offset the expense of graduate schooling.It is wise to apply to as many grants as possible to maximize the likelihood of obtaining funding. Grants for graduate students are issued by many different agencies, including academic departments, corporations and governments, and each avenue should be pursued. Each grant application should be tailored to its intended audience, timely, and supported with a strong academic record and carefully-selected references.

Many different agencies and institutions offer grants for graduate students. Every category of grant should be pursued. Grants with limited pools of applicants, such as those for study of comparatively obscure subjects or those offered only to a small pool of potential applicants, should be the focus of special attention, as the odds of obtaining a fairly obscure grant are often much better than those of landing a highly prestigious and famous grant.

Most departments offer grants to their students. These grants range in scope from endowed multi-year fellowships to small grants designed to facilitate modest research projects or conference travel. Each department will keep lists of grants and fellowships. Some of these will be part of the standard graduate funding process. Many others, however, particularly travel and small research grants, are easy to obtain if a student simply takes the time to apply.


Grants issued by outside agencies will generally have an associated agenda of some sort. The United States State Department, for instance, offers a variety of travel, research, and language study grants. These are designed to provide information that is useful to the State Department, and also to aid in training a potential pool of experts in areas that are of national interest. Most governments and many corporations offer grants for similar reasons. When applying for these grants, highlight the ways in which the proposed project actually meets the needs of the government, institution or corporation offering the grant.

When applying for grants for graduate students, the application packet is critical. References should be chosen carefully, with preference given first to major professors and then to other faculty members who will provide strongly positive references and can speak effectively to the subject of the grant. Applications should be submitted as early as possible, and any additional application requirements, such as the language or physical examinations that some programs require, should be addressed as soon as possible.


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