Paying for Graduate School

How to Help Graduate Students Find Funding

Money. It’s one of the most important factors—often the most important factor—in a student’s decision of where to go to graduate school. While public support for graduate students has declined dramatically, money is still out there. You can play a role in helping your prospective students find that funding.

Information you can give to students

  • Point them to the Graduate School’s information on funding a graduate education, including the partial list of fellowships.
  • Early and often. Recommend students start looking for funding early—as soon as they decide to apply to graduate school and encourage them to continue looking throughout their graduate career.
  • Graduate Funding Information Service is a funding search service provided by the UW Graduate School and UW Libraries. Students can take workshops, use funding databases and subscribe to a funding blog that will keep them posted on opportunities. This service is only available for currently enrolled UW students.
  • Some funding opportunities are available only for students in tuition-based programs. Tuition-based programs are subsidized with state money, and students pay a majority—but not all—of the actual costs. Fee-based programs support themselves, and students pay fees that cover all costs. Students in fee-based programs who receive academic student employee (ASE) positions may or may not receive funding towards their fees.
  • Persistence is important. If a student applies and is denied, that shouldn’t stop him or her from applying again.
  • Mentor your students and prospective students. Applying for grants or fellowships may be a new experience for them, and things you take for granted may not have occurred to them, such as:
    • Read the criteria carefully on each funding application. Make sure your answers are complete and address the criteria.
    • Follow formatting directions carefully. Using the wrong font or margins, or exceeding the word count on an essay, can disqualify you from consideration.
    • Talk with your recommenders about the fellowship and, if possible, provide a copy of your personal statement so they can write a more directed letter.
    • If you aren’t sure about something on an application, ask someone involved with the funding opportunity. Don’t guess and don’t assume.
    • Deadlines matter. Submit your application by the date—and the time (and time zone)—required.
    • Order several sets of official transcripts from your alma mater(s) at once. Many fellowship applications require official transcripts, and ordering transcripts can take time.

If you don’t fund your students

  • Prospective students should begin looking for funding at the same time they are applying to graduate school. Some fellowships allow prospective students to apply before they enter graduate school. These programs then permit awardees to attend any graduate school they wish and use the money there.
  • They should look on the web very broadly for funding that is specific to discipline, research topics, ethnicity, gender and so on.
  • Encourage prospective students to talk with staff and current students in the program to find out how others have paid for graduate studies. Or, you might want to gather that information from your students and put together a handout for prospective students.
  • If a student has expertise in a field, he or she can contact the pertinent department(s) to apply for TA/RA openings.
  • If a student does receive a nationally prestigious award that doesn’t cover tuition, contact the Graduate School to determine if tuition assistance might be available.

If you fund your students

  • Even current graduate students who are receiving funding from their departments should seek outside funding. Outside funding looks good on a student’s CV, and it frees up departmental funding for another student. Encourage all of your eligible students to apply for early awards such as the NSF GRFP, Jacob Javits Fellowship and Ford Foundation fellowships. Encourage your dissertation-level students to apply for dissertation-specific funding.
  • The good news: You have a student who receives a large, national, prestigious award. The bad news: The award doesn’t cover tuition. What to do: Contact the Graduate School to determine if tuition assistance can be provided.
  • Encourage your students to file a FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—each year so they are prepared for funding opportunities that require a determination of need.