As juniors and seniors, you may be considering graduate school in the near future. While students prioritize personal statements, standardized tests and reference letters when preparing their graduate school applications, they often don’t pursue funding sources such as fellowships, scholarships and grants, which can sometimes supply between $5,000 and $30,000 a year.
In graduate school, there are little to no federal or state grant awards based on financial need – only loans and work-study options. Incidentally, graduate student debt has risen notably since 2013, as tuition and education expenses continue to inflate.
Applying for fellowship opportunities can feel distressing and daunting. If you’re like me, you may feel the odds of winning any funding awards are slim. I remember being discouraged by many rejection award letters before finally receiving the Fielding Graduate Dean’s Scholar Award and a few others shortly after. I was in disbelief, but I only improved my chances because I dedicated time each week to search and apply for fellowships.
Fellowship applications become available for submission one year before the upcoming school year. For example, applications are due in fall 2018 for funding in the 2019 to 2020 academic year. Students cannot afford to wait until being accepted into the graduate program to begin applying for funding – doing otherwise means you miss an entire year of funding. Agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Humanities are looking to fund you as a potential scholar or researcher. They know that you won’t know where you’ll wind up, and that’s perfectly okay.
Receiving graduate funding has advantages beyond just paying for your education. It also frees time for students to commit to their research and other interests, provides an achievement to show off to employers and offers experience in grant writing – an invaluable resource for professionals.
While it may seem overwhelming to think about funding opportunities, there are free resources available to support students. On campus, Gradate Peer Mentors are available at the Graduate Division’s Office of Fellowships & Financial Services. Prospective and current graduate students can make appointments by emailing [email protected] in order to assist with graduate fellowships. Additionally, writing consultants are available at the Graduate Writing Center to assist graduate students with their fellowships applications and personal statements.
The Scholarship Resource Center is also available to graduate students applying for funding. Current undergraduates can avail themselves of the Scholarship Resource Center and the Undergraduate Writing Center. And faculty mentors are available for all students to consult with about the graduate funding process.
If you feel alone in the application process or need additional support, reach out to the support networks available on campus and increase your chances of graduate admissions and fellowship opportunities. Deadlines are looming with each passing day, and the longer students wait, the more they miss out on applications that can fund their futures.
Ter-Barsegyan is a master of public health student at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health.