Applying for Scholarships and Awards

Published: Tues., June 1, 2021

Funding is a concern for many graduate students and many apply for scholarships, fellowships, or awards. Some may also come with valuable professional development or networking opportunities. Look for all the opportunities available to you. Firstly, the Office of Graduate Studies has awards and fellowships. Some of these require departmental nominations based on exemplary research or teaching work. Others may be open for any interested students to apply, so check the requirements carefully.

Look for fellowships or scholarships through your professional organizations or for those with specific cultural backgrounds. Common organizations that offer fellowships and scholarships are:

More complete lists are available through:,, or this McNair Scholars program page.

You can also search for fellowship or grant opportunities as they are announced on this Office of Research and Educational Development page. You can subscribe to get regular email announcements in your field, too.

Plan ahead

Often you need to start writing your materials months or ask for nominations or recommendation letters well in advance. Waiting until the last minute ensures that you will not get your materials completed on time or that it won’t be your best effort. Also, any faculty members who might be reviewing your materials or writing letters will appreciate having greater time to prepare those and not being rushed. It’s never too early to start.

Do your research

Carefully research the program requirements and guidelines. There are some scholarships only available to those from particular backgrounds or with specific experiences. For example, fellowships funded but US government agencies such as the NSF might only be available to US citizens or permanent residents, meaning international students would not be eligible. Don’t waste your time applying for something you are not qualified for. Ask yourself: What are they looking for in the application materials? What do you need to prepare and when? Careful research is critical to success!

Get advice

Don’t try to put together your materials on your own. For example, did you know that this office will review CVs and fellowship documents and many of the other materials you might need to submit? You should also ask peers or faculty members to review your materials. If you have faculty who are familiar with the fellowship or program, ask for their advice. They may have served as reviewers or have additional expertise to share with you.

Edit, edit, edit

Edit your statements carefully. You may go through a few drafts before submitting your materials. Focus on the organization and formatting as well as the clarity of your writing. Having others review your work will help with clarity because they may catch things that are clear to you but not others. Reading it out loud may also help you catch odd turns of phrase or other grammatical mistakes you might not notice when writing it.

Don’t give up

Just because you don’t get an award the first time, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again the next year. Often students will find they are more successful the second go-around because they can make use of any feedback they received the first time. Keep trying!