Graduate School Financial Assistance

It is important not to reject a program or institution from consideration based on assumptions about cost. Apply for programs that meet your goals and make your final decision once you have been accepted and know what financial support you will be offered.

Financial aid is money from the federal government, state government, or your school that can help you pay for tuition, labs, room and board, and other living expenses as you attend graduate school. It can come in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study or federal student loans.

Do your research and start early to learn what types of financial assistance might be available to you. Pursue multiple sources of funding as you may be eligible to receive more than one form of assistance. A good rule of thumb is to accept free money first (scholarships and grants), then earned money (work-study), and then borrowed money (federal student loans).

Federal Government Student Financial Aid

There are several federal student aid programs available to eligible graduate or professional school students. Click here for an overview of Financial Aid for Graduate or Professional Students.

Fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year you are in your graduate program to find out if you are eligible for federal financial aid. You may be familiar with the FAFSA from your undergraduate days, but while your parents may have filled it out previously, now it's up to you. In almost all cases graduate students are considered independent students which means that parent information is typically not required. Completing the form is free and it is easy to apply.

Types of Federal Aid for Graduate Students:

  • The Direct Loan Program - Direct unsubsidized made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with no financial need requirement. Remember, loans are borrowed money that must be repaid with interest, so you should borrow only what you need. Federal Student Loans - Basics.
  • Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program - Eligible graduate students can work part-time during the academic year and possibly full or part-time employment during the summer. Similar to undergraduate work study, it is based on your financial need as reported in your FAFSA. You may qualify even if you did not as an undergraduate.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant - Graduate students enrolled in programs designed to prepare them to teach in a high-need field at the elementary or secondary school level are eligible to receive up to $4000/year. Recipients must agree to serve for a minimum of four years (within eight years of completing the program for which you received the funds) as a full-time teacher in a high-need field in a school or educational service agency that serves low-income students.
  • Federal Pell Grant - In some cases, students enrolled in a post baccalaureate teacher certification program may receive a Federal Pell Grant.


Assistantships are awarded by individual academic and administrative departments of graduate institutions. Graduate assistants provide a service to the university through teaching, research or administrative roles in exchange for a stipend and/or a full or partial tuition scholarship. Awards may also include a meal plan and housing. Assistantship areas, responsibilities and duration will vary according to the program or department.

To be considered, applicants must be accepted into a graduate program as a matriculated student. There is usually an application process for each assistantship position. Check with the department offering the position to determine the process and requirements.

Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships

Scholarships are available through schools, organizations, companies, states, and more. They can be need-based or merit-based. They do not require repayment but you have to apply for them.

By school: Many universities offer scholarships to graduate students from their own funds to attract students with the strongest academic performance. Your school or program is a great source to learn about these opportunities.

By field/career: If you're entering a program where your expertise is in short supply-especially in the STEM areas-focus on graduate scholarships from corporations, professional organizations, and foundations.

By demographic: Graduate scholarships are available for specific populations, such as women and minorities, including African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans. They're also available for students, foster children, first-generation college students, and non-traditional students who are cognitively and physically disabled.

Grants are most often offered by the federal government, state government, an individual school, or a private organization. Like scholarships, grants do not have to be paid back.

Fellowships - A primary benefit of a graduate fellowship is exposure to research and experts in your field. Awarded for academic excellence, they can include an internship or service component offering a chance to gain professional experience or pursue research in your field. Fellowships can cover costs for living expenses, provide housing, or offer a stipend. Generally, these are merit-based awards and are contingent on the student maintaining satisfactory academic progress as defined by the graduate school.

Graduate student fellowships can be highly competitive. They can also involve an extensive application process that includes nominations, interviews, and presentations. Fellowship programs look for highly motivated individuals with demonstrated leadership, knowledge, and drive. Requirements can vary by field and by school.

Online Resources for Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships

The Buffalo State Financial Aid Office has an extensive list of external funding sources on their website.

  • Fastweb - One of the largest financial aid databases available. Search through over 1.5 million scholarships.
  • Scholarship Finder - The US Department of Labor's Career One Stop has a useful tool for searching scholarships and fellowships by keyword, geographical area as well as minority/ethnic group.
  • College - Searchable resource for scholarships, grants, loans.
  • - American Indian Graduate Center: The Center for Native Scholarships

Career & Professional Education

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Buffalo, New York 14222  •  Phone: (716) 878-5811  •  Fax: (716) 878-3152