Contrary to popular belief, a sky-high GPA is not the only way to obtain grad school scholarships. Every year, hundreds of students are awarded prestigious scholarships and fellowships that will fund their post-graduate studies partially or entirely, and not all of these students earned all A's every time.
- Prestigious national and international grad school scholarships include Fulbright, Rhodes, Truman, and the Marshall.
- Awards committees look for well-rounded individuals with clear, concise, and achievable goals.
- Whether or not you earn an award, the application process can be a useful tool for determining personal and professional goals.
While academic merit is important, awards committees look for students that demonstrate leadership capability, participate in extracurricular activities, volunteer, and maintain a strong sense of self. In short, the key to earning one of these scholarships is to be a well-rounded person with a clear and achievable goal.
The following is some information on the most prestigious scholarships and fellowships awarded to students on an annual basis to help you decide which scholarship is best for you.
Fulbright U.S. Student Program
Annual Deadline: Early to Mid-October, check website for exact date
Launched in 1946 as a way to redirect post-war financial surplus to promote cross-cultural goodwill and understanding, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program now awards an estimated 2,000 grants annually to recent university graduates. Fulbright recipients use grants to pursue international post-graduate goals, including research projects, graduate education, and teaching.
Placements are available in more than 140 countries around the world. Though only citizens of the United States may apply for the U.S. Student Program, the Fulbright Program offers opportunities for working professionals and international applicants, as well.
Annual Deadline: First Wednesday of October
The Rhodes Scholarship, established in 1902, provides full funding for students from the United States to pursue a post-graduate degree at the University of Oxford.
As the oldest and arguably most prestigious international scholarship in the world, the competition for a Rhodes is exceptionally high. Applicants must first earn a nomination from their undergraduate university to be considered for the Rhodes. Out of a pool of 800-1,500 exceptional students, only 32 receive the award each year.
Annual Deadline: Early October, check website for exact date
The Marshall Scholarship annually provides up to 50 high-achieving students from the United States the opportunity to pursue a post-graduate or doctoral degree at any institution in the United Kingdom.
The award includes full funding of tuition, textbook expenses, room and board, research fees, and travel between the U.S. and the U.K. for the duration of the program of study, typically two years. The award can be extended to include a third year under certain circumstances.
Barry Goldwater Scholarship
Annual Deadline: Last Friday in January
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship provides up to $7,500 to rising undergraduate juniors and seniors studying natural science, mathematics, or engineering who plan to pursue a career in research. Though not a grad school scholarship, many Goldwater recipients go on to receive prestigious academic awards for future studies, as the Goldwater indicates exemplary academic merit. Approximately 300 students receive the award annually.
Students must be enrolled as full-time students in an accredited United State institution and hold at least sophomore status in order to be eligible. Applicants must be citizens of the United States, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents with the intent to become U.S. citizens. Students must be nominated by a Goldwater at their university.
Harry S. Truman Scholarship
Annual Deadline: First Tuesday in February
Named after the 33rd president of the United States, the Truman Scholarship provides students planning on pursuing careers in public service with $30,000 to be used for graduate studies. The awards committee seeks students with strong leadership skills and a demonstrated background in public service. After completing degree programs, Truman recipients are required to work in public service for three to seven years.
To receive a Truman Scholarship, students must first be nominated by faculty representative (or a faculty member willing to serve in this position) at their home university. Universities are only permitted to nominate four students each year, so larger or more academically rigorous universities might old internal competitions for qualifying students. Each year, over 600 students are nominated by their universities, and between 55 and 65 candidates are selected to receive the award. To be eligible, applicants must be United States citizens or nationals.
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Annual Deadline: Late October or Early November, check website for exact date
The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship provides a $34,000 stipend and $12,000 allowance for educational costs per year for up to three years to exceptional students pursuing research-based work in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology fields. The fellowship is the oldest scholarship program specifically for those pursuing STEM-related graduate degrees.
To be eligible, students must be United States citizens, nationals, or permanent residents. The National Science Foundation strongly encourages under represented members of the scientific community, including women, minorities, and people of color, to apply for the fellowship. Awards are given in all research-based STEM fields, including psychology and social sciences, as well as hard sciences.
George J. Mitchell Scholarship
Annual Deadline: Late September, check website for exact date
The George J. Mitchell Scholarship offers up to 12 United States students the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree at any institution in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. The scholarship includes full tuition, housing costs, and a monthly stipend for the duration of one year.
To be eligible, applicants must be United States citizens between 18 and 30 years old, and they must hold a bachelor's degree before beginning the Mitchell Scholarship program.
Annual Deadline: Mid to Late October, check website for exact date
The Churchill Scholarship provides 15 United States students with the opportunity to study for one year at the University of Cambridge's Churchill College, the only STEM-focused college at Cambridge. The scholarship was established by Winston Churchill to promote scientific inquiry and exchange between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Recipients of the award receive approximately $60,000, used to cover all tuition and fees, textbook expenses, accommodation, travel to and from the United States, and visa costs. Recipients are also eligible for an additional research stipend. To be eligible, students must be United States citizens, and they must be senior undergraduate students applying from a participating university. The complete list of participating universities can be found on the Churchill Scholarship website.
In 2017, the Churchill Foundation launched the Kanders Churchill Scholarship in an attempt to bridge a growing gap between science and public policy. Citizenship requirements for the Kanders Churchill Scholarship remain the same, but applicants may apply from any university in the United States, so long as they hold a bachelor's degree in a STEM field. Kanders Churchill Scholarship recipients will attend Churchill College while pursuing a Master's in Public Policy.
Application Tips and Tricks
These awards are prestigious and highly sought after for a reason. The application processes can take months or even years to complete from start to finish, and the competition is tough. Here are a few tips to help guide you through the sometimes daunting search for grad school scholarships.
Find your focus
Don't waste your time submitting rushed or unfocused applications. Instead, do your research, and determine which grad school scholarship is best for you. Focus your time and effort on making that application stand out.
Ask for Help
Many universities have started to employ full-time staff specifically to help students with post-graduate scholarship and fellowship applications. Even if your university doesn't have this kind of staff available, you can search through your department for any professors or alumni that received prestigious awards and ask them for advice or mentorship. Utilize free university resources. A school writing center can help you focus your ideas, while a resume workshop can help you polish up your list of accomplishments.
Use the Process
Remember, even if you aren't chosen as a recipient, the application process for any of these awards can be a fulfilling experience that helps you identify your future goals. Treat it as a tool and get as much out of it as you can.