How to fund MSc or PhD Degree Programs in the USA

Good morning,

While applying to MSc or PhD Degree Programs in the USA, are you having difficulties in securing a FULL SCHOLARSHIP for your studies? Now, let us discuss FUNDING 💵

- What is Funding?
- Types of Funding?
- Is it even available?
- How can you get it?

Case scenario

Firstly, I want to quickly say that if securing funding, for your graduate school journey, has eluded you so far, I hope this helps in some way. I need you to have courage to keep trying. Never give up!

Now, stay with me. 

What is funding?

Simply put, funding is sponsorship for your proposed MS or PhD program from external sources. In other words, you are not paying for your studies. 😁 We will consider comprehensive information regarding opportunities to finance the cost of your education. When you are searching through the websites of these USA schools, “Funding” can also be referred to as:

- Financial Aid
- Scholarships
- Fellowships

Reading school-specific information is very critical. 

Broadly, let me classify funding opportunities into 3 groups

1. Graduate Assistantships
2. Fellowships/Scholarships
3. Student Loans

Funding opportunities available at each school should heavily factor into your decision-making process. Go for schools that can fund you! 

Generally, “Students receiving funding through the Graduate School must be admitted to a degree-seeking program and have completed an undergraduate degree at the time of enrollment”. - University of Alabama Graduate School

Since you know these, let us talk about the 3 types aforementioned. 

Read also : List of generous PhD and Postdoctoral scholarships that Nigerians can apply for.

1. Regarding Graduate Assistantships (GA), you are typically offered full or half Tuition waiver in addition to a monthly stipend to cover your living expenses. This is in exchange for work (20 hours weekly, at maximum) you must perform at your department. The work required typically consist of ANY one (1) or a combination of:

- Teaching (eg, Lab instructor, grader, instructor of record)
- Research (Laboratory operator or plain researcher)
- Administration (Librarian, receptionist, etc)

These positions are hereby called TA, RA, TA/RA or AA.

2. Regarding FELLOWSHIPS, as opposed to the Graduate Assistantships (GA), you get the benefits offered without any work required of you. It is plainly a scholarship in its natural form. Graduate School fellowships are designed for exceptional applicants and are very competitive. 

3. Student Loans are cash facilities, borrowed from banks or other lenders, to finance the degree program. Typically, schools will provide you with options and the procedure to obtain this BUT for international students, this is not a viable option. I suggest you focus on 1 & 2. 

Now, to the golden question regarding if FUNDING is available? YES, IT IS

All schools have some form of funding especially “GAs and Fellowships”. I suggest you read the relevant section of the Graduate School or/and Department websites before you choose to apply to that school. 

IMPORTANT: You need to check the websites of your proposed school. Specifically, check the Graduate School and your departments website.

For example, some schools will clearly state that they “do not typically fund Masters students”. If you an MS applicant, now you know. 

Read also : 30 scholarships you can apply for in November.

Now, that you understand that you need to apply to a school that is a good fit (considering funding), let me state that a PhD program in the USA is typically funded. Whether MS or PhD, I need you to to find that money.

See this elaborate answer: Is a PhD in the US completely funded? 

How to apply for funding

Now, let us talk about “How to apply or get funding” and then I can give some unique tips that can be very effective.

-> Most schools process funding decisions while considering your application in order to decide whether to admit you or not. In order words, there is no separate application for funding/scholarships/assistantships. They consider you “automatically” and give you admission and financial aid decisions at once or piece-meal.

-> For some schools, you need to fill out and submit a separate application for Assistantship positions or Fellowships. If your proposed school falls in this category, they will clearly state it on their website. This is why I want you to look at the website very closely before you apply.

You must be on your “A” Game. Submit a strong application! 

 How do you find the schools ?

First of all, referral. If you know a current student who is fully funded in a USA school, ask them if funding is available, check the school out.

Second, you search Google randomly eg, like “Funded History PhD programs in USA” 

“Civil Engineering PhD Fully Funded University USA”

“Top Fully Funded Master in Public Health Programs in the USA”

“Fully Funded Mathematics PhD programs in the USA”

Also, you can search for “Top Economics Graduate Programs in the USA”. Check the school websites one by one. 

Now, let me address whether you need to contact Professors regarding funding (and possibly get a go-ahead) before you apply to Schools.

- Some schools (eg @NorthwesternU) typically fully fund all her admitted so it really may not make much difference if you make contact prior.

Read also : List of fully funded scholarships that you can currently apply for.

Even though a bunch consider you automatically, I advise you to contact a Professor you are interested in working with (research or teaching assistant) to ask if they are taking new students in your proposed term. This gives you an idea regarding whether there are available funds possibly for you. Also, establishing contact, no doubt, definitely gives you extra visibility. 

How much is the funding (stipend) the student gets per month?

This varies from school-to-school. It is an indication of what can adequately enable the student provide for his/her room and board and other related expenses as determined by the institution. 

Let me stress one more thing: Take the pain to apply ONLY to schools you have verifiable facts that funding is available and you feel confident about. Read the information on the websites.

One more thing: Many schools have PRIORITY Deadlines (Date by which you should have submitted your application) so that you will be considered for funding/financial aid. Please take notes of those dates.

In summary: submit your applications very early (Nov/Dec) please. 


Read also : Scholarships in Germany.


Tags: fund MSc,fund PhD

Author : Kekeocha Justin