Scholarships for Education Majors and Grad Students
If you’re thinking about earning an education degree or attending graduate school, it’s likely that cost will be a determining factor. A federal study found that more than half of young adults who attended college in 2017-18 took on some debt to pay for their education.
Fortunately, students have access to types of financial aid that, unlike student loans, don’t need to be paid back. These include scholarships, grants, and fellowships. This page offers education majors and grad students a head start in identifying these funding sources to help pay for education.
Scholarships for Education Students
Early Childhood Education
Where to Find Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships
Grants, scholarships, and fellowships are all, technically, gifts of money for education that don’t need to be paid back by the student. But although they’re similar, there is some distinction among these three terms:
A grant is usually awarded based on financial need and provided by federal or state governments as well as individual colleges. At the federal level, an example is the TEACH Grant, which is awarded to graduate students who are studying to pursue teaching in a high-need field or school.
At the state and college level, for example, a student interested in Oglethorpe University’s education degree program may qualify for a school-provided Oglethorpe Grant and a state-provided Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant, both of which are need-based. To obtain grant funding, the first step should be completing the FAFSA.
A scholarship, on the other hand, usually has some additional requirement beyond need (though need may be part of the criteria). Students may need to demonstrate merit through high grades, personal or professional experience, affiliation with a group, selection of a major or career path, or a combination of these. Scholarships are usually offered by private foundations or organizations (non-profit or for-profit), though states and colleges may offer them too. Usually, scholarships have their own applications, though they may also require a FAFSA.
A fellowship is a type of grant that funds the pursuit of certain short-term professional development opportunities. Fellowships can be very competitive and are offered to a small number of students. They often come with some sort of commitment, such as a graduate degree program, length of service, or completion of a research study.
Another distinction is that they are usually (though not always) offered to post-graduate students as opposed to undergraduates. Sometimes applications require interviews, presentations, or even nominations from peers.
Government entities, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and schools all are sources to explore when you’re seeking financial awards. Here are some tips for where to start looking for these funding sources:
- Start by submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This document is what the federal government uses to determine your eligibility to receive a grant, and for how much. Many scholarship and fellowship programs also make their award decisions based on the information in your FAFSA application.
- If you’re an incoming college freshman, take advantage of your high school guidance counselor. These professionals make it a priority to collect college funding information and work with students to find scholarships and grants that are a good fit.
- Talk to the financial aid office at your prospective college about awards that may be available to you. If you’ve already chosen a major, individual departments at the college may also have info about scholarships for that subject area.
- Consider organizations you may be involved with or affiliations you may have. Many businesses, foundations, professional associations, and community organizations offer scholarships.
Wherever you begin your search, remember that you should never pay for scholarship information — money should flow to you, not the other way around.
How to Win Scholarships
While grants are typically awarded by schools and governments and are based mostly on need, scholarships often involve some other special qualification. A high grade point average (GPA), membership in a particular group, or a demonstrated talent are all common reasons to win scholarships.
There’s no way to guarantee you’ll receive a scholarship, but here are 10 tried-and-true tips that can work in your favor:
- Be thorough and accurate. Scholarship sponsors may receive thousands of applications. If your application doesn’t have all the information and documentation in order, it will be tossed aside before they’ve even read it.
- Double check spelling and punctuation. Even slight errors could be a reason to eliminate you.
- Apply for as many as you can. The more scholarships you apply for, the better the odds that you’ll win one.
- Don’t discount small awards. If you submit a lot of applications, those small awards could add up. They may also have fewer applicants competing against you.
- Think local. National organizations are likely going to have more competing applicants than, say, your hometown’s community foundation.
- Distinguish yourself with an essay. Many students get lazy and avoid scholarship applications requiring essays. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your passion, your interests, and the distinctive qualities that can help you to shine.
- While we’re on the subject of essays, follow these basic guidelines:
- Write what you’re asked to write. If the question asks for three examples, don’t give two or four.
- Have someone proofread the essay to be sure it doesn’t contain mistakes.
- Stay within the prescribed word count; going over actually may disqualify you.
- Make the most of your education and experience. Take every opportunity to enroll in challenging courses, participate in community service, gain career training, receive mentorship, or otherwise show initiative and leadership.
- Join a professional association, which may offer scholarships or fellowships. For example, Educators Rising, a division of Phi Delta Kappa International, and the National Education Association’s NEA Aspiring Educators program are both student organizations for future teachers that offer scholarships or information about affording college.
- Never lie. Most scholarship applications undergo a thorough screening process. Even small exaggerations could be enough to rule you out.
Grants and Fellowships for Education Students
How to Win Grants and Fellowships
The first step to receiving a grant is completing your FAFSA as soon as possible; it’s available starting October 1st for the following school year. Though students have until June 30 to complete the form, many states and colleges have earlier deadlines. States and colleges may also have additional applications for you to complete.
To win financial aid grants, you must demonstrate need. However, there’s another type of grant that graduate students may seek. Like grant monies provided to nonprofit organizations, some grants may be available from private foundations or organizations that support research, community service, or professional activities.
Graduate students wishing to receive fellowships or grant funding may find these tips helpful:
- Find as many opportunities as you can to apply for. Securing a fellowship isn’t a task to be taken lightly. Conduct in-depth research through your school’s fellowship or financial aid office or career services center, and be sure to speak with faculty in your program about possible opportunities.
- Take a workshop or class on grant writing. These courses can help you to strengthen your writing and use language that appeals to awards committees.
- Take the time necessary to complete your fellowship application. This is not something to rush through. Some fellowships are designed to serve as an annual salary; there is an expectation that you will work as hard for this as you will to obtain a job (and sometimes it’s much harder). Don’t expect to cram it into a weekend.
- If you’re proposing a research project, you’ll need to sell it to selection committees, who may not be as familiar with the field as you are. You must be able to clearly articulate the goals, that the work is needed, that it has real-world applications, and that you are the person to perform the work.
- Remember that the grant or fellowship would support you, not the program or research product. In other words, you must show on your application that you have the qualities necessary to perform the research or other activities involved. Skip the generic platitudes about how “children are our future.” Instead, demonstrate what you bring to the table. Your application should showcase your background, skills, professional experience, goals, and passion that make you uniquely
Finding scholarships, grants, and fellowships can be a lot of work, but the reward of receiving money to pursue your chosen profession and embarking on a career in education are sure to make it worth the effort.