You’ve decided to go to graduate school. That’s great! Choosing to get your master’s or doctorate is a big decision, and now there are two more steps: choose your school and figure out how you’re going to pay for it.
When you’re going to grad school, relying upon financial aid should be the option turned to only after you’ve explored all others. There are almost always graduate school scholarships available, but grad school funding comes in different forms (and here’s a hint: it’s not typically called a scholarship).
Here’s how to navigate all of the different kinds of graduate school “scholarships” (or funding) out there.
Assistantships are essentially part-time, on-campus jobs for graduate students, where you work in exchange for some form of funding. At UL Lafayette, most assistantships include a waiver of tuition and many fees, along with a monthly living stipend. There are also some assistantships available that offer only a tuition waiver.
Your typical tasks as a graduate assistant will vary depending on where your assistantship is — you could be in a classroom teaching yourself or assisting a professor, in a research lab, or in an administrative or student services environment. Because of these different “locations,” we award teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and administrative graduate assistantships.
To apply for a graduate assistantship at UL Lafayette, you need to submit the assistantship application form along with your other application materials. If applying for a teaching or research assistantship in your academic program, make sure to do so before March 1. The Graduate School ensures that assistantship applications get to the graduate program coordinators; often, it also lets these graduate coordinators (and students) know when administrative assistantships open up in offices around campus.
If you want an assistantship within a specific area on campus, whether that’s teaching or in a research lab related to your graduate program or in a particular office, make sure to be in contact with graduate coordinators, faculty, or offices directly.
If you’re pursuing your PhD, the grad school scholarship waters can get a little bit hazier. Even so, fellowships are the most prestigious support available to our graduate students so getting one is a big deal. Here at UL Lafayette, doctoral fellowships are awarded and administered by the Graduate School in cooperation with our graduate programs, but you can also apply for external fellowships to help fund your studies. We offer University Doctoral Fellowships, Louisiana Board of Regents (BOR) Fellowships in a few specific disciplines, and Louisiana Board of Regents-Southern Regional Education Board (BOR-SREB) Minority Doctoral Fellowships. There are also a few University research centers that offer fellowships.
With fellowships, you don’t work just anywhere — you’ll be able to focus solely on research within your area of study. That’s a huge benefit to you. In fact, many fellowships are all, or at least in part, “non-service” and that means that all of your fellowship “work” is work that you put into your academic coursework and research.
Fellowship students earn a higher stipend than they would with assistantships, ensuring again that you can give all of your attention to your academic work. But if you’re planning on keeping other jobs during the year, be careful — you won’t be able to keep any other employment during the semesters when you receive fellowship funding.
To apply for a fellowship, first make sure that you meet the minimum requirements and understand the application process. After that, take time to talk to your professors and graduate coordinator about your application and get their advice for making it as strong as possible. Last step? Apply for the fellowship. At UL Lafayette, the deadline to submit your application for a University Doctoral Fellowship is February 15. For external fellowships, see their guidelines and deadlines.
Master’s fellowships are also available for students in master’s programs, but they are fewer in number and thus more competitive. At UL Lafayette, they also have high expectations for your undergrad GPA and official test scores; they also require that you’re a new graduate student (or haven’t yet completed more than 12 graduate credit hours). But, like doctoral fellowships, they offer a much higher stipend than assistantships and are “non-service” in that they don’t require you to “work” beyond your own graduate studies and research.
Another big difference is that the University Master’s Fellowship is awarded only for one year of your grad school career. So, if you’re eyeing a master’s fellowship, make sure to talk to the graduate coordinator in your program about funding possibilities for the rest of your studies once the fellowship ends.
There are typically four University Master’s Fellowships awarded every year at UL Lafayette. Applications are due directly to the Graduate School by February 15.
Traditional scholarships are not typically used to pay for grad school, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Sometimes a university will offer graduate scholarships, but most often they’re offered through your graduate program or outside organizations. At UL Lafayette, for example, the Alumni Association awards a scholarship each year to a graduate student.
If you were a member of any student or professional organizations or honor society while you were an undergraduate, check with those organizations’ national or international headquarters to see if they offer scholarships to graduate students.
Employer Tuition Support
If you’ve been working for a few years, ask your employer what options you have for pursuing your graduate degree. If you’re looking to stay in the same field and advance your career, your employer may offer some form of tuition assistance. After all, your company benefits when employees learn more and become stronger leaders, and some companies can deduct tuition assistance on their taxes. The larger your company is, the more likely it is that they offer a tuition waiver.
UL Lafayette also offers the Teacher Tuition Incentive program for educators and school administrators earning their master’s degree or doctorate. You apply for this program through the Graduate School, but you cannot receive any other form of financial assistance (including a fellowship or assistantship) if you receive a Teacher Tuition Incentive Award.
McNair Graduate Scholars Program
If you were a McNair scholar during your undergraduate studies and are now looking to pursue a master’s degree at UL Lafayette, you’re eligible to apply for a graduate tuition and fee waiver, along with an application fee waiver. To apply, you’ll need to submit a few additional materials when you apply to the Graduate School: a signed letter from your McNair director saying you successfully completed the McNair Scholars Program as an undergraduate, three letters of recommendation, and a personal letter indicating you’re applying for the McNair Tuition Waiver Award. Once you’ve applied and have been accepted, you’ll be asked to interview with the Dean of the Graduate School.
Currently, UL Lafayette offers up to 20 graduate and tuition fee waivers to McNair master’s students.
G.I. Bill & Military Funding
If you’re a U.S. veteran who served in an active duty position in the last 15 years, you can use your G.I. Bill to fund your graduate studies. If you want to know more about using your G.I. Bill at UL Lafayette for grad school, visit veteran.louisiana.edu.