Financial Assistance for Graduate/Professional Study

This is intended as an introductory summary of basic information about financial assistance for graduate/professional study. It is not intended to provide comprehensive information. If some of the terms are unfamiliar to you, or if you have other questions, attend a Career Center “Graduate and Professional School Workshop" and/or look into resources on the Financial Aid shelf of the Grad School Section of the Career Center Library. Use the following information to formulate additional questions that you will explore in further research, including information interviews with professionals who can speak to the distinct considerations in your chosen field of study.

Most people attending graduate or professional school qualify for and receive some kind of financial assistance.


Federal Aid: Graduate students in good financial standing are eligible for $20,500 aid per year. In addition, the Graduate Plus Loan allows students to borrow up to the cost of attendance, minus other estimated financial assistance.
Teaching Assistant: Most graduate departments have TAships where you teach an undergraduate section.
Research Assistant: RAships are normally offered by the faculty adviser to assist in his/her research. The sciences and engineering have more RAships since grant money is more readily available in these areas.
Graduate Opportunity Funds: Offered through the department to students from underrepresented populations.
Fee waivers: Waives registration fees and/or nonresident tuition
Special scholarships/grants/fellowships from the university, department, government, associations related to the discipline, or private sources such as alumni donors. ** 
Private Loans

The quantity and kinds of financial assistance vary by field, between academic graduate study and professional graduate study.

**Free Application for Federal Student Aid Form (FAFSA) is required for application for much financial assistance, including some private assistance.


  • Ask each institution to which you are applying about its own financial assistance options including institution-based grants.
  • Check with all associations related to your chosen field of study to see if they offer assistance for graduate/professional study.
  • Find out if your employer helps employees with graduate/professional study.
  • Thoroughly research books, on-line listings offering diverse sources of funding. If you are a member of a specific population, check with that population’s groups/associations to see if any financial aid is offered. Also, research funding resources that list population-based, cultural sources. Examples of assistance include, but are not limited to: African American men studying law, re-entry single mothers studying art, or someone who graduated from a specific high school and is pursuing professional study in Public Health. These books are available in the Career Center Library.


  • Many financial aid application deadlines are due before graduate and professional study general application deadlines. Some financial aid may require a certain score on a graduate admissions exam (such as the GRE), so begin researching sources and take the relevant exam earlier rather than later.
  • Ask the institution to which you are applying about waiving the application fee.
  • Even private funding sources sometimes require that you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form that can be found at any financial aid office.
  • Many financial aid applications (including the FAFSA) ask for information about parental income. This information will not limit the amount and type of aid you receive for graduate study, is more often used to determine if you belong to a certain category or population that may have access to increased opportunities for financial aid.
  • Some people make the mistake of ruling out applying to private schools since they tend to be more expensive. However, private institutions often have more money to help students. Until or unless you have to, do not eliminate appropriate options. Sometimes students use one institution's offer to get a better offer someplace else. It is generally futile to attempt to anticipate what financial aid package you'll be offered, so leave your options open!
  • Fulbright Scholarships are offered for international graduate study through the Institute of International Education. Applications may be obtained from, and are processed by, the UCSC International Programs Office (107 Classroom Unit - 459-5386). Applications are available in May; the deadline date is the end of September. Call for specific dates.
  • Another potential source of financial assistance for international graduate study is foreign governments. Some foreign countries have shortages of experts or professionals in certain academic or professional areas. Consequently, to entice a qualified workforce, governments sometimes pay for or contribute to the education of quality graduate students. Look in the Graduate School Section in the Career Center Library in the International Programs' binder for financial aid materials. You also may contact foreign embassies in the United States.


Berkeley's Fellowship Resources on the Web (not limited to Berkeley)
College Connection Scholarships
Sallie Mae
FASFA on the Web
Graduate Fellowship Notebook (mostly non-Cornell Fellowships)
Graduate School Scholarships (Nationally coveted scholarships, fellowships & Postdoctoral awards)