How to Find Scholarships, Grants and Other Free Money

The cost of a graduate degree is as varied as the number of programs available. Your chosen field of study and whether you choose a public school, or a private school will determine how much your degree will ultimately cost. Unless you’re financially secure enough to pay out of pocket to your institution of choice, cost and any available financial assistance is most likely going to be a major deciding factor.

The student debt issue has recently made news headlines with some graduate students walking away with six-figure debts into lower paying jobs. Securing as much financial assistance as possible, especially the type you don’t have to pay back, is key to not getting into such an imbalanced financial state.

Tuition costs

Average graduate tuition can run anywhere from $12,000 for public institutions to $26,000 for private institutions.* Before you start hunting for private loans, look for the following financial assistance opportunities that you won’t have to pay back.


Scholarships are a great source of money for grad students, but it can feel like a full-time job hunting and applying for them. There are numerous resources to help you narrow down the types of scholarships that are available to you and worth applying for.

The Fastweb website and others like it will search for scholarships for you based on parameters and qualifications you provide.

Other sources of scholarships can be found through local community organizations, like Rotary Club or Kiwanis. Check with these local organizations to see if you qualify for any offered scholarships. They may not be very large, but every little bit helps when you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.


Like scholarships, grants  are a form of financial aid that doesn’t have to be paid back. However, while scholarships are awarded for educational purposes only and can be need or merit based, grants can be awarded for education, research purposes, study abroad opportunities  or other reasons, and are primarily need based.

The federal and state government is one of the most common places to search for grants. These are primarily based on financial need. In order to find out if you’re eligible for any government grants, you must fill out the FAFSA form.

As with scholarships, there are numerous grants within both broad and extremely specific categories. It can seem overwhelming to search through them, but there are a few sites that have made that easier to do, such as the USA Grant Applications website.

Tuition reimbursement

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while and have now decided to go back to grad school, check with your employer. They may have reimbursement opportunities available that will help alleviate some of the financial burden. Assistance may be full or partial, or restricted to job-related degrees, or it may be for specific universities that the company is partnered with. Speak with your HR representative to understand the rules of reimbursement at your company.

Some companies that have progressive tuition reimbursement programs are Wawa™, Whole Foods™, Starbucks®, Boeing®, Intel®, JetBlue™, L.L. Bean™ and Qualcomm™. This is a benefit well worth taking advantage of if it’s offered.

If you’re in the military or a veteran, you may also be qualified to receive tuition reimbursement, benefits and assistance. Learn about Using Veterans Benefits to Pay for Grad School.

Finding further assistance

The financial aspect of obtaining a graduate degree is going to weigh heavily in your final decision. Finding scholarship, grant or reimbursement money can significantly reduce the financial burden you will have to carry long after you’ve gotten your diploma.

* Average and percentiles of graduate tuition and required fees in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control of institution: 1989–90 through 2018–19.