Timing & Funding for Grad School Applicants

Dealing with Deadlines

Allow plenty of time and make checklists with dates.

If you’re applying for graduate admission and hope to receive funding, it is particularly important to pay attention to deadlines—your school’s deadlines for admission and aid consideration, any additional deadlines for scholarship materials, and any deadlines for funding from private sources or outside agencies.

Here are some things you should keep in mind:

1. Some programs that have rolling admissions will post an earlier deadline for full financial aid/scholarship consideration. Similarly, many programs with spring semester admission will only consider funding applications for fall admission—so make sure you take all deadlines into account if funding is important to you.

2. Take your tests (GRE, TOEFL, etc) with enough time for your scores to be processed and sent to your schools before the deadline. If you take a paper test, allow 6 weeks for delivery. For computer-based tests, 3 weeks is a safe guideline.

3. Allow plenty of time for your recommenders to submit their letters—and follow up to make sure all docs have been submitted and received. A polite thank you note, before your deadline, can serve as a gentle reminder to a busy recommender.

4. To qualify for need-based aid and federal student loans, file your FAFSA on time. States may have their own deadlines [fafsa.ed.gov].

5. If you are an international student, contact the financial aid office at your university for the appropriate forms to demonstrate financial aid eligibility. International students are not eligible for US federal student aid and do not use the FAFSA.

6. Many states have extended some financial aid eligibility and in-state tuition to undocumented students who meet certain requirements (see for example CA’s AB 540). If this is your situation, make sure you file the necessary paperwork before enrolling.

7. For each application you are working on—whether it’s for admission, scholarship funding, etc—make a checklist, with dates. Keep track of everything that you need to submit (transcripts, resume, letters of rec, essays, test scores), and when you have requested and/or uploaded each item.

Funding for graduate school may include scholarships, grants, loans, assistantships (such as teaching or research assistantships), fee remissions, or any combination of the above. While PhD programs often fund most or all of their students, it can be harder for Master’s students (or students in professional degree programs) to find funding. Do your research, and look for funding opportunities both at your university and through outside sources. Good luck!

Download our free report: GET YOUR GAME ON: Preparing for Your Grad School Application

Rebecca Blustein By , Accepted.com editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

Related Resources:

• Obtaining Graduate Assistantships
Grad School Admissions Essay Writing Tips
• Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School, an ebook

MBA Scholarships: How Do I Apply and What Should I Emphasize?

Which b-schools offer the most scholarships?

Scholarship dollars are designated by a donor for specific reasons.

While each school has its own unique scholarship offerings (merit only, merit and need, need only), they do so for a variety of reasons.  Similar to admissions, a director will consider your academic indicators, your work experience, your extra-curricular activities, your goals and your community service.  They also consider socio-economic factors for need-based and outstanding accomplishments for merit-need-based scholarships.

Merit-based general scholarships give the schools an opportunity to attract a candidate that they may not have the opportunity to enroll without the scholarship.  For schools with deep pockets, it helps the admissions office attract and maintain individuals that without the scholarship, the school could easily lose to other schools.  It also helps some schools fill their enrollment requirements.  Regardless, scholarships enable the admissions director to create his or her mosaic.

In addition to general scholarships, each school may also have specialized scholarships.   Those scholarships often will be given to students that diversify the population through their goals or their backgrounds.  In addition to school scholarships, outside organizations may partner with the school to offer scholarships or offer scholarships autonomously. Many organizations offer scholarships for students with disabilities (National MS Society, Setoma, SBA), women (Forte, AAUW) under-represented minorities (Consortium, Tiogo, American Association of Indian Affairs, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, NSHMBA, NBMBA, Pfizer, Hispanic College Fund, and international students (Fulbright).  Specialized scholarships can be found on a national level (GFAO, Peace Corps, GI Bill, Fisher House), state level (New York State Scholarship Fund) and local level (Shanghai municipal scholarship) as well as through charitable and religious organizations.

Each school also has scholarship dollars that are designated by a corporate donor, alumnus or friend of the school for specific reasons.  Ernst and Young gave one school for whom I worked an endowment to distribute to candidates with accounting backgrounds, and another school for whom I worked had an alumnus who offered the school a fund designated for incoming Brazilian student scholarships.

I had the most difficulty distributing scholarships to local students with very specific backgrounds.  For example at one school, an alumnus gave us a generous fund to offer scholarships to students with accounting backgrounds from a specific county in the state in which the alumnus grew up.  The county was quite small and we rarely had applicants that applied to our school from that county with accounting backgrounds.  We couldn’t distribute that scholarship for several years in a row and when we did find a candidate that matched the criteria, that candidate received the scholarship regardless of need or merit.

Your best sources for scholarships are Fastweb.org, Scholarships.com, and the school you plan to attend.  However, check with each school’s scholarship policy before applying for admission.  Some schools may have you write an essay or check a box to show interest in scholarships.  Others distribute scholarships based on your admissions application and you don’t need to indicate an interest in scholarship at all.

Regardless of how you piece together your school funding, don’t pay for a scholarship search.  The information is free on the Internet or through your school’s admissions and/or financial aid office. Also, keep in mind that you must complete the FAFSA for U.S. scholarships and loans or the international equivalent through your country’s ministry of education.  And if you have multiple offers with scholarships, you have some negotiating power. If you need additional information, please contact me.


Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Obtaining Graduate Assistantships

@TNicole84 asks us for advice on obtaining graduate assistantships. Here’s information and a few application tips:

Check out our PhD Admissions 101 Page!

Need help funding your graduate education?

Assistantships are a way of funding your graduate education. They are more often awarded to PhD students than to master’s students (though a department may sometimes have funding available for exceptional master’s students). You may be awarded a Teaching Assistantship (meaning you help teach a class, teach a section of a larger class, teach a lab, or the like—responsibilities vary by institution); or a Research Assistantship (meaning you work with faculty to support their research—your responsibilities will depend on your field).

Most PhD programs will evaluate your application for funding (including assistantships, fellowships, etc) when they admit you, based on the same materials you submitted with your application for admission. Most universities also require that you file a financial aid application (including the FAFSA, if you are eligible for federal aid), so that they can also determine your financial need. Check the requirements for each university you’re applying to.

Some universities offer “named” fellowships/assistantships through campus research centers or interdisciplinary teaching centers—these programs are likely to have independent application processes. Research your options carefully and make sure you get all your application materials in on time.

If you’ve been admitted for a PhD and your department has not offered you funding (in the form of assistantships/fellowships), contact the department to ask whether students are able to apply for assistantships in other (allied) departments. For instance, the university might offer graduate teaching assistantships for interdisciplinary general education courses, and positions might become available late in the year. If you’re in English, perhaps the Composition department needs additional TAs. Find out what materials you need to submit (normally your CV, LORs, occasionally the application you submitted for admission).

If you’re applying for a TAship independently of your admission application, use your CV to highlight any previous teaching experience. In your cover letter, explain why pedagogy is important to you and why you see teaching as an important part of your academic training (and career). If you’re applying outside of your home department, make sure you can demonstrate you have the skills to do the job (for instance, if you’re an Applied Math student, can you also TA Physics? If you’re a Comparative Literature student, can you TA German?).

In addition, you can often supplement your primary funding with work as a grader or reader during exam periods.

Helpful resources on campus will include your home department, the office of graduate studies, and the financial aid office.

Good luck!

Check out our ebook, Financing Your Future. It is a comprehensive guide to graduate funding.

Download free: Plotting Your Way to a PhD

Rebecca Blustein By , Accepted.com editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

Show Me The Money

You may get accepted. You may get rejected. Either way, you need to answer one question: "Now what?"

I’ll give you a little advice…everything is negotiable.

On a day like today, I’m doing my happy dance.  My MBA clients have been contacting me with good news from the schools to which they applied.  Several of them have multiple offers with scholarships attached, which immediately present the question:  Can they negotiate their scholarship offers?

Since most of you have yet to take your MBA negotiations class, I’ll give you a little advice…everything is negotiable.  You have an offer of admission and unless you did something egregious that the schools discover in their background research, the school will not take that offer away from you.  In fact, the schools want you to come to their programs so much that they’ve offered you scholarships, tuition discounts, or graduate assistantships to entice you away from other schools.  You are in the power position, but you have limited time to act.

If you have multiple scholarship offers, you have even more power.  So play the schools off each other.  You will need to provide proof of funding and develop a clear statement of what it would take to have you deposit and attend that school.  If school A matches school B’s offer, go back to school B and ask for more.  Many schools have some wiggle room with scholarship offers.  And the worst-case scenario is that school A will say “no” to your request and then there is no harm and no foul.

Caution: While you may be in the power position, remain likeable, respectful and courteous. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by coming off as arrogant.  And if you have deposited at a school, you have diminished your position of power.

If you need additional consultation on this matter, we are available to help you construct the communication that in the words of one of my former clients made his “investment in Accepted.com a very positive ROI.”

You may get accepted. You may get rejected. Either way, you need to answer one question: "Now what?"

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Columbia Offers New Dong-Bin Shin Fellowships

Applying to CBS? Check out our application essay tips! Last week, Columbia School of Business announced that it will be offering two-year, full-tuition fellowships to four class of 2016 students. The fellowship – the Dong-Bin Shin Fellowship – is supported by the recent $4 million gift of class of 1981 alumnus, Dong-Bin Shin.

The fellowships will be awarded to four students who demonstrate academic excellence as well as financial need. One fellowship will be given to an international student from each the follow regions: South Korea, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East or Africa. To be considered, students must apply by January 6, 2014.

In appreciation of Shin’s generosity, Columbia will establish the Dong-Bin Shin ’81 and Lotte Classroom on its new Manhattanville campus.

Check out our Columbia Business School Zone for all the CBS news, stats, tips, and more.

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