How to Find Funding for Graduate School

Sept. 28, 2016

The most frequently asked question I receive from graduate students is how to find funding. Finding funding is like finding a job; it takes a mixture of work, perseverance, luck, and connections. 

We have some basic information on funding graduate school on our website (Funding 101). Further, here are a few strategies to keep in mind in your search for graduate funding:

1. Talk to People

Your advisor and your colleagues are almost invariably the best place to begin looking for funding. I recently spoke with someone who discovered several new opportunities to which she will apply while talking with colleagues at a conference.

However, do not rely totally on word of mouth. We find that when one person in a department is awarded a fellowship, other people in that department begin applying to that same fellowship. This is not a problem in itself, but other opportunities exist to which people could apply. Because everyone’s research is different and because new opportunities continually pop up, it is a good idea to keep your eyes on other sources as well.

2. Search Funding Databases

If you are new to the funding search, start with small databases exclusively for graduate students. Cornell and UCLA have nice little databases. You can find links to them here.

Once you get an idea about what is available to graduate students, give the big databases a try. I would begin with Pivot. Although Pivot is sponsored by the Community of Science, it is an excellent source for opportunities in the arts and humanities as well.

Pivot is a big database. Don’t be surprised if your first attempts result in funding for Minnesotans doing research on fisheries in Norway or some other peculiar result. Begin with a broad search and narrow it down. Spend some time playing around with search terms and keywords.

Once you have some good results from Pivot, give Grant Forward a try. You can find both databases on our website.

Your time invested in Pivot and Grant Forward will pay off. Once you find a good search, save it and you can sign up for a personalized funding alerts from both of these databases. You will get weekly emails with new results from your search. I’ll repeat this because you may not have realized how exciting it is, you will be able to sign up for personalized funding alerts from the databases!

3. Explore Expansive Lists of Graduate Funding

If you are near the beginning of graduate school or about to enter the dissertation stage, a few minutes perusing lists of large, nationally competitive fellowships can be worth your while. These lists abound on the internet; here are three good websites:

University of California Davis

Michigan State University (keep scrolling down for other great resources)

Swarthmore College’s List of Fellowships for International Students

4. Pay Attention to UA Sources of Funding

Because the U of A is so large and decentralized, it can be easy to lose track of the funding opportunities available specifically for UA students. Try to stay abreast of what your college, school, and department have to offer. Many institutions across campus maintain lists of opportunities. There are too many lists to feature in this email, but here are a few particularly helpful examples:

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute (SBSRI) maintains a wonderful little database of funding opportunities:

The College of Science has a list of opportunities for graduate students. Other colleges have similar lists:

The Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) is a great source of funding:

Make a Plan

Remember that most funding opportunities have application deadlines several months (or even a year) before the start of the fellowship. So look for opportunities well in advance of when you will need them. For example, if you are a year or two into a PhD program, start paying attention to dissertation funding. Investing in some time now and making a schedule of applications for yourself, will pay off in the future.

Good luck. Feel free to explore our website and GradFunding newsletter for more suggestions.


The GradFunding Newsletter is a service of the University of Arizona Graduate College, Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement. You may reuse this article but please acknowledge Shelley Hawthorne Smith and the University of Arizona Graduate College Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement.

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