Fellowship Programs: Funding Options for Grad Students

Last Updated on May 23, 2023

Fellowship Programs: The 2012 UNCF Merck Science Initiative Graduate fellows stand together for a group photo.
Photo courtesy of UNCF/Merck Science Initiative.

Getting into graduate school is a challenge all by itself. However, a bigger hurdle that most students trying to enter graduate school face is to find the funding they need to complete their studies. Graduate studies involve not just tuition, books and other miscellaneous fees. If you are seriously planning to enter a graduate program, you have to consider how you can pay for your living expenses, as well.

Most graduate students are fortunate to find funding through government agencies and other institutions that extend financial assistance to them through scholarships and portable fellowship programs. Unlike institutional fellowship grants, portable fellowship programs will allow you to select the university of your choice. These are awarded based on academic excellence and merit. The amount extended to the student varies, depending on the sponsor, the length of the graduate study program and other factors.

Here are some portable fellowship programs that you can explore if you are planning to pursue an advanced degree:

UNCF and Merck Foundation Science Initiative Graduate Science Research Dissertation Fellowships

This portable fellowship program from UNCF and the Merck Foundation is available for African American students who are enrolled in a full-time PhD or equivalent doctoral program and who are preparing their dissertations in biomedical sciences.

  • Fields of study: Environmental and life sciences, engineering, physical sciences and medicine
  • Award grant: Up to $10,000, with stipend up to $42,000

National Physical Science Consortium (NPSC) Graduate Fellowships in the Physical Sciences

The NPSC Graduate Fellowship program is available for all American citizens, but with priority given to historically under-represented minorities and women.

  • Fields of study: Physical sciences and related engineering fields
  • Period covered: First 2 to 3 years of graduate school, with a maximum duration of 6 years
  • Award Amounts: Can exceed $200,000 which includes stipend, salary for 2 summers, tuition and other fees

Microsoft Research Student Fellowship

This fellowship grant is sponsored by Microsoft Research and is awarded to more than 20 students annually. All recipients are given salaried internship opportunities with either Microsoft Live Labs in Redmond, Washington or Microsoft Research.

  • Fields of study: Computer science
  • Period covered: 2 academic years, not available for renewal
  • Award Amounts: Tuition fees, living expenses and travel allowances to cover costs of attending professional conferences

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowships in Biological Sciences

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute predoctoral fellowships are awarded to at least 80 students who are enrolled in full-time study to pursue a PhD or ScD degree in the medical and biological sciences.

  • Fields of study: biochemistry, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, physiology
  • Period covered: 5 academic years of full-time study
  • Award Amounts: Minimum award of $31,000

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowships is administered by the National Research Council

Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship

The Fannie & John Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship aims to provide support to students in the biological, engineering and physical sciences. Fellowships are based on academic merit and achievement.

  • Fields of study: Applied physical, biological and engineering

Fellowship options:

  • Period covered: Renewable up to 5 years
  • Award Amounts: $32,000/ 9-month personal stipend
  • Period covered: Two Years
  • Award Amounts: $32,000/ 9-month personal stipend

Ford Foundation Fellowship Program

The Ford Foundation Fellowship Program is open to all American citizens or permanent residents and is awarded to individuals who are engaged in teaching and research in the college or university level. It aims to increase the ethnic and racial diversity of teaching professionals in the nation's colleges and universities.

Predoctoral Fellowships are awarded to 60 individuals who are taking their graduate studies leading to a PhD or ScD degrees. Fellowships are awarded to winners of a national competition conducted by the National Research Council on behalf of the Ford Foundation.

Fellowship Options:

  • Period covered: Renewable annually, for a maximum period of 3 years
  • Award Amounts: $20,000 stipend plus $2,000 institution award Dissertation Fellowships are awarded to at least 35 individuals who are completing their dissertations leading to a PhD or ScD degree. The fellowships are given to those who pass the national competition administered by the NRC on behalf of the Ford Foundation.
  • Period covered: 1 year
  • Award Amounts: $21,000 stipend plus other conference expenses Portable fellowship programs for graduate studies do provide more freedom for the student to choose their preferred universities. However, students may be requested to repay the stipend through mandatory service in the industry. If you are planning to pursue advanced studies, explore these and other opportunities that can help you achieve your goal.

For more portable fellowship options, visit gradschools.com

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