width=280Is your bank balance stopping you from pursuing your postgrad study in the US? Don't despair. QS Top Universities talks with Lauren Welch, Head of Advising at Fulbright Advisory Service about funding options, networking with faculty and assistantship packages. You'll be studying for your masters of PhD before you know it.

Types of Funding

Generally speaking, there are four types of funding for study in the US: personal and family savings, loans from a US or UK lender, funding from a US university and funding from an outside organization. 

University Funding

After assessing your personal and family savings, your best resource for funding will likely be a US university. There are generally two types of university-based funding available: fellowships and assistantships. Fellowships can be thought of as an outright grant, while assistantships offer funding in return for services provided to the university - either teaching, research, lab supervision or working in a campus office for up to 20 hours per week.

Assistantship packages may include a reduced rate or waiver for tuition and fees, health insurance and/or a living stipend. However, it is important to note the number of assistantships and packages on offer will vary. University funding tends to be more readily available for PhD students and students in a research-focused masters degree than for professional degree students. Further, programs in the sciences and engineering generally have more funding to pass on to students than programs in the humanities.

Fellowships and assistantships are generally awarded based on academic merit and potential. However, factors such as professional / research experience, community service participation or extracurricular involvement during your undergraduate studies may also be taken into consideration.

Often the process of applying for university funding is straightforward and integrated into the admissions application. In fact, it may be as simple as submitting your admissions application by an earlier date. More information should be available on the department's website.

External Funding Bodies

Awards from professional, charitable or government organizations, such as the Fulbright Commission [http://www.fulbright.co.uk/fulbright-awards], are also available.  Often, funding from external funding bodies is awarded based on academic merit and potential, as well as specific personal qualities outlined by the funding body. These qualities often correlate to the mission of the organization and could include country of origin, ethnicity, religious faith, interest in a particular field, gender, interests, or talents.  For example, to apply for a UK Fulbright Award, one must be a UK citizen interested in US study or research, as this correlates to our mission of promoting US-UK study exchange.

Searching for external funding will require time and dedication on your part to sift through listings in print directories and online to find relevant scholarship opportunities. You will then have to submit a separate application to each funding body. Fortunately, funding applications tend to follow the format of university applications. For example, if you apply for a Fulbright Award, you will be asked to submit a personal statement, research statement, transcript, CV, reference letters and the online application.


Finally, as the cost of higher education rises in the US and UK, more students are turning to loans to cover all or part of their studies. Loans may be available from a lender in the US or UK. Please note, however, most US lenders will require a US citizen to co-sign on the loan.

Steps for Success

1.  Start early:  Applying for funding often happens simultaneous to, or in the case of Fulbright Awards prior to, the admissions process. Therefore, you will want to begin your search for funding early. Ideally, you should research funding opportunities as you research universities 12-18 months prior to enrolment.  

2.  Be committed: Keep in mind that securing funding will require time and commitment on your part to find, research and apply for funding opportunities. The more time you put in and the more opportunities you apply for, the better your chances of getting funding.

3. Chose universities carefully: As you're researching universities, look for best buys' such as public (state-funded) universities, which tend to charge significantly less tuition and fees than private universities. Additionally, you may want to look for universities with larger numbers of assistantships and fellowships on offer. As funding is often reserved for top applicants, you may also want to apply to universities where you are well above the average admissions exam scores and marks of last year's admitted students, as well as a good fit for the curricular offerings.

4. Network with faculty: You may wish to network with faculty prior to submitting your admissions or funding application. If a faculty member is doing research or teaching a class in your area of interest, you may wish to email him/her about your shared research interests and perhaps enquire about their current work or recent publications. This contact can be a good opportunity to confirm that you will have support for your academic goals, as well as to begin networking for funding opportunities. You never know whether this faculty member could be involved in admissions or funding decisions.

5. Keep in mind additional funding will be available, when you enrol: While these sources cannot be taken into account when supplying proof of funding information at the visa interview stage, rest assured there will be additional sources of funding available once you enrol. Additional assistantships or opportunities to teach and research may arise during your degree program. Regardless of whether a position in your department opens, international students can also work up to 20 hours per week during term time and 40 hours per week during holidays on campus. Graduate students may also apply to become a resident advisor, receiving free on-campus housing and meals in exchange for helping professional staff manage a floor or a residence hall. 


The Fulbright Commission [www.fulbright.co.uk] offers awards for postgraduate study, as well as a wide range of resources, many of which are free, to support students interested in study in the US.  

The Fulbright Commission is the only organization in the UK offering scholarships for US study in any discipline at any accredited US university. In addition to the traditional postgraduate awards (any discipline), we offer awards specifically in journalism, film, science and technology and for students admitted to the Harvard MBA program.  To apply, applicants must be UK citizens, have a minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree (or equivalent) and may not hold US citizenship.  

To find out more about the Fulbright Awards and financing your studies in general, we recommend you begin by visiting our website: www.fulbright.co.uk. In the postgraduate study in the US – finances section, you'll find information on expenses to expect and resources for applying for funding, including a list of scholarships for UK students.

You may wish to attend one of our USA Grad School Day [http://www.fulbright.co.uk/advice-resources/usa-grad-school-day] sessions on 5 March 2009 in London.  Held in partnership with QS, we will host sessions on MBA admissions during the World MBA Fair [http://www.topmba.com/mba_fairs/?partnerid=676] at the New Connaught Rooms.

Students in other fields may be interested in attending our USA Grad School Day workshop held at Goodenough College, which will provide an overview of the admission process, choosing the right institution at which to study and funding opportunities including the Fulbright Awards. Additionally, admissions exam tutors will lead sessions on the GRE and a representative from the US Embassy will discuss the student visa application process.

As you explore university funding, you will want to consult each university's departmental and/or graduate studies webpage individually for information on available funding and application procedures. You may wish to search for scholarships from external funding bodies on the following websites: EducationUSA (www.educationusa.state.gov), Institute for International Education - Funding for US Study (http://www.fundingusstudy.org), International Education Financial Aid (www.iefa.org), eduPASS (www.edupass.org/finaid/) and Global Grant (www.globalgrant.com).

Additionally, our Resource Library also contains print funding directories and is open Mondays (1:30 pm - 5 pm) and Thursdays (1:30 pm - 5 pm).