Guide to Funding Your Graduate Studies
I remember how daunting it was for me when it came to materialising my dream of pursuing a Master’s degree. There was no stone that I left unturned to make it happen. And, now, when I see aspiring students going through the same ordeal, I cannot help but flinch at the sight. There is no denying that a Master’s or PhD is a huge investment, but when the end of the road looks as great as it does for millions of graduate students, then pursuing it is not a very hard decision to make. Trust me when I say this, because I’ve been there and done that!
I understand how discouraging the entire experience can be, but don’t lose hope because I have got you covered. While I guide you regarding the available funding options, make sure you have done your part of writing a compelling personal statement and zeroing upon the universities you would want to enrol in. Without any further delay, let’s delve straight into the topic.
Sources of Graduate Funding
I advise students to start looking for funding opportunities well before applying to universities. This way, you can gather a lot of information about the sources and if you can fit any of their eligibility criteria, then you can start applying for them.
There are multiple sources of graduate funding available for students. Merit-based, need-based, need-blind, university-specific, course-specific, subject-specific, career-specific, demographic-specific, country-specific, ability-specific, and non-specific financing are all available to graduate students… The following is a list of the most common types of graduate funding offered across the world.
Home and Host Country Governments
The first places to check for funding opportunities are the Ministry/Department of Education in your home and host country. You may not fulfil all the requirements for all government funding schemes in the host country, so it is very important to check thoroughly for funding schemes in your home country. Typical government funding schemes include sponsorships, student loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries. Each of these has its own distinct rules.
Some of the scholarships offered by different countries’ governments for Pakistani students are listed below:
United States of America
- Scholarship Value and Duration: the grant funds tuition fees, airfare, a living stipend and health insurance, etc. Fulbright programs provide funding for the duration of the study.
- Scholarship Value and Duration: The program covers university tuition fees, a monthly living allowance, an economy class return airfare to the UK and additional grants and allowance to cover essential expenditures.
- 10,000 euros for one year of postgraduate studies.
- Scholarship Value and Duration: It covers full tuition fees, returns air travel, establishment allowance, contribution to living expenses, Oversea Student Health Cover, Introductory Academic Program, Pre-course English fee, etc. For a complete list of benefits visit the official website.
Financial Aid by Universities and Higher Education Institutions
Many universities and other HEIS offer financial aid of some kind to international students. These are mainly offered on the basis of need, academic merit, or both. Information about them is available online, so check the scholarship or international section of the university website.
It is advisable to apply to as many schemes as possible if you fill in the criteria to fit their given requirements. If you are applying to these, make sure that you highlight things such as your strengths, exceptional achievements or any research, project or academic papers you have contributed to.
Since universities want to encourage good applicants to their postgraduate programs, they will offer them financial resources like scholarships to attract young talent. Scholarships are prestigious and usually the hardest form of financial aid to get. Students who are given scholarships are under no obligation to repay them, and they cover the entire or partial cost of tuition, as well as living expenses in some cases. Scholarships are often granted primarily on the basis of academic performance, while there are numerous special scholarships available to students with specific backgrounds, interests, skills, or ambitions.
There are multiple scholarships that international students can apply for. Here are some of the scholarships that are offered to students in Pakistan.
- Scholarship Value: Monthly payment of 861 euros for graduates students
Monthly payment of 1200 euros for doctoral programs
- Duration for graduate programs is 12 to 24 months and 42 months for doctoral programs.
- Scholarship Value and Duration: Tuition fees, a living stipend (17,310 euros), settling in allowance, health insurance, visa, and two economy class flight tickets. The scholarship provides help for two years.
- Scholarship Value and Duration: $40,000 ($26,666 from Ontario Govt and $13,333 from university)
- University of Melbourne (Australia)
- Melbourne Graduate Scholarship: 25%, 50% to 100% reduction in tuition fees.
- Melbourne Graduate Research Scholarship: 100% reduction in fees.
- Scholarship Value: full tuition fees, travelling allowance, living allowance and academic expenses.
Assistantships and Fellowships
Most universities provide funding for postgraduate students who agree to work as teaching assistants during their studies. This arrangement varies from a fellowship, in which a student gets funds for tuition, books, or living expenses without being obligated to provide any service to the university.
- Scholarship value: tuition fees at the assigned host university, Pre-academic English language training, if required, living allowance including a one-time settling-in allowance, accident and sickness coverage, a book allowance, airfare and a professional development allowance for professional activities.
National research council’s are commonly the main public sector investors in research, particularly that undertaken by postgraduate students. There are seven RCs in the UK that provide funding that is highly sought after. Similar investors in Canada and the USA are known as the National Research Council and various institutes around the world.
The seven UK Research Councils are:
- Arts and Humanities Research Council
- Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council
- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
- Economic and Social Research Council
- Medical Research Council
- National Environment Research Council
- Science and Technology Facilities Council
The scholarship offered by these research councils provide PhD students with a monthly stipend for living cost, tuition waiver at the domestic rate as well. The competition for these scholarships are intense, but courses that are highly specialised subjects have fewer applicants.
Charities Trust, Etc.
Charities, trusts, etc often reserve a portion of their budget to fund graduate studies, so talented students can benefit from such programs. These awards are usually once a year, with renewal possible in some cases. If you are an eligible student, then you can approach them to receive funding for your graduate studies.
When applying for any of them, attempt to emphasise characteristics that differentiate you from others. The potential and relevance of your studies, how your interest fits with the funding organisation, and your potential and determination to achieve are the topics you should highlight as much as possible.
Ask your Employer
If you are a working adult and starting your postgraduate studies after working for a while. You may be able to ask your employer to sponsor your education fully or partially. Most organisations value employee training and development and may set aside funds for their workers’ personal and professional growth.
Also, your employer will be more inclined to accept your request if you show you aim to improve your performance in the workplace or use your ability for the betterment and development of the organisation. If you choose this option, you have to sign an agreement that will tie you to the company for a specified period of time after your graduation.
Dedicated student loans have lower repayment rates than regular loans. While pretty common in North America for graduate students. They are a little hard to come by in the UK as they mainly provide student loans for undergraduate studies. There is an alternative option as well,banks in the UK offer Professional and Career Development Loans for students who plan to work in the UK, EU, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Iceland when they graduate. PCDLs cover up to two years of study, course fees, and some living costs and have a more flexible repayment method than a regular bank loan.
Prodigy Finance is also a good option for students opting for student loans. It is a private loan company that provides loans to both domestic and international students. The company supports over 750 schools in over 18 countries, which means it is easy to obtain funding here for your master’s degree.
Most international students applying for loans in the USA need to have co-signers. A co-signer is someone who joins an international student on their loan application, they will be equally responsible for the loan and making payments if the primary borrower is unable to. In most cases, Pakistani students are not on the list of the countries that are allowed to apply for a loan.
Alternative ways for Funding your Graduate Studies
When a herd of people comes forward to help you through a lot of small donations toward the cost of your master, it is called crowdfunding. This approach to funding your masters takes a lot of help from multiple organisations. All you need is a compelling reason to get people to help you out.
Although it is a very uncommon way of funding, students do try their luck every now and then and if you have a strong campaign, it may help you cover half or maybe all of your master’s fees. There have been some instances where students opt for crowdfunding for example a Singaporean student managed to raise $7000 for her education by turning to the public for money to fund her education.
If you aim to earn as a student to pay your tuition fee, you have to keep in mind that every country has its own rules about whether international students can work or where and how much they can earn. The most common type of restrictions that international students have to face is how many hours they can work in a term and if they can work only on-campus or off-campus as well.
Most campuses offer opportunities to work part-time or you can consider freelance work as well.
You can also opt for part-time studies, which means your tuition fees will be spread out over a longer period, it will give you the opportunity to study while working. So, if you are considering this route, you have to work out a balance between work, studies and personal life.
You can also consider portfolio funding. You do this when you gather funding from multiple different sources, such as bursaries, charities and trusts, loans, and student jobs. This means you will apply for almost all the types of funding that are mentioned in this article. For portfolio funding, students create a fundraising package that includes a letter asking for financial assistance to pay for their degree. The letter states who they are, why they want to study, what they want to research, what they will provide in return, and how to donate.
These are the sources that can help you with funding your masters degree. Again I will urge you to start looking for these as soon as you can so that you have ample time to submit your application