Funding from the graduate school

Your best resource for funding will be the graduate school to which you are applying.

US graduate programmes can offer several types of funding to international students: 

  • Financial aid (if offered)
  • Assistantships (generally reserved for PhD and academic master's students)
  • Fellowships
  • Fully funded packages (available from competitive PhD programmes)

Financial aid

If it is offered, graduate financial aid typically covers a proportion of a student's financial need to attend graduate school. Sometimes it is guaranteed to all admitted students, and sometimes it's awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. This demonstrates the importance of filing all paperwork early.


Assistantships are funding provided in exchange for services to the graduate school or department. This can be:

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Lab supervision
  • Working in an administrative office

Students with assistantships are usually required to provide 15-20 hours' work a week.


Fellowships are outright grants. Sometimes they are guaranteed to all admitted students, and sometimes they must be competed for on the basis of students' submitted project proposals by certain deadlines, or by merit of a student's academic performance.

Other fellowships might have niche criteria, based on a donor's wishes.

Full funding packages

The most competitive PhD programmes are often fully funded by the university, covering:

  • Tuition fee waivers
  • Living expenses in the first two years
  • Assistantship funding in the second two years
  • Professional development bursaries

Do they offer it?

Remember to check the websites of each graduate school you're interested in, to see if they offer funding to international students. This includes the pages for their:

  • Graduate school tuition/costs information
  • Graduate school financial aid information
  • Specific department information
  • Specific degrees information

Applying for it

Applications for graduate school funding are often integrated into the application for admission.

Niche and merit fellowships might require writing an additional essay or submitting your application by an earlier date.

If it is offered, financial aid applications often require earlier submissions.

As part of your visa interview, you cannot rely on fellowships you might apply for later on in the year to prove you have sufficient funding.