Home Media SCU Leavey Blog How To Find Graduate School Funding

How To Find Graduate School Funding

23 Feb
A blue 3D concept of financial assistance and education funding

If you find yourself stuck in a professional rut or unexpectedly back in the job search, you, like many others, might start considering a master’s degree. Business school is a great way to grow as a leader, expand your technical or analytical skill set, advance at your current company, or pivot into a new organization or field. But these advantages come at a cost, and the price tag for graduate school tuition is often a major roadblock for prospective students considering an advanced degree.

Luckily, there are many resources to help offset the cost and make your investment more manageable, specifically for those who might have been affected by recent mass layoffs in the tech industry. Santa Clara University offers several options for tuition assistance and financial aid, including a guaranteed $3,000 scholarship for tech workers who have been laid off. That scholarship, along with the other forms of financial aid that we’ve outlined below, can help reduce the load of your master’s program tuition so you can start sooner and with less stress.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is the general term for assistance that you receive to pay for your education. It may be available through private or public third-party organizations, as well as individual employers and military or government organizations. It usually does not need to be paid back, with the exception of loans. Almost everyone, regardless of income, background, or intended degree, can qualify for some form of financial aid.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form required to receive any form of financial aid from the government. It includes personal, professional, educational, income, and tax information to help determine your financial need. Each year, over 13 million students who file the FAFSA get more than $120 billion in grants, work-study, and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Education.1 FAFSA can be your gateway to several other types of financial aid, so you’ll likely have to fill out this free application at some point in the process.

CSS Profile

The CSS Profile is very similar to the FAFSA but is used to determine eligibility for state and institutional aid, not federal. The questions are more in-depth and consider additional financial factors outside of the FAFSA, such as medical expenses. It’s often recommended that you fill out both forms when applying for aid to maximize your opportunities. Unlike the FAFSA, the CSS Profile costs $25 for the first school you send it to, and $16 for each additional school (fee waivers are available through the College Board).2


Any money that you borrow to pay for your education is a loan. Loans almost always need to be paid back and must be in accordance with the terms and amounts outlined in the loan agreement. The two main types of loans are federal and private; federal loans, of course, come from the federal government, and include Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans.3 Private loans are given by banks and credit unions and, although they can be more customized, they typically have higher interest rates. If you have private or federal student loans from your undergraduate degree, you may be able to defer them while you’re in graduate school.4

Depending on the provider and loan agreement, your loans may have variable or fixed interest rates; require part-time or full-time school enrollment; be subsidized or unsubsidized; and be awarded based on your credit or income.4 Look closely at the terms and conditions of your loan and make sure you can pay it back in a timely manner before you commit.

Work-study, Fellowships, or Assistantships

These positions let students to work for a university in some capacity to help pay for educational expenses. Whether that means working in a campus building or assisting a professor with research, the hours that you accumulate will be “paid back” in some way.4 On-campus programs may pay for your room and board, while an online program would contribute to tuition and books.

Where to Find Financial Aid

At SCU, the University Financial Aid Office can help in locating and applying for these types of aid. If you’re researching on your own, start with any of these resources:

  • Studentaid.gov
  • Princeton Review
  • U.S. News & World Report
  • SoFi
  • College Financing Group
  • Financial Aid page of your university
  • Professional organizations
  • The College Board
  • Finaid


Scholarships are a popular and coveted way to pay for your education because they don’t involve paying any money back to your funding source. Their criteria can range, and scholarship award amounts for graduate students tend to be more modest than for undergrads, but any amount can be helpful in the short and long term.

There are typically three categories of scholarships:

Merit-Based: money is awarded based on special interest, academic, or athletic performance, not need. These usually require certain stipulations, like a minimum GPA, standardized test score (e.g., GMAT), or a leadership position. You can apply for merit-based scholarships through a university, business school, private organization, or public, national organizations.5

Need-Based: the scholarship provider will assess your “need” by reviewing your income, the size of your family/dependents, and other expenses. Although your income is taken into consideration, it doesn’t automatically prevent you from getting need-based scholarships. Generally, financial need is calculated by finding the difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a school and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).6 Need-based scholarships have a lot of similarities to grants, which we’ll outline more below.

Specialized: targeted scholarships for specific groups of people, e.g., minorities, women, specialty majors, etc. These can come from corporations, professional organizations, foundations, and governmental agencies. For example, SCU Leavey provides a scholarship of at least $3,000 for workers who have been affected by recent tech layoffs, as well as adapted admissions requirements.

Where to Find Scholarships

With so many scholarship options, there are just as many—and more!—sources from which they come. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options, browse the list of scholarships and providers below.

  • National Merit Scholarship Program
  • Niche Graduate School Scholarship
  • Scholarships360
  • Sallie Mae Graduate School Scholarship Search
  • Fastweb
  • Scholarship America
  • Scholly
  • Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship
  • Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting
  • Financial Women of San Francisco Scholarship
  • Chicana Latina Foundation Scholarship Program
  • Kerri Castellini Women’s Leadership Scholarship


Often used interchangeably with scholarships, grants are a type of “gift aid” that don’t need to be paid back. However, unlike most scholarships, grants are usually based on need, not performance or accolades. Grants come from federal or state organizations, universities, and private organizations.7

Federal & State Grants

Pell Grant: Federal Pell Grants usually are only given to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree. The maximum award amount for the 2023-2024 year is $7,395. Schools use the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for a Pell Grant, which doesn’t need to be repaid except under certain circumstances.8

Fulbright Grant: another federal grant that’s given by the U.S. Department of Education, but specifically to promote the exchange of ideas across countries. This grant is available to undergraduate or graduate students to help you continue your international studies.9

State Grants: To encourage students to attend college, some states offer grants themselves, usually paid for by money set aside from their Education Department, or from federal funding. To qualify, you usually have to meet income restrictions and live and attend school within the state.10

Institutional Grants

Although it might seem counterintuitive, the school you choose to attend also can be a valuable source of funding. Many colleges and universities have grant programs to help students with educational expenses, whether they’re funded completely by the university, or by alumni and university sponsors.

Private Grants

Harder to find, but sometimes easier to apply for, are private grants. These can come from private companies and non-profit organizations and are typically awarded to students who meet certain criteria, such as low-income students belonging to certain ethnic or racial groups.10

Where to Find Grants

  • Your state’s Education Department website
  • American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • Grants.gov
  • Professional organizations (e.g., American Marketing Association)
  • Sallie Mae
  • Scholarship America
  • American Association of University Women Career Development Grant
  • California Student Aid Commission

Not All Aid is Equal

Before you decide on a specific form of financial aid, make sure you do your research. Some may not be worth the work or price that you have to pay for them, or they may not be applicable to you and your career path. Others may only be available on a semi-annual or semester basis, or ask that you provide updates to maintain your funding. Lastly, make sure you have all of the necessary materials ready (resume, transcripts, pay stubs, etc.) when you start your search. The aid options that you apply for will likely ask for a lot of the same materials, so you’ll want to make sure you have everything on hand.

Again, a university’s Financial Aid, Admissions and Enrollment Services, or Bursar’s Office can help you with this process. At SCU, we’ll ask you all about your background and career intentions to match you with the best (and most comprehensive) financial aid options.

You Have the Funding. Now, Take the Final Step.

Once you know how you’re going to pay for your degree, the rest can fall into place. With some form of financial aid, scholarship, or grant at your disposal, you can focus on your application and fully dedicate yourself to the master’s program of your choice. Before then, be sure to check out our tips for other key business school application steps, such as composing a great admissions essay and acing your interview.

The current SCU Leavey scholarship for tech layoffs applies to all of our online graduate programs: Online MBA, Online MSBA, Online MS in Finance & Analytics, and the Online MS in Marketing. We’d love to set up some time with you to talk about your goals and help you start the process.