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Research Guides

Graduate Funding Information Service: Graduate Funding 101

Online guide and resources for graduate students looking for funding opportunities.

Funding Types

One of the most often asked questions GFIS receives is, "What is the difference between a fellowship, a grant, and a scholarship?" Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer that always applies. It depends on the sponsor organization, but these are some general definitions to follow:

  • Scholarships: Primarily provides funding for educational expenses (tuition, supplies, living expenses)

  • Fellowships: Funding which most often supports research.
  • Assistantships: Teaching, research, and graduate staff positions. At UW, they often provide a full/partial tuition waiver, a monthly stipend, and health insurance.

When to Look for Funding

**These application periods represent the common periods for deadlines, but there are still opportunities during other times of the year. The best course of action is to look at least a year ahead of when you will need funding.

September - December: Majority of deadlines for the following academic year. Deadlines for the 2020-2021 school year occur primarily during September 2019 - March 2020.

Some deadline for nationally-coveted fellowships such as the Fulbright (September), Luce Scholars (September), Jacob K. Javits (September) are before the University of Washington begins its Fall 2019 quarter.

January - April: Deadlines for summer opportunities. A quicker application process than academic year funding, opportunities for Summer 2020 occur January - April, 2020.

Assistantships are administered by individual departments and schools, so application deadlines vary. Usually, quarter-long assistantships will have deadlines from the middle through the end of the previous quarter. Postings for year-long assistantships typically appear from March to June.

Funding Based on Academic Level

PhD students may be searching for funding for the early stages of the program (pre-candidacy) or dissertation support (proposal development, research, writing). Look out for these terms:

  • Predoctoral - Funding to support educational costs at the beginning stages of a PhD program. Pre-candidacy and pre-dissertation.

  • Dissertation Fellowship/Scholarship - There are awards which cover only the research or writing stage of the dissertation, and some may cover any stage of that process.
  • Postdoctoral - Funding to continue your disseration research or another project at a specific institution. Must have earned your degree by the position start-date.

Master's or professional degree students may find that funding searches will include many resources for PhD students. If possible, add "master's" to your search terms, or look for opportunities which cover one year or less. There are several fee-based programs at UW, and you can check to see if your program is fee-based by asking your department or checking this list of of fee-based programs from the UW Registrar. Learn more about how fee-based status might affect you by reading this fee-based programs FAQ.