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Research Guides

Graduate Funding Information Service: Graduate Funding: Introduction

Research guide for finding funding for graduate school

COVID-19 & Funding Cycles

COVID-19 has impacted funding at UW and beyond in a variety of ways. For instance, while the pandemic has created new funding opportunities, especially in public health, it has also resulted in some award delays for the 2020-2021 year. The information on this page may be generally helpful, the award cycles/dates may be slightly different due to COVID-19. 

Funding Types

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

Assistantships: At UW, there are teaching, research, and graduate staff assistantships. Assistantships are employment, usually requiring 19.5 hours of work/week. These positions usually provide a full/partial tuition waiver, a monthly stipend, and health insurance.

Fellowships: Often larger scale funding dispersed over an extended period of time to support a graduate student's active or prospective research. May also cover some tuition or living expenses. 

Grants: Frequently travel-based awards use the term "grant" to indicate a lump sum of money. The term "grant" also often refers to funds provided for a large scale research project, frequently in the engineering, medicine, and/or the sciences. 

Scholarships: Primarily provides funding for educational expenses (tuition, supplies, living expenses). Often based on a student's academic merit or financial need.

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 2021-2022 school year occur primarily during September 2020 - March 2021.

Some deadline for nationally-coveted fellowships such as the Fulbright (September) and Luce Scholars (September) are before the University of Washington begins its Fall 2020 quarter.

January - April: Deadlines for summer opportunities begin to appear. A quicker application process than academic year funding, opportunities for Summer 2021 occur January - April, 2021.

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 August.

Funding Based on Academic Level

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. See the Funding Databases page for additional tips on crafting funding searches. 

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 dissertation research or another project at a specific institution. Must have earned your degree by the position start-date.


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.