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Research Guides

How to Search for Graduate School Funding: Timelines & Definitions

Helping current and admitted UW graduate students learn the skills and tools to find funding

When to Look for Funding

Ideally, start searching is a year before you will need the funds

It is always worth searching, even if you begin later than the ideal time

These are trends for deadlines, but there are some opportunities during other times of the year. 


  • Quicker turnaround
  • Year-long assignments tend to appear March - August, to begin in fall
  • Quarter-long assistantships posted in preceding quarter
  • Application deadlines vary 

Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants

October - March 

  • Majority of deadlines for the following academic year.
  • Deadlines for the 2022-2023 school year are primarily during October 2021 - March 2022.
  • Some deadlines for nationally-coveted fellowships such as the Fulbright (September) and Luce Scholars (September) are before the University of Washington begins its fall quarter.

January - April

  • Deadlines for summer opportunities begin to appear 
  • A quicker application process than academic year funding
  • Opportunities for Summer 2022 occur January - April, 2022

Funding Types

Assistantships: Part-time jobs for graduate students in any department, research center, or branch of the university. Include teaching, research, and graduate staff assistantships. Some include salary, tuition waiver, and health insurance. Tuition waivers usually require full-time enrollment (10+ credit hours per quarter in autumn, winter, and spring; 2+ credit hours in summer quarter). 

Scholarships, fellowships, and grants: Money that does not have to be paid back. These are interchangeable terms. Slight differences in use, but no clear and consistent rule.

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.