Getting a graduate degree can be an expensive endeavor, with tuition costs skyrocketing each year. However, there are ways to earn your master’s or doctorate without going into debt. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through all the options for attending grad school for free.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: you can get free tuition through scholarships, grants, fellowships, and assistantships. Some schools also offer free tuition for select programs.

Find Full-Ride Scholarships

If you’re considering going to grad school but are worried about the high costs, finding full-ride scholarships can be a game-changer. These scholarships cover the entire cost of your tuition, allowing you to pursue your higher education dreams without the burden of student loans.

Here are some strategies to help you find these valuable opportunities:

School-Specific Scholarships

Many universities offer full-ride scholarships to attract top talent to their graduate programs. These scholarships are often highly competitive, but with the right qualifications and a strong application, you could be the recipient of a full-ride scholarship.

Research the graduate programs you’re interested in and check their websites for information on available scholarships. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the school’s financial aid office for further guidance and assistance.

External Scholarships and Fellowships

There are numerous external scholarships and fellowships available for graduate students. These scholarships are offered by organizations, foundations, and government agencies that aim to support students pursuing advanced degrees.

Websites like Fastweb,, and Peterson’s are excellent resources to find a wide range of scholarships that you may be eligible for. Take the time to carefully read the eligibility requirements and application deadlines for each scholarship, and don’t forget to showcase your unique skills and experiences in your application.

Scholarships for Underrepresented Groups

Many organizations and institutions offer scholarships specifically designed to support students from underrepresented groups in higher education. These scholarships aim to promote diversity and inclusivity within graduate programs.

Scholarships for women, minorities, LGBTQ+ students, and individuals with disabilities are available. Websites like American Indian Science and Engineering Society, National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, and Hispanic Scholarship Fund provide valuable resources and information on scholarships for underrepresented groups.

Take advantage of these opportunities and highlight your unique background and experiences in your scholarship applications.

Remember, finding full-ride scholarships requires time, effort, and dedication. Be proactive in your search, start early, and don’t be discouraged by rejections. With perseverance and a strong application, you can increase your chances of obtaining a full-ride scholarship and achieve your academic goals without worrying about the financial burden.

Get Funding Through Assistantships

One of the most popular ways to fund your graduate education is through assistantships. These opportunities not only provide financial support, but also valuable experience and networking opportunities. Here are three types of assistantships you can consider:

Teaching Assistantships (TA)

Teaching assistantships, commonly known as TAs, are positions where graduate students assist professors in teaching undergraduate courses. As a TA, you may be responsible for grading assignments, leading discussion sections, or even delivering lectures.

This not only helps you develop your teaching skills, but also allows you to deepen your knowledge in your field of study. In return, you receive a stipend and sometimes even a tuition waiver.

Research Assistantships (RA)

Research assistantships, or RAs, involve working closely with faculty members on their research projects. As an RA, you may be involved in data collection, analysis, literature reviews, or lab experiments, depending on your field of study.

This type of assistantship not only provides financial support, but also offers you the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in your area of interest. Additionally, working as an RA can enhance your research skills and potentially lead to publications or conference presentations.

Administrative Assistantships

Administrative assistantships are another avenue to consider when seeking funding for your graduate studies. These positions involve working in various administrative departments within the university, such as admissions, student affairs, or academic advising.

While these assistantships may not be directly related to your field of study, they provide valuable transferable skills such as project management, communication, and organizational skills. Additionally, administrative assistantships often come with tuition waivers or stipends.

It’s important to note that the availability and nature of assistantships may vary between universities and departments. Some programs may offer assistantships to all admitted students, while others may have limited positions available.

Therefore, it’s crucial to research and reach out to individual departments or professors to inquire about assistantship opportunities.

For more information on assistantships and other funding options, you can visit Peterson’s Graduate School Funding Resources or Fastweb’s Graduate School Scholarship Opportunities.

Apply for Grants and Fellowships

One of the best ways to go to grad school for free is to apply for grants and fellowships. These financial awards can cover your tuition fees, living expenses, and even research costs. Here are some different types of grants and fellowships you can consider:

Federal Grants

One option is to apply for federal grants through organizations like the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These agencies offer a wide range of funding opportunities for graduate students in various fields.

For example, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides financial support for students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in STEM disciplines. Similarly, the NIH offers grants for biomedical and behavioral research.

Institutional Grants

Your own university or college may also offer grants specifically for graduate students. These grants are often based on academic merit, financial need, or specific research interests. It’s a good idea to check with your institution’s financial aid office or graduate school department to see what grants are available.

Some universities even have dedicated fellowship offices that can help you navigate the application process and find the best funding opportunities.

External Grants and Fellowships

There are also numerous external grants and fellowships offered by private organizations, foundations, and professional associations. These funding opportunities are open to graduate students from various institutions and disciplines.

Some well-known examples include the Fulbright Program, the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program, and the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. These programs often have competitive application processes, but they can provide significant financial support for your graduate studies.

When applying for grants and fellowships, make sure to carefully read the eligibility criteria and requirements. Pay attention to application deadlines and gather all the necessary documents and recommendation letters.

It’s also a good idea to seek advice from your professors or mentors who have experience with these funding opportunities. Remember, the more effort you put into your applications, the higher your chances of securing funding for your grad school journey!

Find Fully Funded PhD Programs

One of the most effective ways to go to grad school for free is to find fully funded PhD programs. These programs offer financial support to students, covering tuition fees and providing a stipend for living expenses.

By securing a fully funded position, you can pursue your doctorate without incurring significant financial debt. Here’s a breakdown of fully funded PhD programs in different fields:

STEM Fields

STEM fields, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, often have a greater number of fully funded PhD programs available. These programs are typically supported by research grants, industry partnerships, and institutional funding.

Students in STEM fields have the opportunity to work on cutting-edge research projects while receiving financial support. Some renowned STEM programs that offer full funding include:

  • MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS)
  • Stanford University’s Department of Biology
  • Harvard University’s Department of Physics

These programs provide a range of funding options, including fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships.

Humanities and Social Sciences

While fully funded PhD programs in humanities and social sciences may be less common, they do exist. These programs often rely on grants, scholarships, and teaching opportunities to support their students. Here are a few examples of fully funded PhD programs in humanities and social sciences:

  • Yale University’s Department of History
  • University of California, Berkeley’s Department of English
  • Princeton University’s Department of Sociology

These programs offer financial support through fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships, allowing students to focus on their studies without the burden of financial constraints.

It’s important to note that the availability of fully funded PhD programs may vary from year to year and depend on factors such as funding availability and the competitiveness of the program. Therefore, it’s essential to thoroughly research and explore funding opportunities in your field of interest.

For more information on fully funded PhD programs, you can visit Prospects and FindAPhD.

Attend a University with Free Tuition

One of the most effective ways to go to grad school for free is to attend a university that offers free tuition. While this may seem like a daunting task, there are actually several options available for students looking to further their education without breaking the bank.

Ivy League Schools

Believe it or not, some Ivy League schools offer free tuition for graduate students. For example, Princeton University provides full funding, including tuition and a stipend, for all admitted PhD students. This means that students can pursue their academic goals without the burden of student loans.

Similarly, Yale University offers a number of fully-funded programs for graduate students, allowing them to focus on their studies rather than worrying about finances.

Other Colleges with Free Tuition Programs

In addition to Ivy League schools, there are other colleges and universities that offer free tuition programs for graduate students. One such institution is the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

UCLA offers a range of scholarships and fellowships that cover tuition costs for eligible students. The University of Michigan also provides free tuition opportunities for graduate students, particularly in fields such as public health and social work.

It’s important to note that while these universities may offer free tuition, there may still be other costs involved, such as fees, living expenses, and textbooks. However, by eliminating the burden of tuition, students can significantly reduce their overall expenses and focus on their studies.

For more information on universities with free tuition programs, check out which provides a comprehensive list of colleges and universities offering free tuition options for graduate students.


The path to a tuition-free graduate degree is attainable through a combination of scholarships, assistantships, grants, and smart school selection. With proper planning and persistence, you can earn an advanced degree without piling up debt.

Use this guide to explore all your options and get started on the road to gratis grad school today!

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