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How to Find PhD Scholarships and Grants


Financing your PhD studies can be challenging, but it's essential to your academic journey. Scholarships and grants can ease this burden, although finding and securing them may seem daunting. 

Navigating your financial prospects can present a challenge, but scholarships and grants are there as available resources. In this blog, we will explain the opportunities to fund your PhD. We’ll also provide practical advice to help you find the right funding options for your PhD. Our guidance aims to give you a strong foundation for success.

Finding Doctoral Scholarships and Grants

Finding funding for graduate studies can be stressful, but scholarships and grants are available if you know where to look. 

  1. University Funding: Universities often offer scholarships and research grants to PhD students. For instance, the SMU provides various funding options for doctoral students through the Moody School for Graduate and Advanced Studies.
  2. Professional Associations: Depending on your field of study, grants are often available from professional associations. Have a look at your specific discipline’s association website or reach out to them directly.
  3. Government and Non-Government Organizations: Both government and non-government organizations offer grants to encourage research in various fields. Explore resources like Grant.gov and The National Science Foundation.
  4. Industry Partners: Companies often work with universities to fund research in their industry, supporting specific projects or areas of study.
  5. International Scholarships: International students can find PhD scholarships in the USA, like Fulbright and DAAD.

Essential Scholarship Application Tips

  1. Start Early: Keep in mind that securing funding takes time, so don’t wait to start your search. The application deadline is often way before the program application deadline.
  2. Be Thorough and Organized: Keeping track of deadlines, application components and other details can be overwhelming. Create a system that helps you keep everything organized and in one place.
  3. Tailor Your Applications: Tailor each application to the specific sponsor to maximize its appeal. Remember to show why you’re a perfect fit for their funding.
  4. Leverage Your Network: Don't hesitate to use your academic network. Professors, colleagues, and alumni can be valuable resources for scholarship and grant opportunities.

Grants and Scholarships for PhD Students vs. Other Forms of Aid

Initially, most students think of scholarships as a lifeline for PhD funding, but it's surprisingly uncommon for students to fund their PhD with scholarships alone. Can you get a scholarship for a PhD? Absolutely. But scholarships for doctoral students can be quite competitive.

In reality, most PhD students utilize a variety of funding sources. PhD programs commonly offer doctoral assistantships and fellowships, which are typically more widely available. Some students even explore additional routes like postgraduate loans, employer support, crowdfunding, and research council grants.

Knowing the ins and outs of each type of funding can help you make a decision that best suits your academic and financial needs. 


Scholarships, financial awards you don't need to repay, often reward merit or specific factors like demographics or career aspirations.


  • Doesn't require repayment
  • No obligation to perform services

Potential drawbacks:

  • High competition
  • May need exceptional qualifications


Grants operate much like scholarships in that they do not need to be repaid. They are frequently awarded based on need, although some may also take into consideration academic merit or field of study.


  • Doesn’t require repayment
  • Can offset a significant amount of educational expenses

Potential drawbacks: 

  • Competition can be fierce
  • May have to meet eligibility criteria or conditions

Assistantships & Fellowships

Assistantships and fellowships are also common ways to pay for a PhD. Assistantships involve providing services to the university by undertaking teaching or research roles, usually in exchange for a stipend and tuition waiver. Fellowships, like scholarships, are merit-based and don't require repayment or work in return. Fellowships usually offer generous resources and are specific to the student's field of study.


  • Provide hands-on experience in teaching or research (assistantship)
  • Accompanied by generous funding and resources (fellowship)
  • Fellowships often provide greater freedom for research compared to assistantships

Potential drawbacks:

  • Time commitment can impact personal studies (mainly assistantships)
  • High competition may require exceptional qualifications or research proposals

While fellowships, assistantships, grants and scholarships for PhD programs aim to reduce the financial burden, they’re understandably different in their commitments, benefits, and application process. 

Discover PhD Funding at SMU

Finding and securing the right funding for your PhD is crucial in shaping a stress-free and productive doctoral journey. Remember, scholarships and grants, while beneficial, are just pieces of a wider resource puzzle that may include assistantships or fellowships. 

These funding options are aimed to ease your financial commitments, so explore opportunities for each, align them with your academic goals, and pave your way towards a rewarding PhD experience.

For more helpful resources or information about SMU's Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, contact us — we're here to help you on your academic journey!

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