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Graduate Funding Overview


The basics Assistantships Initial Steps
Internal funding Things to watch out for Questions
External funding UIC award winners Contacts

The basics

The first thing to understand is that graduate funding is complex. It is provided by widely different agencies, for widely different purposes, in widely different amounts, with all sorts of eligibility criteria. Further, there is no one single reference for all the funding that is out there.

Hence, the Fellowship Office of the Graduate College provides this page as a resource to get you started in your search for graduate funding. We strongly suggest that you bookmark this page for reference -- there's a lotof information here, which will take time to review. Even if you choose not to attend UIC, most of the information here will be useful to you as a prospective or current graduate student anywhere.

The first rule of graduate funding: get to know the Director of Graduate Studies in your academic program.

Here at UIC, every graduate program has a faculty member designated as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). In fact, any graduate program at any institution has such a person, although the person might have a different title (such as Faculty Graduate Coordinator, for example). The DGS is charged with assisting prospective and current graduate students in that program, including with funding. Find out who that person is in your program. Then, go through the information here on internal funding such that you know what questions to ask the DGS or his/her staff.

The second rule of graduate funding: there is internal funding, and there is external funding.  Familiarize yourself with both types.

Internal funding is that which is offered by your university, in the form of assistantships, fellowships, scholarships, tuition waivers, and other awards.

External funding is that which is offered by agencies outside the university, such as nonprofit organizations, corporations, and professional associations.

Assistantships - the lion's share of internal funding

The most common form of graduate funding is the assistantship. An assistantship provides you with a living stipend plus a tuition waiver. At UIC, we offer teaching assistantships, research assistantships and graduate assistantships. For information on available assistantships, you must contact the Director of Graduate Studies in your academic program. Further information about assistantships and how they work at UIC can be found here.

Internal funding - beyond assistantships

Tuition waivers

The Graduate College allots a quota of tuition waivers to each academic program on campus. If you’re interested in applying for one of these waivers, you must contact the DGS in your academic program. Students do not apply directly to the Graduate College for these waivers.


The Graduate College offers a number of fellowships to students nominated by the academic program. A fellowship is an award of a living stipend and a tuition waiver with NO job duties attached, based on the student’s academic merit. Complete information on the fellowships we offer can be found here. Again, students do not apply directly to the Graduate College; you must speak to the DGS is your academic program.

Scholarships and other awards 

Lots of UIC departments have scholarships to offer students. The Graduate College also has a number of awards for student travel, research etc.; you can find info on those awards here.

This page describes various awards provided by The Scholarship Association of UIC, the University of Illinois system, and other offices.

Review the whole “Funding Your Education” part of the Graduate College carefully. Keep it bookmarked for announcements of competitions, information sessions and funding agency campus visits.

Finally, colleges and departments set up internal awards all the time that the Graduate College might not yet be aware of. Keep checking your department’s and College’s websites for information on funding and scholarships.

For domestic students

If you are a U.S. citizen, you should also contact the Office of Financial Aid with regard to graduate funding, particularly if you are a veteran or veteran’s family member. You can find your Financial Aid contact person’s name and email by clicking the link above. Please note that the Fellowships Office does not work with loans. For information on federal, state, and other loans packages, you need to contact Financial Aid.

External funding

Graduate funding can come from nonprofit agencies, corporations, professional associations, and many other places. It can also be based on many things including field of study, gender, religion, sexual preference, ethnicity, financial need, career goal, or even single parenthood. So how do you find it?

Online funding search engines

There is a page of links here to reputable academic search engines you can use to find funding.

Things to watch out for 

Looking for funding online, anybody can Google “microbiology scholarship,” for example, and we encourage you to do so.


You MUST be aware of scams. Anytime you Google “scholarship,” some of the links will be agencies that promise you, for instance, “a database of two million dollars in scholarship funds!! That you can use for the low! low! price of…..” and then they ask for your credit card number. DO NOT USE THESE. They are not reputable. They are scams. There are enough free search engines (and reputable subscription options that UIC pays for for student use) that you do not need to pay for options.

UIC Award winners

Two questions you may have: "Do UIC graduate students really win awards? Which ones?"

Yes, UIC graduate students win awards. In fact, they win quite prestigious ones such National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, Fulbright fellowships, and research awards from NASA and the National Institutes of Health. For a complete list of awards won by UIC graduate students, plus a better idea of what the Fellowships Office does, you can view the Annual Report. 

Something to think about: by January 2011, UIC graduate students won more than $2 million dollars in stipend funds from external awards for the 2010-2011 year. That doesn’t include money for tuition, or smaller research awards; that's just a total of living stipend funds awarded.

Initial Steps

  1. Find the Director of Graduate Studies in your academic program. Ask that person for information on assistantships, waivers, fellowships, and internal awards.

  2. If you are a U.S.citizen, contact your advisor in the Office of Financial Aid. Even if you don’t want to take out loans, you still need to know what’s available and what services they provide.

  3. Carefully review all of the information in the “Funding Your Education” section of the Graduate College website. 


What’s a DGS?

DGS stands for Director of Graduate Studies. It is a faculty member in the academic program specifically mandated to work with prospective and current graduate students, including on funding issues.

What’s an assistantship? 

An assistantship is a job on campus, usually in your department, where you either teach, do research, or provide general clerical help, for which you receive a salary and a tuition waiver.

What’s the difference between a fellowship and a scholarship?

There is no standard definition of these words. External agencies in particular give either name to different awards. However, in general, a fellowship is usually an award that provides a living stipend for at least one year and sometimes tuition money. A scholarship is usually a one-time payment of award money. Again, though, there are “fellowships” that are one-time payments and “scholarships” that include three years of living stipend plus tuition money. Read the award descriptions carefully.

How do I find out who the DGS for my program is?

Visit the departmental website and look for information on graduate programs; or, call the department and ask for the DGS of your academic program.

Does it matter if I’m a full-time or part-time student? 

Yes, it does. Most awards for graduate study, both internal and external, are only for full-time graduate students. There are a very few internal awards for part-time study; there are almost no external awards for part-time study.

Why shouldn’t I sign up for a fee-based scholarship search service? 

Two reasons: first, there are plenty of free resources available to you already both electronically and in print. Second, most of these search services are scams. They will ask for your credit card number, rip you off, and you will never hear from them again. Do not be fooled.

What’s the Fellowships Office? 

The Fellowships Office is part of the Graduate College, working with graduate students both seeking funding and who have already won funding. A review of the “Funding Your Education” section of the website will give you an idea of all the different things the Fellowships Office does.


For fellowship and funding questions: 

Benn E. Williams
Interim Fellowships Coordinator
Graduate College
University of Illinois at Chicago
University Hall, Room 614
601 South Morgan

Chicago, IL 60607
T: 312.413.2389
F: 312.413.0185

For Financial Aid questions: 

Office of Student Financial Aid
University of Illinois at Chicago
1800 Student Services Building
1200 West Harrison Street
Chicago, IL 60607
T: 312.996.3126
F: 312.996.3385
Click, then scroll down to find your Financial Aid contact person