Graduate Funding Overview
Graduate Funding Overview Heading link
Funding a graduate degree can be complex. Without a family or employer subsidy and to minimize federal student loans, the student often turns to both campus and non-campus resources. Each resource or agency has its own eligibility criteria and funding levels.
Hence, the Graduate College’s Fellowship Office provides this page as an overview of graduate funding. We strongly suggest that you bookmark this page for reference — there is a lot of 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.
Domestic students often start at the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, where there is an abundance of information pertaining to the cost of education, steps in securing financial aid, and the different types of aid available.
International students should check in with the Office of International Services after being admitted to a UIC graduate program.
Rule #1: Get to know your program's director of graduate studies (DGS)
At UIC, every graduate program has a faculty member designated as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). At other institutions, the title may be different (e.g., Faculty Graduate Coordinator or Graduate Program Director). 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 so that you know what questions to ask the DGS or his/her staff.
Rule #2: Funding may be internal or external. 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, governmental agencies, corporations, and professional associations.
The lion’s share of internal funding
The most common form of graduate funding is the assistantship. An assistantship provides you with a stipend and, usually, with a tuition and partial fee waiver. UIC offers teaching assistantships, research assistantships and graduate assistantships. For information on available assistantships, you must contact the Director of Graduate Studies in your academic program.
The Graduate College allots a certain number of tuition waivers to each academic program on campus. If you are 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 merit-based fellowship provides a stipend and a tuition and partial fee waiver with NO job duties attached. Students do not apply directly to the Graduate College; you must speak to the DGS or dedicated staff member in your academic program.
Scholarships and other awards
Many UIC departments offer scholarships. Ask your DGS. The Graduate College offers a number of awards for student travel, research etc.
Review the whole “Funding & Awards” part of the Graduate College website carefully. Keep it bookmarked for announcements of competitions, information sessions, and funding agency campus visits.
Finally, colleges and departments often set up internal awards of which the Graduate College is not yet aware.
For international students
If you are not a US citizen, you are still eligible for most Graduate College funding and part-time on-campus employment. Be sure to consult UIC’s Office of International Services if you have questions about funding/work and your visa.
For domestic students
If you are a U.S. citizen, you should also contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships to inquire about different types of aid, including special scholarships and student loans, particularly if you are a military veteran or family member of a veteran. You can find your Financial Aid contact person via their “Contact Us” link. Please note that the Graduate College’s Fellowships Office does not deal with student loans. For information on federal, state, and other loans packages, you need to contact Financial Aid.
Graduate funding can come from nonprofit or governmental 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
The Graduate College maintains a list of reputable academic search engines you can use to find funding.
Looking for funding online? Anybody can Google “microbiology scholarship,” for example, and we encourage you to do so; HOWEVER, you MUST be aware of scams. Anytime you Google “scholarship,” some of the links will be to 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 scams. There are enough free search engines (and reputable subscription options that UIC pays for student use) that you do not need to pay for options. Visit our Online Funding Resources page.
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 as 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 (coming soon). UIC graduate students regularly win more than $2 million dollars in stipend funds from external awards each academic year. That does not include money for tuition or smaller research awards.
On-campus Employment and Funding
While the situation is extremely rare, please note that per HR rules, students cannot simultaneously hold faculty or staff (“employee class”) positions, including hourly appointments, and receive a Graduate College fellowship or award. Employment as a graduate assistantship or graduate hourly is permissible.
1. Find the Director of Graduate Studies or the dedicated staff member in your academic program. Ask them 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 & Awards” section of the Graduate College website.
4. You must be enrolled in Direct Deposit in order to be paid for an assistantship or to receive an internal award or fellowship. To create a US bank account, you will likely need a Social Security Number.
Frequently asked questions
What’s a DGS?
“DGS” is an abbreviation of Director of Graduate Studies. This is a faculty member in each 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 teach, conduct research, or provide general clerical help, for which you receive a salary and, usually, a tuition waiver.
What’s the difference between a fellowship and a scholarship?
There is no standard definition for these words. External agencies in particular often use them interchangeably. 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. There are “fellowships” that are one-time payments and “scholarships” that include three years of living stipend plus tuition money. Read the descriptions carefully and don’t fret the semantics.
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. 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?
A sub-unit of the Graduate College, the Fellowships Office works with graduate students who seek funding and who have already won funding. The “Funding & Awards” section of this website demonstrates the breadth of our work.