Funding Opportunities for Graduate Students
Graduate school is a unique experience that is rewarding and exciting! However, one of the challenges typical for graduate students is financial support. You certainly know the value to your professional growth to attend conferences, network at events, and conduct research, however, finding a way to pay for all of the associated expenses can be a challenge. This is especially challenging for master’s level graduate students in our field given that assistantships are limited, and doctoral students are often prioritized for these funding opportunities. Even as doctoral students, the funding for the entirety of your graduate education may not be guaranteed.
Minimal financial support and increasing student loans and debt are one of the most frequent reasons for student attrition in graduate programs. However, there are opportunities to secure financial support during your graduate years for education, research, and conference related travel. Apart from campus related research and teaching assistantships, you can consider applying for fellowships and grants offered to graduate students in our field. Sometimes, faculty in your department may have access or knowledge to various grants and fellowship opportunities available. So, I recommend starting from the department, your graduate school, and then extending to counseling organizations at the local and state level. I will focus on some of the nationally or regionally available funding opportunities that you can consider as you continue this journey as a graduate student.
Scholarships & Fellowships
Some of the popular scholarships & fellowships I have come across are from The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and The National Board of Certified Counselors Foundation (NBCCF). AERA offers a Minority Dissertation Fellowship Program (link below) to provide financial support to minoritized graduate students for their dissertation. They offer $19,000 along with a $1,000 stipend to attend their annual AERA conference.
NBCCF offers a variety of fellowships and scholarships for masters and doctoral level students in our field.
Master’s level NBCCF scholarships & fellowships (link below) include:
- ●Military Scholarship (5 individuals receiving $8,000)
- ●Rural Scholarship (5 individuals receiving $8,000)
- ●NBCC Minority Fellowship program for mental health counselors (up to 30 fellows receiving $10,000 each)
- ●NBCC Minority Fellowship program for Addictions counselors (up to 40 fellows receiving $15,000 each).
Doctoral level NBCCF scholarships & fellowships (link below) include:
- ●Dr. Nicholas Vacc Scholarship (1 doctoral student, $5,000)
- ●The NBCC Minority Fellowship program for mental health counselors (about 20-23 fellows receiving $20,000 each)
As a current NBCCF Doctoral Fellow, I have had an enriching experience through networking opportunities, financial support, and mentorship. If selected, NBCCF sponsors a trip to their annual symposium held in May and provides other additional educational opportunities.
Academic research grants are also great opportunities to receive support for your education expenses and research work. Grant writing is often associated with tedious work. However, if you think about it, most of the content for the proposal can be taken from all the preparation you have done for your thesis/dissertation. So most likely, you already have all the information and you may just need to re-arrange it to fit the criteria for the grant. Your university may offer grant writing workshops, and this can be a great resource if you have never written a grant before.
Many organizations offer competitive grants to students in our field. I will highlight a few grant opportunities within the few organizations that I have personally been involved in. The American Counseling Association (ACA) has about 19 divisions and there are several opportunities within each division for grants and scholarships. Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC) and Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) both have student grants of varying amounts of funding (links below). The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) also offers student grants up to $500 for conducting research in an area related to CACREP (link below).
Other tips & tricks for conference funding:
Did you know that many organizations provide a reduced registration fee if you volunteer at the conference? For example, if you volunteer with ACA as a student, you receive 50% off your registration fee and, if you return for a second year, your registration fee is completely waived! Sometimes these are not advertised but there is no harm in reaching out to the organization and ask if there are opportunities available for students and new professionals. Additionally, several counseling organizations, such as Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC) and Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) have Emerging Leader programs and if you are selected, they may offer to sponsor the conference trip as well as a stipend to go with it.
I hope that these resources are helpful as you navigate graduate school. It can feel overwhelming to apply for different fellowships and grants while also balancing the demanding coursework. However, once you begin working on different applications, it gets easier over time. Lastly, I encourage you to be ambitious and apply to different competitive funding opportunities—you never know what you may land!
AARC Grants: http://aarc-counseling.org/awards
ACES Grants: https://acesonline.net/
AERA Fellowship: http://www.aera.net/Professional-Opportunities-Funding/AERA-Funding-Opportunities/Minority-Dissertation-Fellowship-Program
NBCC Foundation Scholarships and Fellowships: https://www.nbccf.org/programs/scholarships
Shreya Vaishnav, MC, NCC, LPCA is a second-year doctoral student at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She received her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Arizona State University and is currently a Licensed Professional Counselor-Associate (LPC-A) in North Carolina. Shreya is interested in studying the impact of racial microaggressions experienced by graduate students in academia, social justice advocacy, and integrating multicultural competencies in counselor education programs.
Graduate Student and New Professional Blogs
We are all taking 12-15 credit hours per semester, participating in research opportunities, managing work schedules, maintaining a social/family life, or we just transitioned into our New Professional role and have no idea what we are doing! ACA’s Graduate Student and New Professional Blog offers real life vignettes of life, academics, and how to keep yourself afloat despite your crazy schedule. Any suggestions for what you would like to hear more about, please email the Graduate Student Committee.
Columns can be reprinted in full or in part with attribution to the American Counseling Association’s Graduate Student and New Professional Blog.