How to Find and Win Psychology Scholarships
So, you want to get your degree in psychology. Excellent choice! Whether your plan is to have your own clinical practice, work with a team in a health care setting, or use psychological insight to craft winning business strategies, a psychology degree could help you achieve your dreams.
If you’ve already checked into the costs associated with getting your degree, you may be discouraged. Don’t be. Yes, you can borrow from direct federal loan programs and other sources, but you owe it to yourself—and your future—to look into scholarships, fellowships, and grants.
Fellowships, grants, and scholarships are by far the most desirable form of financial aid; unlike loans, they don’t generally require a payback. You may be eligible to apply and compete for multiple scholarships and grant programs, some of which are open only to psychology undergraduate and graduate students.
This page will help you figure out whether (and how) to pursue a fellowship, grant, or scholarship.
Scholarships for Psychology Students
Students Studying LGBTQ Issues
Where to Find Scholarships and Grants
As you likely already know, high schools use these financial awards and incentives to reward outstanding graduates. Universities use them to woo students who excel academically or have sought-after talents. There are also community, religious, and professional associations that award scholarships based on their own criteria. For example, only students of Italian descent have a shot at the Sons of Italy scholarship.
Here’s a quick look at the differences between these programs:
- Scholarships. Payments made to financially support your education usually awarded on the basis of academic or other achievements; you don’t have to repay scholarship funds.
- Grants. These are also free money. They can come from the federal government, your state government, your college, or a private or nonprofit organization.
- Fellowships. These are a type of grant that gives you funding while you pursue specific (usually academic) goals.
In very general terms, scholarships tend to be awarded based on merit, and grants are more likely to be based on financial need. Psychology scholarships tend to be very competitive, with most targeted to graduate students. If you have a school wish list, start with your top schools to see what they might offer.
When looking for scholarships watch out for scams. When you begin your online research, you’ll find hundreds of sites promising to help you locate scholarships. Most are legitimate, but not all. Avoid sites with grammar or spelling errors, or confusing navigation. The key red flag: Any site that wants you to pay a fee is potentially a scammer; an above-board site will not ask you for money. Also, never give out any financial information until you have thoroughly vetted a site, and are confident it’s not a scam. Note: You will never be “randomly selected” for a scholarship you have not applied for.
How to Win Scholarships
Become a scholarship detective. Track down as many scholarships as possible to increase your options. Through your sleuthing, you’ll find that scholarships are given for more reasons than you thought possible.
Allow enough time to manage applying to multiple scholarships. Each scholarship will have its own application requirements and deadlines, so it’s important to start researching scholarships as soon as possible so you can focus on the ones you most want.
Qualifying for certain scholarships takes long-term planning. For example, if you want to win a scholarship based on community service, be aware that some schools might want to see at least a year of service and commitment. Review any extra-curricular activities you’ve already spent time on, and consider whether they might help you score a scholarship.
Money.com has 13 concrete tips to increase your odds of winning a scholarship. The highlights:
- Use a personalized scholarship search tool. Many times these allow you to deep-dive filter by gender, religion, school level, ethnicity, award amounts, and state. Recommended search tools include Fastweb and College Board.
- Apply for local scholarships. Fewer students are eligible, so your odds are better. Check with your guidance counselor, media websites, community portals, your religious affiliations, and geographical internet searches.
- Don’t discount scholarships that offer smaller awards. Applying only for the big-bucks awards is tempting, but the competition is much stiffer.
- Evaluate each scholarship application carefully. Chances are good you’ll discover many contain hints to the selection criteria. Look at the sponsor’s website. Read the mission statement, review board member bios, read press releases, and look for other telling information. Use the information you discover to tailor your application to this sponsor’s goals.
- Make sure your online presence reflects positive things about you. Clean up your Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media pages; delete any embarrassing information about other people.
- Answer all optional questions on the application. They increase your chances of standing out.
- Roll up your sleeves and get to work. There is less competition for scholarships that require long essays or labor-intensive projects.
About those essays: Whether they’re on a topic of your own choosing or set by the scholarship sponsor, be passionate and well-informed about your topic. Don’t focus on yourself. Engage the reader’s intellectual interest, and don’t try to be funny.
Meet all the essay requirements. Don’t go much over or under word limits, stick to formatting guidelines, and don’t blow the deadline. Have another person review your essay once for content, and again for grammar and spelling mistakes. A teacher or advisor may give you more objective feedback than your family.
Grants and Fellowships for Psychology Students
Although there are some major differences between scholarships, grants, and fellowships, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably because they all provide money you don’t have to pay back. As noted before, most scholarships are awarded based on merit: impressive GPA, high test scores, great athletic skills. Most grants are need-based. This means that they are usually awarded based on your, or your family’s, financial status.
Fellowships typically—but not always—support post-graduate projects, which are often pursued outside a school’s normal curriculum. Fellowship funding can be provided to support academic work, research, independent projects, or community service activities. Funding may come from a foundation, educational institution, or other organization.
Federal and state governments are the largest source of grants. The federal government’s largest higher education grant program is Pell Grants. During the 2017-2018 school year, more than $28 billion in Pell grants were distributed to more than 7 million undergraduate students. The largest awards available are just over $6,000.
State governments offer grants to resident students who attend college in-state, based on financial need. In New York State, for example, the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) offers up to $5,000 grants to eligible students. In general, if you are dependent on your parents, the income limit is $80,000. If you are on your own, the limit is $10,000. This site breaks down state aid packages for all 50 states.
Many colleges award grants in addition to scholarships, and sometimes the financial packages they offer include a combination of the two.
How to Win Grants and Fellowships
Step one for winning a government grant is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if you’re not looking for a loan, need-based grants are often determined by the information you provide on the FAFSA. Many states and colleges also use your FAFSA profile to determine grant aid. Other schools may want FAFSA-like information on their own forms.
A few more tips for pursing grants and fellowships:
- Be very aware of deadlines. While the national FAFSA deadline goes from October 1 to June 30, know that many state and school deadlines differ from the federal FAFSA application dates. Their deadlines may fall in February and March. You can find a school’s deadline on its website.
- Apply for grants as early as possible. For example, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) benefit students who need grant aid beyond Pell Grants. You may qualify for this grant, but if your school has exhausted its annual allotment of FSEOG funds, you’re out of luck. (Start with FAFSA.) For more info visit the FSEOG website.
- Join psychological professional associations. A few popular ones to get you started include: Psi Chi, the Association of Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association. These organizations award research grants and fellowships to members only.
- Read the application requirements carefully. Stick to the recommended essay length, typeface, and spacing, and know whether a sponsor is required.
- Be prepared to invest time. Successful fellowship applications are the result of hard work, sometimes months of it. Research which fellowships have been awarded in your area of interest. Tailor your project to the interests of your school or the sponsoring foundation.
New scholarships are always being created. Keep checking with the psychology department of your chosen or current school so you’re on top of any new opportunities. Don’t overlook professional organizations; periodically check American Psychological Association, a professional psychology organization, and Psi Chi, the psychology honor society. Both offer a range of scholarships and grants to undergraduate and graduate students. Keep trying; perseverance is every bit as important as intelligence or talent to your success, and your future.