Photo: Elena Zhukova

A myriad of options are available to you to help offset the costs of your graduate education. Many students are eligible for aid and 90% of all graduate students at Berkeley receive some form of financial support. But where do you start, and how do you identify what’s right for you?

  • Fellowships typically cover educational and living expenses
  • Need-based loans can supply additional financial support
  • Grants usually cover expenses related to specific projects or needs

You’ll want to explore and apply for as many options as possible that match your needs, eligibility, and area of study. Keep in mind that some awards may reduce funding from others. In addition, many professional degree programs are exempt from most state and campus funding programs. Check this list before you apply.

Below we’ll explain how these fit together. Before you start, complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit by the priority deadline. Filling out a FAFSA does not obligate you to take out a loan. However, UC Berkeley’s Financial Aid and Scholarships Office often uses the FAFSA to ascertain eligibility for federal awards.

To ensure your success, start early, plan ahead, file on time, and be persistent. 

1. Investigate Fellowships and Awards

Many funding opportunities are available to graduate students at Berkeley. A good place to begin your search is the Graduate Division’s online list of university, division, and extramural fellowships, grants, and awards, complete with deadlines and application materials. In addition, students should explore outside resources, including professional associations aligned with their discipline. You’ll find a number of databases and sources on our National Fellowship Databases page.

For entering students, the Graduate Division offers multi-year fellowship awards to recruit outstanding doctoral students, including those who will enhance the diversity of the graduate student population at Berkeley.

Applicants are considered for departmental nomination automatically by the departmental admissions committee — no need to apply. If selected, you’ll receive an award letter from the Graduate Division with details and a separate communication from your department with more info. Stipends range from $22,000 to $34,000 per academic year for one to three years, in addition to departmental support years which can add at least two years of support in the form of fellowships and/or research or teaching assistantships.

2. Campus Grants and other support

parent with childSmall grants for specific purposes, such as travel, language study, conference attendance, summer research, or professional development are detailed in our online list mentioned above, as well as a few specific campus grants for students in need.

The Graduate Division grants include the Student Parent Grant, available to students living with at least one dependent child who is under the age of 18. Only U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and AB540-eligible students qualify for these awards. The Berkeley International Office administers a separate parent grant program for international students. The Graduate Division Caregiver Grant provides assistance to graduate students who are the primary live-in caregiver for an adult individual such as an elderly parent or other dependent adult.

These grants, up to $12,000 per year, can be applied toward housing and living expenses, dependent health insurance, and/or tuition.

3. Thinking about loans?

Graduate students can apply for need-based loans through the Financial Aid & Scholarships Office (FAO). You’ll need to complete a FAFSA and submit by the priority deadline even if you are not sure you will need or want any aid from the FAO. That way you’ll ensure timely processing, the best financial aid package and eligibility for other special Federal funding. You can decide later whether to accept or not.

Only U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents may apply for funds administered by the Financial Aid Office. If you fall outside these parameters, you’ll want to apply via the California Student Aid Commission’s California Dream Act Application. Berkeley Graduate Dream Act Aid provides loans to make college more affordable for students who complete a Statement of Legal Residence (SLR) and qualify for an AB 540 nonresident tuition exemption. Consult the Graduate Award Guide for more information.

Keep in mind that additional funding from your department can impact your total loan eligibility, so alert your departmental Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) or Cal Student Central if you receive additional funding anytime throughout the year. Also note that federal regulations related to academic progress apply to students with loans, so be sure to talk to your GSAO or to Financial Aid and Scholarships (FASO) staff about enrollment and attempted unit requirements.

4. Consider academic student employment

students sitting at conference table
Photo: Noah Berger

All students, including master’s and professional students, are also eligible for a range of employment opportunities, including positions as Graduate Students Instructors, Readers, Tutors, and Graduate Student Researchers. Many of these academic student appointments come with the benefit of partial or full tuition remission. See the Graduate Student Academic Appointments Handbook for more information. Graduate students are encouraged to consider work/study opportunities too. Individual departments post open positions before the start of each semester, so stay on the lookout for opportunities in departments where you might be interested. Fellowship recipients may supplement some fellowships with a teaching or research appointment at no more than 25 percent time per semester.

Where to go for help

Your department’s Graduate Student Affairs Officer is your primary resource for department-specific funding information. Tap the Financial Aid & Scholarships Office (FAO) when it comes to loans. For basic needs support, like food and stable housing, contact the Basic Needs Center.

Whether you’re funding your education with fellowships, grants, scholarships, loans or academic appointments (or all of the above), the Graduate Division Fellowships staff is available to help you understand the ins and outs of the financial support landscape. We also have a dedicated advisor specifically for master’s and professional students.