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International students: What you need to know about GRE Scores and Scholarships

If you're preparing for the GRE, chances are good that you're seriously considering graduate school. But graduate school doesn't come cheap—it can run you tens of thousands of dollars per year, not including living expenses. Don't give up your dreams of that Master's degree just yet, though! There's good news: if you have a strong score on the GRE exam, you put yourself in the running for lots of great financial opportunities. Here are just a few…

University-Based Scholarships
While it's important to realize that the organization that administers the GRE (ETS, in case you were wondering) doesn't give out scholarships itself, that doesn't mean that there aren't other routes to getting more funding. The first place to look is your university and the program to which you've applied or been admitted. Universities often use GRE scores as a major criterion to determine how much scholarship money you'll receive.

However, as with most scholarships relating to the GRE, the scores aren't usually sufficient to get you money on their own. Instead, the school may take them into consideration in combination with your grades, letters of recommendation, or even actual scholarship applications. Yes—keep in mind that you may not be automatically considered for some scholarships, even from universities. These require separate applications and can take some time to put together; it's a good idea to look into this well in advance of enrollment.

University-Based Funding
While not as prestigious as a scholarship, funding is nothing to turn up your nose at! The difference is that while scholarships usually come without strings (other than a thank-you letter to the donor and/or selection committee!) funding can require that you teach a class, work as a research assistant, or otherwise contribute in a specific way to the university.

So how do you get this money? Usually, universities will automatically consider graduate applicants for funding—but not always. Check with admissions departments at the schools to which you're applying. In many cases, great GRE scores can help you secure it, as funding in many departments is extremely limited and those scores can help you stand out.

Organizational Scholarships
Organizational funding is one reason that it's important to scout out GRE test dates early: while many of your programs and university-based scholarship applications are probably due around the same time, independent organizations can set deadlines whenever they want to, and strong GRE scores may be required for these scholarships—and can help you land them. Don't put off looking into them; while the requirements for organizations' scholarships can be extremely specific, this source of funding can be extremely lucrative.

And don't rule organizational scholarships out if you don't meet the requirements for some of them! Instead, search for scholarships targeting students with your unique characteristics.

Here are just a few examples…

If you're a college athlete, you may qualify for a scholarship from the NCAA or the Walter Byers Scholarship Program. If you're a Methodist, you may qualify for a World Communion Scholarship. If you're African-American or Hispanic and going to school in Florida, look into the Florida Education Fund. If you received your undergraduate degree from a small-to-medium liberal arts college, the American Graduate Fellowship may be for you. If you have visual impairment, check out the American Foundation for the Blind. If you are a new American citizen, look into the P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

Government Programs
Nope, I'm not talking about student loans. Instead, look into particular U.S. government branches' programs to explore their offerings. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy offers a graduate fellowship program for students in STEM subjects. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Education offers a fellowship program for students in other fields (social sciences, the arts, and humanities).
A Final Word
A strong GRE score can definitely give you a boost in your scholarship applications. Taking a GRE practice test weekly and working through lessons and question sets can definitely help you get where you want to be. Remember that while your GRE scores aren't the only factor that will help you reel in money for grad school, they are an important component of your application—and one that you can influence now!

About Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Rachel is a High School and Graduate Exams blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She has taught test preparation and consulted on admissions practices for over eight years. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London.