Top 5 Need-Based Scholarship Programs for Graduate Students



Pell Grant established in 1972, has played a pivotal role in enabling millions of students from low-income backgrounds to pursue their dreams of higher education. The Pell Grant program was named after Senator Claiborne Pell, a champion of higher education access. It was initiated under the Higher Education Act of 1965, with the primary goal of providing need-based financial aid to students who would otherwise be unable to afford college. The program has been administered by the U.S. Department of Education ever since.

The primary factors considered for pell grant include the applicant’s family income, assets, and household size. Other factors, such as the cost of attendance and the student’s enrollment status (full-time or part-time), also play a role in determining eligibility. Eligibility is not limited to recent high school graduates, as adult learners and non-traditional students can also apply for the grant.

Application Process: To apply for a Pell Grant, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA collects information about the student’s financial situation and determines their expected family contribution (EFC). The EFC is a measure of the student’s ability to contribute towards their education expenses. Once the FAFSA is processed, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) indicating their eligibility for various federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant.


Grant Amounts and Distribution: The maximum Pell Grant award varies from year to year, depending on funding allocated by Congress. As of the 2021-2022 academic year, the maximum award is $6,495. However, the actual amount awarded to students may vary based on their financial need, the cost of attendance at their chosen institution, and whether they are enrolled full-time or part-time. Pell Grants are typically disbursed directly to the student’s college or university, and any remaining funds after tuition and fees are paid can be used for other educational expenses.

Critiques and Challenges: While the Pell Grant program has been instrumental in expanding access to higher education, it does face certain challenges. One significant issue is the rising cost of college tuition, which has outpaced the growth of the Pell Grant program. As a result, the purchasing power of the grant has diminished over time, and many students still face unmet financial need. Additionally, limited funding and changing eligibility requirements have created uncertainties for students relying on the program.

Truman Scholarships

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is a prestigious and highly competitive national scholarship program in the United States. Established by Congress in 1975, the Truman Scholarship aims to identify and support outstanding college students who demonstrate a strong commitment to public service and leadership. The Truman Scholarship was established as a living memorial to honor the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman. President Truman is renowned for his dedication to public service, moral integrity, and commitment to the well-being of the American people. The scholarship program was created to encourage future generations of leaders to follow in his footsteps and contribute to public service at the local, national, or international level.


Application Process: The Truman Scholarship is a highly competitive program, selecting approximately 55-65 students each year from across the nation. Candidates must secure the endorsement of their college or university to be eligible for consideration. A committee of distinguished individuals, including former Truman Scholars, public servants, and policy experts, is responsible for reviewing applications and conducting interviews with finalists.

Scholarship Amounts and Benefits: Truman scholarship provides up to $30,000 in funding, which can be used for tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. Additionally, scholars have access to a network of accomplished individuals, including Truman alumni, who serve as mentors and provide guidance throughout their academic and professional journeys.

Truman Scholars also participate in a week-long leadership development program, known as the Truman Scholars Leadership Week. This intensive program offers scholars the opportunity to engage with experts in public policy, network with their peers, and enhance their leadership and professional skills. The Truman Scholarship also cultivates a network of engaged leaders who collaborate and support one another throughout their careers. This network enhances the scholars’ ability to effect change and create a lasting impact by fostering connections, sharing resources, and collaborating on initiatives that address complex societal challenges.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship was established to address the challenge of financial burdens on many talented and deserving students by providing substantial financial support to high-achieving individuals from low-income backgrounds. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation was established in 2000 with a mission to advance educational opportunities for exceptional students with financial need. The Graduate Scholarship program was created as an extension of the foundation’s commitment to empowering individuals from low-income backgrounds to pursue advanced degrees.

Application Process: The selection process for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship is highly competitive and rigorous. Eligible applicants must be college seniors or recent graduates with plans to enroll or currently enrolled in a full-time graduate degree program at an accredited institution in the United States or abroad. Candidates are evaluated based on their academic achievements, leadership potential, and service to others. The selection committee also considers the applicants’ financial need, as the scholarship is specifically designed to support students from low-income backgrounds.

Scholarship Benefits: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship provides substantial financial support to its recipients. Each scholarship is valued at up to $75,000 per year, renewable for up to four years, depending on the length of the graduate program. Scholars also receive personalized advising and support services to assist them throughout their academic journey.

Impact on Scholars and Society: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship has a profound impact on the lives of its recipients. By alleviating financial burdens, the scholarship allows scholars to fully immerse themselves in their studies and take advantage of academic and professional opportunities. It empowers them to pursue advanced degrees and achieve their full potential, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship Program

The Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship Program, established by the Aga Khan Development Network, plays a crucial role in promoting educational opportunities for exceptional students in developing countries. Recognizing the transformative power of education, the foundation established the International Scholarship Program to support outstanding students from developing countries in pursuing higher education. The program aims to identify talent, provide access to quality education, and nurture future leaders who will contribute to their societies’ progress.

Selection Process: The Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship Program employs a highly competitive selection process. Candidates must demonstrate exceptional academic achievements, leadership potential, and a genuine commitment to improving the quality of life in their communities. The program prioritizes students from marginalized backgrounds, including women, students from rural areas, and individuals facing socio-economic challenges.

Scholarship Benefits: The scholarship covers tuition fees, living expenses, transportation costs, and other educational expenses. Additionally, scholars benefit from a network of mentorship and support, including access to academic advisors and professionals in their respective fields. The program offers scholars the opportunity to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in a wide range of disciplines, including health sciences, engineering, social sciences, education, and architecture.

Impact on Scholars and Society: The Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship Program has a profound impact on the lives of its recipients and the communities they serve. Scholars, equipped with knowledge and skills gained through their education, return to their home countries as ambassadors of progress. They apply their expertise to address pressing social, economic, and environmental issues, driving sustainable development and improving the well-being of their communities. Many scholars become leaders in their respective fields, policymakers, educators, researchers, and entrepreneurs, actively contributing to the advancement of their societies.

Coca-Cola Scholars Program

The Coca-Cola Scholars Program is a prestigious scholarship initiative established by The Coca-Cola Company to recognize and support outstanding high school seniors in the United States. Since its inception in 1989, the program has been empowering young leaders and providing them with financial assistance and a supportive community to pursue their higher education.  The program reflects The Coca-Cola Company’s commitment to fostering youth empowerment and promoting educational opportunities.

Selection Process: The Coca-Cola Scholars Program employs a highly competitive selection process that spans multiple stages. Eligible candidates must be graduating high school seniors in the United States, planning to pursue a degree at an accredited institution. The program seeks individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership potential, academic achievement, community involvement, and a commitment to service. Applicants submit an extensive application that includes academic transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, and a description of their extracurricular activities and community service. After a comprehensive evaluation, a group of semifinalists is chosen. These semifinalists then participate in regional interviews conducted by a panel of distinguished professionals, educators, and previous Coca-Cola Scholars. Finally, a group of 150 Coca-Cola Scholars is selected from the pool of semifinalists.

Scholarship Benefits: The Coca-Cola Scholars Program provides a generous financial scholarship to its recipients. Each scholar receives a $20,000 scholarship to support their undergraduate studies at an accredited institution of their choice. Beyond financial support, Coca-Cola Scholars also become part of a vibrant and supportive community. Scholars have access to networking opportunities, mentorship programs, leadership development, and alumni engagement.

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