There are several ways to get funding as a graduate student in the College of the Liberal Arts, including assistantships; monetary awards and grants offered by the college, University, and external funding sources; and the Graduate Internship Program.
The most common form of graduate funding comes from having an assistantship. While it is unusual for master’s students to receive assistantships, nearly all students in Ph.D. programs receive a multi-year assistantship or fellowship when they enter the program.
Assistantships include a stipend, tuition remission, and a subsidy for medical insurance. Students are assigned to a faculty adviser who supervises the experience. Graduate assistants support undergraduate instruction or undertake research projects, depending on the type of assistantship.
Assistantships are awarded to students by their graduate major program during admission. Appointments are made based on student qualification, availability of funding, and admission to the department and Graduate School as a degree student.
There are two types of assistantships offered to graduate students: teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Teaching assistants often help grade assignments, tutor students, attend lectures, and hold labs. Research assistants typically work with faculty on upcoming research and will help summarize previous research, code articles, administer surveys, and analyze information.
Students must meet certain requirements to attain and maintain their assistantship.
- Have a 3.00 grade-point average or higher after each assistantship semester.
- Teaching assistants must participate in a teaching assistant training program.
- Maintain full-time academic status.
Requirements for International Students
All new international teaching assistants must take and pass a test of spoken English. Details of the procedures for meeting these requirements may be obtained during departmental orientation or by contacting the Department of Applied Linguistics.
The student normally schedules 9–14 credits per semester (5–7 per six-week summer session), receives a stipend plus a grant-in-aid of resident education tuition, and performs tasks that, on average, occupy approximately ten hours per week.
The student normally schedules 9–12 credits per semester (4–6 per six-week summer session), receives a stipend plus a grant-in-aid of resident education tuition, and performs tasks that, on average, occupy approximately twenty hours per week.
The student normally schedules 6–8 credits per semester (3–4 per six-week summer session), receives a stipend plus a grant-in-aid of resident education tuition, and performs tasks that, on average, occupy approximately thirty hours per week.
Credit Load by Appointment Schedule
Level of Assistantship
Minimum Credits Per Semester
Maximum Credits Per Semester
Minimum* Credits Per 6-week Summer Session
Maximum* Credits Per 6-week Summer Session
Monetary Awards and Grants
Below you will find a listing of funding opportunities offered through the college, University, and external agencies for graduate student dissertation, research, and tuition support.
Students eligible to receive a Humanities Dissertation Release may also apply to be designated a Center/Institute Fellow with a specific College of the Liberal Arts Center or Institute. Students may apply to be a Fellow with the Africana Research Center, the Humanities Institute, the Rock Ethics Institute, the Center for American Literary Studies, the Center for Language Acquisition, the Center for Democratic Deliberation, and the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center.
Students will be designated as a Fellow with one specific Center or Institute within the College of the Liberal Arts. Fellows will receive an additional award in the form of a $1,000 award to support their research and related activities, be affiliated with the Center or Institute and have opportunities to participate in (and in some cases even plan) some of its activities, share common experiences with others affiliated with the Center or Institute, and share work in progress with faculty and other graduate students. In some cases, recipients of Center and Institute awards will be invited to use workspace in a Center or Institute. In all cases, students will profit from stimulating research environments and gain recognition for their affiliation with a Center or Institute. Precise activities will be specified in acceptance letters from the respective Center and Institute directors.
Please note that all Humanities Dissertation Release guidelines must be followed for participation in this program.
How to Apply
The Office of Research and Graduate Studies will send out a call for the Center/Institute Fellows Program early in the spring semester. Students who wish to be considered should submit an application packet and an Information Summary Form (available from the Directors of Graduate Studies) to their department.
Applications should include:
- A cover letter including (a) a brief description of the dissertation project and its connection with the focus of the Center or Institute to which the student is applying; (b) status of the dissertation proposal; (c) a timetable for completing the dissertation; (d) a statement explaining the student’s interest in participating in the activities of the Center/Institute while engaged as a fellow; (e) a statement clearly indicating preference between a fall or spring release
- A completed Information Summary Form
- Verification memo from the Director of Graduate Studies indicating eligibility for a Humanities Dissertation Release for the corresponding academic year
- A curriculum vitae (no more than three pages)
The associate dean will review submitted applications and send them to centers and institutes for consideration.
Selections will be made by the center and institute directors. Those not selected for a Center or Institute Award, if otherwise eligible, will be granted a department dissertation award.
Notifications will be made by May 1.
This incentive program is designed to encourage graduate students to develop and submit competitive applications to external agencies for research funding or fellowship support. The incentive consists of a $500 award for first-time submissions to a particular agency, and a $250 award for resubmissions of revised proposals to the same funding agency.
- Applicants must be a full-time graduate student in the College of the Liberal Arts applying for a predoctoral grant or fellowship that is comparable in financial magnitude, duration, prestige and competitive nature to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, NIH NRSA awards, and similar programs. To confirm eligibility of a program, consult the list below. Contact Alena Sunderland (firstname.lastname@example.org) to check the eligibility of programs not listed.
- Applicants must exhibit exemplary academic achievement and accomplishments commensurate with those qualities that would position a student to be competitive.
- Applicants must have a defined area of research interest and the support of a graduate faculty mentor who will work with him/her to develop the application, including the research project plan.
- The award must bring a minimum of $5,000 in funding.
- Funds must be received while the student is enrolled at Penn State.
- Normally, in order to provide support broadly through the college, a student may not receive more than one award in any semester (FA, SP, SU). In exceptional circumstances where additional research projects are fundamentally distinct, and where there is a completely different application to another funding source, the Director of Graduate Studies may request an exception. Such a request will require a letter from the dissertation advisor as well as the Director of Graduate Studies.
Note: Only students whose home department is in the College of the Liberal Arts are eligible to receive an award under this program.
Pre-Approved Eligibility List
- AAUW Fellowship
- Berlin Program Dissertation Fellowship, Freie Universitat Berlin
- Brookings Research Fellowship
- Center for Retirement Research
- Chateaubriand Fellowship
- Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation
- DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)
- Doris Duke Fellowships for the Promotion of Child Well-Being
- Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowships for Minorities (Diversity Fellowship)
- Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship
- Graduate Research Fellowship for Criminal Justice Statistics
- Guggenheim Foundation Dissertation Fellowship
- International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF)
- IREX (International Dissertation Research and Exchange Board)
- Josephine de Karman Fellowship
- Juran Fellowship for Joseph M. Juran Center for Leadership in Quality
- Language Learning
- Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship
- Mellon Foundation Institute of Historical Research
- Mind and Life Institute
- National Foundation of Jewish Culture Fellowship
- National Institute Of Justice (NIJ)
- NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience
- NIH Kirschstein NRSA Fellowship
- NSF Fellowship
- NSF Dissertation Research Funding
- Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
- Spencer Foundation (Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation/Newcomb Fellowships)
- SSRC (Social Science Research Council) Application Procedure
- Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
- William Orr Dingwall Foundation’s Neurolinguistics Fellowship
How to Apply
A hard copy or electronic copy of the Intent to Submit Form and timeline and any corresponding material in PDF form must be sent to in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies in 105 Sparks Building or via email at .
- Prior to the student submitting a proposal to the respective external sponsor, the College must be notified of the student’s intent. This notice must be submitted by the sponsoring faculty member with the following:
- A completed Intent to Submit Form, which includes the signature of the sponsoring graduate faculty member
- A statement that clearly identifies the timeline for submission
- Once a completed proposal has been submitted to the funding source, the sponsoring graduate faculty member must provide confirmation of the submitted proposal (forwarding electronic confirmation of the application received from the funding agency by email is sufficient). Upon receipt of confirmation of submission, the student’s award will be processed.
Deadline for Applications
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year (i.e., there is no specific call for nomination or deadlines). Applications received after June 1st cannot be awarded until the next fall semester.
All applications that require an official institution signature must go through this office, but all students (and their advisors) are welcome to seek advice on any part of the application process. Students should not wait until the last minute to seek advice. For applications submitted through this office, notification four weeks in advance of the deadline is recommended.
Additional Funding Resource
The Graduate School is often made aware of individual funding opportunities for graduate students. When the Office of Fellowships and Awards Administration receive information on funding prospects, it compiles the information into a database of external awards. This database, however, is limited to the information that is received by the office; therefore, it should not be considered inclusive. Your adviser and department faculty and staff are knowledgeable sources of additional information and should be consulted directly.
Humanities Dissertation Release funds make it possible for the College of the Liberal Arts to provide releases from teaching or related service to humanities students who are supported on assistantships and working on their dissertations. This program is meant to complement, not replace, existing programs such as the RGSO Dissertation Awards and Humanities Institute Summer Residencies.
- To be eligible for a Humanities Dissertation Release, students must be ABD and be supported on an assistantship for the period covered by the dissertation release. Fixed-term faculty are not eligible for dissertation releases. Unless the associate dean approved an exception under special circumstances, it is assumed that departments will continue to pay regular assistantship stipends and tuition grant in aids for students receiving awards during the fall and spring semesters.
- Dissertation releases will be paid for with a $5,000 grant to departments, to cover the cost of replacing the student in the classroom; or a $3,000 award to students directly, in the case of a summer release. To participate, departments must fully replace the teaching responsibilities or other departmental duties of students who receive a dissertation release so that students may work full time on the dissertation. In other words, the students cannot be given a partial release from teaching or other duties; they must be given a complete semester release. Departments that violate this understanding will be dropped from the program. Note: Only students whose home department is in the College of the Liberal Arts are eligible to receive a summer dissertation release (or $3,000) award under this program.
- Students are expected to remain in residence at University Park during the period of the release unless they receive permission from their Graduate Director to travel for the sake of research or other legitimate academic purposes.
- The associate dean’s office serves as a clearinghouse to determine eligibility. Students will be deemed eligible when their department’s Graduate Director certifies that the student has completed an acceptable dissertation proposal.
- To facilitate planning, graduate directors will be asked to estimate students’ eligibility for the following academic year. Only students who complete accepted dissertation proposals by August (fall awards) or December (spring awards) will receive the Humanities Dissertation Release. Graduate Directors should have reason to anticipate that students will clear all hurdles when making estimates (so that planning can be effective in departments and in the Associate Dean’s office). Only in extraordinary cases will students be given a release when the Graduate Director has not indicated their likely eligibility beforehand.
- In order to participate, departments may not provide a second semester of release time for the dissertation. However, students may apply to other programs giving service-free semesters such as the RGSO Dissertation Competition, center or institute predoctoral Fellowship programs, and external fellowships. Second semester dissertation releases from the RGSO Dissertation Support Competition will be granted only after the Humanities Dissertation Release semester.
- It is understood as a condition of receiving any form of dissertation support that students will present their work at the spring Graduate Exhibition unless their dissertation research has already been presented at the exhibition. Those affiliated with a center or institute may receive additional stipulations in its letter of offer.
How to Qualify and Apply
By November 1 (for spring releases) and May 1 (for fall releases), departments should email Alena Sunderland a list of students who are expected to be eligible for a Humanities Dissertation Release and a request for which semester the student will take the release. Students do not need to complete a specific application; they will be identified by their department.
This program provides up to nine students in the humanities with either one course release in the fall or spring semester (GSR program) or a $4,000 summer award (GSSR program). This program enables students to devote an entire semester or the summer to work on their dissertation project. Students are required to be in residence at Penn State University Park for the duration of the grant period.
Learn more about the Graduate Student Scholars in Residence program.
This award, offered by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, supports research-related expenditures associated with a dissertation or release time.
Approximately fifteen–twenty recipients each semester receive up to $2,000 each for research-related expenses OR $5,000 for release time. (Note that students in humanities Ph.D. programs are welcome to apply for a release, which would be in addition to the release they already receive as part of the Humanities Initiative.)
Applications deadlines: September 30 (fall), March 3 (spring) A committee of the directors of graduate studies in the college will evaluate requests; funding decisions will be announced by the end of each semester.
For support of research-related expenditures associated with a dissertation, such as:
- Travel to specialized locations/collections (e.g., archives, libraries, interview sites) (this should not be used for conference travel)
- Payments to subjects/informants
- Photocopying or microfilming costs at archives or libraries
- Phone and/or postage expenses necessary for the research (e.g., surveys)
- Lab or other expendable supplies unavailable through departmental resources
- Special software unavailable through university resources (e.g., foreign language word processing packages, specialized statistical packages)
- Specialized texts unavailable at Penn State or through inter-library loan
- For release time from regular teaching assistantship responsibilities for one semester (fall or spring).
Funding will not be provided for purposes of a stipend, tuition payments, dependent support, or for typing or reproduction of the dissertation itself.
- Candidate must have an approved dissertation proposal (i.e., must be ABD) by the end of the semester in which the application is made, and, normally, must be in residence.
- Humanities students must take their humanities release before they are eligible for the RGSO Dissertation Competition Release. Those who have yet to take their humanities release are still eligible for the RGSO research funding.
- Students who previously applied and did not win are encouraged to reapply.
- Previous winners of release time may apply again for research funding, and previous winners of research funding may apply again for release time. Students may only win research funding once and release time once through this program.
- Only students whose home department is in the College of the Liberal Arts are eligible to receive an award under this program.
Submit the following materials through the Dissertation Proposal Application system. Please advise your director of graduate studies after you have submitted the electronic request so it may be reviewed.
- General information: Competition semester, purpose of support (research or release time), student name, email address, director of graduate studies
- Dissertation information: Title and semester the proposal approved
- Narrative: Description of the thesis, accessible to non-specialist readers, limited to 1000 words
- Work plan: 500 words or less
- Research expenses: an itemized budget is required for those not applying for release time
- Funding from other sources
- Proposed timing of requested expenditures
- Listing of any past or pending financial support
- Vita: Limited to 500 words (approximately two single-spaced pages)
Note: As a condition of receiving a dissertation release, students must participate in the following spring Graduate Exhibition unless their dissertation research has already been presented at the Exhibition.
The purpose of this program is to provide tuition assistance to graduate students who have held assistantships or full fellowships for two consecutive semesters (fall and spring) so they can continue graduate studies during the summer.
Students should be registering for 400 level or above required courses; foreign language skills courses; required speech communication courses for international students; and approved by the students’ Graduate Directors .
Credit Maximum = 9 credits for students that were appointed as graduate assistants or fellows for the preceding fall and spring semesters.
NOTE: If a student registers for more than the credit maximum he/she will be billed for the additional credits and the student will be liable for payment of the additional tuition. This program only covers tuition. The student is responsible for any additional course fees.
Application deadline: June 30
- Courses must be required and approved by the student’s graduate program.
- An award can not be delayed and transferred, e.g., from a summer session to a fall semester or spring semester.
- World Campus courses are eligible.
- Students must go through the regular bill filing process and registration for classes in order for the funds to be directed toward the students’ tuitions.
- Students will be billed for audits, which cannot be used to satisfy degree requirements and unapproved registrations.
NOTE: There is a limited pool of money available to the college. Prompt submission of your application will ensure that you will receive complete consideration.
The STAR award is a scholarship award given to a graduate student in the College of the Liberal Arts who has demonstrated all-around excellence in teaching, research, and service. To be a strong candidate, the student should have established a significant record in each area and excelled in it. Service may include departmental, university-wide, or national service. The award consists of funds that are provided to support specific projects or activities that will advance the student’s professional and scholarly development.
While the awarded funds may support activities that enhance the student’s dissertation, the primary purpose of this award is not to fund dissertation research or conference travel. Our expectation is that award funds will support activities that go beyond typical student activities such as presentations or routine ongoing research. Students can apply for dissertation support through the RGSO Dissertation Support Competition, and departments provide primary support for student conference travel.
The Director of Graduate Studies of the program in which a student is enrolled nominates a student based on merit, considering both the student’s record of accomplishment and the impact of the award on future achievement. The nomination should include detailed information about the student’s record and must include GPA, SRTE’s, other relevant teaching evaluations, publications, and an assessment of service contributions, along with a description of the project and activities which the award funds will support.
The college gives approximately ten STAR awards each year.
Nomination deadline: November 1 and April 1 of each year.
How to Apply
Nominations, which include a cover sheet and nominating statement, should be submitted to Robin Chakravorty in hard copy to 105 Sparks Building or sent as a PDF via email to email@example.com.
Travel support enables graduate students to present results from their research at the leading professional conference in their field and to present creative work in professional venues. Students who wish to apply for a travel grant should contact their department.
Students at Penn State are encouraged to take a deep dive into the world of sustainable research. Student research, along with important work from faculty, has gone a long way to help members of the College of the Liberal Arts community understand the science and practice of sustainability at Penn State and across the globe.
University and External Opportunities
Graduate student researchers are encouraged to apply for external support from major national funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or National Humanities Center. Students work with faculty once they arrive on proposals for additional support through the college’s Office of Grants and Contracts office. The college’s External Funding Incentive Award (linked above) supports students in their work to apply for external funding.
This program is for doctoral students who have a background and strong interest in computing applications and who will help develop and disseminate new methods for problem solving within their disciplines.
The Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards Administration (OGFAA) is responsible for facilitating all Graduate School funding programs and awards. Funding programs are available for both incoming and continuing graduate students.
Learn more about funding opportunities through the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards Administration.
UCLA has compiled a list of external funding opportunities for graduate students.
Michigan State University has compiled a list of external funding opportunities for graduate students at any university.
The Graduate School Teaching Certificate was developed to provide graduate students with an avenue to enhance their teaching skills.
The Office of Sponsored Programs provides central coordination and oversight of Penn State-sponsored projects.
The Office of Student Aid provides information about available aid programs, applying for student financial aid, and costs.
Graduate Internship Program
Given the highly desirable writing, communication, and quantitative skills that our graduate students possess, the Liberal Arts Graduate Internship Program (GRIP) was conceived to connect you with various University units that can most benefit from your expertise.
As a Liberal Arts graduate student participating in the program, you’ll gain:
- Marketable work experience within a unit of a major research university
- Expanded post-graduation job opportunities
- A deeper understanding of the University’s mission and operations
- Release from teaching assistantship or research assistantship responsibilities
- As part of your application, the director of graduate studies for your home department will submit an email to Alena Sunderland that supports your candidacy, verifies your good standing, and indicates support from your dissertation adviser.
- Once you’ve successfully interviewed with the unit in question, you’ll be hired to intern for one semester (with the possibility of renewal for a second semester), working twenty hours per week.
- You’ll be released from departmental teaching or research responsibilities for the duration of the internship.
- Hosting unit covers the cost of your stipend for the internship semester
- Host unit provides you with extensive mentorship
- College covers the cost of your tuition
For fall semester employment:
- Deadline for hiring unit to submit a position to GRIP website: February 15
- Student application deadline: March 15
- Unit deadline for hiring decision: April 15
For spring semester employment:
- Deadline for hiring unit to submit a position to GRIP website: September 15
- Student application deadline: October 15
- Unit deadline for hiring decision: November 15
There are currently no open positions. Check back soon!
The Liberal Arts Emergency Scholarship Fund assists Liberal Arts undergraduate, graduate, and World Campus students whose circumstances demonstrate a need for temporary financial assistance.