What Are Good GRE Scores for Scholarships?


Got a high GRE score? Then you might be wondering whether there are any GRE scholarships you can apply for (and hopefully win!). The good news is, there are many grad school scholarships and fellowships out there that specifically look for impressive GRE scores. But what kinds of scholarships are available? And what’s a good GRE score for scholarship programs?

Prepare yourself as we dive into the sea of GRE scholarships. In this article, we’ll start by answering the question of whether or not you can actually receive scholarships for high GRE scores. Then, we’ll look at different kinds of scholarships and how to figure out GRE scholarship criteria. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a few tips on how to dig for grad school scholarships.


Can You Get Scholarships for High GRE Scores?

First things first, can you win grad school merit scholarships or fellowships based on your GRE scores? The answer is, sort of. Many schools and organizations offer scholarships for grad school, and some of these scholarships use GRE scores as a major criterion during the selection process.

But although GRE scores can play an important role in scholarship applications, they’re usually not the only factor when it comes to determining whether or not someone will receive a scholarship. In reality, schools and organizations often use GRE scores in conjunction with other indicators of academic ability, such as undergrad GPA, faculty recommendations, and relevant coursework.

So what does all of this mean for you, then? Ultimately, you can’t expect to win scholarships for high GRE scores alone. In order to even apply for a scholarship that uses GRE scores, you’ll more than likely need to provide additional evidence of your academic accomplishments.


What Kinds of GRE Scholarships Are There?

As I discussed above, many grad school scholarships use GRE scores to aid in the selection of award recipients; however, not all GRE scholarships work the same way or are administered by the same groups.

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There are two types of grad school scholarships: school-based scholarships and organization-based scholarships. Below, we explain these two types of scholarships and provide you with a list of current GRE scholarships for which you might be eligible.




School-Based GRE Scholarships

Many schools and programs extend scholarship opportunities directly to applicants. These school-based scholarships might use GRE scores during the selection process, but — as is the case with grad school application requirements — criteria vary.

Some schools are overtly clear about their requirements for grad school scholarships. For example, at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), “deadlines [for graduate aid] are usually early (Jan-March) and require GRE scores and completed graduate applications.”

Other schools, however, are less forthright about the role of GRE scores in scholarship selection. The University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) doesn’t require separate scholarship applications but instead “reviews and matches eligible students to specific scholarships based on their Undergraduate Admissions Application as well as their financial need.”

This means that if you sent GRE scores with your grad school application, your scores will likely be used for scholarship consideration as well. That being said, just how important of a role GRE scores play in regard to scholarships is ultimately unclear here.




Organization-Based GRE Scholarships

In addition to schools, organizations offer a large variety of grad school scholarships, many of which accept GRE scores.

Generally, these types of scholarships allow recipients to apply their funds to any institution of their choice (unless the scholarship is limited to participating institutions). For example, the United Methodist Church’s World Communion Scholarships (formerly the Crusade Scholarship Program) may be applied toward any grad program.

Some organization-based scholarships might also require applicants to meet additional eligibility requirements, such as religious affiliation, status of residence, race or ethnicity, gender, etc. (And this isn’t limited to organization-based scholarships either — school-based scholarships, too, often employ similar eligibility restrictions.) Thus, always confirm that you meet all eligibility requirements before beginning a scholarship application for grad school.

So what scholarships actually accept GRE scores? Although it’s impossible to aggregate all available school-based scholarships, we can provide you with an overview of some organization-based scholarships that accept GRE scores.

All of the sponsors (organized alphabetically) in the following table were taken from the 2017-18 official list of institutions and fellowship sponsors approved to receive GRE scores.

Scholarship/Fellowship Eligibility Field of Study Details
Beinecke Scholarship Program Third-year undergrads (juniors) only. Limited to participating institutions. Arts, humanities, social sciences $4,000 is awarded prior to grad school, followed by $30,000 awarded during grad school.
Florida Education Fund (McKnight Doctoral Fellowships) African-American and Hispanic Ph.D. applicants. Limited to participating institutions. Arts and sciences, health sciences, engineering, business, nursing, visual and performing arts Annual tuition up to $5,000 (the rest is waived by the institution) and an annual stipend of $12,000.
Forté Fellows Program Women. Limited to participating institutions. Business (M.B.A. programs) Varies depending on school.
HHMI Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study Must be a second- or third-year Ph.D. student from an underrepresented group. By invitation only. Life sciences or a related field About $50,000 per fellowship year for up to three years during dissertation research.
HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program Current students in good standing at any U.S. medical, dental, or veterinary school. Medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine $32,000 stipend for one year, in addition to $11,000 for insurance and research-related activities.
IIE Scholarships Varies depending on program. Varies Varies
La Caixa Graduate Fellowship Program Spanish citizens only. Any Two-year graduate fellowship for any top university in U.S. or Canada. All 48 fellows must convene at Indiana University for orientation.
Nurses Educational Funds (NEF) Scholarships Must be a part- or full-time enrolled graduate nursing student with a GPA of at least 3.6. Nursing Varies
Teresan Scholarship Fund Must be sponsored by a paid member (can be yourself) of the Alumnae Association of the College of Saint Teresa. Any, so long as the program is accredited Amount varies depending on availability of funds.
Walter S. Barr Fellowship Must be a resident of Hampden County, MA. Any Consideration based on both merit and financial need of applicants. In 2016, recipients received $12,000 per academic year.
WCS Graduate Scholarship Program International students and North American indigenous students planning to attend an international institution. By nomination only. Terrestrial or marine conservation Varies depending on scholarship, but usually covers all or part of tuition, room, board, and a stipend. May also cover application fees, exam fees, visa fees, health insurance, etc.
World Communion Scholarships Must be a member of the United Methodist Church. For international students and U.S. students of color. Any About $20,000 per academic year. Allows students to complete graduate studies at universities or seminaries.




What’s a Good GRE Score for Scholarship Programs?

Now, let’s say you’ve found a scholarship you’re eligible for that requires GRE scores. What GRE scores should you aim for that will allow you to stand apart as a scholarship candidate?

In truth, the answer varies depending on the scholarship program.

That said, doing a little digging may help you come up with a clearer answer to this question. Below are four methods you can use to figure out the ideal GRE scores for your scholarship program.


Method 1: Browse the Scholarship’s Homepage

Perusing your scholarship’s homepage is a solid place to start. If you’re lucky, your scholarship might state explicitly what kinds of GRE scores it’s expecting of applicants, but this is somewhat rare. Most of the time, scholarships will simply ask for GRE scores without offering any insight into the kinds of scores they want.


Method 2: Contact Past Scholarship Winners

If your scholarship doesn’t offer any info about GRE score expectations (which is likely to happen), try searching for any indications of what GRE scores previous scholarship recipients had when they applied. The easiest way to do so is to ask anyone you know who’s won the scholarship what his or her GRE scores were.

You can also browse online forums, such as The Grad Cafe and Reddit, to see whether any recipients are willing to divulge their GRE scores (or already have divulged them).




Method 3: Search for Average GRE Scores (for School-Based Scholarships)

If you’re applying for a school-based scholarship, you might have more luck searching for the average GRE scores of previously admitted applicants to your program. Finding this info should give you a rough idea of the kinds of GRE scores your grad program (and likewise its scholarship) prefers applicants to have.

To find average GRE scores for a program, check the program’s (or department’s) webpages — specifically, its FAQ and admissions requirements pages. For more in-depth tips on how to find these scores, refer to my article on average GRE scores by school.

If you do find average GRE scores for your program, record these and then try to aim for GRE scores at least 3 points higher than these averages. Exceeding the averages by this many points (at a minimum) should set you apart and make you a fairly competitive applicant.

For example, Duke’s chemistry doctoral program reported average GRE scores of 154 Verbal and 165 Quant for the 2016-17 school year. If you were to apply for a GRE scholarship for this program, your best bet would be to aim for scores above these two averages — ideally, something along the lines of 168 on Quant (this score is more important anyway, as chemistry is more closely related to math) and 157 on Verbal.


Method 4: Estimate the Scores You’ll Need

If you’re struggling to find GRE scores of past scholarship winners or admitted applicants, as a last resort you can try to estimate the GRE scores you’ll need to stand out using percentiles.

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I suggest aiming for at least the 80th-85th percentiles on the section more relevant to your field of study, and at least the 70th-75th percentiles on the less relevant section.

For example, if you’re applying for a scholarship through a math program, you’ll want to get a fairly high Quant score and a solid Verbal score (the Verbal score doesn’t need to be as high as your Quant score but should still be somewhat impressive). Using the percentiles above, this would mean getting at least 161-163 on Quant and 156-157 on Verbal.

For more competitive scholarships, aim even higher on your relevant section — scores in the top 5-10 percent are nearly certain to impress scholarship committees. As for the less relevant section, try to hit around the 85th percentile (though higher is always better, of course!).




How to Find GRE Scholarships: 3 Essential Steps

Grad school scholarships aren’t necessarily the easiest scholarships to find, but there are plenty out there you can apply for as long as you know where to look for them. Here are three simple steps for finding a scholarship that uses GRE scores.


Step 1: Look for Scholarship Info Online

The first step is to browse your schools’ websites to determine whether they have any scholarships or fellowships you can apply for.

You can usually find scholarship info on departmental pages, program pages, financial aid pages, and scholarship pages. For instance, take a look at how scholarships and funding options are laid out on this page for Northwestern’s School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

If there are any scholarships that can be applied toward your program, look for a link to the scholarship application to confirm whether GRE scores are an application requirement or not.

If your school doesn’t offer any scholarships (or none that’ll work for your particular program), try expanding your search to organization-based scholarships. You can start by searching for “grad school scholarships” on Google. Insert additional keywords related to your field of study, location, ethnicity, gender, etc., to narrow down your searches to scholarships for which you’re more likely to be eligible.

You might also want to skim the official list of institutions and fellowship sponsors approved to receive GRE scores. (We’ve listed some of these in the table above for your convenience.) This annually updated list contains all fellowship sponsors (and schools) that are eligible to receive GRE scores as well as the ETS codes you can use to send your GRE scores to them.

Note that you can’t simply send your GRE scores using the codes on this list; rather, you must first apply for a scholarship and then send your GRE scores if requested or required by your fellowship sponsor.


Step 2: Contact Schools

If your online searches don’t turn up any relevant scholarships or you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, contact your schools directly and ask whether they can provide you with any info on grad school scholarships for your program or field of study. They might also be able to tell you which scholarships (if any) consider GRE scores.

Either way, your schools should be able to point you in a clearer direction in regard to your funding options for grad school.


Step 3: Apply!

Now that you’ve got all of the info you need, it’s time to choose the scholarships you’re eligible for and begin the application process! While grad school scholarships can differ significantly in their application requirements, they’ll generally require most or all of the following materials:

    • General application
    • Transcripts
    • GRE scores
    • Resume/CV
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Personal statement

Check that you’re eligible for the scholarship before you apply. In addition, make sure you complete the scholarship application well before its deadline.

If you are considering retaking the GRE to raise your scores (and thus your chances of winning a scholarship), try to do so at least three weeks (six weeks for the GRE paper test) before your application deadline. This way you can ensure your scores will arrive to your scholarship program in a timely manner.


Now, sit back and relax for the recap!


Recap: GRE Scores and Grad School Scholarships

Many grad school scholarships use GRE scores during the selection process to identify strong candidates; however, GRE scores are typically just a single factor in your overall application, so you aren’t necessarily guaranteed a scholarship even if you manage to get high GRE scores.

Grad school scholarships fall into two types: school-based scholarships and organization-based scholarships. Some of these scholarships might require applicants to meet additional eligibility restrictions, such as religious affiliation, gender, race or ethnicity, etc.

To increase your chances of receiving a grad school scholarship, it’s important to put forward your best application possible — with an impressive set of GRE scores, to boot! You can gauge what GRE scores you should be aiming for by checking scholarship webpages and looking for the GRE scores of past scholarship winners or previously admitted students to your program.

As a rule of thumb, aim for scores in at least the 80th-85th percentiles on your more relevant section and the 70th-75th percentiles on your less relevant section. For more competitive programs, aim higher.

To find GRE scholarships on your own, browse your schools’ websites and search for organization-based scholarships using either Google or the official list of approved fellowship sponsors. If neither of these methods yields any results, contact your schools directly to inquire about scholarship opportunities, specifically those that use GRE scores as a criterion.

Once you’ve found a scholarship you’re interested in and eligible for, start putting your application together — and go and win that scholarship!


What’s Next?

Want more info on grad school scholarships? Then check out our list of the best grad school scholarships you can apply for and get expert tips on how to win them!

Have more questions about grad school? Learn all about the most common grad school requirements and when to turn in your grad school applications.

You just learned everything you need to know about GRE scores and grad school scholarships. But what about GPA? What is a good GPA for grad school? Get info on grad schools’ GPA expectations and learn how to make up for a low GPA with our guide!

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Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.