Scholarship and Grant Opportunities for Master’s in ESL Students

masters in esl scholarship piggy bank

Earning a ESL master’s degree can be an expensive process. Luckily, there are many forms of financial assistance available to graduate students. Scholarships are typically awareded to top students, and grants to those who qualify. It is important to investigate different scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options before beginning a master’s program. It is never too early to start exploring aid options, and many students choose a program based on cost of tuition and the aid available. Contact each school’s financial aid office to learn more about their options.

The first step in pursuing financial aid is filling out the FAFSA for graduate school. The FAFSA will help you while you apply for others grants and scholarships, especially if they’re based on financial need.

Scholarships vs Grants

The terms “scholarship” and “grant” are frequently used interchangeably. While they are similar types of financial aid, they do possess key differences. Ultimately it is important to know exactly what type of aid you are applying for, that way you will be able to make more accurate financial plans for your future and be able to utilize your salary to its full potential. The following chart illustrates the similarities and differences between scholarships and grants.

Scholarship Grants
Does the award money need to be repaid? No, unless the student who received the award money fails to uphold the scholarship requirements. No, unless the student who received the award money fails to uphold the grant requirements.
What is typically required of the student in order to keep their award money? These requirements may vary depending on the scholarship. Most graduate students are expected to maintain a certain GPA, attend a specific degree program, not change their degree path, and/or gain a set amount of work experience while they are in school. These requirements may vary depending on the grant. Most graduate students are expected to maintain a certain GPA, attend a specific degree program, not change their degree path, and/or gain a set amount of work experience while they are in school.
Where do they come from? Scholarships can come from local government, colleges, universities, employers, companies, foundations, and organizations. Virtually anyone with the means to can offer a scholarship. Grants are most commonly distributed by federal or local government, but they may also come from colleges, universities, and third-party foundations and organizations.
What types of scholarships/grants are available? Many scholarships are merit-based. This can be based on performance in academics, a talent, or athleticism. However, there are a plethora of scholarships that are based on other criteria like financial need, religion, ethnicity, subject of study (i.e. ESL), community engagement, gender, and sexuality. Grants are need-based and subject-based. There are general grants that anyone can apply for and may be awarded based on their financial circumstance. For TESOL graduate students, there are subject-based grants that you can apply for and may be awarded if you have the financial need and are planning on conducting research and/or attending a qualifying degree program.

The grants and scholarships that require specific criteria in order to apply will naturally have fewer applicants than a general grant or scholarship would. A smaller pool of potential recipients may increase your chances of receiving the award money.

Scholarship and Grant Options for ESL Master’s Students

The following is a small list of scholarship and grant options for ESL master’s students. It’s good to continue investigating different options though, as this doesn’t cover everything:



  • Teach Grant: This grant is geared towards future teachers who plan on working in a high-need field that serves students from low-income families. TEACH provides grants of up to $4,000 a year.
  • TOEFL® Young Students Series Research Program: Research Grants for Graduate Students : For master’s and doctorate students enrolled in a language education-related degree program, this grant is awarded to students who plan on conducting research related to young students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL). This grant awards up to $5,000.
  • Rockefeller Brothers Fund: This grant is offered to those who are interested in teaching students of minority groups. You can get up to $22,000 over five years if you promise to teach in a public school for at least three years.

If you’re currently an ESL or TESOL teacher, a master’s degree will prepare you to effectively teach students with well-planned curriculum and lesson plans. If you’re interested in learning more about programs for teaching ESL, we’ve provided a list of some popular, accredited schools below.


Northcentral University

  • HLC
  • NCA

George Washington University

  • MSA

University of Southern California

  • WASC

Grand Canyon University

  • HLC
  • NCA

Click here to find more online ESL degrees...

What To Know When Applying

When applying for scholarships and grants with a higher specificity, it’s important to differentiate yourself from the competition through whatever means you have available. There will be many prospective students with similar backgrounds applying for each scholarship, and highlighting what makes you unique could prove to be the edge in winning a scholarship.

As you are looking for potential scholarships and grants to apply for, be wary of scams. If an organization is asking you to pay in order to apply for their scholarship or they have no history of previous award winners, it is likely not a real scholarship or grant. There are plenty of verified grants available for graduate students. Check out this grant-related scams checklist to help you perfect your financial aid research.

Writing Essays

Scholarship and grant review committees evaluate tons of applicants. Your written essay is what can make your application stand out from all of the others that they have to look through. This makes the essay one of the most important parts of your application, so it’s crucial to get it right. Review committees want to see essays that are original, have an attention-grabbing and relevant introduction, avoid meaningless information, and clearly state why the applicant deserves to win.

Make sure that the essay fulfills all instructions, requirements, or themes provided by the scholarship/grant-awarding organization. Once the essay is written, you must proofread it. Your essay should be proofread by you and at least one other person whom you trust. This could be a professor, tutor, a reputable TESOL professional you connected with on Twitter, or simply someone you know who is an excellent writer. Due to the competitive nature of graduate-level scholarships and grants, your application essay must not contain thoughtless mistakes.

Other Financial Aid Options

Since the scholarship and grant application process is highly competitive, it is advantageous for you to explore other avenues to help finance your time in graduate school. Fellowships, teaching assistant positions, and working while in school are all alternatives that many students employ while attending school. In fact, many students pursue a combination of financing options to ensure they have the means to earn their master’s in ESL.

Working in the TESOL field can be such a rewarding experience. By teaching and motivating ESL learners, you are helping them become more familiar with a different culture, just as you are able to become more familiar with the vast cultures of your students. By investing time into researching and applying for scholarship, grants, and other financial aid options, you are investing in your future career. Check out the rest of our website to learn more about becoming an ESL teacher.

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