Scholarships and Grants Available to North Carolina’s MSW Students

graduates celebrating with diplomas in hand

Obtaining a degree at any level requires a tremendous amount of work, effort, and time. But for many students, what’s most daunting about the prospect of going to graduate school is the cost.

It’s no secret that degree programs can be immensely costly, with tuition and additional expenses that can quickly send students into debt. For some, this pressure is enough to deter them from applying to graduate programs altogether, even ones that offer the opportunity for well-paid positions down the line.

Indeed, based on the high price tags of many colleges and universities, it’s understandable that some students are unwilling to take on the expenses. But motivated students should know that there are many opportunities out there that can help cover part or even all of the cost of graduate school so that you can pursue your dreams without sending yourself into dire financial straits.

Fortunately for aspiring social workers in North Carolina, there are many excellent scholarship opportunities for MSW students that can give you the financial boost you need to make your grad school dreams a reality.

For those feeling pessimistic about affording a graduate program, it’s important to remember that there are always many funding opportunities that can help you. You just have to know what’s out there.

What to Keep in Mind When Applying for Scholarships

Thanks to scholarship and grant opportunities, funding for your education might be easier than you realized. But there will be some work expected of you in order to make that happen.

1. First things first: Look up application due dates and requirements.

Applications for MSW scholarships and grants can require nearly as much work as graduate program applications themselves. They also might be due around the same time as your grad school applications, meaning you won’t necessarily know where you’ll be attending school when you apply. It’s crucial to look up dates well ahead of the deadlines for your grad school applications – you don’t want to find you’ve missed your opportunity for funding.

2. Consult with other MSW students as well as school admissions officers to learn about further funding opportunities.

Directories like this one can give you the information you need to get started on applications, but it’s always worth speaking with other students – especially those who are in or have completed the same MSW program as you – as well as admissions departments, who may be able to point you in the direction of opportunities you never would have learned about otherwise. Don’t let the internet be your only resource! When it comes to school funding opportunities, word of mouth can be an equally powerful search engine.

3. Contact your references early.

When applying for graduate programs and funding opportunities, your references should be respected figures who you know from a professional or educational context. In asking them to write you a reference letter, you’re calling on them for a favor – one they’ll likely be happy to extend to you, but it’s still important to be respectful of their time. When asking contacts for letters of reference, make sure you are giving them ample time to complete their letters. It’s a far more polite way to call in a request, and it’s far more likely to ensure that they can meet their deadline.

4. Prepare your scholarship application materials as thoroughly as your MSW applications themselves.

For many, finding funding is as critical of a step in the admissions process as actually getting into school. Treat your applications with the care and precision you would give to your graduate school applications. After all, with many of these scholarships being awarded by national institutions, they are likely to have large applicant pools to draw from. Do the diligent work of preparing and editing your application materials carefully so that you stand out among the rest.

5. Cast your net widely.

There are all different types of scholarships out there, awarded by a variety of organizations with an equally large array of missions and goals. Some of these scholarships are focused around particular areas of specialty, while others are initiatives aimed at supporting and empowering underrepresented demographics. Be on the lookout for the opportunities that make sense for you, and apply to anything that fits in with your skills, background, and interests. The more opportunities you apply for, the better your chances are of receiving funding support.

Applying for scholarships isn’t easy, and being selected for them isn’t a given. However, putting yourself out there for every opportunity you can find is a worthwhile experience, both for the good that it can do for your MSW experience and as a larger life lesson.

You never know what you can make possible for yourself if you put in the work to make it happen.

MSW Grants and Scholarships

Below is a list of scholarship opportunities that can help prospective MSW students realize their academic goals. The organizations offering these grants are, for the most part, national organizations drawing applicants from all over the country. Some are specific to social work degrees, while others are open to a larger pool of graduate student applicants.

Please note that this list does not include school-specific scholarships, though these are always worth pursuing, and in many cases can be your best bet for receiving funding assistance, as they are available to fewer applicants.

NASW Scholarships

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers several scholarships of its own to support social work students from distinct backgrounds. The NASW is the largest association of social workers in the United States (and, in fact, the world), setting important standards for practitioner ethics and providing a variety of resources to help social workers do the best work they can.

It’s important to note that applying for these scholarships requires applicants to become members of the NASW. This is possible to do even if you don’t yet know where you’ll be attending your graduate program. Be sure to maintain your membership throughout the course of the admission process (this should be easy to do if you sign up around the same time you are applying).

The Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship is dedicated specifically to MSW candidates who have committed their work to, or have a personal affinity with, Alaska Native/Indian American or LatinX communities, as well as for candidates who have shown a longtime commitment to working with grassroots organizations and voluntary nonprofit groups. It offers scholarships of $4,000 to up to ten MSW students per year.

The Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship is specifically for students in the mental health field of social work who are committed to working in African American communities. Funding for each year varies depending on annual contributions.

The Lawanna Renee Barron Scholarship Endowment Fund

This fund is designed primarily for prospective MSW students who come from rural areas. It offers a $1,000 dollar scholarship to one student per year. Students can apply for this scholarship for each year of their MSW program.

American Association of University Women (AAUW) Career Development Grants

These grants from the AAUW range from $2,000 to $20,000, and are awarded to women pursuing graduate degrees toward their professional advancement in fields including social work. They are intended to cover expenses including education expenses, living expenses, dependent care, and travel to minimize the financial burden of attending graduate school.

The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

This scholarship fund is run by a national nonprofit institution and is open to all graduate students whose career goals involve active engagement with social justice causes. It awards scholarships of up to $15,000, with the average award amounting to about $7,500, with amounts determined on a need-based basis. It is recommended that applicants already have demonstrable experience in activist causes, in particular in organizing roles.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund

This scholarship is for students from Hispanic heritage working across disciplines, at all levels of schooling. It is a merit-based program which requires a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA in order to apply. Students must also be planning on attending their degree program on a full-time schedule. HSF scholarship amounts are determined on a need-based basis, with students receiving grants between $500 and $5,000.

The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) Scholarships

The NABSW offers numerous scholarships for Black MSW students to help cover the cost of tuition as well as the additional expenses that can come with attending a graduate program. These include several book scholarships, intended specifically to help students pay for pricey textbooks and other classroom materials that can add up quickly when starting school.

The Paul & Daisy Soros Scholarship for New Americans

This national-scale scholarship is devoted to graduate students from immigrant and first-generation backgrounds, providing up to full tuition coverage to help students advance their academic goals. The funds are not limited to MSW students, meaning there is a large pool of graduate student applicants it draws from. Their scholarships are awarded over two-year periods, meaning they can help students support their full graduate study experiences.

The Point BIPOC Scholarship

This scholarship, amounting to up to $1,500, is intended to help BIPOC students who identify as LGBTQ+. This scholarship is open to students pursuing degrees in all disciplines, at any level of postsecondary education. These funds are directed toward a single semester’s tuition. Students must be enrolled in a full-time program in order to be eligible for funding.

The Point Flagship Scholarship

This scholarship is intended to support LGBTQ+ students at all levels of higher education, with awarded amounts varying annually. Beyond financial support, this scholarship offers group mentoring and leadership development to help bolster and invigorate your professional plans even further.


Can I apply for more than one scholarship?

Absolutely. Many students are able to make graduate school work because they have the support of a variety of independent programs. Many of the scholarships listed in this directory offer scholarship funding that would cover part of the cost of tuition for your MSW program, but not all of it. For this reason, it’s a shrewd decision to apply for as many scholarships as possible – if you are awarded several, they will contribute that much further to your educational journey.

When do I have to apply for scholarships?

It depends, which is part of why it’s so important to do your research early on scholarship application deadlines. Some scholarships’ application deadlines are scheduled in step with the admissions process itself, while others are only open to students who have already selected their MSW program. Applying for scholarships can mean juggling a variety of different schedules and expectations, so it’s critical to do careful research and note key dates and expectations for each fund you’re applying to.

Are there other ways of getting financial assistance while in an MSW program?

Yes. Many schools offer financial aid packages, some of which involve work-study contracts that allow students to cover some of their costs through on-campus employment. No matter what other scholarships you are applying to, it’s always worth looking into the scholarships available at your college or university of choice. Social work students may also be eligible for student loan forgiveness programs for public servants, granting loan forgiveness upon the completion of a certain number of loan payments.