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How to Get Scholarships and Funding for Cinema Studies

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: SForsyth•updated: 9/30/2010

Take a look on how to find scholarships and funding for graduate cinema studies programs.

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    Finding Funding for Cinema Studies

    Graduate school in cinema studies is both a niche program of study and one that does not often find the public opportunities for grants and scholarship that people tend to find with active film production graduate programs. Cinema studies, or film studies, programs are usually academic programs that focus on film theory and literature in a discipline that is derived from english, communications, art, and other departments that deal with the relevant issues. If you are trying to go to cinema studies for your graduate school you will find that many of the best programs are at the same locations as the best film schools. Like most graduate programs at upper division schools, cinema studies programs are not going to be cheap by any means. Here is a look on how you may want to get some scholarships or grants for a graduate program in cinema studies.

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    FAFSA Limitations

    The first thing that needs to be acknowledged is that there is not going to be federal grant money for graduate school in cinema studies. FASFA is used to get both grants and loans for undergraduate students, but outside of fields like education and medicine there will be no federal grant money for graduate school. There is also going to be a federal loan limit of $20,500 per year for your education, which very well may not meet even your tuition needs. To fill the gap you may have to institute a Graduate Plus Loan, which will have a much higher interest rate. If you are going to find grants or scholarships you are going to have to go to completely different locations, but your federal loan money is still going to play an important role.

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    For scholarships you are going to want to look in similar locations that you would before, ranging from online scholarship databases to organizations that you participate in. Since cinema studies is not really as common of a discipline as different elements, so you are going to want to search for scholarships for programs that are more vaguely associated with cinema studies. This means looking for scholarships that range around media studies and involvement, social justice issues around media consumption, english and other literary support centers, and academic disciplines that could be argued to be of a similar platform.

    Looking for available scholarships for graduate school can be a full time job, and websites like and will give you some options. These websites are well traveled by students like yourself, and those listed will have a very large number of applicants. If you want to have a better chance then you will need to take a look at institutions you may have worked for, interned, academic centers you have been involved in, as well as any publications or community centered groups you are involved in. Scholarship programs are often around in areas that you may not have thought of at first, so keep open to it.

    Many universities offer scholarships on their own, and this may be the default for all incoming students. For example, Columbia University allows for a special scholarship search for their own university. Take a look at schools where scholarships are handed out to more than just select groups of students.

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    Internal Funding

    There is an old phrase that says "don't ever pay for grad school," and for a very academic program like cinema studies this is even more appropriate. What this indicates is that you can often get a large amount of your tuition compensated by working with the university you are at. This means that you will often engage in research, teach courses, assist tenured professors, or do other critical functions that will give them a reason to absolve you of some of your tution costs or even a full tuition compensation. This is less common in Master's of Fine Arts programs in film because you need to be working on practical production, but in an academic program for cinema studies you will find that the default is going to be doing some form of institutional work. Try to find colleges that have the highest rate of tuition compensation, and it would also be advisable to take a look at the strength of their Graduate Teach Fellowship contracts and unions.