How to Apply for School Funding (Or, Go to Conferences for Free!)

Author(s): Christina Kalel, M.A.

Originally posted: July 31, 2016
Related Support Post written by Dr. Perkl:

One of the best things you can do (especially if you're planning to go to graduate school, or get a job in academia) is present at a conference. It looks great on your resume or CV, it's a chance to network with other people in your field, and you get the chance to present your hard work to an audience that's intelligent, well-read, and able to see any flaws in your argument!

Wait, maybe that's not a good way to encourage you...

But seriously, if you're doing any type of research, conferences are a good way to practice your arguments, your writing/poster skills, and your public speaking. All valuable things to know for nearly any field out there. And since research is a collaborative process, you might find someone with similar ideas to work with.

However, conferences can be expensive. Registration fees, travel/hotel fees (if not in your area, which most aren't), food, printing your materials - the expenses can build up quickly. If you're not able to drop around $1000 without hurting, these tips may help you get the experience of a professional conference - without having to eat Ramen for a month.

Start Early

I know this isn't always an option, but the earlier you start looking for funds, the better. You'll have more time to try second, third, or fourth options if your first choice doesn't work out. Additionally, some sources of funding take time to disperse the money - you might be able to scrape by on a credit card, but beating the deadlines is even better.

Ask Your School

Many colleges have funds for student travel, though the source of these funds may be hard to trace. Here are a few University of Arizona options.


If you're currently a UA South student, you can apply to the UAS Foundation - they have funds set aside every year to help students with their academic growth. You'll need a faculty member to sign your form, who should ideally be the person who sponsored your research. Contact Rosemari Sueskind for the necessary forms, and to find out how long before the next meeting when they discuss proposals.

Research Offices

As a graduate student, you have several options. You can talk to your department about grants or scholarships that would cover your conference costs. Or you can apply for a travel grant through the Graduate & Professional Student Council. This grant has a few limitations, but is still worth a try:

  • Covers up to 3 nights in a hotel

  • Covers up to 4 days per diem costs

  • Maximum amount $750

You can also look into fellowships in your field, which will sometimes fund your education and extra expenses like conferences. Again, this is something you'll want to do as early as possible.

Your Professor

Always check with your research supervisor, and professors in your field - especially if you already have a good relationship with them. They may know about sources of funding that are less visible online. Or they might know about job openings with your school - these positions often come with career development funds as well.

Ask The Conference

In some cases, conferences may waive or discount registration fees - especially if you've already been accepted as a presenter. You can also ask if they need help with anything (setup, manning booths, helping presenters, etc), and work your fee off that way.

You can also check into organizations in your field - for example, the AZ Library Association funds travel to library conferences for members. These organizations are great sources of information for your future career as well, and well worth the membership dues. Students generally only pay minimal annual fees to join, and look into dual memberships when there's a state AND a national (or international) version of the organization.

And if all else fails, Google may help you find some alternate source of funding.

Do you have any experience with conference and travel grants? What's your favorite tip for attending them without breaking the bank?

Happy conferencing!

- Christina

Image sourced by the author.