Getting Funded for your PhD: Understanding the prestigious Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Pursuing PhD studies is an exciting, yet financially challenging journey. As tuition fees, living expenses, research costs continue to rise, finding adequate funding remains crucial for doctoral candidates to complete their program without stresses of college loans and part-time jobs.

One of the most competitive funding opportunities available is the Carnegie PhD Scholarship provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. With its generous stipend of $20,000/year and scope of supporting research across wide array of fields, this scholarship is highly coveted among PhD aspirants in United States and Canada.

A brief history of the Carnegie PhD Scholarship

The Carnegie PhD Scholarship program was established in 2001 through a $50 million endowment from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to support outstanding PhD candidates who exhibit exemplary potential to become innovative thinkers and leaders in their respective fields.

The Corporation has a long history of investing in education, having been founded in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie with the mission to “promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding”. Over the decades, it has supported various initiatives aimed at higher education reform, scientific research and community development.

The PhD Scholarship program is considered one of the most generous fellowships and was launched with the vision of enabling exceptional students to pursue doctorate studies without financial constraints so they can focus fully on their research. Since its inception, over 800 scholarships have been awarded across a variety of academic disciplines.

Eligibility for the Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Let’s examine the key eligibility requirements to qualify for this prestigious funding:

Field of study

The scholarship supports doctoral studies in all fields across sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts. This includes both academic and professional PhD programs.

Nationality and residency

Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of either United States or Canada. International students are unfortunately not eligible.

Academic qualifications

To be considered, applicants must have completed or be enrolled in a master’s degree program at the time of application. The selection committees look for top grades and high academic achievements at both undergraduate and master’s level.

Stage of PhD program

The scholarship is generally awarded to students who have just begun their PhD program, typically within the first two years of study. Students may apply during any year of their PhD program, provided they have not completed more than two years of doctoral coursework and research.

Full-time student status

Successful candidates must pursue their PhD on a full-time basis throughout the entire funding period at an accredited university in U.S. or Canada. Part-time or online students are ineligible.

Research Focus

Applicants must clearly demonstrate a well-developed research idea aligned with the vision and excellence embodied by the scholarship. Feasibility, innovation and significance of proposed project play a key role in selection decisions.

Provided all eligibility criteria are met, candidates from all academic, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to apply for this funding opportunity.

Extent and terms of the Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Stipend amount

Each awardee receives an annual stipend of $20,000 (before taxes) to support living expenses and progress their doctoral research without financial burden. This is generally paid in installments over fall and spring semesters.

Funding period

Support is provided for a maximum of four years to allow timely completion of PhD requirements. Funding can start from the fall semester of the award year. If degree is completed ahead of schedule, unused portion of grant is returned to Carnegie.

No type of work restrictions

Unlike some other fellowships, Carnegie awardees are not bound by teaching or research obligations. They have complete freedom to focus solely on their PhD program and dissertation work.

Travel and research grants

Additional funds up to $2,500 per year are available to support participation in academic conferences, fieldwork and collection of data. Upto $5,000 can also be requested for special research-related expenses.

Health insurance subsidy

Carnegie also covers up to 50% of the PhD student health insurance premium charged by their university during the funding period.

The rigorous Carnegie PhD application process

Competition for this prestigious scholarship if understandably fierce, with acceptance rate around 10%. Here are key steps involved in applying:


Application window opens in early fall and submissions are due by early November each year on the program website. Late or incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

Eligibility form

Candidates must first complete a brief eligibility quiz to ensure they meet all baseline criteria before starting the online application process.

Personal statement

A 2-page statement highlighting academic achievements, career goals, intended research focus and leadership experiences is required. This essay is critical to showcasing passion and potential.

Research proposal

Up to 5 pages must be dedicated to elaborating the proposed doctoral dissertation – its objectives, methodology, significance and timeline. Feasibility of project is closely evaluated.

Letters of recommendation

Strong letters from three recommenders – preferably faculty who can speak about candidate’s scholarly abilities and suitability for an independent research career.


Official transcripts from all colleges attended must be uploaded or sent directly from the university to reflect strong grades throughout academic career.

Standardized test scores (optional)

GRE, GMAT, MCAT or LSAT scores can be self-reported only if believed to strengthen the application.

Interview (finalists only)

Shortlisted candidates are invited for an in-person or video conference interview to discuss research interests in more depth.

Review committees consider a balanced profile across all factors like academic excellence, research proposal, leadership qualities and recommendations. Successful candidates truly stand out through integrity, creativity and vision for meaningfully advancing their field.

Stories of past Carnegie PhD Scholars

While statistics give us an overview of this prestigious scholarship, digging deeper into experiences of alumni helps paint a more personal picture of what this opportunity offers and how it has impacted careers. Let’s explore profiles of a few Carnegie PhD Scholars:

Dr. Elizabeth Paul

After receiving her Carnegie PhD grant in Political Science, Elizabeth completed her doctorate from Yale examining barriers to women’s political participation globally. She is now a tenured professor at McGill researching gender quotas and holds leadership roles in several academic associations. Elizabeth credits the freedom from financial stress for fully immersing in research and achieving her career aspirations.

Dr. Akshay Majumder

Akshay’s Carnegie funded PhD from UC Berkeley focused on algorithmic fairness in machine learning applications. He co-founded an AI safety startup during his doctorate and now serves as its CEO. Akshay says the scholarship experience reinforced his entrepreneurial spirit and taught invaluable skills for managing independent projects and deadlines.

Dr. Hasim Ajlani

Passionate about ancient history, Hasim utilized the funding to analyze Medieval architecture at Stanford. He combined virtual reality modeling with fieldwork in Syria aided by Carnegie travel grants. After obtaining his degree, Hasim now leads digital heritage projects to preserve cultural landmarks. The scholarship opened doors to meaningful career he feels privileged to pursue.

These stories reflect how Carnegie support not only facilitates excellent research but also cultivates competencies that empower awardees to make lasting impact through their work. The prestige of this honor undoubtedly boosts scholars’ profile as emerging leaders within and outside academia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we have an overview of the Carnegie PhD Scholarship program from historical origins to selection process and experiences of past recipients, let’s address some commonly asked questions:

Can I receive other fellowships along with Carnegie?

While Carnegie is intended to be the primary source of funding, scholars may supplement it with additional awards offered through their university. However, total funding from all sources cannot exceed the university’s cap on compensation for doctoral students.

What if I need an extra year to complete my PhD?

Candidates are eligible for a one-year no-cost extension subject to approval by Carnegie based on satisfactory progress demonstrated every six months. Requests for additional extensions will require repayment terms.

Can I defer my admission to the following year?

Deferrals up to one year may be requested only under rare, extenuating personal circumstances. All deferral decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis taking into account reasons provided for change in plan.

Do international students have alternative options through this program?

While direct scholarships are only for U.S./Canadian citizens or permanent residents, Carnegie also supports university-based programs that provide funding to outstanding international PhD applicants, such as those at Harvard and MIT.

What if my research interests change midway through my PhD?

Minor shifts in research focus are acceptable as long as they still align with the overall vision of the scholarship. However, proposed changes may require re-approval from Carnegie. Major departures from the initial approved proposal can risk revocation of funding.

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