Financing a college or tech and trade school education can be overwhelming. In 2019 the average cost for a four-year program is $88,900 and that number is predicted to continue increasing, according to research conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. The college experience is important for students with disabilities, and to offset costs, they should take advantage of these unique scholarship opportunities.
Scholarships are financial aid awards designed to help students further their education. To get scholarships, follow these tried-and-true tips:
- Start early. The earlier you begin applying for scholarships, the more opportunities you will be able to seek out. Many scholarships have deadlines, so it is important to have a draft of your application ready well before the due date in order to have time for someone to proofread your essays or to provide time for recommendation letters to be written.
- Don’t be afraid to get personal. Some scholarships have thousands of applicants, and it is important to distinguish yourself by being specific and personal about your experiences, skills and plans for the future. Utilize your unique perspective to craft an essay that talks just as much about your character and strengths as it does about your academic performance.
- Make a plan and stick to it. With so many scholarships to choose from, it can be daunting when you are first starting the process. Select a few websites or schools that you want to research, and give yourself a timeline for how many you want to choose and when you want to apply (remember: deadlines!). Creating a schedule can help you stay focused.
- Don’t rule out small scholarships. The cost of college tuition can be scary, leading many people to only apply to the largest scholarships out there. These scholarships tend to have more applicants and be more competitive, making them harder to be awarded. Many smaller scholarships have fewer applicants, and are run by local organizations that target specific populations. There is no limit to how many scholarships a student can earn, so these are a great option when looking at ways to pay for college. Think about it—five $2,000 scholarships are worth the same as one $10,000 scholarship.
- Read the directions. You’ve probably heard a teacher say this before, but it is important to read all of the instructions before applying for a scholarship. Often there is information about deadlines, requirements and specific instructions at the beginning of an application. Don’t waste your time by filling out an application for a scholarship that you don’t meet the requirements for, or whose due date has passed.
Below are some resources for getting your scholarship process started:
General scholarship databases
Scholarships for students with disabilities
Sertoma: Hard of Hearing or Deaf Scholarship – https://sertoma.org/what-we-do/scholarships/
Organization for Autism Research – https://researchautism.org/how-we-help/scholarships/
Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship for Autism – https://www.perecman.com/avonte-oquendo/autism-scholarship/
Microsoft disAbility Scholarship (For students interested in pursuing a major in engineering, computer science, computer information systems, law, business, or a related field (e.g. paralegal, pre-law, finance, business administration, or marketing) – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/diversity/programs/microsoftdisabilityscholarship.aspx
American Foundation for the Blind – https://www.afb.org/info/afb-2019-scholarship-application/5
National Federation of the Blind – https://www.nfb.org/programs-services/scholarships-and-awards/scholarship-program
Cerebral Palsy Scholarship – https://www.abclawcenters.com/birth-injury-caring-for-life-scholarship-2/
Lighthouse Guild (blindness or vision loss) – https://www.lighthouseguild.org/patients-families/scholarships/
Learning disabilities and/or ADHD – https://www.ncld.org/scholarships-and-awards/
RISE Learning Disabilities Scholarship – https://risescholarshipfoundation.org/
American Association on Health and Disability – https://www.aahd.us/initiatives/scholarship-program/
Mays Mission Scholarship – http://www.maysmission.org/programs
Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People with Disabilities – https://learnmore.scholarsapply.org/pwdscholarship/
American Association of People with Disabilities: NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship (For students interested in pursuing a career in the communications, media, or entertainment industry) – https://www.aapd.com/nbcuniversal-tony-coelho-media-scholarship-program/?preview=true&_thumbnail_id=470
Scholarships specific to the St. Louis region