If you've got dreams of going back to school to earn your degree or complete a vocational program, you've also got worries about how to pay for it.
After all, the cost of higher education continues to rise: The College Board reports that for the 2017–2018 academic year, the average cost of tuition and fees was $34,740 for private colleges and universities and $9,970 for public.
It's no wonder so many Americans are saddled with thousands of dollars in student loans!
While it's typical for students to finish college in around four years, paying off loans can take graduates like almost decade, or even much longer.
Nevertheless, many choose to just grin and bear it—knowing fully well how hard it is nowadays to pursue a viable career path without some type of education or certification.
More women are trying to get college degrees these days to make a difference in the workforce, but the financial burden that comes with it can be immense.
And if you're a single mom working to raise a family, or you come from a low-income household, or have other major life obstacles staring you down, that dream of getting your degree could seem very far out of your reach.
But there's good news.
Actually, it's GREAT news.
There are many organizations and programs that provide scholarships for women just like you who are striving to reach their educational and professional goals.
If you thought that college scholarships are only for bright young high school students, or that you could never afford to continue your education while supporting a family and all that comes with, think again.
There are many scholarships to help you pay for college, even if you're already enrolled and working toward your degree.
And if you've had to delay school or take time away from it to attend to important life matters, there's college money out there for you, too.
Thanks to scholarships, women like you can focus more on their success in school and less on paying for tuition.
If you're ready to go back to school and take charge of your future, it's an A+ idea to keep reading—trust us!
What It Takes to Get a Scholarship
Hard work can change your life, thanks to a college scholarship
I know there are many hard-working women out there with dreams of continuing their education just like you.
Sometimes I wish there was enough money to send all of you back to school to get your degrees!
But in reality, funds are limited, and scholarship slots are too. So be sure to put forth the strongest scholarship applications you can—and get them in early, too.
While every scholarship contest or program comes with its own unique set of rules and guidelines, all of them share some things in common with one another.
You must demonstrate need or merit. Scholarships usually fall into two categories: need-based and merit-based.
If a scholarship program is need-based, then applicants must demonstrate that they need financial assistance.
This may include filling out financial aid paperwork and making sure that all-important FAFSA is in order.
But don't worry—you don't have to pay back scholarships and educational grants as you do with student loans.
If a scholarship or educational grant is merit-based, then get ready to shine!
You must attend an accredited school or program. True to the digital age, scholarship programs often do not specify whether you must attend college or graduate school in person, which allows students of online programs to apply.
However—and this is a big however—the school or program of your choice must be accredited.
To earn accreditation, a school must be evaluated by an independent agency to determine that minimum quality education standards are met.
An entire college, university, or career institute can be accredited, as well as its individual academic or vocational programs.
There are various regional and national accreditation programs for schools, so you probably don't have to worry about which accreditation your school has—as long as it has it.
Why is this such a big deal?
Well, if a scholarship program is going to invest in you, it wants to ensure that your educational foundation is strong.
If you win, you must fulfill all requirements to keep the award. Some awards come with no strings attached—as in, you get the check for your tuition and living expenses and go off to study happily ever after.
But many scholarships will require you to maintain a certain minimum GPA every semester—but you're likely going to rock your classwork anyway, so it's no biggie!
Then, there are some scholarship programs that require additional participation, like attendance at regional or national conferences held by the sponsoring programs.
Any additional requirements or expectations are usually set forth in the application materials, so be sure you are on board with everything stipulated by the program when you submit your application.
It's not a bad thing that a scholarship program would want to build and maintain a connection with you as its award recipient.
Actually, it's a very good thing for you—think of all the additional networking and professional connections you will have once you are ready to enter the workforce!
Applying for Scholarships Like a Champ
Stand out amid a sea of scholarship applicants
It should come as no surprise that scholarship programs can encourage some stiff competition.
That's why it's so important for you to pay close attention to application deadlines and requirements.
Don't miss the deadline. Otherwise, you miss out on the money.
We suggest completing and submitting your application well before the deadline, so you'll have time to regroup and rectify things in case you hit a snag.
Prove your merit or financial need. For merit-based awards, it's common for applicants to write essays, submit transcripts, and solicit letters of recommendation.
For need-based awards, you'll have to show proof of your household income, as well as any other financial information that is requested by the program.
Show them what you're made of. Some programs require a personal statement or essay detailing your career goals.
Others might require a personal interview, which will give you a great chance to discuss and highlight your qualifications in person.
Any of the above sound familiar?
It's true—for some programs, the process mirrors the one you experienced when you applied to school in the first place.
If this all sounds like a lot of work, you'd be right.
That's why it's important to weigh the value of the award against the inconvenience and effort required by the application process you need to ace in order to get it.
Is it all worth it in the end?
We think so!
A good rule of thumb is that the more work you put in for the application, the bigger the award should be.
That's not to throw shade on those smaller awards—after all, every dollar counts when you're heading back to school!
It's time to get excited again about your future!
Here are 15 scholarships for women that can help make your dreams a reality.
Scholarship Programs That Send Women Back to School
Fund your future with free cash for college
We chose these scholarship programs based on a variety of factors, including award amount and flexibility of eligibility requirements.
For example, while some of these awards are specific to a certain field (like the Society of Women Engineers Scholarships), none of these awards are exclusive to a particular school.
Also, many of these scholarship programs allow you to use the money toward living expenses, such as rent and other household bills, and not just tuition.
Without further ado, here are 15 of the best scholarship programs for women in the country.
1. College cash inspired by social justice
The Jeanette Ranking Women's Scholarship Fund
In 1916, Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to be elected to Congress.
For decades, Rankin advocated for women's rights and social justice.
Upon her death in 1973, part of her estate was donated to the support of unemployed women workers, which led to the development of a foundation and the Jeanette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund.
Returning students who are 35 and older and demonstrate great financial need are eligible to apply for this award.
Since 1978, around $2.75 million have been awarded to more than 1,000 low-income women from all over the country.
Type of Award: Need-based
Deadline: March 1
2. Serving the greater good
Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Award
The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation was started in 2003 in order to support educational access, opportunity, and equity among low-income women, particularly those with children.
It also advocates for the educational enrichment of children.
Students who apply for the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Award must demonstrate financial need (income eligibility ranges from $20,000–$28,000 annually, depending on size), career aspirations, and goals to serve the community and greater good.
In 2018, five Education Support Awards of up to $5,000 each were given to low-income mothers who are working toward a degree or vocational certificate.
The prize is split into two semesters over the full academic year.
The money may be used for school or living expenses.
Amount:Up to $5,000
Deadline: March 1
3. Living your dreams
Soroptimist Live Your Dreams Award
Soroptimist International of the Americas has more than 1,200 clubs in 21 countries that work to establish and sustain programs that support the social and economic empowerment of girls and women.
More than $2 million each year is gifted to about 1,500 women through the Soroptimist Live Your Dreams Award.
Many of these recipients have encountered major life challenges, including poverty, domestic violence, and drug or alcohol addiction.
Applicants must be the primary breadwinner in their household, and they must be enrolled in or accepted to an undergraduate degree program or a vocational program.
The cash award may be used for tuition or any other associated costs, including books, child care, and transportation.
Since the program began in 1972, about $30 million has been awarded to tens of thousands of women who want better lives for themselves and their families.
Award type: Need-based
Amount: Three levels of awards, up to $10,000 at the national level
Deadline: November 15
4. Making higher education more accessible
FACT Educational Grant Program
The Federation of American Consumers and Travelers (FACT) is a not-for-profit consumer group with over 500,000 members.
It is dedicated to providing disaster relief, small business assistance, travel discounts, and educational grants.
Over the past two decades, FACT has awarded over $1 million dollars to students through its FACT Educational Grant Program in order to make higher education more accessible to all.
This year, $75,000 will be awarded over four cycles—so students have a chance to apply for a scholarship every three months.
Eligible applicants must be members of FACT or immediately related to a FACT member.
Award Type:Need-based; must be a member of the organization
Deadline: Rolling; applications are reviewed quarterly
5. Funds to further your career
American Association of University Women (AAUW) Career Development Grants
For more than 130 years, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has supported the educational endeavors of women.
It offers various funding programs, which have awarded a total of more than $100 million to thousands of women over the decades.
This year alone, the AAUW Career Development Grants program, which was established in 1972, is set to give 245 awards totaling $3.8 million in funds for the 2018–2019 academic year.
Eligible applicants are those who already have earned a bachelor's degree and are looking to change careers or move forward in their current field by pursuing graduate work or advanced credentials, such as a second bachelor's degree or a specialized training program.
The organization gives consideration first to women of color and/or women entering nontraditional fields.
Applicants pursuing their doctorate are not eligible for this fund.
6. Support for overcoming obstacles
Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST)
The ASIST scholarship supports individuals who are going back to school in order to improve their current situation.
Applicants who are faced with economic, social, or physical obstacles are especially encouraged to apply for this award.
Local chapters of ASIST work with educational partners and social service organizations in order to find potential candidates for the scholarship program.
Individuals must first apply through their local chapter.
Winners then advance to the corporate (national) level for one of 13 awards that range from $2,000–$10,000.
Award Type: Need/Merit-based
Amount: $2,000–$10,000 at the national level
7. Supporting single mothers and others with challenges
Beatrice F. Kroesche Fund Scholarship
The Beatrice F. Kroesche Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support educational opportunities for women facing considerable challenges.
This award program in particular supports single mothers and those who are visually or aurally challenged.
If either of these designations apply to you and you have earned a 3.0 GPA or higher in the humanities or education, you may qualify for this award.
Award Type: Merit-based
Application Deadline: January 31
8. Funding your return to school
PEO Program for Continuing Education
Established in 1973, the PEO Program for Continuing Education awards need-based grants to women whose college tenure was interrupted by family or personal circumstances.
While membership in the PEO is not required, you will have to secure sponsorship of the local chapter.
Applicants must be 21 or older, and they can apply at any time during their junior year of college through graduate school.
However, you must be within 24 months of graduation, and you must have spent at least 24 consecutive months as an adult non-student in order to be eligible.
Students completing doctoral work or pursuing professional degrees are not eligible.
Award Type: Need-based
Amount: Up to $3,000
Deadline: Once you are sponsored by a local chapter, you will have 30 days to submit all the necessary application materials.
9. Opportunities for a new generation
Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans
In 1997, this program was established with a charitable trust of $50 million from Hungarian immigrants and American philanthropists Paul and Daisy Soros.
The benefactors' goal was to assist other new Americans in reaching their professional goals.
Each year, the program offers fellowships to 30 new Americans, immigrants, or children of immigrants who are working toward graduate degrees.
The award covers half of tuition and fees (up to $20,000 per year) with an additional $25,000 stipend for living expenses.
The lucrative fellowship supports one to two years of graduate work in any field.
Successful applicants demonstrate creativity, originality, initiative, and sustained accomplishment, along with a commitment to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Amount:Up to $45,000 per year for two years
Deadline: November 1
10. Awards for community engagement
Emerge seeks to support women who want to give back to their communities and have had to overcome major setbacks in order to return to school.
If you've got big dreams to change your life and the world around you, and you're age 25 or older, you could qualify.
Award Type: Merit-based
Deadline: October 31
11. Supporting women in STEM
Society of Women Engineers Scholarships
Women are forging paths in STEM fields, and the Society of Women Engineers wants to keep it that way!
This program benefits non-traditional students who are returning to school following at least two years of being out of the classroom or the workforce.
Students majoring in engineering and demonstrating financial need should apply.
Award Type: Need-based
Amount:Up to $2,500
Deadline: Depends on your current year of enrollment; confirm online.
12. An entrepreneur helps others explore their passions
ABC Humane Wildlife Control & Prevention, Inc. Academic Scholarship
ABC Human Wildlife Control & Prevention, Inc. is a woman-owned business in the pest management and control field, where just 3% of firm owners are women.
This scholarship program was established by Rebecca Fyffe, Urban Wildlife Manager and an entrepreneur who points to her STEM background as giving her an edge in her professional life.
To be considered, applicants must answer this essay prompt: Why are you passionate about science, technology, engineering, or math, and how will your pursuit of these fields help preserve biodiversity, improve the health of our planet, or alleviate human suffering?
Award Type: Merit-based
Deadline: July 1
13. Scholarships for survivors of abuse
Women's Independence Scholarship Program (WISP)
Women who have survived domestic partner abuse are specially worthy of support in returning to the classroom.
The Women's Independence Scholarship Program (WISP) offers scholarships to women in their efforts to reclaim their independence by going back to school and work.
Both part-time and full-time students are eligible for these need-based awards.
WISP is especially eager to fund those applicants who have been separated from their partners for at least a year.
Amount: Varies (average award is $2,500 per school term)
14. Graduate school funding for athletes
NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women's Enhancement Graduate Scholarship
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has long been a supporter of collegiate athletes, and this scholarship is one of the ways it shows its support.
This scholarship program supports outstanding minority and female individuals who were NCAA student-athletes during their undergraduate programs and are now pursuing graduate study toward a career in intercollegiate athletics at NCAA-member institutions, such as coach, trainer, or athletics administrator.
Eligible candidates must have at least a 3.2 GPA in sports administration or a similar path of study and be in their final season of eligibility or have already graduated.
Recipients must be seeking admission or have been accepted into their graduate programs, but they must not have begun any coursework.
Deadline: February 15
15. Funds for mature African-American women students
The Dr. Blanca Moore-Velez Woman of Substance Scholarship
Dr. Blanca Moore-Velez migrated to the United States from Cuba in 1948.
She was a highly experienced educator and entrepreneur in the beauty industry, as well as being highly engaged in her community.
The memorial scholarship given in her name is available for African-American females age 35 and older.
In addition to earning a 3.0 GPA or higher, applicants must write a 500-word essay on the topic: "Challenges to the Mature Student and How I Overcame Them."
Award Type: Merit-based
Deadline: March 1
Apply for scholarships to fund your success
Earning a college degree is no easy feat, and most times, paying for it might seem downright impossible.
But you definitely shouldn't give up on your dream.
There are programs out there with millions of dollars in funding, ready to be spent on hard-working women like you who want to go back to school and improve their lives.
We know that you've got jobs to work and families to care for.
That's why we did some of the scholarship program homework for you.
So what are you waiting for?
Pick the one from the list that best suits you and get to work on your application.
Time is money—and the time spent on a scholarship application could pay off big for you in the future.
You can do this!
Have you ever applied for a college scholarship?
Any scholarship tips or advice to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below!