When you're desperately trying to figure out how to pay for college while juggling the needs of a job and/ or a family, a few days spent researching college grants might save you weeks of work, pay and anxiety.
College financial aid typically comes in the form of grants, scholarships and loans. Loans must be repaid over time, but this is not the case for grants and scholarships. College grants and scholarships are available from both public and private institutions; however, while scholarships are often merit-based, grants are typically need-based. This is why they can be such a blessing to a student who needs some extra help paying for their education.
The key to finding college financial aid opportunities is to do plenty of research. Once you do a little digging, you'll discover that college grants are actually quite abundant; often the real challenge is competing for them among all the other people applying for such financial aid.
Private Grants for Women
In addition to government grants, some private associations and companies offer grants specifically for college-bound women. Here are three examples of such organizations:
1. American Association of University Women
This organization offers financial aid for women in different fields of study and at different points in their careers. Check out their Career Development Grants for individuals with a bachelor's degree who wish to further their education for career purposes. The AAUW also offers Selected Professions Fellowships, which aim to encourage more women to enter male-dominated professions by providing education-related money to women who want to learn about medicine, law, architecture, engineering and more.
2. Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O)
This women's organization, founded in 1869, offers several educational need-based grants to advance the careers of women of different ages and educational levels. The Sisterhood's Program for Continuing Education provides grants specifically to support women who want to return to school (after at least a 2-year absence) in order to continue with their education so they can better support themselves. The maximum one-time grant amount is $3,000, and it may be used for academic, technical or online courses offered by educational institutions in the United States or Canada. Applicants must be a citizen of either the United States or Canada.
3. The Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund (SBMEF)
For over 50 years, this grant has helped women pursue degrees in the field of business. The trustees who oversee the administration of the funds are on the board of the American Business Women's Association (ABWA). Their goal is to "provide hundreds of American women with financial assistance to attend college, trade school and professional development." Every year, their Outright Grant Program offers women assistance for tuition, books and fees up to a maximum amount of $1,500. An eligible ABWA chapter or Network must submit the applicant.
The organizations listed above only scratch the surface. There are many associations, societies and corporations that offer grants especially for women. But how can you find them? This comes back to our original point: when it comes to grants, it just takes a little research.
Finding Grants for You
Obviously, women aren't limited to winning grants only because of their gender. In case you need more help than the above section could provide, here are some other ideas of where you should look next.
- Check out local associations, foundations or societies that serve certain minority groups. For example, if you are Latina American, look up Latina American associations and foundations — both in your area and nationwide — and see if any of them offer grants that you can apply for.
- Your relatives might be able to help you... without even lifting a finger! You may be aware that many military veterans, both male and female, are eligible to apply to many specific grants in thanks for their service. However, did you know that you might be eligible for some of these grants simply by being the wife or daughter of a veteran yourself?
- If you know what you plan to major in at college, look for grants that fund students in your field of study. No matter what you're majoring in, this is an avenue worth exploring — while there are grants available for students of very popular subjects, such as business or medicine, there are also plenty of grants available for less widespread subjects such as Asian-American relations or sustainable organic farming.
- Even your extracurricular activities might qualify you for grants. For example, if you engage in community service, explore grants that have community service as a requirement for applying; alternately, if you are a fan of poetry, you might be interested to know that there are grants whose award processes involve writing a poem about a particular subject.
Once you have found a list of grants that fit your general qualifications, check out their application requirements. Many grants require a short essay, and some require recommendations or documentation of some kind. If you are applying for need-based aid from the federal government or your state's government, you'll need to fill out the FAFSA as well as any other relevant application materials.
It's important to apply for numerous grants and not to get discouraged if you don't make the cut for any one specific grant. Losing out on a large grant might feel upsetting, but consider: if you are able to win several smaller grants, you can earn just as much money towards your college education, or maybe even more. Stay determined! If anyone can do it, you can!