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College and graduate school scholarships and grants for women

Published March 4, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    Paying for college and other advanced degrees is challenging for many students. This is why tapping into the world of scholarships and grants can be so worthwhile. For the most part, scholarships and grants provide money that doesn’t need to be paid back, making them a particularly attractive form of financial aid.

    There are many scholarships and grants available to support different kinds of students – including women pursuing advanced degrees.

    Keep reading for more information about what scholarships and grants are, how to apply for them, and a sampling of scholarships and grants that are available, some of which are specifically for women.

    What’s the difference between scholarships and grants?

    Before you begin your search for scholarships and grants, it’s important to understand the differences between the two. Scholarships and grants are terms that are often used interchangeably. This is because both of these financial aid funds don’t need to be paid back in most cases.

    The main differences between grants and scholarships are where the funds come from, the eligibility criteria for them, and the application processes.

    Grants are typically provided by the federal government, state governments, nonprofits, and schools. Students may become eligible for some of the best-known grants – like the Pell Grant offered by the federal government – by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

    Scholarships are offered by a range of institutions, but also individuals, companies, community organizations, and other entities. Some scholarships require students to file the FAFSA® to be eligible, some require separate applications in addition to the FAFSA®, and some don’t require the FAFSA® at all.

    In many cases, grants are given based on financial need, whereas scholarships are given for a range of reasons, including merit-based achievements, extracurricular activities, fields of study, financial need, and more.

    How to apply for scholarships and grants

    The first recommended step to be eligible for grants and scholarships is to file the FAFSA®. This is how eligible students may access financial aid like the Pell Grant (a need-based grant for undergraduate students), among other grants and scholarships.

    Scholarships and grants can have their own applications outside of or in addition to the FAFSA®, so it’s important to gather information on the scholarship or grant you’re interested in, which may be able to be found on the respective website or by reaching out to the organization or institution offering the grant or scholarship for more information on it.

    After you’ve gathered information on the eligibility requirements for a scholarship or grant and you’ve decided to apply for one, your next step is to complete the scholarship or grant’s application if they have one. Some applications may require you to write essays or to record video responses to prompts. Some applications may require that you get letters of recommendation, too. Letters of recommendation might be written by teachers, people in your community, employers, or others, depending on the requirements set by the application.

    Be sure to read all applications you complete thoroughly to understand the requirements and to fill them out fully before the respective deadlines.

    Don’t be afraid to apply for multiple scholarships and grants to increase your chances of receiving this financial aid. There’s no limit to the number of scholarships and grants that you can apply for.

    Scholarships and grants undergraduate and graduate women students should consider

    The range of scholarships and grants available to women is vast. There are grants offered by the federal government, merit-based scholarship opportunities offered by nonprofits, scholarships for women pursuing a career in STEM, and much more. Here are some examples.

    The Minerva Scholarship Program

    The Minerva Scholarship program was created by Women in California Leadership to support the advancement of women in the State of California. The foundation provides scholarships to select women who are residents of California to help them achieve their educational objectives. Scholarship recipients can expect to receive either a $3,000 award (up to 108 available) or a $10,000 award (only one available).

    Elevate Women in Technology Scholarship

    The Elevate Women in Technology Scholarship aims to empower the next generation of women tech industry leaders by encouraging women to pursue degrees in technology. Scholarship recipients can expect to receive an award of $500 sent to the winner's academic institution.

    ITWoman Scholarship Program

    The ITWomen Charitable Foundation's college scholarship program has a mission to increase the number of women earning information technology and engineering degrees. It caters to female high school seniors graduating from schools in South Florida. The scholarship recipient can expect to receive $2,000 annually for their undergraduate studies.

    Society Women Engineers (SWE) Incoming Freshman

    SWE Scholarships aims to support women pursuing an ABET-accredited bachelor or graduate student program in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and fields related to engineering globally. In 2023, SWE gave 330 new and renewed scholarships valued at more than $1.5 million. One such scholarship is the ABET Incoming Freshman Scholarship for women studying in engineering or technology-related fields. Awards range from $1,000 to $19,000.

    American Medical Woman’s Association (AMWA) Medical Education Scholarship

    The AMWA scholarship program began in 1925 and aims to support medical students who’ve been nominated by the association. The scholarship recipients, who must be enrolled in medical school, can expect to receive an award of $500.

    Auxiliary Legacy Scholarship

    The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Education Foundation Auxiliary Legacy Scholarship is an annual scholarship that is awarded to a female undergraduate student either entering or continuing their junior year of a four-year ABET-accredited engineering program. Scholarship recipients can expect to receive an award of $5,000. 

    Alliance for Women in Media (AWM) Foundation & Podcast Movement Scholarship

    The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation gives out a $2,500 award for the 2024 spring semester to a female undergraduate student pursuing a career in media and journalism. The recipient will complete an audio interview with a 2024 Gracie Award winner. The recipient will get two complimentary tickets to attend the Gracie Awards luncheon in New York City. Of note, the application for 2024 has closed.

    Women In International Trade (WIIT) Scholarship

    The Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT) scholarship supports women who study all aspects of international trade, including trade policy and negotiations, global business and supply chains, economic development, women’s economic empowerment, and more. It’s awarded twice a year, and scholarship recipients can expect to receive an award of $1,500 and access to mentorship and career development opportunities.

    New York Women in Communication (NYWICI) Scholarship

    The NYWICI Scholarship aims to empower women pursuing careers in communications. This scholarship is open to high school seniors or full-time undergraduate and graduate students who live in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania and meet other eligibility requirements. Scholarship recipients can expect to receive awards between $2,000 to $10,000.

    Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award

    The Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award is an AWIS Educational Foundation program for female college sophomores and juniors studying physics, including space physics, geophysics, and geoscience. One $2,000 award is given annually to a female student who has high academic achievement and meets other selection criteria.

    The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation Scholarship

    This scholarship is for low-income women who are at least 17 years old with minor children who are pursuing their first degree at a post-secondary institution. In 2023, five awards of $5,000 were awarded and were disbursed in two installments over the academic year.

    Women’s Independence Scholarship Program

    This scholarship is for female survivors of intimate partner abuse. Preference is given to applicants who are single moms with young children, but being a mother is not a requirement for this scholarship. The awards are for between $500 to $2,000 per semester for women seeking undergraduate degrees and $1,000 a semester for women seeking their master’s degree. Recipients aren’t required to attend school full-time.

    Edward G. and Helen A. Borgens Elementary Teacher Scholarship

    The Edward G. and Helen A. Borgens Elementary Teacher Scholarship offers an award for a student who is 25 years old or older and is studying to teach at an elementary school. Scholarship recipients can expect an award of up to $1,500. This is not a renewable award, though there’s an opportunity to reapply for those who continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

    Edward G. and Helen A. Borgens Secondary Teacher Scholarship

    The Edward G. and Helen A. Borgens Secondary Teacher Scholarship offers an award for a student who is 25 years old or older and is studying to teach at the secondary school level. Scholarship recipients can expect an award of up to $1,500. This is not a renewable award, though there’s an opportunity to reapply for those who continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

    Boomer Benefits Scholarship

    This scholarship is for adult students 50 and older who are returning to school to complete their degree. Two scholarships worth $2,500 are awarded annually.

    Executive Women International Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) Scholarship

    This scholarship is geared towards non-traditional students pursuing associate, bachelor, or master’s degrees or attending certification programs at accredited institutions. Applicants must be entering or being enrolled in college, university, or trade school for the first time or are re-training due to changes in the workplace.

    The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Fellowships and Grants

    The AAUW focuses on awarding women who will pursue academic work and lead innovative community projects to empower women and girls. This program focuses on professionals and graduate-level students who need grants to pursue specific projects. Recipients can expect to tap into the almost $6 million in funding that gets awarded to 285 fellows and grantees. The grants include:

    • American Fellowships
    • Career Development Grants
    • Community Action Grants
    • International Fellowships
    • International Project Grants
    • Research Publication Grants in Engineering, Medicine, and Science
    • Selected Professions Fellowship

    Abel Wolman Fellowship

    The Abel Wolman Fellowship aims to financially support women or minority students who are pursuing advanced training and research in the field of water supply and treatment. The doctoral fellowship is awarded annually. The scholarship recipient can expect an award of $30,000 to provide up to two years of funding.

    College and graduate school grants for all

    Many of the biggest grants for college and graduate school are made available by the federal government, and they are available to both men and women. To be eligible for all federal grants, you must first file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Some of these grants include the following.

    The Pell Grant

    Exclusively for undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need, the Pell Grant is one of the most well-known federal grant opportunities. For the 2024-25 academic year, the maximum award an eligible student can receive is $7,395.

    Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

    This grant is distributed by individual educational institutions and provides supplemental aid to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need beyond the Pell Grant. Awards usually range between $100 to $4,000 per year.

    TEACH Grant

    The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students pursuing teaching careers. Students apply for the TEACH Grant before or during their undergraduate or graduate program and have to be enrolled in a TEACH Grant-eligible program. If your application is approved, your program will receive the funds and use them toward your tuition.

    Most importantly, to receive a TEACH Grant, you must agree to complete a four-year service obligation teaching full-time in a high-need field at an institution serving low-income students within eight years after you graduate. If you don’t meet the TEACH Grant’s requirements, the grant converts into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan that must be repaid, and interest is charged from the date the grant was disbursed.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants

    This grant may be awarded to students who don’t qualify for a Pell Grant based on the information supplied on the FAFSA® but who meet the remaining Pell Grant eligibility requirements. They must also have lost a parent or guardian to military service following the events of 9/11 in Iraq or Afghanistan and were under 24 at the time of that loss or enrolled in college at least part-time. The award amount is generally the same as the Pell Grant for the academic year. Of note, unlike the Pell Grant, the award amounts are currently reduced by 5.7% due to the Budget Control Act of 2011.

    Final thoughts

    There are many scholarship and grant opportunities, some for women specifically, to help when it comes to financing an education. Do your research on what’s available and what you may be eligible for, and make note of deadlines so you can apply for the opportunities on time.

    One other thing to keep in mind is that many scholarships and grants expect students to file the FAFSA® to be eligible for the opportunity. It’s often advisable to file the FAFSA® as early as possible since some aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis.