All across the United States, college and university students are accumulating student debt rapidly. As the completion of higher education has shifted from a competitive advantage to a mandatory requirement for quality jobs, enrollment in postsecondary education has skyrocketed. In 1965, to address the needs of lower-income families in search of higher learning, Lyndon Johnson introduced the Higher Education Act of 1965. The increased funding for colleges and universities allowed the institutions to provide financial assistance for students in need. By the late 1990s, however, student loans had become a largely privatized industry. Today, student debt is a $140 billion-a-year industry and 42 million Americans now bear a combined student debt of $1.3 trillion dollars. To make matters worse, proposed cuts to both student aid and public service loan forgiveness programs are on the horizon, meaning things could get worse before they get better.
Often overlooked in this data is that female students, a group that makes up 57% of bachelor's degree recipients and 60% of master's degree recipients, carry a far greater share of the national student debt than they should. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women own nearly two-thirds of all student debt in the United States, approximately $800 million. As the number of women awarded degrees continues to rise, this uneven distribution of student debt is projected to increase. Not only are female students being saddled with more debt than males, they are also facing more obstacles to paying it back. While 90% of male graduates with at least a bachelor's degree find work, only 83% of women do. Furthermore, women in the group that do find work are confronted with a gendered wage gap that provides them with less disposable income and less means to pay back their student debt. Additionally, many graduates with a large outstanding student debt are unable to start families, buy a car, and/or qualify for a mortgage, so the consequences are much more dire than just a decrease in disposable income.
With student debt playing such a large role in the lives of so many American women, financial aid for women is more important now than ever before. According to the U.S. Department of Education, $46 billion in scholarships and grants are awarded each year. To make the process of finding financial aid for women and the best available scholarships easier, we've compiled the very best of the scholarships for women. Through public funding, private donors, special programs, and organizational sponsorships, colleges and universities are able to provide more and more financial aid for women each year. These scholarships for women not only minimize the burden of debt, but they also provide recipients with job-winning accolades and peace of mind.
Scholarships for Women
The following scholarships are only available to women. While some financial aid for women may have restrictions and special requirements, this grouping is the most widely available category of scholarships for women. Each of the following college scholarships for women requires the applicant to be enrolled in a university or college program.
- Women’s Independence Scholarship Program (WISP)
Amount: Award amounts are determined by the individual. The average award is approximately $2,000.
Requirements: Applicants must be a survivor of intimate partner abuse and separated for a minimum of one year to a maximum of seven years. Applicants must also demonstrate financial need and be legal citizens of the United States. They must aspire to upgrade their skills to advance their careers.
Deadline: No deadline to apply.
- 1000 Dreams Scholarship
Requirements: Women attending high school, college, or university in the United States are eligible to apply. Deadline: April 30
- Brenda Brown Desatnick Memorial Scholarship
Requirements: Eligible applicants are women who have graduated high school in the United States. Deadline: March 15
Additional Info: Preference given to women over the age of 25 who live in Lancaster County, Nebraska.
- Glamour's College Women of the Year
Amount: One $20,000 grand prize and nine $3,000 prizes.
Requirements: Women from the United States who will be juniors or seniors in a four-year college or university are eligible.
Deadline: September 15
- Girlterest Scholarship
Requirements: The scholarship is open to women currently enrolled in a university, college, or high school in the United States. Deadline: December 30
Additional Info: This is a 500-word feminism-related essay competition, sponsored by Gilterest, an online magazine.
STEM and Industry-Specific Scholarships
While women make up half of the college-educated workforce, the disparity between men and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions and upper management positions in business is considerable, with women making up only 29% of the STEM field and only about 24% of the senior positions globally are held by women. To encourage more women to pursue positions in male-majority industries, many scholarships for women are made industry-specific. Here are some of the best available college scholarships for women.
STEM Scholarships for Women
- Forging Industry Women's Scholarship
Amount: Up to $5,000
Requirements: Women enrolled in a full-time engineering or business-related program in a university or college are eligible. Applicants must be willing to take on an internship at a forging industry company if offered. Deadline: April 15
- Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize
Amount: $250 - $1,000
Requirements: Female applicants are nominated by a peer. Eligible nominees show excellence in mathematics in an undergraduate program in the United States. Deadline: September 15
- Priscilla Carney Jones Scholarship
Amount: Minimum of $1,500
Requirements: Eligible applicants are junior or senior female undergraduate students in a full-time chemistry or chemistry-related program. Applicants must also have a 3.25 GPA and demonstrate financial need. Deadline: May 1
- Women Techmakers Scholars Program
Requirements: Females enrolled in an accredited university, studying computer science, computer engineering, or a related program are eligible. Deadline: May 1
- (ISC)2 Women in Information Security
Amount:Up to $40,000
Requirements: Women pursuing a degree in cybersecurity or a related program with a GPA of at least 3.2 are eligible. Deadline: March
- ABC Humane Wildlife Control & Prevention, Inc. Academic Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants must be women studying or planning to study science at an accredited college or university in the United States. Deadline: June 26
Additional Info: Essay competition on the topic of women in STEM.
Business/Finance Scholarships for Women
- Women in Marketing Scholarship
Requirements: Females in a communications degree (marketing or advertising) with a 3.0 GPA are eligible. Applicants must have completed at least 60 credits. Deadline: July 1
- NEWH Women Leaders Scholarship
Requirements: Eligible applicants are female students taking hospitality in college or university. Deadline: July 7
- Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship
Amount: 12 international scholarships worth $7,000 and up to 32 district/regional scholarships worth $1,000.
Requirements: Women pursuing a business or business-related degree are eligible.
- ExpoMarketing Women in Business Scholarship
Requirements: Eligible applicants are undergraduate women pursuing a degree and career in business. Deadline: December 1
- Angela DiPietro Women in Business Scholarship and Essay Contest
Requirements: Eligible applicants are female postsecondary students with an interest in business or entrepreneurship and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Deadline: May 1
Teaching Scholarships for Women
- AFCEA STEM Teacher Graduate Scholarships
Amount: $2,500 - $5,000
Requirements: Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens pursuing a graduate degree with the purpose of teaching STEM subjects. Deadline: April 20
- The PDK Educational Foundation Prospective Educator Scholarship
Requirements: Eligible applicants are members of Phi Delta Kappa or legacies who are enrolled in a college education program or plan to enroll in one. Some of the available scholarships have more specialized programs and/or GPA requirements. Most awards require applicants to be members of Educators Rising. Deadline: April 2
- Bright Horizons Bright Futures Scholarship
Amount: Up to $1,000
Requirements: Applicants must be enrolled in a degree program for Early Childhood Education. Deadline: June
- Prospective 7-12 Secondary Teacher Course Work Scholarships
Amount: Up to $10,000
Requirements: Applicants must be completing their sophomore year of college with the purpose of teaching mathematics in secondary school. Deadline: May 5
- Ford Foundation Fellowship Program
Requirements: This program is open to any graduate students who wish to teach at the college or university level. Deadline: December 14
Nursing Scholarships for Women
- Greta James Memorial Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants must be enrolled in a medical degree program. Deadline: April 18
- The Megan Sugrue Scholarship by CengageBrain
Requirements: Applicants must be pursuing a pre-healthcare degree with a 3.5 GPA (college and university students) or a 1260 SAT or 28 ACT score (for high school students). Deadline: January 31
- American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) Medical Education Scholarships
Requirements: Applicants must have an AMWA membership and be currently enrolled in a medical program. Deadline: September 30
- The March of Dimes Dr. Margaret C. Freda Graduate Nursing Scholarship Award
Requirements: Applicants must be enrolled in graduate education in maternal-child nursing and be a registered nurse. Applicants should also be a member of one of the major professional medical associations. Deadline: January 12
- AHAs Go Red Multicultural Scholarship Fund for Women
Requirements: Applicants must be a minority woman pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in a healthcare field. Deadline: December 31
Scholarships for Special Groups
In recent years, women have overtaken men as the majority of minority students in undergraduate degree programs, largely because of scholarships for African-American women and scholarships for Hispanic women like the specialized awards listed here. Many other scholarships cater directly to specific groups that are underrepresented or unsupported in the university or professional ranks. From minority women, female veterans, single mothers, women over 40, high school seniors, and female graduate-degree seekers, the following scholarships for women are the best of those designed for specialized groups.
Scholarships for Minority Women
- The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Club National Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants pursuing one of these scholarships for African-American women must be graduating from high school with a 3.0 GPA. Deadline: March 1
- Dr. Julianne Malveaux Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants must be African-American women enrolled in a college or university with a chosen major in journalism, economics, or a related field. Deadline: March 1
- Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology (DFBSST)
Requirements: Applicants must be African-American undergraduate students enrolled in a scientific field. Deadline: June
- Latin Americans Working for Achievement Scholarship Program
Requirements: The LAWA provides many different scholarships for Hispanic women, several of which are awarded to female Latin Americans only. Some awards have more specific degree requirements. Deadline: Varies
- Chicana / Latina Foundation Scholarship Program
Requirements: Eligible applicants are women of Chicana/Latina heritage and are enrolled in college, university, or community college in one of the eligible Northern California counties. Undergraduate applicants must have a 2.5 GPA and graduate applicants must have a 3.0 GPA. Deadline: March 31
Scholarships for Female Veterans
- Women's Army Corps Veterans’ Association Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants must be graduating high school seniors with a 3.5 GPA. Eligible applicants must also be the child, grandchild, or niece of an Army Service
woman. Deadline: May 1
- The Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship Program
Amount: $1,000 - $2,500
Requirements: Applicants must be a woman who served or the child of a woman who served in the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, or the Army National Guard. High school applicants must have a 2.5 GPA and college and university student applicants must have a 3.0 GPA. Deadline: January 15
- Women In Defense Michigan HORIZONS-Michigan Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants must be female residents of Michigan, enrolled in a Michigan university or college, have at least 60 credits with GPA of 3.25, and have an interest in pursuing a career related to national security or defense. Deadline: May 12
- Women's Overseas Service League Scholarships
Amount: $500 - $1,000
Requirements: Applicants must be women in search of a career in military or public service. Applicants must also have a 2.5 GPA and 12 semester hours completed. Deadline: March 1
- AMVETS Scholarships
Amount: $1,000, $4,000, and $12,000
Requirements: Applicants must be the children or grandchildren of veterans, active duty, or guard/reserves. Applicants must also be in high school. Deadline: May 1
Scholarships for Single Mothers
- The Ann and Peter Ziegler Scholarship
Requirements: Eligible applicants are single mothers majoring in a liberal arts program with a 3.0 GPA. Deadline: Varies
- Capture the Dream - The Single Parent Scholarship
Requirements: Eligible applicants are single parents who demonstrate financial need and live in the Bay Area. Deadline: June 30
- The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation Support Awards
Amount: Up to $5,000
Requirements: Applicants must be single mothers who demonstrate financial need. Deadline: August 1
- The Soroptimist Live Your Dream Awards
Amount: $3,000, $5,000, and $10,000
Requirements: Eligible applicants are mothers who provide the primary financial support for their family. Applicants must also live in one of the Soroptimist International of the Americas’ member countries and territories. Deadline: November 15
- Women in Transition Scholarship
Amount: Up to $16,000 over four years
Requirements: Eligible applicants are mothers enrolling in a bachelor's degree accounting program and be the primary financial support for their family. The scholarship is renewed if the recipient maintains a 3.0 GPA. Deadline: May 1
Scholarships for Women over 40
- The Education Fund of the Women's Forum
Requirements: Applicants must be women over the age of 35 who are returning to school to overcome adversity. Deadline: December 1
- Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund
Requirements: Eligible applicants are women over the age of 35 who demonstrate financial need. Deadline: March 1
- The Dodell Women's Empowerment Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants must be women re-entering or continuing school to lead to a life of self-sufficiency and economic independence. Deadline: November 1
- Osher Reentry Scholarship
Amount: Up to $5,000
Requirements: Applicants are typically between the ages of 25 to 50. The scholarship requires a cumulative gap in the applicant's education of five or more years. Deadline: June 1
- AARP Foundation Women's Scholarship Program
Requirements: Applicants must be women over the age of 50 who demonstrate financial need. Deadline: Varies
Scholarships for Female High School Seniors
- Abby’s Closet Dreams Can Come True Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants must be female high school students in grade 12. Deadline: March
- Distinguished Young Women
Requirements: Applicants must be high female school students entering university or college. Deadline: Varies
- O Wines Opportunity for Success Scholarship
Amount: $20,000 over four years
Requirements: Applicants must be female high school seniors with a minimum GPA of 3.2. Applicants must also demonstrate financial need and be pursuing a four-year undergraduate degree. Deadline: The deadline is typically in March
- The Dell Scholars Program Scholarship
Requirements: Applicants must be high school seniors participating in a Michael & Susan Dell Foundation college readiness program with a 2.4 GPA. Deadline: Varies
- Girl Scout Scholarships
Requirements: The requirements vary depending on the scholarship, but many require the applicant to be an incoming freshman and a Girl Scout Gold Award recipient. Deadline: Varies
Scholarships for Female Graduate Students
- M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship
Amount: Up to $45,000
Requirements: Applicants must be women who wish to return to physics careers after an interruption. They must have completed work toward a PhD. Deadline: June 1
- AAUW American Fellowships
Requirements: Applicants must be female scholars who are completing dissertations or other graduate research. Deadline: November 15
- AAUW Career Development Grants
Requirements: Applicants must be women who received a bachelor's degree before June 30, 2012, and wish to return to school for graduate coursework, either to advance their careers or change professions. Deadline: December 15
- The International Peace Scholarship Fund
Amount: Up to $12,500
Requirements: Applicants must be women in a full-time graduate program with at least one year of study remaining. Deadline: December 15
Financial Aid Application Checklist
- Prepare all scholarship materials in advance: Before doing anything, ensure you have all the required materials for financial aid applications. This includes completed tax returns, school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and any other documents you have, such as certificates, diplomas, and/or degrees.
- Apply for a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID: For some U.S. Department of Education websites, applicants need to have a working Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This ID confirms the applicant's identification and acts as an electronic signature on federal student aid documents. Dependant students will need their parents to have a FSAID as well.
- Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Federal Student Aid is part of the U.S. Department of Education and is the nation's largest provider of financial aid for students. Between October 1 and June 30, more than 13 million students apply for financial aid through FAFSA. Applying to FAFSA is not just important for federal financial aid. Many scholarships and grants, at the federal, state, and institution levels, require students to have completed a FAFSA application. Even if you believe you will not be eligible, everyone should still apply. After the application is complete, check back to review and edit (if necessary) the Student Aid Report (SAR).
- Complete a CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE: After completing the FAFSA application for federal aid, complete a CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to qualify for a variety of other aid opportunities. PROFILE is a single application that applies for private, non-federal financial aid from almost 400 colleges, universities, and scholarship programs across the country. This application requires more financial information than FAFSA, including asset valuations and detailed banking information. Set aside 45 minutes to two hours for completion.
- Apply for individual scholarships: In addition to the collection of college scholarships for women that we've listed here, there are plenty of websites that list available scholarships. Most colleges and universities also provide lists of external scholarships from various providers. Perform searches for scholarships that cover your specific field of study, prospective profession, race, sex, and place of residence. Check in with professional associations related to your field of choice to see if they offer any scholarships as well. While the application process can be daunting on many scholarships, it's incredibly worthwhile to apply. Even if your qualifications don't measure up exactly to the eligibility specifications, take the time to apply to as many scholarships as possible.
- Apply for a financial aid package at your institution of choice: Nearly every institution has its own financial aid available for students in need. Check with the school of your choice and apply for financial aid through the school directly. Some simply draw from FAFSA, whereas other schools provide institution-specific financial aid packages.
- Apply for loans from financial institutions: Once all these steps are completed, it's time to apply for student loans from financial institutions. Many banks offer low interest loans for students with flexible repayment plans. Do your research and ensure you understand the interest and payment policies before committing to anything.
The resources below cover everything from the top professional associations for women in university and/or college to female support groups and industry-specific organizations. Whether it's to identify available college scholarships for women, find information on financial aid, pursue professional networking opportunities, or just receive advice, these resources cover it. Some are specific to an industry or program of study, whereas others cover a range of topics relating to higher learning for women.
The American Association of University Women
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has been promoting education and equity for women in the United States since 1881.
American Business Women’s Association
The American Business Women's Association supports business women, providing them with industry support, as well as networking, educational, and professional development opportunities.
American Medical Women’s Association
The American Medical Women’s Association is dedicated to advancing the position of women in the field of medicine and improving women's health.
The P.E.O. Sisterhood is a network committed to promoting educational opportunities for women, providing funding and special projects for those in need.
American Association for Women in Community College
American Association for Women in Community College is an organization striving to provide women with better educational and employment opportunities in community, junior, and technical colleges nationwide.
The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE)
The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) is an organization dedicated to fighting for the rights of women in and for education.
National Association of University Women
The National Association of University Women serves women from around the world, addressing and advancing women's rights and educational opportunities.
Ms. Magazine is a liberal feminist magazine written for women and by women, committed to discussing and progressing women's issues.
Institute for Women's Policy Research
The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is a group dedicated to shaping state and federal policy regarding women through research and public education.
Started as a Harvard business plan competition, Her Campus is an organization that delivers marketing services to brands that seek the college market. Her Campus is dedicated to empowering women through employment and the marketing it provides.
Association for Women in Science
The Association for Women in Science is a network that promotes women professionals and leaders in the STEM professions through advocacy and various initiatives.
Advancing Women is an organization that helps promote, recruit, and place more women in underrepresented areas of the workforce, such as in engineering, construction industries, medical fields, and the government.
National Association of Women MBAs
The National Association of Women MBAs is an organization committed to advancing women into leadership positions in the business world through education, networking, and professional development.
National Women's Studies Association
Through teaching, research, and various campaigns, the National Women's Studies Association is dedicated to supporting, promoting, and producing knowledge about women.
Women’s College Coalition
The Women’s College Coalition seeks to promote women's colleges, programs, and research to bring women's issues to the forefront.