Paying for college can prove difficult for any individual seeking higher education. Students with disabilities, however, often face additional obstacles. In addition to customary tuition and fees, students with disabilities may incur expenses for adaptive technology or assistance, special housing or travel, and ongoing medical care. Oftentimes, their physical or mental condition has already taxed their financial resources through the years leading up to college.
Fortunately, numerous groups are committed to helping ease some of the monetary burdens on students with disabilities. These organizations want to help students with disabilities achieve their dreams to earn their degrees, knowing society will benefit from their contributions to the workforce.
Scholarship Tips for College Students
Because they offer free money that does not need repayment, scholarship competitions often attract numerous applicants. Thus, it pays to maximize your odds of winning. Some ways to improve your chances of earning a scholarship include:
Make sure to submit ALL application material requested. Failure to do so usually leads to immediate disqualification.
Read the instructions carefully to ensure you’re eligible. No sense in wasting time applying for a scholarship with criteria you do not meet.
If an essay is required, make it shine! A thoughtful, polished piece of writing stands out and oftentimes is the deciding factor when applicants possess similar qualifications. Be sure to spell check and proofread it, too. And it doesn’t hurt to have a coworker, friend, or mentor give it a second look before you submit to make sure you aren’t missing anything important.
14 Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
Various public and private organizations offer scholarships specifically for students with disabilities. Here are 14 of them you might want to consider:
This scholarship provides financial assistance to students who are deaf. Applicants must be graduates of Gallaudet University or other accredited colleges and universities and who wish to pursue graduate studies at institutions of higher learning for people without hearing problems. Applicants must show results of an audiological assessment to document their hearing status. The fund gives preference to students who already possess a master’s degree and want to seek a doctorate. The number of recipients and the amount awarded varies by year. Winners making good scholastic progress can seek renewal each year.
Pennsylvania residents who are blind or deaf are eligible for this state-funded program that awards up to $500 per person. Recipients must be enrolled at least part-time in an undergraduate or graduate program. In addition to the application, plan on filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for the academic year in which you’d like to receive financial assistance. As the program awards funds on a first-come-first-served basis, mark your calendar to apply when the application for the new academic year becomes available in April.
Deaf residents of any age from Sarasota County in Florida can apply for scholarship money to further their post-secondary education. Applicants need to submit proof of residency and of severe to profound hearing loss. Prospective students should also plan on writing an essay describing how and why a scholarship to attend and complete the desired educational program would improve their lives. The Selby Foundation administers the scholarship fund, and award amounts vary.
Since 1994, this community service organization has been awarding scholarships toward full-time pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Candidates for this $1,000 prize need to submit proof of clinically significant bilateral hearing loss. They also must possess at least a 3.2 GPA and include two letters of recommendation with their application.
Since 1982, this organization has been helping people who are certified as legally blind to pay for tuition and other higher-education expenses. Scholarships range from $2,000 to $7,500 and can be used for undergraduate studies, graduate studies, or technical college. Candidates should possess a GPA of at least 3.0 and be involved in their school/local community.
Legally blind people who display academic excellence, community service, and leadership are eligible to apply for one of the thirty scholarships this group awards. Amounts range from $3,000 to $12,000 toward full-time, post-secondary study at a U.S. institution. Financial need is not a factor in determining these merit-based scholarships. Note that in addition to submitting required material, applicants must do an interview with an NFB affiliate president or approved designee. Winners must be able to attend the NFB’s national convention.
The Council of Citizens with Low Vision International awards three low-vision college students $3,000 scholarships toward full-time study. Application material includes a transcript, two professional/academic letters of recommendation, four short-answer essays to given prompts, and verification of low vision. People selected as finalists undergo a phone interview, and winners must attend the American Council of the Blind National Convention.
Students with any medically diagnosed physical or mental impairment that interferes with everyday activities and quality of life can apply for this $500 scholarship awarded by The Disability Care Center, an advocacy group that assists disabled Americans applying or appealing Social Security Disability Benefits. Submission material includes a physician’s statement of diagnosis, transcript, letter of recommendation, and a personal essay on overcoming an obstacle or hardship that arose due to your condition.
The company Health Products For You awards a $1,000 scholarship to a current high school senior or college student living with a medically documented disability. The money can be used to study at a two- or four-year college. The heart of the application is an essay of 500+ words talking about your personal trials and triumphs in life related to your illness or disability and how that has defined the person you are today. Applicants may include supporting documents or letters of recommendation that they would like the selection committee to consider.
Students living in San Diego County can fill out the Common Scholarship Application to be considered for a variety of monetary opportunities. One of the scholarships available is the David Huot West Scholarship, which is given to a graduating senior at Borrego Springs High School who plans to enroll full-time at a four-year U.S. college or university and demonstrates financial need. Preference is given to applicants with a physical disability, and these candidates should include a brief essay that addresses how their life has been affected by their condition.
In line with its goal of attracting more people with disabilities to the profession, the non-profit ExceptionalNurse.com awards a $250 scholarship to a student with a documented disability who is pursuing a nursing career. In addition to three references, medical verification, and transcripts, the application requires an essay. Topics to write on include how you plan to contribute to the nursing profession, strengths and weaknesses, how your disability will influence your practice as a nurse, and the accommodations necessary to achieve your goals.
Learning Ally, a supporter of equitable literacy solutions, offers this scholarship for high school seniors with learning disabilities. Awards, which currently range from $2,000-$6,000, have been given since 1991 from a permanent endowment created by loyal donor Marion Huber. Candidates must submit a personal written and video-recorded narrative about their learning difference and how Learning Ally changed their life. The application also asks for details of educational honors, extracurricular activities, community activities, and leadership roles.
Another scholarship opportunity from Learning Ally is this award given to college and graduate students who are blind or visually impaired. The honor recognizes students for their academic achievement, leadership, and service to others. Prize money ranges from $3,000 to $6,000. Note that awardees must be willing to publicly share their story and represent Learning Ally as a spokesperson and advocate at various events (associated costs covered by Learning Ally).
The Lep Foundation for Youth Education -- a public charity providing financial support for students from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – awards scholarships in amounts up to $5,000 to residents with disabilities. Students with medically documented physical or psychological conditions may apply, and winners must provide a letter of confirmation from a physician. Along with an official school transcript and three letters of recommendation, submit a one-page essay that describes your condition, how it poses a financial challenge to you and your family, and what you hope to achieve in the future.
Find More College Scholarships
Thousands of scholarships are available to all types of students. To discover ones that you might be eligible for, check out our scholarship search tool. Use the filters to pinpoint opportunities most suited to your background, qualifications, and educational goals.
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