Top Scholarships for Women Returning to College

Anna Helhoski
Devon Delfino
By Devon Delfino and  Anna Helhoski 
Edited by Des Toups

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To simplify the scholarship hunt, we've compiled a list of top scholarships that support women who want to finish a degree or pursue college for the first time.

Executive Women International ASIST Scholarship

Through its Adult Students in Scholastic Transition program, Executive Women International awards 13 scholarships each year to nontraditional students. The awards range from $2,000 to $10,000.

How to qualify: You have to apply through one of the organization’s 38 participating local chapters to be considered.

When to apply: January. Learn more.

Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship

This scholarship fund awards $2,000 to low-income women 35 or older pursuing an undergraduate degree.

How to qualify: The application requires you to list your estimated income and expenses, upload a college acceptance letter or transcript, write a 500- to 1,000-word personal statement and list two references who can write letters of recommendation.

When to apply: March 1. Learn more.

PEO Program for Continuing Education

The Philanthropic Educational Organization awards need-based grants of up to $3,000 to help women whose higher education was interrupted go back to school.

How to qualify: To begin the application process, complete and submit the application to PEO. The organization will forward the form to its local chapters; a chapter must agree to sponsor your application before you move forward with the application process.

When to apply: A 30-day deadline will be set after the application form is submitted. Learn more.

Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award

Soroptimist is a global organization that awards grants to more than 1,200 women each year. The application process starts at the local level, where award amounts vary. If you receive a local award, you’ll have the opportunity to progress to the regional and international levels to win $3,000, $5,000 or $10,000.

How to qualify: To be eligible, you must provide the primary support for yourself and your dependents. You must demonstrate financial need and reside in one of Soroptimist International of the Americas' member countries. You cannot be a member of Soroptimist, work for or have an immediate family member who works for Soroptimist International.

When to apply: July 1 to November 15. Learn more.

Patsy Takemoto Mink Award

The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation awards five $5,000 scholarships to low-income mothers pursuing an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.

How to qualify: Applicants will be selected based on financial need, personal circumstance, career goals, and civic, activist or service goals.

When to apply: By August 1. Learn more.

Society of Women Engineers scholarships

The Society of Women Engineers awards scholarships for women pursuing engineering degrees, including at least two earmarked for nontraditional students or students re-entering college. The BK Krenzer Memorial Re-entry Scholarship awards $2,500 to one student each year, and the Olive Lynn Salembier Memorial Re-entry Scholarship gives $1,500 to one student each year.

How to qualify: Only women are eligible. Applicants must be planning to attend school full-time and study an ABET-accredited program in engineering, technology or computing in the upcoming academic year.

When to apply: Dec. 1 to February 15 for sophomore to graduate students; March 1 to May 1 for freshmen. Learn more.

Dr. Blanca Moore-Velez Woman of Substance Scholarship

The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs Inc. awards a scholarship each year to a woman age 35 or older.

How to qualify: You must be enrolled in an undergraduate program and have at least a 3.0 grade point average to be eligible. The application requires a 500-word essay.

When to apply: January 1 to March 1. Learn more.

Wynetta A. Frazier Sister-to-Sister Scholarship

Each year, the National Hook-Up of Black Women Inc. awards two $500 scholarships to women age 35 or older whose college was interrupted or put on hold because of family or personal obligations.

How to qualify: The application requires a completed application, academic transcripts, a college acceptance letter, a photo, two letters of recommendation and a 500-word essay.

When to apply: March 1. Learn more.

Women’s Independence Scholarship Program

This fund offers scholarships for women — particularly single mothers — who have survived intimate partner abuse and have been separated from their abuser for at least one year. Award amounts vary, but average about $2,000 per school term.

How to qualify: To be eligible, you have to have sought help from a nonprofit organization that provides services to domestic violence victims for at least six consecutive months.

When to apply: Applications are accepted at any time, but submissions should be received at least two months before the start date of the program. Learn more.

FACT Second Chance Scholarship

The Federation of American Consumers and Travelers awards two scholarship each year to students who graduated from high school four or more years ago and want to pursue college. One scholarship is for $2,500 and one is for $10,000.

How to qualify: You or an immediate family member must be a FACT member for you to be eligible. The application requires references and an essay.

When to apply: Applications are accepted year round and will be awarded quarterly. Learn more.

More ways to pay

Scholarships, which don’t need to be paid back, are an ideal way to pay for college. But it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fund the entire cost of tuition through scholarships alone. To be eligible for federal grants, work-study and student loans, and some additional scholarships, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.

Once you’ve maxed out all initial payment options, including federal loans, consider private loans to cover additional costs. Private loans tend to carry higher interest rates than federal loans. They also have fewer protections and forgiveness options. Shop around and compare private student loans before choosing a lender.

If you have to borrow for college, learn how much you can afford with NerdWallet’s student loan affordability calculator.

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