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Scholarships for Women Returning to School

Scholarships for Women Returning to School
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated August 31, 2023
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Returning to school to earn your bachelor’s or other advanced degree can be daunting. It may have been a while since you were last in a classroom — plus you have to figure out a way to cover today’s ever-increasing tuition costs. Fortunately, there are a variety of scholarships for women returning to school that can help defray costs. You can use grants and scholarships toward a variety of expenses, including tuition, supplies, transportation, and childcare. Read on for a closer look at how to find scholarships and grants for women to make college more affordable.

How to Find Scholarships and Grants for Women

Whether you’re looking for scholarships for women over 30, grants for women in STEM, or other award opportunities, there are a variety of places to start your search. Here are the top ones: 
  • Federal Student Aid: Start by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to put yourself in the running for federal financial aid, including grants and work-study awards. 
  • Your college or university: Check with your college’s financial aid office, as well as your academic department, about scholarship opportunities. Find out whether you need to apply separately or will be automatically considered upon admission. 
  • Private organizations: There are a variety of private organizations that offer scholarships for women returning to school. Online scholarship search engines can help you find opportunities. 
  • Your employer: Some employers also offer tuition assistance to employees pursuing their degree. Check with your manager or human resources department about this benefit. 
Recommended: 11 Ideas for Affording Grad School

Top Returning and Back to School Scholarships for Women

There are a variety of scholarships earmarked for women going back to school. Here are some that may be worth pursuing. 

1. AAUW Career Development Grant

The American Association of University Women offers grants between $2,000 and $20,000 for women going into social sciences, health, education, or medical science. To qualify, you must have already received a bachelor’s degree prior to June 30, 2015 and be pursuing a second bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or other qualifying certification. Applications are open from August 1 to November 15.  

2. Live Your Dream Awards

Soroptimist’s Live Your Dream Awards provides up to $16,000 to women going into a vocational training or undergraduate program. You must have demonstrated financial need, no prior graduate degree, and be the primary financial provider for your family to qualify. Applications become available on August 1 and have a deadline of November 15. Recommended: What Is Need-Based Financial Aid?

3. Women’s Independence Scholarship Program

This program offers scholarships between $500 and $2,000 each semester or quarter and accepts applications on a rolling basis. It’s reserved for women who are survivors of partner violence and abuse who have sought help from a non-profit agency for at least six months. 

4. Society of Women Engineers Scholarship

The Society of Women Engineers offers scholarship awards in varying amounts to women, especially nontraditional students and women who are trying to re-enter the workforce. Applications are typically due between February and March for freshman students and between December and February for college sophomores and above. 

5. P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education

Provided by the Philanthropic Education Organization (P.E.O.), this award provides up to $3,000 to women who experienced an interruption in their education and are now going back to school. This grant is based on financial need and other factors and can be used toward tuition, supplies, school fees, childcare, and transportation.Recommended: 23 Grants for Student Loan Repayment

How to Qualify for Scholarships for Women Returning to School

The eligibility requirements for scholarships vary depending on the award and scholarship provider. Some common criteria include: 
  • School or program. Some awards are reserved for specific types of schools or programs, such as community college, vocational school, or a master’s degree.
  • Major. You might qualify for an award based on what you’re studying, such as a STEM field or teaching. 
  • Academic background. Scholarship organizations may request to see your previous transcripts and base their decision on your prior academic achievement. 
  • Extracurricular or community involvement. Scholarship committees may also like to see your involvement in certain activities or a commitment to community service. 
  • Age or other identity characteristics. For example, you can find scholarships for women over 30, scholarships for women of color, and scholarships for LGBTQ+ women. 

When Should You Apply?

Submit your scholarship application well before the deadline to put yourself in the running, especially if any awards are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s important to submit the FAFSA early for this reason. Private scholarships will have their own deadlines, so keep track of each one to ensure you don’t miss any important dates. Gather your information ahead of time, and give yourself enough leeway in case you’ve missed a requirement and need to submit additional documents. 

Steps to Submit Your Application and What to Include

When it comes to applying for grants and scholarships, each award may have its own application process. Some common requirements include: 
  • An application, including your personal details and information about your school and program 
  • Your transcript(s) 
  • Your resume or record of extracurriculars 
  • Personal essays
  • Letters of recommendation 
When you submit the FAFSA, you’ll also need to provide your financial information, since many types of federal financial aid are based on financial need. You may be able to transfer some of this data automatically using the IRS Data Retrieval tool. 

Which Fields Provide the Most Grants and Scholarships for Women?

You can find grants and scholarships for women in a variety of fields. Many scholarship opportunities are available to women regardless of their field or academic major. That said, there are a variety of opportunities for women in STEM fields. If you’re studying science, engineering, or a related topic, you may find several grants that could help you pay for your degree. Recommended: 15 Medical School Scholarships

The Takeaway

Although college is expensive, the cost doesn’t necessarily have to stand in the way of earning your degree. There are numerous scholarships for women returning to school that could help reduce your costs. If you still have a gap in funding, you could consider borrowing student loans from the Department of Education or a private lender. Shop around to find a loan with the lowest rate. After graduating, learn more about how student loan refinancing works and whether it’s the right move for you. Lantern can help you refinance student loans and get your education debt under control.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there special scholarships for women?
Can I get a scholarship for being a mom?
Is there eligibility criteria for scholarships for women returning to school?
What are some common application requirements for scholarships for women?
Photo credit: iStock/MangoStar_Studio

About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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