A Complete Guide to Finding and Applying for Scholarships for Women

A Complete Guide to Scholarships For Women

Updated: May 2, 2023

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Women comprise a majority of students at most colleges but they remain underrepresented in many high-paying fields. An abundance of scholarships and grants geared toward female students might help narrow this gap, especially those that are specific to certain areas of study, such as engineering or science.

Regardless of what field of study you want to pursue, if you are a woman seeking for ways to fund your education, you will probably find plenty of choices when choosing scholarships. Below you will find information to help you sort through your options with a comprehensive list of scholarships and grants for women and tips on how to apply and where to get started.

Scholarships for Women

Who qualifies

Science Ambassador Scholarship

Women pursuing degrees in science, engineering or math. Recipients serve as ambassadors for their fields.

Jane M. Klausman Women In Business Scholarship

Women pursuing business related programs who can demonstrate outstanding potential.

Influenster Code Like a Girl Scholarship

Female students with a passion for coding who are in their third, fourth or fifth years of undergraduate study. A GPA of at least 3.4 and a major in computer science, information science, engineering or a related field.

Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program

Master's and doctoral students pursuing oceanography, marine biology, maritime archaeology, or related fields. Requires full-time student status and a GPA of 3.3 or higher.

American Association of University Women Scholarships

Female students who have achieved high standards of academic excellence and show promise in their respective fields.

Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

Women with strong academic backgrounds and demonstrated leadership. Recipients are invited to the annual Google Scholars Retreat in Mountain View, Calif.

Emerge Scholarships

Women whose education was delayed or interrupted. Requires demonstrated community service. Not for recent high school graduates or women who are eligible for financial aid.

M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship

Women returning to physics research careers. Applicants have to have completed work toward a Ph.D.

Women's Independence Scholarship Program

Survivors of intimate partner abuse who are full or part-time students. Special consideration is given to those interested in using their education to further the rights and options of women and girls.

PEO Program for Continuing Education

Women whose educations have been interrupted; who are returning to school to complete a degree or certification; and who demonstrate financial need.

Winning a Great Scholarship

It can take some searching to find the scholarships that seem to be most worthwhile for you.

If you are currently in high school, mine the career center and school library for specialty resources and guides that can help you narrow down the universe of options to a manageable list. Career counselors and college financial aid officers often can direct you to specific websites, scholarship sources and information that might not be obvious via online search. Once you are accepted to a college, be sure to ask its financial aid staff about additional scholarships for current students. You can also check out the U.S. Department of Labor Grant Information page for more resources and additional scholarship options.

Harvesting the Most You Can from Scholarships

To maximize the amount of money you can get from scholarships you will have to apply for multiple awards. Be organized, strategic and smart.

First, create a list or chart of the best bets, the deadlines for those scholarship applications, and the unique criteria for each. Prioritize them according to how much each organization gives to students like you. Spend the most time, effort and creativity on the richest scholarships, and pace your energy and time for the others accordingly.

To maximize your time get all your paperwork in order ahead of time. That means gathering transcripts, test scores, achievement awards, references and letters of recommendation.

Don't forget to build in reminders on your calendar about deadlines, giving yourself plenty of time to complete the applications, write essays, edit the essays, and to have someone else proofread them. Don't wait until the last minute: websites sometimes crash under the crush of applicants rushing for the deadline.

Remember that the bigger the prize, the greater the competition. Expect that many other well-qualified students will also be going for the same scholarships. Sometimes, the details make all the difference. Make sure that you have complied with all the technical requirements of the application; have a friend or teacher edit and proof your essay and cover letter; and polish your writing to make a strong first – and lasting – impression.

Tips: How to Write an Essay for a Scholarship Application

  • Transcripts of your grades and academic performance
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A cover letter
  • An essay that shows why you will succeed in your studies - and why you are a great investment

The essay is your chance to shine. Lots of applicants will have good grades, but the essay is where you show how you are different - and, presumably, better.

  • Personal experiences that show why you deserve this scholarship
  • Challenges you have overcome
  • Misconceptions that you have grappled with
  • Humorous experiences changed your perspective
  • Opening with a short example or anecdote
  • Leading with a strong observation or opinion
  • Summarizing your key point in a paragraph either early or at the end
  • Discussing your process - not just what you think but how you arrived at your opinions
  • Drawing in a few statistics from outside research and challenging those facts, either proving or disproving them
  • Showing how a seemingly unrelated experience gave you insight about your career or life direction
  • Snippets of conversations that show how you collaborate with others
  • Ending with a 'forward spin' that shows the scholarship committee that you have not just vision, but a plan to achieve it.

Consider writing a couple of template essays or personal statements that you can quickly customize for each scholarship application. And include details about your interest, experience, service, and intentions for the career or field you hope to pursue. Scholarship committees want to see that you are already on your way; showing what you have already accomplished demonstrates motivation and focus.

Other People's Words: How to Get A Glowing Letter of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation can be a tipping factor. While you can't put words on other people's letters, you can work with your recommenders to craft a truthful and positive message about what you've done and where you are headed.

First, line up several potential recommenders. Ask them only for recommendations for scholarships relevant to your experience with them. For instance, ask science instructors for recommendations for science scholarships, and nonprofit leaders for letters relating to your volunteer experience with their organizations. The better the match, the most sincere and relevant the letter.

Additional tips for eliciting warm, on-point recommendations:

  • Ask early. Many recommenders receive numerous requests.
  • Help them help you. Provide details about what the scholarship is for, what the decision criteria are, and why you believe you are a good candidate.
  • Include dates and details that help your recommender be specific. For example, in your request, remind your recommender that you were a camp counselor in the summer of 2019 and that she had asked you to be the lead counselor and volleyball coach for the summer of 2020.
  • Include highlights of your career goals.
  • Add your complete contact information.

Additional Sources of Funds for School

Scholarships are a start, but you'll find many additional sources of funds to cover tuition, living expenses, and fees.

College grants typically are based on financial need more than on academic performance or extracurricular activities. Just like there are many different types of scholarships, there is also a slew of grants. Grants are given from the Federal and State governments, public and private organizations, and professional organizations. File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for college grants.

Tuition reimbursement by employers. Many companies will pay for some or all of their employees' college studies if the subjects are directly related to the employees' jobs. Before you commit to a college program, check with your company's benefits department to make sure you understand all the conditions for tuition reimbursement.

Tax credits, under some circumstances, can lower your college bills. For instance, the American Opportunity Credit can offset up to $2,500 in college expenses for some students. The Lifetime Learning Credit can provide some students with a $2,000 credit, which can be used for post-secondary education and for classes to improve job skills. Student loan Interest deductions might offset some of the cost of student loans. As with all tax credits, be sure to check with a tax professional so that you claim all that you can without counting on credits that are not relevant to your situation.

Review your monthly budget and spending for ways to save money. Some common student expenses, such as credit cards, car insurance and loans, and renters insurance, should be reviewed for cost-saving measures. You can improve your credit and keep credit card spending on budget with a secured or student credit card; refinance your current auto loan or estimate a new payment; discuss student and good driver discounts with your current car insurance company or shop around for new car insurance and renters insurance to find savings.

Questions and Answers About Scholarships for Women

Mark Kantrowitz
Publisher of PrivateStudentLoans.guru

Mark Kantrowitz is a nationally-recognized expert on student financial aid, scholarships and student loans offers. Here are some tips from Mark on how to succeed in your scholarship applications.

What is the best way for students to find a scholarship?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

The best way is for students to use a free scholarship matching service, which can be found freely on the Web. Fill in information about your background, major, GPA, hobbies and other demographic information and the service will show you only the scholarships that you are eligible for. Not only will this show you women-only scholarships, but also gender-neutral scholarships that match your background.

How do you maximize your scholarship choices?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

When using any of the matching services make sure you are thorough and complete all the questions including the optional ones. Because scholarships can be for specific causes such as cancer or swimming, skipping those optional questions can shut you out from awards. By answering every question you can double the amount of matches and thus the money you can win.

What is the best strategy to get funding?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

Applying for multiple scholarships may seem daunting but applying for each one you are eligible for will increase your chances. There's an element of chance with the selection process so if you apply for a bunch of them and lose out on one there's a good chance you will win another one.

Should you skip essay scholarships or low funding ones?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

Writing an essay may conjure up feelings of dread but skipping ones with essays or scholarships that pay out only $500 could mean you are leaving money on the table. Let's say you don't like competitions that involve an essay or a dollar amount of only $500. Other students like you aren't going to enter either, making it a less competitive scholarship and thus increasing your chances of winning one of them.

How can you cut down on the time to fill out applications?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

Once students get through the first half a dozen scholarship applications the process gets a lot easier. That's because you can reuse your essays, tweaking them a little each time. Not only does that reduce the time spent but it improves the essay each time it is edited. Not to mention the scholarship essays will help prepare you for your college admissions essay.

What is a good way to write the application essay?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

Instead of answering the question by writing, answer it out loud and record the answer. People can type 30 to 60 words per minute but they can speak about 200 words a minute. It will be a lot easier to get out a 300-word essay verbally and then transcribe the recording and shape it into your essay.

Are their essay snafus that will eliminate you?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

Don't go over the word length. If the essay requires 300 words and you write 600 words, that shows you are not following instructions.

How do you ensure you don't miss the deadlines?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

Get organized. Write down a list of the applications and their deadlines. Tackle the earliest deadline first and then work down your list. If you miss the deadline it is entirely your fault.

Are your chances hurt if you omit anything?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

Leaving anything out of the application will result in you being eliminated. Make sure everything requested is there and that you follow the instructions correctly.

What should you do to stay on top of your applications?

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz:

Send your application package by a method that gives you a proof of receipt (like certified mail). That way you'll know if the scholarship sponsor doesn't receive your application.

Women's Career Achievements by the Numbers


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