While education for girls around the world may still be lacking, higher education rates for women in the United States, Canada, and other developed nations have never been better. In 2016, the Boston Globe reported that women accounted for 55% of undergraduate enrollment at four-year colleges in the United States, creating an enrollment gender gap that is only expected to widen over the coming years. But while enrollment rates for women are steadily rising, paying for college still creates a major barrier to entry for many women in the US. With more women applying for and being accepted to pricey colleges and universities than ever before, scholarships for women are just as important as ever. This tends to be especially true for non-traditional female students (those not just graduating from high school), who face added socioeconomic hurdles.
Scholarships for Women – Traditional Students
Traditional students—those who begin college immediately or shortly after graduating high school and stay enrolled in college through graduation—are the largest market for university and college scholarship programs. While you’re not limited, as a woman student, to scholarships which are just for women, the following scholarships are a great place to start your application journey.
1. Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship
Google offers this scholarship to carry on the vision of Anita Borg, founder of the Institute for Women and Technology. With the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship Fund, Google aims to encourage women in the fields of computing and technology. Both graduate and undergraduate students are invited to apply, and winners are chosen based on their ability to demonstrate leadership skills and academic achievement. In addition to financial support, winners of the scholarship are also invited to attend an exclusive networking retreat at Google.
If computers and technology are your thing, learn more about the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, here.
2. National Pathfinder Scholarship
The National Federation of Republican Women offers this annual scholarship to three qualified students in honor of First Lady Nancy Reagan. Only college sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students are eligible, and applicants must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program such as sociology, chemistry, psychology, or pharmacology. The National Pathfinder Scholarship is intended to help women find their way into chemical, medical, or biological research careers, or careers in chemical dependency counseling.
To learn more about the National Pathfinder Scholarship and apply, visit the NFRW website, here.
3. Girl Scouts of America
If you’ve ever participated in the Girl Scouts of America, you may be eligible for a special scholarship. Scholarships through the Girl Scouts of America may vary based on your region, and some may depend on your level of achievement within the organization.
Make sure to check with your with your local Girl Scout council, and search for scholarships on the website, here.
4. Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize
The Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize is awarded annually to an undergraduate woman who shows excellence in mathematics. To receive the Schafer Prize, a member of the mathematic community must submit a nomination on your behalf. The letter of nomination must demonstrate your interest in the field of mathematics, ability for independent work in mathematics, quality of performance in advanced math courses and programs, and performance in mathematical competitions, if applicable.
If mathematics is your passion, learn more about the requirements for the Schafer prize, here.
5. Corporate Scholarships
A few major corporations offer incredible support to young women entering college every year. The following is a list of just a few of the corporations that provide significant scholarships to graduating high school girls each year:
- General Electric
General Electric provides scholarships for women each year to support their goals in engineering and business careers.
- Best Buy
The Best Buy Scholarship Program awards financial assistance to over 1,000 young students each year. Winners are chosen based on academic performance, volunteerism, and extracurricular involvement.
Apple offers scholarships to high school seniors by way of financial reward, as well as technological support (like a new MacBook Pro).
- The Kellogg Company
The Kellogg Company offers substantial financial assistance to women and minority students who are graduating high school. Kellogg Scholarships are only available through certain colleges.
Microsoft is another tech giant that is well-known to give back in the form of scholarships for graduating high school seniors. Specifically, Microsoft supports multiple annual scholarships for minorities and women pursuing degrees in computer sciences or related fields.
For more corporate scholarship opportunities, be sure to speak with your high school guidance office.
6. State Teachers’ and Nursing Associations
If you’re a high school student and you’re interested in going into either nursing or teaching, your state association may offer scholarships. (There are also national associations for aspiring teachers that offer scholarships.) Google your state’s Teachers’ Association or Nursing Association and see what they have to offer. In addition to grants and scholarships, you’ll find lots of useful information to help you along your path.
7. Zonta International
Zonta International established the Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship to encourage women to pursue education and careers in business. Each year, Zonta International awards this scholarship to as many as 32 students nationally, and to six international students. Women of any age are eligible and encouraged to apply through a Zonta Club.
Locate your Zonta Club and apply here.
8. Distinguished Young Women
Distinguished Young Women is the largest scholarship program for high school-aged girls, and the oldest. DYW helps women pay for college in two ways: cash tuition scholarships, which can be applied to your tuition at any accredited school of higher learned, and grants.
- Cash Scholarships
Cash scholarships from Distinguished Young Women can be used for any college expenses, including room and board, tuition, books, and other fees. Learn more and apply here.
DYW also participates with more than 100 institutions of higher learning across the United States to provide college-granted scholarships. Visit the website here to look at some of the colleges which participate in the program. More college-granted scholarships may also be available in your state.
Scholarships for Women – Untraditional Students
The following scholarships work to broaden the opportunities in this country for women from all walks of life. In addition to student aid loans (distributed through the FAFSA process), scholarships like these can make paying for college more manageable for older women, those with families, and those struggling economically and socially.
1. Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund
The Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund helps non-traditional, lower-income women pay for school. Awarded specifically to women 35 and older, this scholarship fund aims to end the cycle of poverty for older women and their families. To receive this scholarship, an applicant must describe her vision of how higher education will benefit her future, as well as the future of her family and community.
JRF applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Be a woman aged 35 or older.
- Show financial need (based on guidelines from the Department of Labor’s Lower Living Standard).
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- Be pursuing a technical, vocational, associate’s, or first bachelor’s degree.
- Be enrolled in or accepted to an accredited school.
For more information and to apply, visit the Jeannette Rank Women’s Scholarship Fund website, here.
2. The American Association of University Women (AAUW)
The AAUW, founded in 1881, is a broad network of universities and professionals with a variety of initiatives, all geared toward empowering women. One of the AAUW’s main focuses is leveling the playing field in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) career fields, making it easier for women to break into those careers. The AAUW does this through various community education initiatives, as well as with grants (scholarships) and fellowships. Through these channels, AAUW is one of the largest sources of funding for graduate-level, female students, providing more than $3.7 million in support in 2017-18.
The American Association of University Women offers multiple fellowships and grant opportunities to women pursuing degrees or certifications:
- American Fellowships
- For women pursuing full-time study to complete dissertations, conducting postdoctoral research, or preparing research for publication.
- International Fellowships
- For women in the United States who are not U.S. citizens, who are pursuing full-time postdoctoral or graduate study.
- Career Development Grants
- For women who are pursuing a certificate or degree to advance their career or change career paths.
- International Project Grants
- For alumnae of AAUW’s International Fellowships
- Selected Professions Fellowships
- For women pursuing full-time study in master or professional programs where women are underrepresented (STEM, law, business, and medicine)
Learn more about each of these grants and fellowships at the AAUW website, here.
3. The Business and Professional Women’s Foundation
Since 1919, the BPW Foundation has dedicated its resources to advocating for equal pay and treatment of women and veterans in the U.S. One way the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation strives to do this is by helping women enter or re-enter the workplace with their BPW Foundation Career Advancement Scholarships.
To receive this scholarship, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Be female and a U.S. citizen.
- Be 25 years old or older.
- Be within two years of completing their bachelor’s degree.
- Be pursuing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school in STEM or a related field.
This scholarship is based geographically and may not be available in your area. To learn more, visit the BPW Career Advancement Scholarship page, here.
4. The Women’s Independence Scholarship
The Women’s Independence Scholarship (WISP) is dedicated to helping women out of domestic violence through higher education. Since its creation in 1999 as part of The Sunshine Lady Foundation, WISP has awarded more than $16 million to women in need across the United States.
Today, WISP scholarship opportunities are available nationally through domestic violence agencies to women who have left domestic abuse situations and are now pursuing independence through education.
Learn more about this scholarship on The Sunshine Lady Foundation website, here.
5. The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund
The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund awards scholarships to women from developing parts of the world who seek to improve the lives of women and children in their home countries. This has historically included women pursuing a wide variety of degrees, from engineering, to journalism, to social work.
To receive a Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund Scholarship, you must meet the following criteria:
- Have a record of service to women and/or children in your country.
- Reside in the United States at the time of application.
- Demonstrate financial need.
- Be 25 years of age or older.
- Be enrolled in an accredited institution in the U.S. or Canada and remain so during the period covered by the scholarship.
- Have a plan to return to your home country or another developing country within two years of completing the study and remain there for at least two years of service.
Learn more about the eligibility requirements for this scholarship here.
More Scholarships for Women
Scholarships for women in the United States abound, and it’s never too early to start practicing your scholarship essays or picking out scholarships that suit you. Seek online scholarship resources and lists dedicated to women, like scholarshipsforwomen.net, to help make sure you’re on the right track.
Another great tool at your disposal is your high school or local community college’s guidance office. Narrowing down your options with help from online resources and in-person professionals will help you overcome the overwhelm of applying for scholarships.
Find More Scholarships
As a woman, your scholarship options are not limited to those which are exclusively awarded to women. Scholarship funds dedicated to women can be a great start, but some of the best scholarships are awarded to men and women equally. If you have specific talents and interests (especially in STEM fields), that’s a great place to continue your college scholarship and grant research. Likewise, if you fall into a minority group (Hispanic and Latino, Native American, African American, Native Alaskan, Pacific Islander, Asian-American, LGBT), don’t forget to look into minority scholarship funds, too.
Scholarships for women became possible because of past women who fought hard for equal educational opportunities. Today, women see that dream realized, and more. With the proper tools, motivation, and determination, women can use these scholarships to pursue anything they set their minds to.