Putting yourself through college is an expensive venture. In the United States, it can cost upwards of $35,000 per year to complete your studies. When you consider that most students spend around four years, on average at college, it isn’t difficult to see that the cost can quickly skyrocket. One should also take into account that this is assuming they are only completing an undergraduate degree and not continuing onto postgraduate studies.
In 2020, as many as 11% of students in US colleges struggled with disabilities such as ADHD (11%) or learning difficulties (3%). Students with autism, limited dexterity, and vision or hearing loss are also studying in college. However, since these students may be on lower incomes, it can be difficult to meet the financial obligations associated with college.
But there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Students with disabilities may be able to apply for a scholarship that will partly or wholly pay for their studies, allowing them easier access to education.
Who Can Qualify for a Disability College Scholarship?
When it comes to applying for a college scholarship, you must first check that you are eligible to do so. Not every student with a disability will be able to apply. However, those with cognitive, behavioral, physical, and emotional disabilities may be eligible for funding.
There are a wide variety of scholarships on offer and each one will have different eligibility criteria. There are some that are especially for groups of people with specific limitations whether this be minority groups, those on low incomes, and even those aimed specifically at women with disabilities. It is important to check these criteria before applying.
If you are looking at getting a federal grant, then you will need to meet all of the federal aid eligibility criteria. The only exception with disabled students is that they do not need to have completed a high school diploma.
What Type of Disability College Scholarships Are There?
While it is possible to take out a student loan or some other type of financial assistance, these will need to be repaid which can put a huge financial strain on the beneficiary. However, a scholarship does not need to be repaid, and so there is far less of a burden on the student. Instead, disability scholarships are usually based on merit, with many taking acts of charity or giving back to the community into account as well as academic merit.
There may be some scholarships that require the student to retain a certain GPA, although this is not the case across the board. Many scholarships will cater to the needs of anyone with a disability, while others are aimed at people with certain conditions.
Moreover, you should keep in mind that not all scholarships offer complete funding for your education. There are some types that only partially fund this, for example, the Pell Grant typically offers around $5645 per student per year and can be taken advantage of for up to 12 semesters. Of course, this won’t cover the entire cost but goes a long way in reducing the price of higher education.
There is a federal grant known as the TEACH grant which can pay up to $4000 annually for disabled people looking to obtain a teaching degree.
There is also a range of state and local grants which may be available to students within the area. The variations in these types of grants are huge and this vastly affects the amount you may be able to apply for. In order to find out what you may be able to get, you would have to contact your local office.
What Are the Requirements to Apply for a Disability College Scholarships?
The requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for a disability college scholarship will vary greatly between programs. However, most commonly, you will be expected to be able to provide proof of your disability along with your application.
You should also keep in mind that some organizations cater only to those with specific conditions, whereas others will offer funding applications to people with all kinds of disabilities. As a general rule of thumb, you must be living with a disability and be a legal citizen of the United States. You must also be enrolled in a US college and be enrolled in a specific amount of credit hours; these can range from six to fifteen, on average.
When you apply for your scholarship, there will be several types of documentation that you need to include. We have already discussed providing proof of your condition, but you will also need to supply reference letters, a form of identification, proof of your enrollment to college, and any transcripts for previous schools or colleges. In addition to this, most organizations will ask for a short essay.
General Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
Companies and organizations all over the country are offering scholarships to students with disabilities and there are some that are aimed at people with a broad range of conditions.
Microsoft disAbility Scholarship
With a maximum potential funding of $20,000 over four years, the Microsoft disAbility Scholarship offers promising high school students the chance to enter into the technology field. You will need to send three short essays as well as reference letters and be applying to a vocational or academic college.
Disability Care Center Scholarship
Those with a debilitating condition and who wish to apply for full-time further education may be eligible for a Disability Care Center Scholarship. You can receive $500 towards your studies if you are awarded but you must be able to maintain a 2.5 grade point average and will need to supply essays and supporting documentation.
Google Lime Scholarship
Students who are selected to take part in the Google Lime Scholarship could stand to receive up to $10,000 towards their studies. You must already be enrolled in the current study year and have a qualifying disability to apply. Furthermore, this funding is open to those who are studying in a technologically related field such as computer science or engineering.
If you have an eligible disability and have already applied to full-time college or university, you may be eligible to apply for the Exceptional Nurse Scholarship. Applicants may be awarded one of several grants that range between $250 and $500. You must be able to provide written proof of your condition upon application.
NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship
Eight successful students will be given a grant of $5,625 but you must be in pursuit of a career within the media in order to be eligible for application. While you don’t need to be a US citizen to apply for the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship, you will need to be attending a college in the United States. Furthermore, you must already be enrolled in order to apply.
Hydrocephalus Association’s Scholarship
People who are living with hydrocephalus may be eligible to apply for this scholarship which offers $1000 funding to 12 students every year. That said, the amount of funding available each year may vary depending on donations. Applications open in January of each academic year.
The INCIGHT Scholarship is open to candidates residing in California, Washington, and Oregon. In addition to geographical eligibility, you must also have a disability that is classed as such by the ADA or other governing body. Students must also complete 30 hours of community service and show dedicated motivation to attend higher education.
AFCEA War Veterans Scholarships
If you are looking to complete an undergraduate degree and are either serving in the US military or have received an honorable discharge, you may be eligible for a $2,500 scholarship for both campus-based and distance learning opportunities. You must be a US citizen, currently enrolled in your chosen school, and maintain a GPA of 3.0.
Joseph James Morelli Legacy Foundation Scholarship
The Joseph James Morelli Scholarship offers funding that can range between $500 and $2,500, depending on the applicant. The scholarship is designed for people who are enrolled in college and will be studying a STEM subject. Applicants must be studying as an undergraduate and must have a learning difficulty or dyslexia in order to qualify.
The Ability Center Scholarship
The Ability Center offers scholarships to anyone living with a disability who is based within the Lucas, Wood, Fulton, Henry, Ottawa, Defiance, Williams county in Ohio, or Monroe or Lenawee County in Michigan areas. You must maintain a 3.0 grade point average and must be enrolled in a post-secondary course.
BMO Capital Markets Lime Connect Equity Through Education Scholarship
This scholarship gives students the opportunity to access up to $10,000 towards their further education. To qualify, you must be studying either maths, business, engineering, computer science, or something similar. You must be enrolled in either an undergraduate or graduate 4-year program.
Scholarships for Students with Hearing Disabilities
Students with hearing impairments may find education more challenging, but some of the following scholarships can take some of the financial pressure off.
Sertoma’s Scholarship for the Hard of Hearing or Deaf
One of the leading hearing loss scholarships, Sertoma offers those with bilateral hearing loss of at least 40db and who is a United States citizen the chance to obtain financial support. So far, the organization has awarded more than $1,000,000 worth of funding to more than 800 applicants.
Scholarships for Students with Physical Disabilities
If a physical disability prevents you from having sufficient funding or support for higher education, the following programs are designed to assist you.
Elaine Chapin Memorial Scholarship Fund
The Elaine Chapin Scholarship aims to provide funding for those who have been affected by multiple sclerosis. This can be either personally or through a family member. You may be eligible to receive up to $1000 in funding, and successful applicants will be awarded on both merit and financial need. You must provide your most recent academic grades as well as a personal essay based on how MS has affected you.
For students that are dealing with mobility impairments, the 1800Wheelchair Scholarship offers a creative way to apply for funding. An annual grant of $500 will be awarded to the successful applicant, and the process typically includes creating a visual poem. You must be aged 16 or older and have maintained an average 3.0 GPA to apply.
Mary Free Bed
The Mary Free Bed Scholarship may be able to provide up to three grants to any individual student, and each grant may be between $1000 and $5000. You will also receive free room and board. You must have a qualifying spinal cord, brain, or neurological condition or limb indifference. While you do not need to be a US citizen, you must be a permanent resident of Michigan.
Rheumatoid Patient Foundation Scholarship
Whether you are personally affected by RD or your parents suffer from the condition, you may be eligible to apply for the RPF Scholarship. Each year, four students are chosen to receive a grant of $1000 to go towards their higher education.
Scholarships for Students with Visual Impairments
Students who struggle with visual impairments or blindness may be able to benefit from some of the following scholarships and grants.
National Federation of the Blind Scholarship
This scholarship is available to students across all 50 states as well as in Columbia and Puerto Rico. Students can claim between $3000 and $12,000 towards their education provided that they are legally blind in both eyes and will be studying at a US school or college.
Lighthouse Guild Scholarship
This is a merit-based scholarship open to anyone with a visual impairment, and each year as many as 17 students are awarded a grant. You must be able to provide proof of legal blindness and be a US citizen or resident in any of the 50 states.
The Fred Scheigert Scholarship Program
Each year the Fred Scheigert Program offers three students funding of $3000 each towards their higher education. Anyone with low vision may be considered provided that their ophthalmologist correctly fills out the online form on their behalf.
American Foundation for the Blind Scholarship
The AFB offers visually impaired students funding between $2000 and $7500 for both undergraduate and graduate courses. You must be legally blind and should have a GPA of at least 3.0 to apply. You should also be involved in the school community and be studying for at least 32 hours per week.
Scholarships for Students with a Learning and Attention Disabilities
Learning and attention disabilities are relatively common, and yet they can affect a student’s ability to fund their education. However, the following programs are designed to offer support.
Organization for Autism Research Scholarship
The Autism Research Scholarship gives students the chance to apply for a grant of up to $3000. Anyone with a formal diagnosis of autism can apply for undergraduate, graduate, and vocational programs provided they will study full time. There are two programs to choose from depending on what and for how long you will be studying.
Anne Ford Scholarship
Anyone leaving high school to pursue a bachelor’s degree and who has ADHD or a learning disability may be eligible for the Anne Ford Scholarship, which pays up to $2500 annually for up to four years, totaling a grant of $10,000. You must be able to provide proof of your learning disability and be willing to continually contribute to society.
Scholarships for Students with Chronic Health Conditions
Those with a chronic health condition may be limited financially due to ongoing health care and an inability to work full time. However, that doesn’t mean that higher education is not possible and the following programs may be able to assist you.
AbbVie CF Scholarship Program
Each year, the AbbVie CF Scholarship offers 25 students a grant of $3000 and two deserving students $25,000 to go towards their education. Applicants must be affected by cystic fibrosis and must have completed high school with a mind to completing a two or four-year undergraduate degree.
Shannon O' Daniel Memorial Scholarship
This scholarship is open to people who live in either Kentucky or Indiana, and each year, two students will be awarded. You must be under the care of a doctor for epilepsy and actively undergoing treatment or taking medication. The grant for each student is currently $1000.
Patient Advocate Foundation Scholarship
The PAF Scholarship is open to applicants who are suffering from a chronic illness or cancer and who are excelling in their studies. You must have been diagnosed with or have received treatment for your condition within the last five years. Undergraduate and graduates are welcome to apply, and so far more than $730,000 worth of grants have been awarded.
The Scott and Kim Verplank Foundation Scholarship
Designed for people with type 1 diabetes, the Scott and Kim Verplank Scholarship offers up $10,000 towards the cost of higher education. You must have a GPA of at least 3.0 and be successfully managing your condition with medication and lifestyle changes. The scholarship is only open to US citizens.
UCB Family Epilepsy Scholarship Program
This scholarship is open to sufferers of epilepsy as well as their families and caregivers, and each year award 30 grants of up to $5000. A further three students will receive $10,000 to cover the costs of their education. Anyone completing undergraduate or graduate studies is welcome to apply, and so far, more than $2.8 million has been awarded.
The Guthrie-Kock Scholarship is open to applicants with a diagnosis of PKU who are applying for undergraduate studies. People from all over the world can apply, but applications must be in English. Your financial situation will be considered, but also your academic achievements will also work in your favor.