It’s no secret that college can be expensive. For in-state students to attend a public college, the average cost is right around $25,290 for an academic year. Private colleges? Those will set you back about $50,900 per year.
When you factor in the mean cost of healthcare for people with disabilities at $11,637, college can feel like a pipe dream for many aspiring students. Fortunately, there are scholarships and grants specifically for those with disabilities that can make your financial future a lot brighter.
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What Are Scholarships for People with Disabilities?
Scholarships for people with disabilities are any kind of scholarship that’s specifically aimed at someone with a type of disability. These can be physical, learning, speech, or any other number of disabilities. Some scholarships are for anyone with a disability, while others are for specific types of disabilities.
Scholarships are a huge part of making college affordable, especially when it comes to those with disabilities. In fact, the percentage of college students with disabilities has increased from 10% in 2000, to 19% of undergrads and 11% of grad students in 2016. But, who exactly is eligible for these scholarships?
Who’s Eligible for These Scholarships?
In general, you need to have some kind of disability to be generally eligible for disability scholarships. Beyond this, many scholarships will have very specific disability requirements, as well as a demonstrated need for financial aid.
For example, the Anders Tjellström Scholarship requires that any applicant have a GPA of 3.0, use Cochlear implants for hearing loss, and be a U.S. or Canadian citizen.
21 Scholarships for Those With Disabilities
As mentioned, there are a number of scholarships for specific disabilities, as well as those for general disabilities. If you don’t find one below that fits your needs, don’t lose hope: there’s likely one out there, you simply have to search for it!
Scholarships for People with Autism
Amount: $500 toward course completion
Eligibility: Applicant must have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, be a resident of Nebraska, and be currently registered or enrolled in a post-secondary school.
Application requirements: Applicants need to fill out the application and provide documented proof of ASD and their enrollment or registration with a post-secondary institution.
Amount: $500 for education costs
Eligibility: Any upcoming or current college students with autism can apply for the KFM Autism Scholarship.
Application requirements: To apply, applicants need to create a cover letter, supply a resume, get reference letter, and write an essay that aims to inspire those with autism or improve understanding of autism for those outside the community.
Amount: $3,000 for education costs
Eligibility: Any person that’s been diagnosed with autism and plans on attending a post-secondary institution in pursuit of a certification or accreditation is eligible to apply as long as they haven’t won this scholarship in the past.
Application requirements: Applicants must fill out an online application, answer three essay questions, and provide basic information about their diagnosis. If an applicant’s speaking or writing abilities are hindered, two letters of recommendation are required.
Scholarships for People with General Disabilities
Amount: $1,000 for tuition and related expenses
Eligibility: Anyone with a disability that’s a graduating high school senior or already enrolled in an accredited higher education institution within the U.S. Applicants must also have a GPA of 2.8 at the time of applying.
Application requirements: To apply, applicants must supply an unofficial copy of their transcript and complete one out of a selection of essays.
Amount: $5,000 in Canada, $10,000 in the U.S. for school-related expenses
Eligibility: Must be a current undergrad or grad student with a visible or invisible disability and a 40% course load minimum. Applicant must also be pursuing a degree in business, commerce, computer science, engineering, math, physics, statistics or a related discipline.
Application requirements: Applicants must join the Lime Network, submit a current resume and transcripts, provide a letter of recommendation from a professor or advisor, and answer an essay on their career goals and why they should be chosen as the recipient of the scholarship.
Amount: The amount varies and is used toward tuition.
Eligibility: To be eligible for this scholarship, students must have a documented disability, attend a higher education institution during the scholarship period, maintain full-time enrollment throughout the academic year, and be a resident of Oregon, California, or Washington.
Application requirements: Applicants need to submit document proof of their disability as well as proof of residence in Oregon, California, or Washington. If selected, the winner will have to do 30 hours of community service or help work one INCIGHT event.
Scholarships for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired
Amount: Varies, up to $5,000 toward college costs
Eligibility: In order to qualify, applicant must have bilateral hearing loss in the moderate to profound range. Additional specific hearing-related requirements apply. Applicants must also have an unweighted GPA of 3.25 and be pursuing a four-year degree or graduate degree at an accredited college.
Application requirements: Application for this scholarship requires a recent unaided audiogram, transcripts, a completed essay, and three referrals that can speak on your behalf.
Amount: $2,000 per year for up to four years, applicable toward tuition.
Eligibility: Applicants must be a Baha or Nucleus recipient, a citizen of the U.S. or Canada, a graduating or recently graduated senior, or an undergrad in an accredited university. Applicants must also have a 3.0 or higher GPA when applying.
Application requirements: To apply, applicants must send their official transcripts, provide proof of Baha or Nucleus implant, and complete the application form.
Amount: Varies depending on individual, but must be used toward school.
Eligibility: Anyone that’s lived in Michigan for at least one year, has any form of hearing loss can apply.
Application requirements: Applicants need to supply a report card or transcript if enrolled in college already, attain two letters of recommendation, list out any community service activities if available, provide proof of hearing loss or deafness, and complete a number of questions on the form.
Scholarships for People with Learning Disabilities
Amount: $1,500 for academic use
Eligibility: Must be a resident of Nevada or Colorado, plan on being enrolled in full-time higher ed the next year, and have a learning disability per the definitions of the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).
Application requirements: Letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor, certified high school transcript, and certified proof of severe learning disability (SLD) required.
Amount: $500-2,500 for tuition, tutors, and research
Eligibility: Open to high school and college students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and/or dyscalculia. Applicant must be interested in STEM degree.
Application requirements: Certified proof of above learning disability or disabilities required.
Amount: $10,000 spread out over four years, must be used on tuition
Eligibility: Applicant must have a learning disability or ADHD, be a graduating high school senior attending college in the fall, have a 3.0 GPA or higher, and exhibit financial need. Ideally an applicant is interested in making life better for those with a learning disability or ADHD after they graduate.
Application requirements: To apply, applicants need to fill out an application, have three letters of recommendation, and supply documentation of their disability.
Amount: Up to $5,550 over three years for community college expenses.
Eligibility: Applicants for this scholarship need to have a Specific Learning Disability, be a graduating senior, plan on attending a community college in California, have a GPA of at least 2.5, and be a citizen of California.
Application requirements: To apply, applicants must provide their transcript, signed reference letter, documentation on their Specific Learning Disability, photo, and completed application.
Scholarships for People with Mobility and Physical Disabilities
Amount: $1,000 for tuition or general expenses
Eligibility: Applicants must be seeking or currently enrolled at a higher learning institution, have cerebral palsy, be a legal citizen of the U.S., and have a 3.0 GPA.
Application requirements: All applicants must provide their transcripts, complete an essay, and describe what they plan on doing with the funds.
Amount: The amount varies but must be used on tuition
Eligibility: All applicants must have hemiplegia or hemiparesis prior to age 18, from any cause, including a stroke. Applicants must also currently be enrolled in an undergraduate program or post-secondary school, be under the age of 25, and be enrolled during the fall semester of their application.
Application requirements: Applicants must complete an essay, have their physician send verification of their disability, and fill out a complete application.
Amount: The amount varies but it used for tuition costs.
Eligibility: Applicants must have a major amputation, meaning any loss of limb starting at or above the wrist or ankle. Applicants must also be attending a college or enrolled to attend, and in good standing.
Application requirements: To apply, applicants must provide a transcript, school or student ID number, and answer an essay about how their status as an amputee has impacted their life.
Amount: $500 for tuition
Eligibility: Any currently enrolled students that are 16 or older and have a mobility disability, do well in school, and advocate for disability awareness in America are eligible.
Application requirements: Applicants must fill out an application and write an essay on how a single moment in their life influenced their development. Applicants also need to supply proof of disability, transcript or proof of GPA, and a photo to be used it they’re chosen as the winner.
Scholarships for People with Speech and Language Disorders
Amount: Amount varies and is used toward tuition
Eligibility: All applicants need to have documented proof of any disability that inhibits their ability to read, write, or speak, and must be entering as a freshman or currently enrolled at Georgia State University.
Application requirements: In order to apply, applicants must be registered with the Margaret A. Staton Office of Disability Services at Georgia State University, supply documented proof of their disability, and demonstrate financial need.
Scholarships for People with Visual Impairment
Amount: $3,000-12,000 for tuition
Eligibility: Citizens in the U.S., District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico that are blind in both eyes and plan on pursuing a full-time degree at a U.S. institution can apply. Winners must also attend the National Federation of the Blind convention and any scheduled events.
Application requirements: To apply, applicants simply need to prove they’re blind in both eyes and send in an application via email or post.
Eligibility: The American Foundation for the Blind offers a number of scholarships with varying requirements. For all of them, applicants must be legally blind or visually impaired to some degree and fit one of the course-related requirements of their multiple scholarships.
Application requirements: Application requires an official transcript, two letters of recommendation, and proof of legal blindness. Additional requirements for application may be present depending on the scholarship offered by AFB.
Amount: Varies, up to $5,000 toward college costs
Eligibility: Applicants must be legally blind and a citizen of New Zealand or the United States. Applicants must also be a senior in high school or graduate, who plans on attending or is currently attending an accredited university.
Application requirements: The scholarship is relatively new and the application process may change in the coming year. To apply, go to their website when the application process reopens and complete it per the instructions.
Additional Sources of Financial Aid for People with Disabilities
Beyond scholarships, there are a number of financial resources available for those with disabilities. Some primary sources are grants and other bursar offerings.
While there are numerous routes to financial aid, these are a few of the more common and accessible options:
- FAFSA: The Federal Student Aid program is part of the U.S. Department of Education, and is a gateway to numerous financial aid offerings, including grants, loans, and scholarships.
- Pell Grants: Pell grants are available through FAFSA, and are sums of money that can be used toward school spending. These grants don’t require any return payment, making them similar to a scholarship but more generally attainable. In fact, in 2018 32% of undergrad students received pell grants.
- Federal TRIO Programs: The TRIO programs are a part of the U.S. Department of Education, and allows students with disabilities, those from low-income families, and various youths to receive funding and other helpful resources for free.
- Perkins School for the Blind: This school is geared around helping students with blindness or vision impairment. The Perkins School for the Blind offers classes that are designed for the blind, and also offers a number of grants and scholarships for select students during their application process.
- The National Institute for the Deaf: Made possible by Rochester Institute of Technology, the National Institute for the Deaf offers classes and programs designed for the deaf and hearing impaired. Like the Perkins School, they also have grants and scholarships available for select students as determined during their application process.
- Landmark College: The Landmark College offers specialized classes and programs for students with dyslexia, ADHD and ASD. They also have grants and scholarships that select students can be eligible for during the review process of their application.
Tips on Applying for Disability Scholarships and Aid
When it comes to applying for scholarships, no two application processes are going to be completely alike. Despite this, there are some things you can do to make sure you stand out and have a better chance at being selected.
- Don’t be shy: Even if you’re regularly a shy person, don’t be afraid to brag a bit on your application. This is especially true if the scholarship requires an essay or letter. This is your time to dig deep and truly tell your story. Make it personal and include fun or unique details, as these things will help you stand out and make you even more memorable.
When you’re done, have a friend or family member read over your writing. You really want to capture what makes you, you. Having a third party read your essay or letter can be a great way to ensure you didn’t miss anything.
- Be thorough: The people responsible for deciding on scholarship winners read a lot of scholarship entries. So many, that they’re likely to toss out any that aren’t done correctly. Make sure you triple check every rule, requirement, and application line to make sure everything is filled out correctly.
- Ask for letters of recommendation ASAP: Nothing’s worse than a rushed letter of recommendation. Think about who you’d like to write yours right now, and ask them as soon a you can. Giving your sponsors as much time as possible will allow them to write a quality letter, and give you a chance to read it ahead of time and make sure it’s what you need.
Investing in Your Future
College can be expensive, but scholarships and grants can make it much more attainable. Take your time and submit your applications one step at a time. It may be a lot of work, but grants and scholarships can keep you from requiring numerous student loans.
In the end, if you’re truly wanting to go to college, it’s a decision that can help you for the rest of your life. A degree can open the door to new career opportunities, help with networking, and be a time you’ll always cherish. No matter what, make the decision that’s right for you and don’t forget to invest in yourself.