What is a military scholarship?
These are scholarships and grants provided by the U.S. military that serve as crucial financial lifelines for students contending with the ever-escalating expenses of college tuition. They extend an invaluable opportunity for numerous students to both contribute to their nation’s service and gain the financial support necessary for their higher education.
Across the United States, each branch of the military extends educational assistance to its enlisted personnel. These military scholarships, except for specific FAFSA scholarships, effectively work as benefits for individuals employed by the military.
However, there’s an important condition attached: all recipients of these scholarships are obligated to fulfill their service contract upon completing their college education. Understanding this commitment is essential for students contemplating military scholarships or grants. Scholarship recipients must understand that enlisting in one of the armed services is a prerequisite, and they must commit to serving out their contracts in their entirety.
While many military scholarships and grants are designed for students pursuing fields directly related to military careers, such as medicine or military strategy, others are more versatile and are granted based on merit or demonstrated financial need. These funding sources encompass scholarships managed by the federal government, offerings from individual military branches, and the support provided by numerous non-governmental organizations dedicated to assisting those with military affiliations.
Furthermore, it is important to note that eligibility criteria and funding amounts can vary significantly among different scholarship programs. In addition to exploring military scholarships, students have the option to explore supplemental funding avenues through applications like FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if they find it necessary.
Benefits of Military Scholarships
Members of the military enjoy various benefits, including:
- Access to healthcare
- Housing and homeownership programs
- Financing opportunities
- Discounts on services
- Caregiver support
- Tax preparation assistance
- Career development assistance
- Military and veteran benefits extend to education, offering support for:
- Active-duty personnel
- Federal and state agencies provide further assistance for active-duty military and veteran students, including:
- Scholarships and grants
- Counseling and tutoring resources
- Specialized training programs
- Transfer credit agreements
Types of military scholarships
There are many scholarship possibilities available, with colleges, universities, communities, and corporations contributing to financial assistance. These scholarships cater to various segments within the military, including active-duty members, veterans, and their dependents, often aligning with specific service branches. As service members embark on their college journey, they can explore a multitude of financial aid avenues.
Beyond scholarships for military personnel, numerous organizations and support networks extend their assistance to the spouses and children of military members and veterans. Additionally, specialized programs provide aid to relatives of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice or endured injuries while serving their nation. In this section, we will delve into the details of these diverse programs and their associations with specific branches of service.
Scholarships for Specific Military Groups
Scholarships from the US Army
The United States Army, in collaboration with its affiliated organizations, offers many scholarships catering to both active duty and retired service members. Among these offerings, the Army Scholarship Foundation stands out as a prominent and generous provider of educational financial support.
Army ROTC Scholarships
About: The Army ROTC Scholarships are designed to assist college students who are actively participating in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program on their college campuses. These scholarships are open to a range of eligible individuals, including incoming and current college students as well as enlisted soldiers pursuing higher education.
Applicants seeking these scholarships are typically required to submit documentation demonstrating their academic achievements and physical capabilities. The potential benefits of these scholarships can encompass full coverage of tuition expenses, housing and meal allowances, and financial support for books and fees.
Army Scholarship Foundation
About: The Army Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships to support the undergraduate education of active-duty military members’ children. Applicants need to demonstrate U.S. citizenship and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA from prior high school and college courses. Additional application requirements include tax returns, an essay, and proof of a parent’s military service.
Army Women’s Foundation Scholarships
About: The Army Women’s Foundation provides scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees through Trident at American Intercontinental University. The Legacy Scholarship from the organization offers financial assistance to both former and current military members enrolled in community colleges, certificate programs, or accredited four-year institutions.
Applicants are required to submit application materials that include proof of academic potential, evidence of community service involvement, and documentation of financial need.
Army Federal Tuition Assistance
About: The tuition assistance program, aimed at aiding the educational aspirations of active-duty and reserve military personnel, provides financial support for enrollment in approved academic degree or certificate programs. Applicants can apply for assistance on a per-course basis, tailoring their support to their specific needs. To be eligible, candidates are required to commit to a service obligation.
College Loan Repayment Program
About: The Army offers a student loan repayment program to incentivize military service. To be eligible, applicants must commit to a minimum of six years of service, meet specific requirements for military occupational specialties, and secure their loans before entering the military. It’s important to note that this program covers federal loans only and does not include private, institutional, state-funded, or consolidated loans.
The Chaplain Candidate Scholarship Partnership
About: The CCSP is a joint venture by the U.S. Army and select graduate institutes and seminaries across the country. The program provides financial assistance to soldiers who wish to become Army Chaplains to care for the spiritual needs of soldiers both stateside and overseas.
The Health Professions Scholarship Program
About: Eligible students can receive a comprehensive scholarship package, including full tuition coverage and a monthly stipend. This support is available for students pursuing degrees in fields like medicine, dentistry, optometry, psychology, or veterinary science. To qualify, students must be U.S. citizens who hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Additionally, they must meet the criteria to become commissioned officers in the Army Reserves. Scholarship recipients are required to commit to one year of active-duty service for each year they receive scholarship funding.
Scholarships from the US Navy
The U.S. Navy doesn’t provide direct scholarships but offers robust educational assistance programs. These programs offer intensive training, enabling enlisted personnel to pursue undergraduate and graduate studies on-site or at traditional universities. The Navy heavily subsidizes education costs, even covering them fully in some cases. They actively support sailors in their pursuit of a college education, providing opportunities for higher education on base or at traditional institutions while covering most, if not all, educational expenses.
Undergraduate Programs – For undergraduates within the U.S. Navy, there are two primary avenues for pursuing education. The Navy College Program enables sailors to earn college credits through on-the-job training and complete coursework on base or during deployments. Additionally, the Navy’s Tuition Assistance Program covers up to 100% of the expenses for courses taken at accredited colleges or universities during a sailor’s off-duty hours.
Graduate and Professional Programs – Active duty officers in the U.S. Navy have the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees such as Master’s or Ph.D. programs at the Naval Postgraduate School in California. These programs offer degrees in fields including engineering, business, and information sciences.
Healthcare Programs – The U.S. Navy provides extensive educational pathways for sailors aspiring to become healthcare professionals, including physicians, dentists, nurses, or healthcare administrators. These programs offer financial support that can encompass full or partial tuition coverage, paid salaries during coursework, and opportunities for paid internships.
Navy ROTC Scholarships
About: NROTC scholarships support individuals who intend to enter the U.S. Navy or Marines. Scholarships cover 2-3 years of an academic degree. Application materials include a fitness assessment, college transcripts, and optional letters of reference. In exchange for financial assistance, recipients agree to four or five years of military service.
Navy League of the United States Scholarships
About: The Navy League offers scholarships for high school seniors who will attend accredited colleges or universities. Children and dependents of Navy, Marine Corps, Merchant Marine, and Coast Guard personnel can apply. Several scholarships also support grandchildren of these branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, while others give preference to enrollees in specific disciplines.
About: Navy scholarships provide money for tuition, fees, and textbooks at approved colleges and universities. Additional scholarship programs support individuals studying civil engineering, nursing, or nuclear propulsion. Upon graduation, recipients enter military service in their specialized field.
Scholarships from the US Air Force
Much like the U.S. Navy, the United States Air Force places a strong emphasis on education. They offer commissioned officers and enlisted personnel various opportunities for pursuing higher education, including scholarships, tuition assistance programs, and access to the Air Force’s community college. These educational benefits are highly advantageous for individuals serving their country in the armed forces.
Below are some of the scholarships and tuition assistance programs available through the U.S. Air Force:
The Air Force Tuition Assistance Program
Amount: up to $4500
About: The ATAP aims to motivate active-duty personnel to pursue further education during their off-duty hours. This program offers financial support of up to $4500 annually to offset tuition expenses at both two-year and four-year colleges or universities. Students have the flexibility to attend classes either on base or off base.
U.S. Air Force ROTC Scholarships
Deadline: between July 1st and December 31st of your senior year
About: U.S. Air Force ROTC scholarships cover tuition and fees and are available to college-bound students, current enrollees, and enlisted airmen. Eligibility is based on academic performance and physical ability, with a commitment to military service as a requirement. Scholarships are also awarded to those pursuing in-demand majors like nursing, engineering, and foreign languages.
The Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program
About: The Nursing Enlisted Commissioning Program (NECP) allows active-duty airmen to earn a nursing degree while working towards an officer commission. NECP students study nursing at accredited colleges or universities with active ROTC programs, receiving financial support of up to $15,000 in scholarships plus a one-time $600 payment for books and supplies.
Air Force Association Scholarships
Deadline: AFA accepts scholarship applications between December 1 and April 30
About: AFA scholarships benefit a diverse group, including current Air Force personnel, those with Air Force legacy through their parents, and spouses of active Air Force members and veterans. AFA also extends funding to students pursuing specific majors and to aspiring pilots who plan to join the Air Force upon graduation.
The Airman Scholarship and Commission Program
Amount: up to $18,000
About: The Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program (ASCP) empowers enlisted personnel to pursue a bachelor’s degree while working towards an officer commission. ASCP participants receive substantial support, including up to $15,000 in scholarship funds, along with an additional $600 for books and supplies.
U.S. Air Force Healthcare Professionals Scholarships
About: The Air Force offers scholarships to healthcare students, covering tuition, fees, textbooks, and equipment, with a stipend included. Recipients commit to 45 days of active duty during their scholarship period. Commissioned officers pursuing advanced degrees in fields like pharmaceutical science, optometry, nursing, and clinical psychology can receive full-tuition scholarships with living allowances. After graduation, they serve one year of active duty for each year of support, highlighting the Air Force’s commitment to higher education for its personnel.
Scholarships for Outstanding Airmen
About: The SOAR program oversees 50 annual scholarships for enlisted airmen pursuing a college education. Recipients temporarily separate from the Air Force during their studies but commit to returning after graduation to fulfill their tour of duty. Scholarship amounts are based on the total tuition cost.
Scholarships from the U.S. Marine Corps
Apart from ROTC programs, the U.S. Marine Corps has a few funding options for active-duty service members, including scholarships like the Women Marines Association Scholarship and the Frederick C. Branch Scholarship. Marine Corps ROTC assists with undergraduate education expenses, leading to a commission as Second Lieutenant upon graduation. Enlisted Marines at the midshipman rank may also qualify for funding to complete their bachelor’s degrees at accredited institutions.
The few additional scholarships available to Marine Corps personnel include:
Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation Scholarships
About: This foundation offers scholarships for individuals earning undergraduate degrees and students enrolled in career and technical education programs. Applicants must be children of active, reserve, or veteran members of the Marine Corps. The candidate must demonstrate academic potential, provide documentation of honorable service, and submit tax documents for consideration.
Marine Corps League Scholarship
About: The Marine Corps League Scholarships support undergraduates attending accredited institutions and are available to Marine Corps League members, their spouses, or dependents. Applicants need to submit transcripts, proof of enrollment, and sponsorship documentation. These scholarships can be renewed annually for a maximum of four years.
The Frederick C. Branch Scholarship
About: This program, named in honor of the Marine Corps’ first African-American officer, provides scholarships of varying durations—two, three, and four years. These scholarships are intended for students intending to enroll in historically black colleges and universities across the country.
The Colonel Richard A. Christie Memorial Fund
About: This program provides scholarship funds to Marines who are leaving the service to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Recipients will receive up to $3000 per year in scholarship funds.
The Women’s Marines Association Scholarship
Deadline: The application period is February 1– March 31st
About: This scholarship is open to active-duty marines, their spouses, and their children. The maximum award is $1500, which can be used at any accredited college, university, or trade school.
Scholarships from the US Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard Academy admits approximately three hundred students annually, providing a tuition-free education at its institution. Additionally, the US Coast Guard offers financial support to individuals interested in enrolling after completing a traditional university education.
Coast Guard Foundation Enlisted Education Grants
About: The Coast Guard Foundation Enlisted Education Grants offer variable amounts of financial assistance for Coast Guard personnel seeking support with tuition, fees, and associated academic or technical training expenses. These grants are open to both current servicemembers and veterans, with funding provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Deadlines and grant amounts may vary.
College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative
About: The College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative is open to individuals entering or currently enrolled in a bachelor’s program at an approved institution who are interested in joining the U.S. Coast Guard. This initiative provides funding for two years of tuition, books, and fees, along with additional allowances for housing and stipends. Recipients are required to dedicate a minimum of 16 hours each month to Coast Guard duties during the school year. Please note that online degree programs are not eligible for this initiative, and application deadlines and grant amounts may vary.
Other Military Scholarships
The U.S. military is dedicated to supporting the education of its service members’ families, offering numerous scholarships for military spouses and the children or dependents of active, retired, disabled, or deceased military personnel. Beyond the inherent benefits of serving one’s country and experiencing global travel, a multitude of educational assistance programs exist nationwide for military families.
Additionally, depending on your state of residence, your local government may provide grants and scholarships tailored to military spouses and children, with eligibility criteria varying by program. Notable scholarships for military spouses and children include those offered by organizations like the Fisher House Foundation and FAFSA, which provides Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants and Federal Pell Grants.
The “No Angel Left Behind” initiative extends support to the offspring of fallen soldiers and wounded warriors, aiding them in pursuing the American Dream through financial assistance.
For military spouses and children of U.S. Army service members, the Spouse Education Assistance Program is available. Meanwhile, the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program, the Scholarship for Air Force Enlisted Member’s Dependent Children, and the AFSA Scholarship Program (for dependents of Air Force Sergeants Association members) cater to individuals connected to the U.S. Air Force.
Moreover, spouses and dependent children of deceased or POW/MIA military members may be eligible for free undergraduate tuition, as exemplified by the University of Alaska – Fairbanks program. To qualify, the service member must have perished in the line of duty or due to duty-related injuries, or be designated as a POW or MIA. This scholarship encompasses up to 36 months of tuition-free undergraduate education, with oversight by the Alaska State Office of Veteran’s Affairs, and applicants are required to contact a financial aid office at the University of Alaska—Anchorage, the University of Alaska—Seattle, or the University of Alaska—Fairbanks.
The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard also collaborate with organizations like the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (providing interest-free loans and grants), the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, and the Coast Guard Foundation to offer scholarships tailored to military spouses and children.
How to qualify for military scholarships
For the best chance at winning scholarships, dedicate time to your applications and ensure you meet the eligibility criteria. Here’s a quick guide:
- Active-Duty Members: If you’re currently serving in the military, you’re eligible for scholarships designed to support active-duty personnel pursuing higher education.
- Military Veterans: Many scholarships are exclusively for veterans, so if you’ve served in any branch, you likely qualify.
- Family Connections: Some scholarships extend to military family members, including children and spouses. For these, your family’s military background matters. For instance, the Bryent Smothermon PTSD Awareness Scholarship is for children of veterans.
- Additional Requirements: Be aware that certain scholarships may have extra conditions like location, disabilities, or specific fields of study. Always review the eligibility criteria before applying.
Applying for Military Scholarships
When it comes to applying for scholarships as an active-duty military member, timing is crucial. Starting early provides ample time to secure funding for your college education. Some scholarships are even available to high school students with military aspirations or family ties to the armed forces, allowing you to begin your application process before graduation. However, it’s never too late to begin your search; numerous scholarships cater to undergraduate and graduate students alike.
When applying for military scholarships, carefully consider each award’s eligibility requirements to ensure a good fit. With so many qualified applicants, it’s essential to invest time and effort into your application to stand out. To enhance your chances of success, adhere to the following tips:
- Find Well-Fitting scholarships: Target scholarships with fewer competitors, increasing your chances of success. Seek out those with specific eligibility criteria, such as particular military service backgrounds or experiences like PTSD. The fewer applicants, the better your odds.
- Submit your applications early: Applying promptly can boost your chances of success. Seek out newly available scholarships and be among the first applicants.
- Craft exceptional essays: For scholarships requiring essays, deliver your best work. Address the prompt thoroughly, employ a captivating introduction, maintain focus within the word limit, and conclude effectively. Proofread diligently before submission.
- Optimize Your Profile: Create a distinctive, detailed profile to provide donors with a better understanding of your unique qualities. Maximize your profile’s bold points to enhance your prospects further.