Scholarships & Financial Aid for Women

Scholarships and other financial aid for women are helping female students pursue new educational opportunities. Learn where to find them and how to apply.

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After years of women trailing behind men in college attainment, there are now more women graduating from college than men. However, the cost of attending college and graduate school has been steadily rising over the years – even after accounting for inflation – leading to higher levels of student debt. Many financial aid opportunities are created specifically for female students seeking higher education. By taking advantage of grants, scholarships, loans and alternative means of funding, women have an easier path toward their desired education and career. Continue reading to learn about the importance of financial aid for female students, where to find funding, and how to secure it.

Why Scholarships for Women Matter

Women can apply for general, coed aid, but as the historic underrepresentation of women in many professional and academic areas persists today, scholarships designed specifically for female students hold great importance. Here are a few key ways scholarships are improving opportunities for women.

Narrow the Gender Pay Gap
In 2014, women who worked full-time made 21 percent less than men on average. The gap has narrowed over the years, largely due to women achieving higher levels of education. Reducing the cost of higher education by making scholarships available to female students helps women continue closing the wage gap.
Widen Access to Traditionally Male Dominated Fields
There are many fields currently underrepresented by women. Some of the major areas include science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and corporate finance. There are other fields that are dominated by men, like mining, construction and firefighting, but they don't usually require the same level of college or graduate education. By making the educational paths to these male-dominated professions less expensive, female scholarships can lead to more gender diversity in the workplace.
Help Women Find Work and Gain Skills
Women have traditionally comprised a smaller portion of the labor force than men, due in part to their traditional roles as caregivers and homemakers. Times are changing, but women are still often at a disadvantage when they do not have the marketable skills needed to gain well-paying jobs. Fortunately, many organizations realize this problem and have created scholarships for women who want to re-enter college or the workforce after taking a break to raise their kids.

Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, American Association of University Women

Acing the Women's Scholarship Application

Scholarships for women can be extremely competitive, with one or a small handful of awards sought by hundreds of applicants. They can also require an extensive application process, involving essays, letters of recommendation and interviews. Like all scholarship applicants, women need to be persistent and find ways to stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips for crafting a convincing scholarship application.

Strong Personal Essay

  • Take your time
    Completing an essay takes a lot more time and effort than filling out an application and attaching a transcript, but it can also serve as a way for a scholarship committee to determine who is truly dedicated to the scholarship's goal or mission.
  • Be honest
    Women should include their accomplishments, talents, skills and experiences. If skills are lacking in a particular area, explain how the scholarship might help improve them.
  • Get edited
    A fresh set of eyes can find mistakes that even excellent writers and grammarians may have missed the first time around.

Convincing Letters of Recommendation

  • Choose wisely
    Applicants should find a recommendation from someone who knows them very well – regardless of gender. (Female students shouldn't feel obliged to get any or all endorsements from women in order to stand out on their application). An individual who has great stories or examples of an applicant's merits will be able to write a more authentic and compelling letter of recommendation than someone who only knows the applicant on a surface level.
  • Give plenty of time
    It takes time to write a thoughtful, persuasive recommendation. Plan ahead and give a recommender at least a month to complete the letter. Providing too little time can result not only in a mediocre recommendation, but also a frustrated resource who may be less willing to write letters in the future.

Extracurricular Activities

  • Stay busy
    Women who show that they spend their free time engaging in activities related to the goals or beliefs of the scholarship they're applying for may have a leg up on the competition when the awarding committee makes their final decision. For example, students applying for a scholarship focused on women's leadership have a better chance of receiving the award if they can cite one or more student clubs or organizations where they've had a leadership role.
  • Don't forget seemingly unrelated points
    Not all noteworthy activities have to be directly related to a particular scholarship. Extracurricular activities, even seemingly unrelated ones, can speak to an applicant's interests, skills and accomplishments – the challenge is connecting these qualities to the women's scholarship being applied to.

More Financial Aid Opportunities for Women

Scholarships aren't the only types of financial aid available to female students. Local, federal and school-based aid is often awarded, and women can apply for loans or even ask for donations as a means of funding their educations. Most federal funding requires students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Click the links below for a deeper look at all available options.

Expert Financial Aid Tips From Ashley Hill
Expert Financial Aid Tips From Ashley Hill
Ashley Hill is the CEO/Founder of ALH Group LLC. Ashley is a Scholarship Search Strategist passionate about teaching overwhelmed and stressed students how to leverage their talents and achievements to win merit scholarships to help lower college costs. She is the author of The Ultimate Guide for Finding and Winning More Money for College Now.

What's the most common misconception about financial aid or scholarships for women?

The most common misconception about financial aid for women is that they have to just accept the financial aid award letter as the final word. Don't hesitate to contact the financial aid office to ask for additional aid. [Another] misconception about scholarships for women is that they should only search for scholarships for women. There are scholarships based on career interest, passions, hobbies, residence, financial need, academics, volunteer experience, and more! It is crucial to search beyond scholarships for women.

What's your number-one tip for women filling out scholarship applications?

Don't be afraid to share your achievements, life experiences, and talents when appropriate. This is the best way to handle the competition with applying for scholarships. No two students are alike. Women should use their unique qualities and experiences to their advantage.

What are some unusual places where women might be able to find scholarships?

Some unusual places where women might be able to find scholarships include college financial aid websites, industry association websites, churches, car dealerships, Rotary clubs, and local banks.

Women's Financial Aid Resources & Organizations

Not sure where to continue your financial aid research? These links can help. Many of these are tailored specifically for financial aid for female students.

American Association of University Women

The AAUW is a major organization that works to promote equality of women in education.

American Medical Women's Association

A multidisciplinary organization founded in 1915, the AMWA works to improve women's health and encourage women work in the medical fields.

Association for Women in Mathematics

The AWM is devoted to helping women have careers in mathematics and ensuring their equal treatment within mathematics professions and areas of study.

Association for Women in Science

The mission of AWIS is to ensure women have equal opportunities for careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Distinguished Young Women

Distinguished Young Women is the largest scholarship program for high school girls. In addition to scholarships, the organization provides training to help young women succeed later in life.


Through education and support, FabFems serves as a database of women within the science, technology, engineering and math fields so that young women will have role models to look up to.

Federal Student Aid

Part of the U.S. Department of Education, this is the largest source of student financial aid.

National Association of Women Business Owners

NAWBO represents women-owned businesses in the United States.

Society of Women Engineers

The SWE advocates on behalf of women engineers and educates others about women in engineering.

Related Careers at a Glance

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