Many people imagine college students as recent high school graduates, but the truth is that there are plenty of students who attend college as an adult. Women returning to college may be seeking a first-time bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree; either way, they likely need to find ways to pay for tuition, supplies and even child care. Many organizations offer scholarship opportunities specifically for women returning to college. Here are some to look into.

Top 6 scholarships for women returning to college

Returning to college as an adult can be overwhelming, especially if you have to worry about child care, mortgage payments and other common expenses on top of your education. Thankfully, there are plenty of scholarship opportunities for women returning to college. The scholarships below are a great place to start, although broadening your search can help you find scholarships geared toward your specific interests and needs.

1. Live Your Dream Award

Soroptimist offers a scholarship for women who are the primary financial providers for their families and are enrolled in or accepted to a vocational training or undergraduate degree program. Recipients of the award may use it for any educational costs they wish — including child care and transportation. Applicants must prove financial need and have no existing graduate degree. Applications open August 1st and close November 15th.

Amount: $1,000 to $16,000
Deadline: Nov. 15, 2023
Apply here:

2. AAUW Career Development Grant

The American Association of University Women offers a grant for women who currently hold a bachelor’s degree and wish to change career paths or reenter the workforce in social sciences, health and medical sciences or education.

The funds can support a second bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a qualifying certification or technical program. Funds are not available for doctorate programs. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to “education and equity for women and girls” and career goals that align with this new field of study. Applications open on August 1st and close on November 15th. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and they must have received their last degree before June 30th, 2015.

Amount: $2,000 to $20,000
Deadline: Nov. 15, 2023
Apply here:

3. The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program

The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program (WISP) is a scholarship specifically designed for women who have experienced intimate partner violence/abuse. It is meant to help survivors gain independence through education. WISP does not require applicants to attend school full time, but the number of credit hours they are enrolled in does impact the amount awarded.

To qualify for this scholarship, applicants must identify as women survivors of intimate partner abuse and have been separated from their abuser for a minimum of one year. They must also have sought help from a non-profit agency that works with survivors of intimate partner abuse and worked with this organization for at least six months. This nonprofit organization will serve as the applicant’s sponsor throughout the process.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, permanent legal residents, or have an immigration status that allows them to apply for FAFSA to qualify. They must also have applied or been accepted to an accredited U.S. institution. Preference is given to returning WISP students, students in technical or vocational programs, students pursuing their first undergraduate degree, and single mothers with young children.

Amount: $500-$2,000 per semester or quarter
Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis
Apply here:

4. ANSWER Scholarship Endowment

ANSWER is an organization that provides scholarships to mothers in nine North Carolina counties and two South Carolina counties. The ANSWER Scholarship Endowment is geared toward mothers aged 25 and older raising school-age children and seeking a first-time college degree.

Award recipients are required to participate in the Mentors for Mom program, which hosts monthly workshops tackling professional and career development. Recipients must also maintain a GPA of at least 2.5. ANSWER gives preference to applicants who have financial need, demonstrate the potential for academic success, are single parents and have “good moral character.”

Funds are paid directly to the recipient’s school and specifically cover tuition, fees, books and supplies. Scholarships can be awarded up to four years consecutively.

Amount: Typically range from $2500 per year for two-year programs up to $5000 per year for four-year programs
Deadline: March 1st, 2023 (applications opened in December 2022)
Apply here:

5. The P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education

The Philanthropic Education Organization (P.E.O)’s Program for Continuing Education grants up to $3000 to women whose education was interrupted and are returning to school. The PCE is a one-time needs-based grant available to citizens or legal permanent residents of the U.S. and Canada. The PCE grant can be used for tuition, books and supplies, testing and graduation fees, childcare and transportation. This grant cannot be used for living expenses or to repay educational loans.

While membership in P.E.O. is not required to receive this grant, applicants must be sponsored by a P.E.O. chapter. To learn more about seeking chapter sponsorship, you can visit their website.

Amount: up to $3,000
Deadline: Not specified
Apply here:

6. Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund

The Jeannette Rankin Foundation offers three scholarship opportunities for women and nonbinary individuals pursuing a trade skills certification, associate degree or first-time bachelor’s degree. All three scholarships are intended for students who demonstrate financial need, are renewable for up to five years, and are distributed directly to recipients. These scholarships provide unrestricted non-tuition funding, meaning the funds can be used however the recipient sees fit.

The National Scholar Grant is available to recipients over the age of 35. The Emerge Grant is available to recipients over 25 living in Montana or Georgia. Applicants for these grants must submit two recommendation letters and a statement about their goals, their plan for reaching those goals and how they will use their education to give back to the community.

The Native Woman Scholar Grant is available to recipients over 25 attending Montana Tribal Colleges. Applicants must be able to show proof of enrollment in a Montana Tribal College, as well as Tribal Affiliation and Pell/SNAP eligibility.

Amount: Not specified

  • National Scholar and Emerge grants: February 17, 2023
  • Native Woman Scholar Grant: Applications are currently open and will be accepted through May 2023

Apply here:

How women going back to college can find scholarships

The best way to find scholarships as a woman returning to school is to use an online scholarship search engine. With an online database, you can search for unique scholarships, like those offered to women going back to college. The more niche you make your search, the better your chances of getting the scholarship since unique scholarships have fewer applicants.

Scholarship search engines also list all of the information you need before applying, like the deadline, amount and eligibility requirements, and some let you save scholarships that interest you so you can cultivate a database of potential funding.

How to increase your chances of winning scholarships

When it comes to winning scholarship money, there are a few simple things you can do to maximize your potential earnings. Here are some things to consider as you start the application process:

  • Stay organized: Create a spreadsheet listing all of the scholarship details so you can calculate your total earnings, keep track of requirements and stay up to date with deadlines.
  • Focus on unique traits: There are scholarships for just about everything now, and if you have a unique hobby or passion, you have a better chance of winning award money.
  • Apply quickly: Apply as soon as possible to any scholarships you’re interested in, since some scholarships operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Applying early also helps you avoid a last-minute deadline crunch, where you may not produce your best work.
  • Seek a second opinion: Because many scholarships are competitive, it’s important to ensure that your application is free of errors. A trusted friend, family member or colleague can offer help proofreading essays or other application materials.