Higher education costs continue to climb, making it difficult for some families to send their children to college. According to CollegeBoard, the average tuition and fees for public four-year institutions rose from $10,210 in 2018 to $10,440 in 2019. Over the same year, the average cost of four-year private schools rose from $35,680 to $36,880.
Fortunately for veterans and dependents, the GI Bill® helps cover a significant portion of college-related costs. Depending on the situation, students could see the government cover nearly all of their educational costs.
However, veterans and dependents only receive aid up to a certain point. To help cover any remaining educational costs, many learners use scholarships, including those specific to veterans or family members of veterans. These scholarships might also help veterans or dependents who do not receive access to GI Bill benefits or attend a school not covered by the GI Bill.
This resource explores some of the many scholarships available to veterans and their dependents and explains why many veterans and their dependents use scholarships each year.
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The Value of Military Scholarships
Military scholarships provide many benefits to learners in various situations. Some reasons to consider scholarships for veterans and their dependents include the following.
The GI Bill® Has Limitations
Created in 1944, the GI Bill helps veterans and their family members cover most of the costs of college, graduate school, and training programs. However, this program sets limitations. To become eligible for GI Bill benefits, learners must attend an approved school. While students can easily find approved schools through the GI Bill search tool, many institutions do not qualify learners for benefits.
Benefits also vary depending on how learners study, with enrollees who study part time or online receiving smaller benefits. The GI Bill also only helps cover educational costs for a limited time, so part-time learners who take longer to complete a program must find other ways to pay their tuition.
Military Scholarships Recognize the Veteran’s Service
Military scholarships only accept applicants who either served in the military or are related to a veteran or active military member. These scholarships honor the service of military members and veterans by extending financial awards to them and their family members.
Like other scholarships, military scholarships award learners with free money. However, many military scholarships extend much better awards than non-military scholarships. Some military scholarships award money that recipients can apply toward tuition, fees, housing, meals, other educational expenses, and living costs. Most regular scholarships only help cover tuition and fees.
Allows Veterans to Continue Serving Others
Veterans and military members gain valuable leadership experience and develop decision-making skills while serving. Many industries desire professionals with these qualities and a degree.
Military scholarships allow veterans to continue learning and developing new skills, helping them secure high-level positions within various organizations. Some scholarships help veterans find work within public service to continue serving the people. Others aim to transition veterans into civilian careers within the private sector, bringing their training and skills into the workplace. Some military scholarships may require veterans or dependents to pursue a career in either the public or private sector.
Allows Family Members to Also Benefit from a Veteran’s Service
While the GI Bill helps veterans cover a degree’s costs, the benefits do not always extend to their family members. However, military scholarships work differently. Family members and dependents support military members while they serve, so many military scholarships support family members when they attend college.
Scholarships for dependents may set specific requirements. For example, the scholarship may require that only children of active military and veterans apply, Other scholarships may accept spouses or even grandchildren of veterans. Spouses and children of veterans can also secure more than one military scholarship.
Military Scholarships Are Less Competitive
By only allowing military members, veterans, spouses, and dependents to apply for military scholarships, these scholarships offer far less competition than other scholarships. Despite offering large financial awards to learners, military scholarships accept a relatively low number of applicants.
Military scholarships also prioritize service time and individual character over other factors like GPA, academic merit, or previous education. This makes military scholarships more accessible to all veterans and dependents. Many organizations offer military scholarships, so veterans can apply to plenty of different scholarships, increasing their chances of winning an award.
Veteran & Dependent Scholarships by State
When someone begins to look for scholarships, it’s easy to get overwhelmed: there are literally thousands to choose from. To make the search a little easier, we’ve come up with a small sample of what’s potentially available to veterans and their dependents. These are organized by state.
Where to Find Additional Veteran & Dependent Scholarships
While there are plenty of military scholarships, veterans and dependents could spend hours searching for scholarships. However, by researching different organizations and the scholarships they offer, veterans and dependents could find niche military scholarships with few applicants. See below for some organizations to research, along with several potential scholarships.
A domestic section of the Army that serves the entire country and local communities, the National Guard allows members to serve part time. Many members work full time or attend college. To reward members for their service, the National Guard organizes several scholarships to cover some or all of learners’ costs.
Who Can Apply: This award helps National Guard members cover the cost of their tuition, room and board, books, and miscellaneous fees with multiple awards. Learners can use this award for up to four years, though the award does not combine with the GI Bill’s Chapter 1606/MGIB-SR or Chapter 1607/REAP.
Amount: Full tuition or $10,000
Who Can Apply: Created for learners entering their junior year of college, this scholarship awards students for up to two years. Winners choose between a full-tuition scholarship or $10,000 toward room and board. Students also win money for books, an allowance for 10 months of the year, and drill pay.
Amount: Full tuition or $10,000
Schools of Interest
School choice plays a pivotal role in scholarships for veterans and their dependents. Some schools maintain close connections with the military and offer special scholarships to learners who served. Many schools of interest could already be schools of interest, too.
Who Can Apply: Technically a grant that works similarly to military scholarships, this stipend awards a veteran (not a family member) with a one-time payment. Applicants must be enrolled in at least six credits in a graduate program through Georgetown’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Who Can Apply: Available to spouses and dependent children of veterans who lost their lives or became disabled during their service, this scholarship awards students annually. Applicants must apply for the scholarship each year they attend Texas A&M University.
Who Can Apply: This fund helps enrolled veterans cover costs beyond those covered by the GI Bill and federal financial aid. Applicants must be military veterans, complete at least nine undergraduate credits or six graduate credits, and maintain a 2.5 GPA.
Amount: Up to $3,000
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), a nonprofit composed entirely of veterans and military service members, works to help members in various ways, including securing financial aid and compensation for veterans. Learners can find scholarship opportunities through their local VFW organization.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship recognizes veterans for their service through financial assistance. The scholarship awards up to $5,000, and the VFW only selects one winner each semester. Applicants must be veterans or active-duty military members who demonstrate a need for financial assistance.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Chartered by Congress in 1919, the American Legion aids patriotic veterans by developing a sense of patriotism and honor among the youth and communities. The organization relies heavily on volunteerism, and dependents with relevant volunteer experience could win a scholarship.
Who Can Apply: Only dependents whose military member parent died while on active duty after 9/11 or have been assigned a disability rating of 50% or greater may apply. Applicants can win this award up to six times.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship awarded over $6.5 million since its creation in 1996. Only undergraduate students at the junior level who are descendants of veterans and attended Boys State or Auxiliary Girls State may apply. All finalists receive at least $1,250 in scholarships.
Specific Military Branches
Veterans and active military from specific military branches could qualify for some military scholarships. These scholarships might also extend to dependents of those from specific military branches. Each branch organizes its own set of scholarships, including the opportunities below.
Who Can Apply: Offered by the U.S. Air Force, this program awards active-duty Air Force members who enlist in the Force Reserve. Applicants may study toward a degree at any level.Amount: Up to $15,000
Who Can Apply: Available to Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve members, this program helps spouses of active-duty military or veterans receive an undergraduate degree. Specific qualification requirements depend on the Army member’s services and current status.
Amount: Based on need
Nonprofit Organizations Supporting Service Members, Veterans, Families
Aside from colleges, military branches, and veteran associations, some nonprofits dedicate themselves to supporting active military members, veterans, and family of service members. These military scholarships could help both those who serve and their dependents. Degree-seekers can explore dozens of these kinds of awards.
Who Can Apply: Created to help minor dependents of active duty, veteran, reserve, or National Guard members of all branches (beyond just the Air Force), this program awards one scholarship to a single winner each year. The scholarship prioritizes applicants whose parent or guardian served for eight or more years, or whose parent died while serving on active duty.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship looks for veterans, active duty, Guard or Reserve members, spouses, and dependents currently enrolled in high school. Applicants must plan on pursuing a full-time undergraduate, graduate, or technical degree. AMVETS selects winners based on academic merit and financial need.
Amount: Up to $12,000
Who Can Apply: This scholarship awards roughly $90,000 each year to applicants based on academic merit, financial need, and leadership qualities. Applicants must be veterans or dependents of members of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Who Can Apply: Available to undergraduate learners, including those pursuing a non-degree certificate, this scholarship awards children and stepchildren of active duty, reserve, or veterans of the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps.
Amount: Based on financial need
Who Can Apply: Awarded one time per year, this scholarship helps spouses of active-duty military members and veterans further their education. Applicants may pursue nearly any type of education, including a degree, certificate, continuing education credits, and licensure.
Who Can Apply: Offered either as grants or interest-free loans, this award helps students pursuing an undergraduate or master’s degree pay for their education. Applicants must be children or spouses of active duty, retired, or deceased Sailors or Marines.
Who Can Apply: This one-time award helps cover educational costs for dependents or spouses of active-duty, discharged, or retired military members. Applicants need a 2.0 GPA on their most recent academic record. They may pursue a degree at any two-year, four-year, vocational, or trade school.
For Profit Organizations
Unlike nonprofits, for-profit organizations offer awards to military members even though the organization’s line of work may be unrelated to veterans. While more difficult to find than nonprofit scholarships, veterans and dependents can still find military scholarships through for-profit organizations.
Who Can Apply: Veterans, active-duty military members, and direct dependents may apply for this scholarship. Applicants must plan on pursuing an undergraduate degree or vocational/technical degree and must not already hold a bachelor’s degree. Bonsai Finance issues a one-time award to one winner each year.
How to Get Veteran & Dependent Scholarships
Those interested in veteran scholarships and grants should prepare before beginning applications. Most scholarships require veterans to submit proof of service and official documents, so veterans and dependents should gather these materials.
Dependents may require paperwork from parents or grandparents, and some scholarships also require proof of kinship. To save time during the application process, gather these materials in advance. Aside from paperwork, most scholarships for veterans and dependents require similar application materials, including essays, recommendations, and school transcripts. All of these materials play an important role in sourcing a veteran and dependent scholarship.
Steps to Applying for Scholarships
While scholarships for veterans and dependents provide valuable financial aid, applying for them requires a substantial amount of time. To simplify the process, applicants should follow a streamlined approach. Taking applications step-by-step can reduce application fatigue and ensure that you apply to scholarships on time.
- Start as Soon as Possible
- Although a scholarship’s application deadline may be months away, you should begin the application as soon as possible. Scholarships all set different times of the year when they accept applicants, so completing one application quickly could enable learners to focus on scholarships with shorter deadlines.
- Identify Recommenders
- As with college applications, scholarship applications often request that applicants submit several recommendation letters. Scholarships may require letters from specific individuals, such as teachers, employers, or military members, so identify people who fit these requirements willing to help you secure a scholarship.
- Gather Necessary Documentation
- Beyond proof of service, scholarships might require students to submit proof of kinship, proof of college enrollment, high school transcripts, and proof of volunteerism. The requirements can seem daunting, but gathering the materials in advance could reduce fatigue and hassle during the application process.
- Write an Essay
- Many scholarships, including military scholarships for dependents, require applicants to submit a personal essay. Scholarships also usually set specific prompts, so applicants must write a different essay for each application. Study writing techniques, and think of several experiences related to the military that could apply to essay prompts.
- Submit the Scholarship on Time
- All the time spent working on application goes to waste if you miss the deadline. Submitting an application on time adds to the pressure of the process, so reduce stress by keeping a tight timeline and creating a calendar tracking due dates for each scholarship.
5 Tips for Getting that Scholarship
Beyond required application materials, many learners boost the quality of their scholarship applications through community service, connections, and demonstrating good character. Some scholarships may also require some of the items below. Ranked in order of importance, these tips could help you win that scholarship.
- Have Proof of Military Affiliation
- Often required, proof of military affiliation demonstrates status as a veteran, active military member, or dependent. Make sure you secure the right documents early on. When scanning the documents ensure that the image maintains clarity and quality. Pay special attention to any formatting requirements set by the scholarship application.
- Engage in Community Service
- Many scholarships want to see applicants with leadership qualities and a dedication to their communities. Community service improves all scholarship applications, and performing community service with the right veteran organizations could also present networking opportunities or potential scholarships.
- Follow the Directions
- Always check the directions before starting any application. Many scholarships reject applications with small mistakes, including misnamed documents or incorrect file formats. Double-check that your application complies with the directions. If directions seem unclear, contact the scholarship provider with any questions.
- Be Honest
- Never lie on a scholarship application. Those who review scholarship applications usually review materials to ensure authenticity, and dishonest applications never get selected. Honesty also allows applicants to demonstrate their trustworthiness and good character, two traits that help students win scholarships.
Find More Information on Education for Military Veterans & Their Families
College is expensive, even after taking advantage of the GI Bill. Luckily, there are a variety of additional sources of financial assistance for veterans.
Scholarships for Vocational School Making College Affordable for Veterans
Another added benefit of the GI Bill is allowing eligible family members to make use of its generous financial assistance for educational purposes.
GI Bill Benefits
The US government provides some fairly generous financial aid offerings, but it can take additional effort to make the most of what the GI Bill has to offer.
Maximizing GI Bill Benefits
Officially known as the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, the Forever GI Bill allows beneficiaries of the Post 9/11 GI Bill to have more time to take advantage of its benefits.
Understanding the Forever GI Bill
From the Expert
Richard Sorensen, president of Tuition Funding Sources, founded the scholarship database in 1987. Tuition Funding Sources has been helping students find money for college for over 30 years, offering more than seven million individual scholarships and more than $41 billion in aid.
Why should veterans and their dependents apply for scholarships even if they have military education benefits available to them?
The amount of aid for veterans varies among programs. Each program places some exceptions or limitations on benefits. Veterans should use scholarship funds like gap insurance to pay for any tuition, housing, fees, or books not covered by their benefits. Dependents of veterans may or may not be covered by the benefit programs, making scholarships even more important for them.
Is it possible that scholarships might clash with military education benefits? How can students ensure this does not happen?
Scholarships do not typically clash with military education benefits. Scholarship sponsors want their funds to be used and will make sure their awards are available to veterans or their dependents without any complications or conflicts with their existing military benefit programs.
What tips can you offer veterans, specifically, concerning searching and applying for scholarships?
The best advice is to apply often and early. Apply for as many scholarships as possible. Many scholarships are available to anyone. Treat the application process like a part-time job, spending a few hours each week searching and applying. Winning a scholarship requires effort and discipline, which should give veterans a head start.
Applying early improves applicants’ chances of their application being seen and carefully reviewed by the selection committee. Early applications have a much better chance of creating a positive impression. Most students procrastinate and apply near the deadline, making it difficult for their application to stand out and be seen.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website.