Guide to Funding Your Culinary Degree Finding and Applying for Scholarships and Grants

Getting a culinary degree is more popular than ever, especially thanks of the recent success of many cooking shows and celebrity chefs. While such fame and acclaim aren’t guaranteed with a culinary degree, it’s a great place to start – the culinary program teaches the fundamentals of cooking, food safety and healthy eating. More importantly, a culinary degree is an excellent first step toward a career in the food industry.

Types of Financial Aid

Scholarships

This type of financial assistance usually does not need to be repaid and is awarded based on an individual’s characteristics or merit, such as academic record, demographic group, a particular set of skills or academic interest.

  • Scholarships can be awarded by a wide variety of grantors, including the institution where the student is attending school, charitable organizations and corporations.

  • Scholarships can be awarded in one lump sum or paid out at periodic intervals.

  • Some scholarships have to be renewed for each school year or require the student to maintain a given area of study or minimum GPA in order to continue receiving payments.

  • Scholarships come in varying amounts, from less than a hundred dollars to the full cost of attending school, including room and board, tuition and books.

  • Financial need may be a factor in the awarding of some scholarships.

Grants

These are usually given to students based on financial need, but unlike loans, do not need to be repaid.

  • In addition to financial need, many grants are awarded based on academic minority status.

  • One of the most commonly awarded need-based grant is the federal Pell Grant.

  • Grants may be awarded by any number of grantors, although many grants come from the state or federal government.

Loans

Loans are a type of financial aid that must be repaid, usually with interest.

  • Loans are either publicly or privately issued. Public loans are sponsored by the government, while private loans come from private institutions.

  • Subsidized loans usually have a lower interest rate than unsubsidized loans. Another advantage of subsidized loans is that their interest does not accrue until after the student has completed the degree.

Work Study

Work study is a type of financial aid where students work while in school.

  • Work study is different from regular employment is that the school offers the jobs to its students, sometimes with higher than normal pay rates.

  • Work study income is partially funded by the federal government, in addition to funding from the school.

  • Schools that offer work study are very accommodating of the fact that the workers are students, with academic responsibilities that necessitate flexible scheduling.

  • Jobs can be either on or off-campus; those jobs off-campus must be approved.

Culinary Scholarships & Grants

There is a cornucopia of financing options to help pay for a culinary degree, although sifting through all of them can be daunting and confusing. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the scholarships available to culinary students. Taking the time to apply for even just two or three can make a big difference when it comes to financing your culinary education.

Sponsoring Organization: James Beard Foundation
Amount: Varies, but usually at least a few thousand dollars.
Application Deadline: Varies, but usually mid-May.

This program offers multiple scholarships and is intended for high school seniors who will be attending a licensed or accredited culinary school. Awards are based on a variety of factors, including academic performance and financial need.

Sponsoring Organization: The respective local Chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food.
Amount: Varies, based on which local AIWF Chapter awards the scholarship
Application Deadline: Varies, based on which local AIWF Chapter awards the scholarship

Local Chapters of the American Institute of Wine & Food award scholarships to full-time students who are interested in culinary arts and are attending an accredited college.

Sponsoring Organization: Careers through Culinary Arts Program.
Amount: Varies
Application Deadline: Varies

This is a cooking competition; the winner receives a scholarship to pay for the cost of attendance at a top-notch culinary school.

Sponsoring Organization: The National Association of College and University Food Services
Amount: Varies as the award is based on actual tuition and other costs of attendance.
Application Deadline: Varies, but usually mid-February

This scholarship is merit-based and helps students pay for the cost of attending an accredited school in the food services or culinary fields.

Sponsoring Organization: The Culinary Trust
Amount: Varies
Application Deadline: Varies

Awards numerous scholarships and grants to undergraduate and graduate students attending any number of popular or well-known culinary programs.

Sponsoring Organization: Feeding Tomorrow: The Foundation of the Institute of Food Technologists.
Amount: Varies, but typically between $1,000 and $5,000
Application Deadline: Varies, but usually early February.

Feeding Tomorrow awards yearly scholarships to graduate students in the process of obtaining a graduate level food science degree.

Sponsoring Organization: National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
Amount: $2,500
Application Deadline: Varies

Open to all students, including those in graduate school, this scholarship is intended to help any student studying food service, restaurant, hospitality, culinary arts or related field.

Sponsoring Organization: The respective local chapters of the Les Dames d’ Escoffier International.
Amount: Varies, based on which local LDEI chapter awards the scholarship
Application Deadline: Varies, based on which chapter awards the scholarship.

Awarded by individual chapters of the Les Dames d’ Escoffier International, the LDEI Scholarship is given to women pursuing a career in the culinary industry.

Sponsoring Organization: Women Chefs & Restaurateurs
Amount: Varies
Application Deadline: Varies, but usually mid-July.

Provides various scholarship and internship opportunities to women who are receiving a culinary education.

Sponsoring Organization: National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
Amount: Varies
Application Deadline: Varies

This scholarship is awarded every year to disabled students who desire a career in the restaurant, foodservice or hospitality industry.

Sponsoring Organization: CANFIT
Amount: Varies
Application Deadline: March 31

The CANFIT (communities, adolescents, nutrition and fitness) organization gives educational funds to minority students to obtain a degree in nutrition, physical activity or culinary arts.

Sponsoring Organization: The American Culinary Federation Education Foundation and the American Academy of Chefs
Amount: Half of the applicable tuition, up to $500
Application Deadline: None; scholarships are accepted and awarded throughout the year.

This scholarship is intended for culinary professionals who seek additional training and education in the baking or pastry field.

Sponsoring Organization: The American Culinary Federation Education Foundation and the American Academy of Chefs
Amount: Cost of the continuing education course, up to $500
Application Deadline: None; scholarships are accepted and awarded throughout the year.

This scholarship is intended for culinary professionals who seek additional training and education in any approved course (culinary related).

Sponsoring Organization: PesiCo
Amount: $1,000, a paid summer internship at PepsiCo and a paid trip.
Application Deadline: Varies

PepsiCo and Feeding Tomorrow award this scholarship to one lucky student who is pursuing a degree in food science.

Sponsoring Organization: North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers
Amount: Varies; $3,000 annually and $10,000 every other year.
Application Deadline: Varies

The NAFEM awards a scholarship to a student who is attending a culinary arts program and is interested in the equipment and supply aspect of the food industry.

Sponsoring Organization: American Association of Candy Technologists
Amount: $5,000
Application Deadline: Varies, but usually early April.

The American Association of Candy Technologists awards a scholarship to one college undergraduate who has a proven interest in confectionary technology.

Writing or Public Relations

IFEC Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization: International Foodservice Editorial Council
Amount: Varies, but typically between $500 and $4,000
Application Deadline: Varies, but usually mid-March.

The International Foodservice Editorial Council awards a scholarship to students are preparing for a career in the foodservice or beverage industry, but more specifically, a media-oriented niche, such as journalist, food photography or public relations.

From the Student Financial Aid Expert

Shannon Amundson Director of Financial Planning and Assistance Cornell College
Q

How early should high school students begin looking for scholarships, grants and the like?

AIdeally students would begin this process junior year of high school with a search of outside scholarships and grants from private donors and organizations.  There are some scholarships that are available to juniors but it also allows students to know what types of deadlines will be expected of them senior year when the majority of college applications, outside scholarship and grant applications are available.

Q

What’s the biggest mistake that most students make when applying for financial aid?  

AThey file only the FAFSA®, expecting that is the only application for all types of aid. Then, when their initial package from a school that includes federal, state, and institutional funding sources is not enough to meet their needs, many deadlines have passed for outside sources of funding.  

Q

A student comes to your office with a concern: Their financial aid packages will not be enough, even with scholarship money. What advice would you offer?

A I would begin by talking about what types of areas they have looked for funding.  Have they investigated outside scholarships options that are still available?  What have they saved from summer and part time work? What type of contribution could they possibly get extended family members (one student asked for tuition money for Christmas in lieu of gifts, it helped pay for part of their second semester each year)?  When we have exhausted all of those avenues, we would begin to talk about loans and work while in school.  We never want a student to borrow more than is manageable upon graduation or to be working so many hours in school that they can’t manage their academics, so counseling is always a part of this conversation.

Q

Do you have any other advice for students looking to land the best scholarships or grants?

AThink about what makes you different and look for opportunities that are specific to those things!  Are you a writer?  Look for scholarships that come from an essay contest.  Specific ethnic background?  There are options for that as well.  The internet has lots of opportunities, start looking.  On a practical note, set up a separate e-mail address to use for scholarship applications and searches.  This will keep you from having to search through this information daily and allows you to really focus on the process when you are sitting down to search for scholarships.

Who Offers Financial Aid?

Financial aid is offered by several sources, including the federal government, state government, the school itself and private organizations.

Federal Loans & Grants

At the federal level, most financial aid comes from the US Department of Education in the form of grants, loans and work-study. Grants do not need to be repaid, work-study aid is earned through working while in school, and loans must be repaid, but when offered by the federal government, the terms are favorable compared to other loan options.

State-Based Aid

Students may be eligible for state-based aid from the state in which they live. Each state has its own department or agency to handle state-based financial aid, as well as its own set of financial aid offerings. To determine who administers state-based financial aid as well as find out what’s available, please visit the US Department of Education’s website for a comprehensive list of each state’s respective financial aid department of agency.

Schools

Each school will also have its own set of exclusive financial aid options available to its students. Usually the financial aid offerings specific to each school will be comprised of scholarships and grants. Often, the school will have an endowment with a list of scholarships or grants available to deserving students, whether it’s based on financial need or academic success.

Private Aid

The last major source of financial aid comes from private organizations, which almost exclusively offer scholarships, grants and private student loans. Students can take advantage of a huge number of grants and scholarships offered by charities, corporations, non-profit organizations and service organizations. Loans are primarily offered by financial institutions. Private student loans are usually more expensive (and with less general terms) than loans from the federal government, but still cheaper than some other forms of borrowing, such as credit cards. As a result, a student should exhaust all federal and state (if applicable) loan options before applying for a private student loan.

Where to Look for Aid

Given the large number of financial aid options available, it’s not surprising that it takes an enormous amount of time to sort through them. Here are a few starting points to help expedite the financial aid process.

Online Scholarship Websites

Culinary students have the Internet to help them find any number of scholarships, grants, loans and more. From advice to available financial aid, it can all be found online. There are also many scholarships websites that allow culinary students to find aid based on factors other than area of study, such as school, location and demographic information. A few good online financial aid resources include:

The School’s Financial Aid Office

As discussed earlier, many financial aid options are unique to the particular school. Most schools will list all of the financial aid options available to students on its financial aid office’s website. There will also be information to help apply for financial aid and answer any questions.

Culinary Organizations

Many professional organizations have a portion of their funds available to students to help pay for a formal culinary education. Most of the aid will be in the form of scholarships or grants and will be based on academic merit, financial need or the student’s demographics. Some culinary organizations that offer scholarships include:

Culinary Students Getting Grants

There are many different types of grants available to culinary students. One of the most important is the Pell Grant. The fact that a student is getting a culinary arts degree has no bearing on Pell Grant eligibility. Pell Grants often serve as the starting point for most financial aid packages students receive.

A Pell Grant is awarded to all students who meet the eligibility criteria, such as working toward an undergraduate degree and financial need. For the 2015-2016 award year, the Pell Grant amounts to $5,775. Students can receive the Pell Grant for six years or 12 semesters. Like other grants, the Pell Grant does not need to be repaid.

Many states have Pell Grant “equivalents” where grants are issued to students based on financial need and do not need to be repaid. For example, Pennsylvania has the PA State Grant which offers a maximum of $4,011 pear year; Ohio has the Ohio College Opportunity Grant which offers a maximum of $2,592 per year; and Kentucky has the College Access Program Grant and the Kentucky Tuition Grant which offer $1,900 and $2,910 per year, respectively. Most of these state grants require students to be residents of the states from which they are requesting aid.

Keep in mind that some grants will only be awarded to students who are attending accredited schools. To ensure that all financial aid opportunities are available, students should ensure that their chosen school is accredited before applying for grants.

Financial Aid & the FAFSA®: 11 Important Facts

If a culinary student wants to apply for financial aid, they start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). This is even if the student only expects to apply for merit-based scholarships offered by a specific school or state-based grants. Almost all schools and states require students requesting financial aid to complete the FAFSA®. Below are some key points to remember:

The FAFSA® can be filled out online or on paper.

Apply early! There usually isn’t enough financial aid to give to all the students to fill out the FAFSA®. This means first come, first served, so the sooner a student applies, the more likely they will get a financial aid award and the bigger it will be.

State and school deadlines usually differ from the federal FAFSA® deadline. Check each state and school for the exact FAFSA® filing deadline.

Since tax information is needed to fill out the FAFSA®, students and their parents need to complete their income tax return as soon as possible. If the tax return isn’t complete fast enough, the FAFSA® can still be completed, but will need estimated tax information, which will then need to be updated when the income tax return is done.

In order to complete the FAFSA®, dependent students will need the following:

  • The student’s social security number
  • Social security numbers for the student’s parents
  • The student’s driver’s license number (if they have one)
  • Tax information for student and parents
  • Bank, investment, real estate and other financial asset records for student and parents

Even if students know the information by heart, they should still have relevant documents in hand, in case the school asks for verification of the FAFSA® information.

Federal financial aid that requires the FAFSA® includes: Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans and participation in the Federal Work-Study Program.

If the student has any questions when filling out the FAFSA®, they can get free advice from the US Department of Education: www.fafsa.gov and 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Many schools require the FAFSA® to be completed in order to award academic merit scholarships. Therefore, even if a student knows they will not qualify for need-based aid, a FAFSA® may still need to be completed.

In calculating a student’s financial need with information provided by the FAFSA®, any home equity in the student’s family’s main home is not considered. Also not considered are consumer debts and the retirement accounts of the parents.

The FAFSA® will need to be completed for each year the student expects to receive financial aid. Therefore, for a four year college degree, a student will need to complete the FAFSA® four times.

How to Find and Apply for Culinary Scholarships, Grants, etc: The Steps

1 Complete the FAFSA®.

A majority of the financial aid award will be based on a completed FAFSA® and the sooner the FAFSA® is completed, the sooner the financial aid can be granted.

2 Search scholarships and grants.

There are many scholarships out there, with varying eligibility requirements that range from major to geographic location to race and religious affiliation. Culinary students will be well served by finding the scholarships that best relate to them.

3 Identify scholarship and grant requirements.

Many scholarships have requirements that may take a bit of time, such as essays or letters of recommendation. It makes sense to get started on those essays and find recommenders as soon as possible, since those application components will likely take the most time to complete.

4 Write the application essays.

It might take some time to find a topic, write the essay, then go through several revisions and drafts. Also, if outside help is sought to help with the essays, the student may be beholden to another individual’s schedule.

5 Get the scholarship and grant applications done on time.

Many scholarships and grants are highly competitive, with hundreds of applicants for just a few awards. Making sure the application is submitted on time can reduce one reason to be denied the scholarship or grant.

6 Follow up with recommenders or organizations from which grants or scholarships are sought.

It might be necessary to gently remind a recommender to get the letter of recommendation done due to an upcoming application deadline. Also, if mailing an application, it might be useful to call or e-mail the organization to make sure the application was received and if so, that it’s complete. If something is left out, it helps to find out sooner rather than later.