Funding Your Vocational Degree A Guide to Scholarships and Grants for Vocational Students

Vocational degrees and certificates prepare students for specific careers, placing them on the fast-track to a profession. As the cost of college continues to rise, it has become increasingly difficult for vocational students to afford school. Finances should never stand in the way of students reaching their career goals. Learn more about funding a vocational degree.

Scholarships & Grants for Vocational Students

There are many ways to fund school, and not just loans that will have to be paid off later. A lot of scholarships and grants are out there. Some are specifically targeted to vocational students; others are open to many kinds of students, including vocational students. To learn about scholarships and grants you may qualify for, we’ve compiled a useful list.

Foth Production Solutions Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization

Amount: $1,000

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, it was Nov. 15)

The FFA awards two $1,000, non-renewable scholarships each year to FFA members who are high school or college students working towards a vocational diploma or college degree from a technical/postsecondary vocational school or college or university.

The Medallion Fund

Sponsoring organization: New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application due date: Rolling

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation gives scholarships to students of any age, on a rolling basis, who are New Hampshire residents and enrolling in any accredited technical or vocational program.

Fact Trade/Technical School Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Federation of American Consumers and Traveler

Amount: A maximum of $5,000 divided between two winners

Application due date: Jan. 15, 2016

FACT gives out eight scholarships each year to students of all backgrounds, two of which are for trade or technical school students or prospective students.

2nd Chance Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: America Fire Sprinkler Association

Amount: $1,000

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, applications were taken until Aug. 26)

The America Fire Sprinkler Association awards five $1,000 scholarships to anyone who graduated high school (or the equivalent) looking to pursue a college degree or trade school/vocational education.

Tech Prep Education

Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Education

Amount: Varies

Application due date: Varies

This grant, issued by the U.S. Department of Education, is meant to fund both the last two years of secondary education and at least two years of postsecondary education, as students complete an associate degree or two-year certificate.

The $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Niche

Amount: $2,000

Application due date: Every month (typically the last day of the month)

The $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship is a simple scholarship with—you guessed it—no essay requirements for all students or those planning to enroll in school within the next 12 months.

High School Senior Scholarship Contest

Sponsoring organization: America Fire Sprinkler Association

Amount: $2,000

Application due date: April 6, 2016

The America Fire Sprinkler Association awards $2,000 scholarships to 10 high school seniors wanting to pursue a college degree or trade school education.

Central Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Central Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Application due date: Rolling

Central Scholarship offers scholarships to students planning on attending a non-degree certificate program at a community college or career school. The scholarships are specifically for students who live in or near Baltimore.

Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway Promotion and Contest

Sponsoring organization: Dr. Pepper

Amount: Up to $100,000

Application due date: Different awards have different due dates

Dr. Pepper gives out many scholarships, starting from $1,000 and some as high as $100,000, for submitting the most compelling “one of a kind” stories. Students aged 18-24 are eligible to win all prizes, whereas students 25 and older can win certain prizes.

State Farm Good Neighbor Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: State Farm Companies Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application due date: Scholarship opens Jan. 2016

State Farm Companies Foundation will be awarding scholarships to high school seniors planning to enroll in a two or four-year college or vocational school, who demonstrate financial need and have between a 2.5 and 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Applications and further details open up in Jan. 2016.

Graduate Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Alpha Kappa Alpha

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, it was Aug. 15)

There are two types of graduate scholarships offered by Alpha Kappa Alpha: merit-based and financial-neediness. Merit-based scholarships require the student has at least a 3.0 GPA and community service/involvement experience, whereas financial-neediness prioritizes students who can demonstrate financial necessity.

Graduate Scholarship Program

Sponsoring organization: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Amount: Up to $18,000 per calendar year

Application due date: Applications accepted from July 1-Oct. 15

Full-time graduate students with financial need, who have a 3.0 or higher GPA, can earn up to $18,000 per calendar year from the CIA. A 60- to 90-day work tour at an agency facility in Washington D.C. is required for winners.

CrossLites Scholarship Contest

Sponsoring organization: CrossLites

Amount: $2,500

Application due date: Dec. 15

This scholarship is open to high school, college, and graduate students and asks applicants to write an essay about a quote.

Graduate School Scholarships

Sponsoring organization: GraduatePrograms.com

Amount: $1,000

Application due date: Every three months

GraduatePrograms.com offers scholarships to current graduate students or those who graduated within the last five years of $1,000 each. Scholarships are awarded through a drawing.

EdvestinU National Monthly Scholarship Giveaway

Sponsoring organization: EdvestinU

Amount: $1,000

Application due date: Last day of every month

Three students (graduate students are eligible) each month win $1,000 scholarships. A drawing determines the scholarship recipients.

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Google

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship is available to women who are either undergraduate or graduate students, pursuing studies in computing or technology. The financial award is for the academic year.

AWAF scholarships

Sponsoring organization: Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation (AWAF)

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD (scholarships are awarded quarterly)

Many scholarships are given out by the AWAF, to women with a “passion for a career or advancement in the automotive and its related industries.” A 3.0 GPA or higher is required.

Ignite Change Leadership Contest

Sponsoring organization: Boston GLOW

Amount: Up to $5,000 and other prizes

Application due date: TBD

Females not yet in college aged 13-19 in Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville, Massachusetts can win a scholarship for writing the best essay about what you’d change for females in your community.

Daughters of the Cincinnati Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: The Daughters of the Cincinnati

Amount: Up to $16,000

Application due date: March 15, 2016

Daughters of career-commissioned officers of the United States armed services are eligible for scholarships of up to $16,000.

Dr. Gussie M. Ware Memorial Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Community Foundation of Northern Illinois

Amount: Varies

Application due date: March 1

These scholarships are given to high school seniors about to start college who are African-American, have at least a 2.5 GPA, and either have a permanent resident in Winnebago County or are relatives of Dr. Gussie M. Ware.

Charles Shelton Veterinary Medicine/Technology Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Charles Shelton Foundation

Amount: $2,500

Application due date: April 15, 2016

The Charles Shelton Foundation awards one $2,500 annual, non-renewable scholarship to African-American high school or college students or returning adult students. An essay and letters of reference are part of the application.

ABA Diversity Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: American Bus Association

Amount: $2,500

Application due date: Varies

For under-represented students studying anything related to the transportation, tourism, or travel industry, the American Bus Association awards two $2,500 scholarships. Students must have completed their first year of college at an accredited school and must complete a 500-word essay.

AIGC Graduate Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC)

Amount: Varies

Application due date: July 15 each year

The AIGC offers scholarships to grad students who have financial need and belong to an American Indian tribe or Alaska Native group.

AMS Minority Scholarships

Sponsoring organization: American Meteorological Society (AMS)

Amount: Up to $6,000

Application due date: Feb. 5, 2016

The AMS offers scholarships to minority students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

APTA Minority Scholarship for Physical Therapist Assistant Students

Sponsoring organization: American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)

Amount: $2,500

Application due date: TBD

The APTA gives out a scholarship each year to minority physical therapy assistant students.

Merit Scholarships

Sponsoring organization: AHIMA Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD

The AHIMA Foundation offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students studying health information management, health information technology, or a related subject.

Donald and Shirley Hastings Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: American Welding Society

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD

This scholarship is for undergraduate students pursuing welding engineering or welding engineering technology studies. Financial need must be demonstrated.

Minority Scholarship Program

Sponsoring organization: Warner Norcross & Judd

Amount: $2,000

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, it was April 1)

This generous law firm gives out a $2,000 scholarship each year to a paralegal/legal assistant student who’s a Michigan resident. Preference is given to minorities.

Student Scholarship Program

Sponsoring organization: eSchoolView

Amount: $1,000-$5,000

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, it was Feb. 6)

eSchoolView offers a number of scholarships to high school seniors across the nation interested in pursuing graphic design, web design or development. The application includes creating a web page.

Technician/Service Provider Scholarships

Sponsoring organization: Nexstar Legacy Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD

This scholarship is for students at two and four-year colleges who plan on becoming technicians or service providers in the HVAC, plumbing, or electrical fields. The award is renewed each year for up to four years.

Q&A with Danette Wells, Director of Financial Aid, Bastyr University

How early do you suggest students begin looking for scholarships or grants?

We suggest scholarship searches to prospective students, as they are thinking about applying to our University. High school students can begin looking for scholarships as early as their junior year. It’s important in scholarship searches to not just rely on one website. Check as many as you can.

A student interested in a vocational career comes to your office looking for financial aid. What do you tell them to do?

Search for a list of schools that offer the program of interest. Check the school’s website for information about admissions and financial aid processes and deadlines. Check www.studentaid.gov for general information regarding financial aid.

When should the financial aid process begin?

The actual applying should begin in the January prior to the fall the student needs financial aid. Preparation should begin earlier than that, but no later than during the junior year of high school.

What advice do you have for high schoolers just thinking about how to pay for college?

Ask questions. Ask as many questions as you can. Ask many different people the same questions. Not only different people at the same school, but people from different schools, even if you may never attend there. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, as long as you ask. Google knows a lot, but college and university staff are the experts on going to college, and they love to help. Keep asking.

Financial Aid & the FAFSA®: 10 Important Facts

  • Check with your school or prospective school, first and foremost

    Financial aid (scholarships and even certain grants and loans) may be available at your school, or in your program of choice. Be sure to also see if the school participates in federal student financial aid programs administered by the Department of Education.

  • There are many grants and programs targeted to vocational students

    On the U.S. Department of Education website alone, there are over 30 grants and programs specifically for this demographic listed.

  • The FAFSA® deadline, which is required to fill out for federal student aid, is usually at the end of June

    That’s for the upcoming fall semester.

  • To fill out the FAFSA®, a number of items are needed

    Including: social security number; alien registration number (for those who aren’t U.S. citizens); most recent federal income tax returns (such as W-2s and other records of money earned); records of untaxed income (if it applies); records of investments and bank statements (if applicable); and an FSA ID so you can sign electronically.

  • Students who are dependents of their parents will need their parent’s information when applying for the FAFSA®

    Independent students can do it on their own.

  • The general rule is federal over private, when it comes to student loans

    Federal loans generally have lower interest rates than private, with programs like the subsidized Stafford Loan that don’t accrue interest while the student is still in school. Repayment is also not due until after graduation, whereas some private loans require students to begin repayment before.

  • Many popular scholarship websites have different sections and pages specifically for vocational scholarships

    Some of these sites include Scholarships.com, CollegeScholarships.org and Unigo.com

  • Some schools may pay for veterans

    Ask if your school is approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs for veteran educational benefits. Also find out if students are able to attend the school with funding from the Workforce Investment Act.

  • Not all scholarships are merit-based

    Some scholarships don’t require an excellent GPA or incredible accomplishment. One such example is Niche’s $2,000 “No Essay” College Scholarship, which not only doesn’t require an essay, but also only requires registering for a free account and entering your name. No excuses not to apply!

  • See if organizations you’re already part of offer scholarships or grants

    For example, many churches, student organizations, or workplaces offer scholarships or grants to their members or employees. Great place to start!

The Cost of College

The cost of college deters many students from attending. It rises every year and has risen by 10 to 18 percent for all types of schools in the last five years alone. However, many vocational programs are at public two-year colleges, which is customarily the least expensive option.

Also, scholarships and grants allows you to avoid taking on a large load of debt. That’s free money that’s worth applying to, no matter how long the application takes. Even if one application takes two hours, and it’s a $500 scholarship, that’s $250 an hour you just earned by winning it. Many scholarships and grants are more money than that and take less time to fill out, making any awards that you’re eligible worth your time.

The chart below illustrates the increasing costs of college over the years.

Average Tuition and Fees 2004-05 to 2014-15

  • 2004

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $25,125
    One-Year % Change
    Public Four-Year $6,448
    One-Year % Change
    Public Two-Year $2,615
    One-Year % Change
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $34,549
    One-Year % Change
    Public Four-Year $14,310
    One-Year % Change
  • 2005

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $25,581
    One-Year % Change 1.5%
    Public Four-Year $6,696
    One-Year % Change 3.8%
    Public Two-Year $2,660
    One-Year % Change 1.7%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $35,046
    One-Year % Change 1.4%
    Public Four-Year $14,772
    One-Year % Change 3.2%
  • 2006

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $26,117
    One-Year % Change 2.1%
    Public Four-Year $6,795
    One-Year % Change 1.5%
    Public Two-Year $2,653
    One-Year % Change -0.3%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $35,705
    One-Year % Change 1.9%
    Public Four-Year $15,029
    One-Year % Change 1.7%
  • 2007

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $26,787
    One-Year % Change 2.6%
    Public Four-Year $7,081
    One-Year % Change 4.2%
    Public Two-Year $2,624
    One-Year % Change -1.1%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $36,593
    One-Year % Change 2.5%
    Public Four-Year $15,507
    One-Year % Change 3.2%
  • 2008

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $26,881
    One-Year % Change 0.4%
    Public Four-Year $7,148
    One-Year % Change 0.9%
    Public Two-Year $2,580
    One-Year % Change -1.7%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $36,610
    One-Year % Change 0.0%
    Public Four-Year $15,567
    One-Year % Change 0.4%
  • 2009

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $28,476
    One-Year % Change 5.9%
    Public Four-Year $7,825
    One-Year % Change 9.5%
    Public Two-Year $2,842
    One-Year % Change 10.2%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $38,799
    One-Year % Change 6.0%
    Public Four-Year $16,855
    One-Year % Change 8.3%
  • 2010

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $29,251
    One-Year % Change 2.7%
    Public Four-Year $8,337
    One-Year % Change 6.5%
    Public Two-Year $2,997
    One-Year % Change 5.5%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $39,850
    One-Year % Change 2.7%
    Public Four-Year $17,680
    One-Year % Change 4.9%
  • 2011

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $29,405
    One-Year % Change 0.5%
    Public Four-Year $8,728
    One-Year % Change 4.7%
    Public Two-Year $3,135
    One-Year % Change 4.6%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $40,043
    One-Year % Change 0.5%
    Public Four-Year $18,092
    One-Year % Change 2.3%
  • 2012

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $30,146
    One-Year % Change 2.5%
    Public Four-Year $8,991
    One-Year % Change 3.0%
    Public Two-Year $3,280
    One-Year % Change 4.6%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $41,022
    One-Year % Change 2.4%
    Public Four-Year $18,528
    One-Year % Change 2.4%
  • 2013

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $30,731
    One-Year % Change 1.9%
    Public Four-Year $9,062
    One-Year % Change 0.8%
    Public Two-Year $3,306
    One-Year % Change 0.8%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $41,771
    One-Year % Change 1.8%
    Public Four-Year $18,749
    One-Year % Change 1.2%
  • 2014

    Tuition and fees in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $31,231
    One-Year % Change 1.6%
    Public Four-Year $9,139
    One-Year % Change 0.8%
    Public Two-Year $3,347
    One-Year % Change 1.2%
    Tuition and fees And Room and Board in 2014 Dollars
    Private Nonprofit Four-Year $42,419
    One-Year % Change 1.6%
    Public Four-Year $18,943
    One-Year % Change 1.0%
  • 2015

Source: Trends in College Pricing 2014

Student Loan Debt – on the Rise

Nationally, student loan debt has risen every year for over 20 years. In fact, the class of 2015 is the most indebted class yet, studies show. But that doesn’t have to be you. Given that so many vocational programs are offered at community colleges, you may not go into any student loan debt at all. According to data compiled by the Institute for College Access & Success, that’s because the vast majority—79 percent—of community college students don’t take out any student loans. Cost is often that low. But those that do take out student loans take out less than students at four-year colleges ($2,000 less a year on average).

The graph below shows just how high student loan debt continues to climb each year.

Average Debt of Graduates by Year of Graduation

Source: Mark Kantrowitz, Wall Street Journal

How to Find and Apply for Vocational Scholarships: The Steps

1

Don’t postpone the financial aid search.

Most scholarships come either only once a year or only once ever. Very few are recurring. With deadlines often falling in the autumn or winter, it’s wise to begin your scholarship search the summer before the year you’re applying. It’s also smart to apply sooner rather than later since many grants are first come, first serve. Even federal aid has a deadline.

2

If possible, decide what you’re going to study ahead of time.

Many scholarships are targeted to students of specific majors. With vocational schools, it’s easier to narrow down, since the programs are shorter and already narrow (versus four-year colleges and universities, where students can be undecided for a couple of years). So it’s best to pick a field of study, see if your school offers scholarships or grants specifically for that program, and search online if any scholarships or grants exist for students in that field. Websites like Scholarships.com and Unigo.com have “scholarship by type” sections, so you can further narrow down your scholarship options.

3

Look at general scholarships.

Many scholarships are general enough so that many kinds of students are eligible. That includes vocational students like yourself. By checking general scholarship websites, like FastWeb.com, you’ll come across scholarships open to college students in general. That’s why it’s important to not only look for specific scholarships catered to vocational students, but general ones as well.

4

Gather essential documents right away.

Many scholarships require students to not only fill out general information, but also send along documents. These could be letters of recommendation, transcripts, or something else. Be sure to make a list of which scholarship requires which documents and gather them as soon as you can. With letters of recommendation, you want to be sure to give your recommenders as much time as possible to fill it out. Transcripts can also take time to be sent to the right place. Do not put this off — the risk of missing the deadline is not worth it.

5

Get working on those essays.

Many scholarships require students to write an essay. Whether it’s explaining how you overcame a hardship or demonstrating passion for your major, these essays require thought and time. Don’t wait until the last minute; you don’t want to submit sloppy writing. It’s also wise to get someone to read it for you, such as a tutor or advisor. You may need to revise it once or twice, but if it means turning in the strongest possible essay, it’s worth it. Get writing!