Finding and Applying for Scholarships, Grants & Loans
Medical assisting is one of the fastest growing career fields in the country, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 23% growth nationally between 2014 and 2024. As the demand continues to increase, competition for the best talent is expected to heighten. Completing a postsecondary education is paramount, yet students may have concerns about financing their education. Learn about the different types of financial aid opportunities available to medical assistant students, including medical assistant scholarships, grants and loans.
Expert Contributor: Thomas Jaworski
Medical Assistant Scholarships & Grants Search
For the prospective student, locating potential medical assistant scholarships can be a challenging process. Below is a list of scholarships and academic awards available to students interested in becoming a medical assistant.
Description: The Maxine Williams Scholarship Fund is an annual scholarship for students attending a CAAHEP-accredited medical assisting program and have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
Description: The Alice Newell Joslyn Medical Fund is a scholarship program open to applicants who are entering a field of study in health care, including medical assisting. Applicants must be attending a high school or college in San Diego County to be eligible.
Description: This scholarship requires program directors to nominate a student for the award. Students must be enrolled in a medical assisting (or related allied health program) field of study and submit a personal statement.
Description: Open to students enrolled in at least 6 unites of study in a medical assisting program who have a GPA of 2.0 or better. Applicants must be willing to work in an underserved medical facility in California for 12 months after graduation.
Description: This scholarship is available to medical students and individuals studying in allied health programs of study. Scholarships are limited to residents residing in Milwaukee or Racine Counties.
Description: The SCSMA scholarship is for students attending accredited medical assisting programs in South Carolina. Applicants must be near graduation or enrolled in a full-time status and meet GPA requirements to be eligible.
Description: The Alaska Medical Assistants Society sponsors two scholarship programs each calendar year to students attending accredited medical assistant programs in the state.
Description: The Health Professions Scholarship is open to eligible American Indian and Alaska Native students who are enrolled in a health profession degree program. Students who are awarded the scholarship must agree to a two-year service commitment in an Indian full-time clinical practice after graduation.
Description: The Hispanic Scholarship Fund sponsors a variety of scholarship programs to graduating high school seniors. These scholarships are open to individuals studying in any field, but require students to be of Hispanic heritage and meet minimum GPA requirements and attend an accredited university.
Description: The JCAHPO training scholarship is available to students actively enrolled in educational programs to become ophthalmic assistants, technicians or technologists. A competitive award, applicants are judged upon GPA and academic performance.
Description: The ADA Foundation awards an annual scholarship to students enrolled in an accredited dental assisting program who meets GPA requirements and submit letters of recommendations.
Description: The Technical Writing Award is a competitive program that allows students enrolled in a medical assisting (or related program) to write and submit an original research paper. Topics must be related to healthcare, be at least 1,000 words, and have proper references to be eligible for an award.
Description: The American Medical Technologists offers 5 scholarships each academic year to students who demonstrate financial need. Students must be enrolled in an approved program of study and funds can only be used for tuition.
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Types of Financial Aid for Postsecondary Students
Medical assistant students are not alone when it comes to financing their degree, certificate or other forms of post-secondary training. In fact, students in vocational programs—such as medical assisting—qualify for a range of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, loans and federal work-study. Below is an overview of each type of financial aid.
Scholarships are a type of student financial aid that do not need to be repaid. They are awarded based on different criteria, including merit, academic performance, or financial need.
Both multiyear and single academic year scholarships are available.
Some scholarships are limited to individuals from a specific demographic (e.g. African American, female, individuals with a disability).
They are available from a wide range of organizations, including state and local government, community organizations, nonprofits, employers, universities, and religious entities.
Some scholarships may cover the entire cost of tuition, while others may only provide a couple of hundreds of dollars.
Grants are a form of financial aid that do not need to be repaid. They are typically awarded based on the financial need of the student.
They are available from federal, state, private organizations, nonprofit agencies, and postsecondary institutions.
The Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant are the two main federal grants programs available to medical assisting students.
The Pell Grant provides a maximum of $5,775 in academic assistance each year.
Some grants cover multiple years of schooling, while others may be limited to a single year.
Loans are the most commonly used type of financial aid. They may come from federal government or private sources (e.g. banks) and must be repaid with interest.
The federal government has two loan programs: William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program.
There are three direct loans: subsidized (provided to student who demonstrate financial need); unsubsidized (provided to students regardless of financial need); PLUS (provided to parents of undergraduate students or professional/graduate degree students); and Consolidation.
The Federal Perkins Loan Program is for students who demonstrate significant financial need and, under this program, the school acts as the lender for the loan.
Students may borrow up to $5,500 per year in Perkins Loans and between $5,500 and $12,500 in direct loans.
The Federal Work-Study program provides students who demonstrate financial need with part-time jobs that allow them to earn money towards education expenses.
It is available to both part- and full-time students.
Federal Work-Study is administered by individual schools and not every institution participates.
The program focuses on jobs related to the student's course of study.
The amount of work-study aid is variable and dependent on the student's financial need and the amount of work-study aid available at the college or university.
FAQ with Thomas Jaworski,
Q. What types of scholarships are available to students considering an education to become a medical assistant?
These scholarships are harder to find because they are vocational or certificate programs, but there are organizations and foundations that support specialized fields with scholarships. For example, the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development offers the Allied Healthcare Scholarship. Additional financial aid and/or scholarships can come from the program offering the medical assistant courses themselves.
Q. What are the steps you recommend prospective students take to start learning more about scholarships and financial aid?
Keep looking, they are all around you. Local or civic organizations such as a chamber of commerce, Rotary Club or Lions Club offer scholarships that have a small applicant pool. Websites such as FastWeb and Scholarships.com are good places to look for scholarships, but many times these are large national scholarships, with a large applicant pool, thus harder to win.
Q. When should students start the financial aid/scholarship search?
Yesterday! Many scholarships can be earned prior to senior year that parents/students do not know about. They can then save these scholarships to be sent when starting college or place them into their college savings accounts. Begin searching early in the high school career. If a student is not eligible until senior year, keep a log of these scholarships and then to apply. Many times, the essay prompts do not change from year to year, thus you can have plenty of time to write the essay.
Q. What advice do you have to prospective medical assisting students to find and land a scholarship?
Research the medical assistance profession and find organizations designed to support this field. If scholarships are not listed on their website, contact the organization to ask if they have one, or know of any. Most of the time they will know where to look. Also contact the school offering the program. Ask if they have any program scholarships or know of organizations that might be able to help.
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Medical Assistant Financial Aid at a Glance
The federal government is the largest provider of student aid, backing student loans, offering grants-in-aid to students with demonstrated financial need, and work-study programs administered by participating colleges. The US Department of Education manages the financial aid process and students can learn more about each type of aid through the Office of Federal Student Aid.
Like the federal government, each state has a department of education that manages the financial aid system of its member colleges and educational institutions. For example, California Community College's Chancellor's Office connects students to financial aid opportunities at community colleges throughout the state, while the Office of Student Financial Assistance is the central informational hub for students in Florida. Future medical assistant students should contact their state department of education to learn more about the financial aid process in their state.
Institution-based scholarships are traditionally endowed by alumni, community members, faculty and nonprofit foundations. Scholarship candidates must meet the minimum academic requirements of the university, as well as the specific requirements of the scholarship to be eligible. Generally, school-based scholarships may only be applied towards fees, tuition and book costs.
For example, Ivy Tech Community College sponsors the Dr. Carl C. Lyles, Sr. Scholarship Endowment, a program for African-American students who are pursuing a degree in healthcare, including medical assisting.
- Private Organizations
Students may also leverage private organizations, including businesses, nonprofit agencies, and banks to access scholarships, grants, and loans. Banking institutions offer a variety of private student loan packages. However, students should be aware these loans differ greatly from loans backed by the federal government. Private loans are variable, depending on the applicant's income, credit history, borrowing rate, and amount borrowed.
Digging Deeper into Financial Aid for Medical Assistant Students
Prospective students have a variety of funding sources for medical assistant financial aid. These sources range from government organizations to local community nonprofits. However, finding specific funding opportunities from each source can be challenging. Learn more about how to discover scholarships and other sources of funding for medical assistant programs. Professional Associations
Prospective medical assistants can turn to professional healthcare associations as sources for potential student aid. In addition to scholarships and grants, these organizations also offer networking opportunities, workshops, professional development courses, and other resources for students and practicing medical assistants. Below is a list of common medical assistant associations.
University / College
As noted above, each university, college and technical institute has an office of financial aid that works with students to create financial aid packages. Prospective medical assistant students can work with financial aid officers to identify school- or community-based scholarships that may be available to students attending that particular institution. Scholarship Websites
Finding medical assistant scholarships can be challenging because of the niche nature of the field of study. However, there are a variety of online sources that can serve as starting points to locating financial aid opportunities. Below is a list of websites that have more information about scholarships for students interested in becoming medical assistants.
State-based Organizations and Foundations
Each state has a variety of health-related organizations that support the education of future healthcare professionals through loan repayment, scholarship, and grant programs. These entities vary from state-to-state. For example, the Health Professions Education Foundation in California works to encourage individuals from underrepresented communities to move into healthcare occupations. In Pennsylvania, the State System of Higher Education, Inc. offers a range of scholarships for students interested in healthcare degree programs. Students may also want to turn to the local chapters of the American Association of Medical Assistants. Many of these local chapters provide scholarships and other resources to medical assistant students. Getting Grants
The Pell Grant is the federal grant program for students who have not completed a bachelor's or professional degree. Pell Grants are needs-based, designed for low-income students enrolled in any of the 5,400 participating postsecondary educational institutions—including vocational schools. The amount of the grant award is determined by the student's enrollment status, the cost of the medical assisting program, and the student's Expected Family Contribution. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the maximum yearly award is $5,775. Unlike loans, Pell Grants do not need to be repaid.
Financial Aid & the FAFSA: 10 Important Facts
In order to apply for federal student aid, including grants, student loans and work-study, prospective students need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most states and colleges use the FAFSA to qualify the student's eligibility for aid and determines the student's overall financial aid package. Below is a list of ten facts for students to keep in mind when completing and submitting the FAFSA.
- Students must apply to qualify for aid. Students must complete and submit a FAFSA to be eligible for federal student aid.
- Pay attention to deadlines. To be considered for federal student aid, the FAFSA must be submitted between October 1 and June 30. However, many states and colleges also have deadlines to apply for aid. Students can find deadlines for their state of residence and academic school year from the Office of Federal Student Aid.
- There are multiple ways to file. The FAFSA can be submitted either online via www.fafsa.ed.gov or mailed via paper format, which can be requested by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID or downloaded as a PDF.
- Filing format impacts processing times. An online FAFSA is generally processed within three to five days, while a paper FAFSA requires seven to 10 days to process.
- It can be filled out quickly. The average FAFSA only requires approximately 30 minutes to complete.
- It must be submitted each year. Eligibility for federal financial aid is a year-by-year process as awards do not carry over. Students must submit a FAFSA each year in which they intend to request financial aid to attend school.
- It requires preparation. Students filing as dependents will require the following pieces of information, including the same information for their parents:
- Social Security Number
- Alien Registration Number (non-US citizens)
- Federal income tax returns and W-2s
- Bank statements
- Records of investment (if applicable)
- FSA ID to electronic signatures
- Review the SAR carefully. After the FAFSA is processed, students receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which provides an overview of the information submitted on the FAFSA and student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC determines the student's eligibility for federal Pell Grants and other forms of student aid. The SAR is then sent to the colleges selected by the student and is used to determine the student's federal package aid. It is important to review the SAR closely to make sure the information is accurate.
- There's more than the FAFSA. The FAFSA alone is typically not enough to receive aid from individual colleges. Students should work with the financial aid at the college they plan to attend to learn about additional financial aid requirements.
- Help is available. Students can get free advice from the US Department of Education by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID, by sending an email, or accessing the FAFSA FAQ.
How to Find and Apply for Medical Assistant Scholarships: The Steps
There is scholarship money available for medical assistant students, which means students should have a plan of attack when it comes to securing the most financial aid possible. Below is a step-by-step guide that covers information about how to find and apply for medical assistant scholarships.
1 Submit the FAFSA
The first step is to complete and submit the FAFSA. The FAFSA determines a student's eligibility for financial aid and is vital when it comes to accessing the most aid possible.
2 Get Organized
The total number of scholarships for medical assistants is limited, so students should take an organized approach to being a competitive candidate. Below is a list of steps to take to stay organized:
- Order copies of any standardized test scores (e.g. SAT, ACT)
- Create a list of individuals that can write letters of recommendation
- Request high school or college transcripts (if changing programs or careers)
- Use a binder to serve as a single file for all scholarship documents
- Develop a scholarship calendar that includes the deadlines and award dates for all potential scholarship opportunities
3 Develop a List of Targeted Scholarships
Once the student has gotten organized and understands the types of scholarships they need, the next step is to start searching for scholarships.
- Review local sources, including their high school, community colleges and universities for potential scholarships in the area
- Search professional associations, such as the American Medical Assistant Association for scholarship opportunities
- Speak to a financial aid officer at prospective institutions to consult about school-based scholarship programs
- Move to online searching through scholarship aggregators such as Unigo.com, Peterson's or Fastweb.com
- Sign-up for the Student Search Service through the SAT, PSAT and other tests. This service connects students directly to scholarships for their future program of study
4 Gather Documents and Start Preparing
After locating scholarships that fund medical assistant students, the next step is to start the application process.
- Most applications are due between October and March for the following school year and students should leave themselves enough time to gather documentation, request letters of recommendations and submit an application before the deadline
- Take time to read the eligibility requirements and craft an individualized statement of interest, if required
- Before submitting, be sure to make a copy of the application. Having this information on hand makes it easier to write thank you letters when selected for a scholarship