A Guide to Scholarships and Grants for Vocational Students
Vocational students build career skills in fields like healthcare, manufacturing, and technology. Vocational certificates and degrees prepare graduates for high-demand careers in many industries.
But vocational school can be expensive. An associate degree can cost over $30,000 at a private school. Most students cannot pay out of pocket for trade school, but they qualify for many forms of financial aid.
Vocational students can pursue scholarships, grants, and loans. Learners attending accredited schools can fill out the FAFSA. This qualifies them for federal student aid, including federal loans and work-study jobs. This guide covers aid for vocational degrees, including scholarships and FAFSA instructions.
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Scholarships and Grants for Vocational Students
There are many ways to fund vocational school, like loans, scholarships, and grants. Some financial aid opportunities target vocational students. Others are open to many kinds of students, including vocational students. To learn about scholarships and grants you may qualify for, review the following list.
Financial Aid and the FAFSA®: 10 Things to Know
The federal student aid program distributes $120 billion in aid each year. Vocational students attending accredited institutions can submit the FAFSA to qualify for aid. Aid includes federal grants, loans, and other forms of financial aid. Keep these considerations in mind when applying for financial aid for vocational school.
- Check with your school or prospective school first and foremost.Vocational schools can connect current and prospective students with financial aid information. This may cover federal student aid, institutional aid, and state aid. Your school's financial aid office can explain stipulations on receiving financial aid. Only accredited vocational schools can distribute federal student aid. Check the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to find out if your school qualifies.
- There are many grants and programs targeted to vocational students. Several grants and scholarships support vocational students. The Ciri Foundation offers vocational training grants, and the Horatio Alger Foundation offers career and technical scholarships. Some scholarships and grants fund students enrolled in specific programs.
- Research the FAFSA® DeadlineApplicants must submit the FAFSA before deadline to receive federal aid. The federal student aid program makes the form available on Oct. 1st every year. The federal FAFSA deadline is June 30. But your school may set an earlier deadline, so make sure to check with your financial aid office. Students should try to fill it out as soon as possible. Some opportunities are on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Ready your documents for the FAFSA.® The FAFSA asks for tax and personal financial information. You need your most recent federal tax return. Dependent students also provide tax information for their parents. The FAFSA also requests untaxed income, checking and savings account balances, and investments. Prepare your FAFSA documents ahead of time.
- Students who are dependents of their parents will need their parents' information for the FAFSA.® Unmarried students under the age of 24 who do not have dependents usuallyqualify. Active-duty service members and veterans qualify as independents. These learners do not need to provide parental information.
- Federal over private student loans. Federal student loans offer several benefits compared to private loans. Federal loans charge lower interest rates. They also provide more repayment options and let borrowers merge their loans. Federal borrowers can take part in student loan forgiveness programs. Federal loans do not ask for a credit history or co-signer, unlike most private loans.
- Many popular scholarship sites have specific sections for vocational scholarships. Many scholarship databases offer specific sections for vocational and trade school scholarships. For example the College Board scholarship searchlets students search by their area of study. This includes vocational fields. FastWeb also lists trade, technical, and vocational school scholarships. Check popular scholarship websites to see if they list vocational scholarships.
- Some Schools May Pay for Veterans Vocational and trade schools may help veterans with field experience transition into the civilian workforce. Many trade and vocational schools offer tuition discounts and other benefits for veterans. Thanks to educational benefits like the GI Bill, veterans may be able to attend vocational school for free. The GI Bill covers non-college degree programs at approved schools.
- Not All Scholarships Are Merit-Based While some forms of financial aid for vocational school require a high GPA or strong test scores, other forms of financial aid do not weigh academic merit. For example, students qualify for the Pell Grant based on financial need. Similarly, some scholarships award money based on need or career prospects instead of prior academic performance.
- See If Organizations You’re Already Part of Offer Scholarships or Grants Many organizations offer scholarships and grants to members. The 4-H organization, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and the Elks Foundation all offer scholarships to members or children of members. If you are part of an organization, find out if they offer scholarships for vocational students or other forms of financial aid.
The Cost of Vocational School
The cost of vocational school varies widely depending on the type of program. Students attending public, two-year colleges pay $3,812 in tuition and fees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Vocational students may also pay technology fees, materials fees, and other expenses. Trade school students rarely pay to live in dorms, but they should also factor in living expenses.
Prospective trade students should research financial aid for vocational school. Aid may cover the cost of their certificate or degree.
How to Find and Apply for Vocational Scholarships
Vocational students find scholarships based on their study area, school, and career goals. Professional organizations, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations grant scholarships to vocational students. This section offers tips to help students find vocational scholarships. It also gives suggestions on applying for and obtaining scholarships.
Step 1: Do Not Postpone the Financial Aid Search
If you are counting on vocational school financial aid to pay for your program, start your search for opportunities early.
Incoming students should begin their financial aid search as soon as they start researching programs. Make a scholarship calendar with deadlines, application requirements, and scholarship information. Submit scholarship applications as early as possible rather than waiting until the last minute. If you find a good scholarship that is not accepting applications yet, make sure to go back and apply later.
Once you are in vocational school, keep looking for scholarships on a regular basis. Most schools post scholarship opportunities throughout the year.
Step 2: Decide What You Are Going to Study Ahead of Time
Knowing what you are going to study opens many scholarship doors. California's Allied Healthcare Scholarship Program awards up to $8,000 for students in allied health programs. Some scholarships only grant money to students attending certain schools. Making decisions about your education can mean qualifying for more scholarship opportunities.
Knowing your school and area of study can also help when writing scholarship essays. Many of these essays ask applicants about their area of study and career goals. Providing specific answers helps applicants stand out.3
Step 3: Look at General Scholarships
In addition to vocational and technical scholarships, students should also research general scholarships. Many general scholarships accept applications from any postsecondary student, including vocational students. Union Plus scholarships support union members and their children. Recipients may attend university, college, trade school, or technical school.
When researching general scholarships, vocational students should review the eligibility requirements. Some only accept applications from degree-seeking students. Others also support students earning certificates. Many general scholarships ask recipients to attend accredited schools. If the requirements are not clear, ask the scholarship organization for clarification.
Step 4: Gather Essential Documents Right Away
Application requirements vary depending on the scholarship. Most students must submit proof of enrollment, transcripts, recommendation letters, and a resume. Applicants who have not started their program may submit acceptance letters.
Organizing these documents at the beginning of the scholarship search can save time. Scanning documents can be a handy way to stay organized. Some scholarships ask for documents that students cannot prepare in advance, like a personal essay. Learners should add these requirements to your scholarship calendar and allow time to prepare.
Step 5: Get Working on Those Essays
Many scholarships require an essay as part of the application package. Students may need to write an essay on their educational or career goals. Some scholarships ask students to write about challenges in their academic career. Applicants may also write about their plans for after graduation.
Scholarship essays can feel daunting. But putting them off can make the process more stressful. Applicants should do their best to stick to the word count. Students can ask a family member or friend to read over their essay to make sure it answers the prompt. Above all, learners should set aside time to write and revise the essay so they do not rush at the last minute.