A Guide to Scholarships and Grants for Vocational Students
During a vocational program, students build career-ready skills in fields like healthcare, manufacturing, and technology. Earning a vocational certificate or degree prepares graduates for high-demand careers in many different industries.
But vocational school can be expensive. An associate degree can cost over $30,000 at a private school. Most students cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for vocational or trade school. Fortunately, vocational students qualify for many of the same forms of financial aid as students pursuing an academic degree.
Vocational students can pursue financial aid opportunities like scholarships, grants, and loans. Learners attending an accredited school can fill out the FAFSA to receive federal student aid, including Pell Grants, federal loans, and work-study jobs. This guide covers important information about funding a vocational degree, including scholarship opportunities for vocational students and how to fill out the FAFSA.
Scholarships and Grants for Vocational Students
There are many ways to fund vocational school, like loans, scholarships, and grants. Some financial aid opportunities 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, review the following list.
Can you get financial aid for vocational school?
Yes, students at a vocational school can receive financial aid such as loans, scholarships, and grants.
Can you get a Pell grant for vocational school?
Yes, the Pell Grant program awards money to students enrolled in accredited vocational programs. Applicants must submit the FAFSA every year to receive the Pell grant.
Will FAFSA cover vocational schools?
Yes, students attending accredited vocational schools can submit the FAFSA to qualify for federal student aid.
What is the average cost of vocational school?
On average, vocational programs at two-year colleges cost $3,700 per year, while vocational programs at private, for-profit schools cost $15,000.
Financial Aid and the FAFSA®: 10 Things to Know
The federal student aid program distributes $120 billion in aid each year. Vocational students attending an accredited institution can receive federal grants, loans, and other forms of financial aid by filling out the FAFSA. Here are the top 10 considerations to keep 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, including information on federal student aid, institutional aid, and state aid. Your school’s financial aid office can also explain any stipulations on receiving financial aid. In addition, 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 Many grants and scholarships specifically support vocational students. For example, 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. For example, Washington offers a career and technical scholarship for vocational learners pursuing training in a trade, STEM, or healthcare occupation.
- Research the FAFSA® Deadline Applicants must submit the FAFSA before the 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. However, 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 since some opportunities are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Get the Documents You Need Fill Out the FAFSA® Ready The FAFSA asks for tax and personal financial information. You need your most recent federal tax return, and dependent students also need to provide tax information for their parents. The FAFSA also asks about 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 Parent’s Information When Applying for the FAFSA® Vocational students who qualify as dependents according to the FAFSA must also provide financial information about their parents. Students under the age of 24 who are unmarried and have no dependents generally qualify as dependents. Active-duty servicemembers and veterans qualify as independents and do not need to provide parental information.
- Federal Over Private Student Loans Federal student loans offer several benefits compared to private loans. Federal loans generally charge a lower interest rate, provide more repayment options, and let borrowers consolidate their loans. For example, federal borrowers can participate in student loan forgiveness programs. Federal loans also do not require a credit history or co-signer, unlike most private loans.
- Many Popular Scholarship Websites have Different Sections and Pages Specifically for Vocational Scholarships Many scholarship databases offer specific sections for vocational and trade school scholarships. For example the College Board scholarship search lets students search by their area of study, including vocational fields. Fastweb also lists trade, technical, and vocational school scholarships. Make sure to 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. For example, students pursuing an associate degree at a public two-year college pay a total of around $7,000 in tuition and fees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A one-year vocational certificate at a private, for-profit technical vocational school costs around $15,000 in tuition and fees. Short-term vocational training can cost even less.
In addition to tuition, vocational students may need to pay technology fees, materials fees, and other expenses depending on their program. While trade school students generally do not pay to live in dorms, they should also factor in living expenses. Prospective learners can reach out to vocational schools to learn more about the total cost.
By researching financial aid for vocational school, prospective students can potentially cover the cost of their certificate or degree.
How to Find and Apply for Vocational Scholarships
Vocational students qualify for many scholarship opportunities based on factors like their field of study, school, and/or career goals. Professional organizations, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations grant scholarships to vocational students. This section offers tips and suggestions to help students find vocational scholarships, complete their scholarship applications, and win scholarships to pay for vocational or trade school.1
Step 1: Don’t Postpone the Financial Aid Search
If you are counting on vocational school financial aid to pay for your program, then start your search for opportunities early. Waiting to apply for scholarships can mean missing out on many opportunities.
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’re in vocational school, keep looking for scholarships on a regular basis. Most schools post scholarship opportunities throughout the year. By applying for scholarships throughout the academic year, students can increase their chances of receiving awards. 2
Step 2: Decide What You’re Going to Study Ahead of Time
Knowing what you are going to study in vocational school opens many scholarship doors. For example, California’s Allied Healthcare Scholarship Program awards up to $8,000 for students in allied health programs. Similarly, some scholarships only grant money to students attending certain schools, so 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. For instance, Union Plus scholarships support union members and their children whether they’re attending a university, college, trade school, or technical school.
When researching general scholarships, vocational students should carefully review the eligibility requirements. Some only accept applications from degree-seeking students, while others also support students earning a certificate. Many general scholarships also require recipients to attend an accredited school. If the requirements are not clear, reach out to the scholarship organization for clarification before applying.4
Step 4: Gather Essential Documents Right Away
The exact application requirements vary depending on the scholarship, but students must often submit proof of enrollment, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Applicants who have not yet started their program may also need to submit an acceptance letter.
Organizing these essential documents at the beginning of your scholarship search can save time. Since many scholarships accept online applications, scanning documents can be a handy way to stay organized. Some scholarships require documents that cannot be prepared in advance, like a customized letter or essay. For these scholarships, make sure to add the requirements to your scholarship calendar so you have time to prepare them before the deadline. 5
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 they’ve faced in their academic career or about their plans after completing their program.
Scholarship essays can feel daunting, but putting them off can mean missing deadlines and losing out on financial aid opportunities. Students should plan to write a customized essay for each scholarship. If the scholarship asks for a specific word count, do your best not to go significantly under or over that number. Ask a family member or friend to read over the essay to make sure it answers the prompt. Above all, set aside time to write and revise the essay so you aren’t rushing at the last minute.