NSA Stokes Scholarship — and Other Top Computer Science Scholarships

 March 15, 2021
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The average computer science student borrows more than $8,000 for each year of their education, according to Student Loan Hero research.

Although a sizable, entry-level salary can ease student loan repayment, there’s a way to avoid borrowing those loans in the first place: Seek out computer science scholarships, such as the popular NSA Stokes scholarship opportunity.

The NSA Stokes scholarship is particularly attractive because it includes postgraduate employment at the National Security Agency (NSA). The program is limited to high school seniors with a strong academic background.

There are computer science scholarships for students of every level and background, including awards designed specifically for women and people of color still underrepresented in the field. Here are five worth considering.

1. NSA Stokes scholarship
2. Generation Google Scholarship
3. Microsoft’s Tuition Scholarship
4. Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship
5. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Presidents’ Scholarship
● Plus: How to find more computer science scholarships

1. NSA Stokes scholarship

The Stokes program is one part computer science scholarship, one part NSA job. High school seniors who are planning to major in computer science or engineering are eligible to receive up to $30,000 annually to cover tuition and fees — and a salary working for the federal agency. You would receive year-round pay and benefits despite working just the 12 weeks of summer per year while you’re enrolled.

In terms of the job itself, the NSA says its technologists work on “applications programming, computer security and graphics, and the design and implementation of software involving database management systems, real-time systems, networking and distributed processing systems.”

Note, however, that by accepting the Stokes award, you must agree to work for the NSA beyond your graduation.

Eligibility requirements include U.S. citizenship, a 3.0 minimum grade point average and high SAT or ACT scores. The application includes the college scholarship essay prompt, “Why I want a career at NSA.”

Deadline to apply: Oct. 31

By the numbers: NSA Stokes scholarship
● $30,000 maximum financial support per year for school
● 3.0 GPA required to apply
● One-page essay
● Two scholarship recommendation letters also needed
● 12 weeks of student work while enrolled in college

2. Generation Google Scholarship

One of a handful of Google scholarships, the Generation Google Scholarship is meant for any undergraduate or graduate student that’s studying computer science or engineering or a related field. It awards $10,000 to be used on your ensuing year of study.

Google makes a point of encouraging “students that identify with groups historically excluded from the technology industry,” including women, to apply for the award.

Applying for the award is no easy task. You must provide grade transcripts and a resume as well as responses to three short essay prompts. Applications are judged based on your “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, demonstrated leadership and academic performance.”

Deadline to apply: The application period for 2021 will open in the fall.

3. Microsoft’s Tuition Scholarship

Microsoft’s computer science scholarship is open to students seeking a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering or a related field. International students attending class in the U.S. are also eligible to apply.

For its scholarship, Microsoft seeks “demonstrated passion for technology, academic excellence, and leadership while working to push the software industry forward,” and prioritizes the applications of students who have helped promote diversity in their field while studying on campus.

Besides offering partial and full-ride scholarships for one academic year, the tech giant also administers a Diversity Conference Scholarship to allow students to attend educational events by paying for their conference registration, as well as providing them with a $1,200 stipend.

Also check out: Blacks at Microsoft, a group of employees at the company, distributes a pair of $5,000 awards to worthy high school seniors looking to study computer science or another eligible degree. These students will also be eligible to receive this award annually through four consecutive years of education, should they continue to meet the scholarship’s criteria.

Deadline to apply: “TBD” for the Microsoft scholarship, and March 31 for the Blacks at Microsoft program.

Not sure about majoring in computer science?
Check out our scholarship resources for more majors …
1. Art
2. Communications
3. Education
4. Engineering
5. History
6. Journalism
7. Business
8. Music
9. Photography
10. Medical school
11. Nursing school

4. Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship

Unlike some of the other scholarships, you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to receive this one-time award of $10,000 — you just have to be a college student in the U.S. Adobe’s scholarship program serves female undergraduate and graduate students studying computer science.

Winners also receive a one-year subscription to use Adobe’s suite of tools, access to a mentor who works for the company and the opportunity to interview for a separate internship.

To apply, you’ll need to submit your transcripts, resume, contact information for three references and answers to four essay questions. You could better your odds by including a minute-long multimedia presentation that describes your career aspirations.

Also check out: Other college grants and scholarships for women.

Deadline to apply: Sept. 27

5. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Presidents’ Scholarship

Many merit-based computer science scholarships award aid for your grades, but the IEEE’s scholarship doles out $10,000 for an outstanding project. It must be entered in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which attracts 1,800 students internationally every year.

Also check out: The IEEE hands out a variety of other computer science scholarships. If you’re a member of your school or region’s branch, you might apply for the Richard E. Merwin Student Scholarship (application deadline in April and September) — it offers awards valued at $1,000 and above for active students (with no stellar science fair project required).

Deadline to apply: May, when the international competition is held

How to find more computer science scholarships

Computer science and STEM awards like the NSA Stokes scholarship abound far beyond just these five opportunities. Here are a few ways to find sources of aid that don’t need to be repaid:

  • Focus on your niche: There are computer science scholarships for seemingly any specific interest within the field. If you’re passionate about cybersecurity but miss out on the NSA Stokes scholarship, for example, you might be eligible for the federal government’s Scholarship for Service If you simply love video games, on the other hand, check out the Entertainment Software Association’s scholarship.
  • Join student or professional associations: Like the IEEE, many organizations offer computer science scholarships to students. For instance, the Society of Women Engineers offers gift aid to both members and non-members alike. Do some research into groups that would help you network your way to some much-needed gift aid.
  • Don’t forget about non-technology scholarships: Limiting yourself to computer science scholarships would be a mistake — consider all the other reasons you could win scholarships. The Asian Pacific Fund, for example, supports students with Asian or Pacific Islander heritage, who are pursuing an education in everything from computer science to finance.

As you find computer science scholarships, keep your eyes on the prize: a debt-free education. The more scholarship money you win, the less you’ll need to borrow in the form of federal and private student loans.

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