There are 5 million U.S. military family members, according to the Department of Defense. That amount includes 2 million children.
If you count yourself in this group, you can also count on financial aid for college. Whether you’re a parent considering going back to school, or a teen on your way to college for the first time, there are military scholarships tied to your family member’s service.
They’re all around. You just have to know where to look.
5 sources of military scholarships for dependents
That’s not a bad way to go. But you can save time and energy by going directly to the source. Here are five sources for military scholarships.
1. The federal government
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should be your first stop. Use the VA’s GI Bill comparison tool to see what sorts of educational benefits you qualify for at certain schools.
Even if you’re already enrolled in school, you might be eligible for multiple military scholarships or benefits programs. Here are the most wide-ranging among them:
- Dependents Education Assistance Program: Dependents of disabled or deceased veterans could receive up to 45 months of educational benefits.
- Post-9/11 GI Bill: Servicemembers can transfer as much as 36 months of educational benefits to dependents and spouses.
- Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship: Dependents of deceased veterans could receive up to 36 months of educational benefits.
If you need help navigating your options, visit your regional VA office.
There are also grants for military children via the Department of Education. If your parent died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, you could be eligible to receive a Pell Grant.
If you do not qualify for a Pell Grant based on your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC), you could instead apply for an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant of equal value. For the 2017-2018 academic year, that grant amounts to $5,920.
You could maintain access to these grants by filling out the FAFSA each year you’re in school. Remember, these grants are like scholarships in that they don’t need to be repaid.
2. Your family’s military branch
There are many foundations dedicated to supporting members of all five branches of the armed services. Be sure to ask your branch about organizations it recommends. You’ll likely be pointed toward the following:
- Army Emergency Relief and the Army Scholarship Foundation
- Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
- The Navy Seal Foundation
- Air Force Aid Society
- The Coast Guard Foundation and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
Some of these organizations just list military scholarships. Others offer relief in the form of grants and interest-free loans. Always prioritize applying for aid that doesn’t need to be repaid.
The offerings of the foundation that’s most applicable to your situation could vary. For example, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation has awarded $110 million in scholarships since 1962. The Army Emergency Relief organization handed out $61 million (including $8.6 million in scholarships) in 2016 alone.
Like other scholarships, the opportunities listed on these websites often have specific requirements. Your eligibility for awards could depend on your family member’s status in the military, disability or death, and your age.
3. Charitable foundations for children and spouses
No matter what branch of the military your loved one served in, you have a wealth of other charitable foundations at your disposal. The Department of Education recommends these four longstanding organizations:
But that just scratches the surface. There are many organizations, including ThanksUSA, that specialize in supporting the educational goals of military spouses and children. You can zero in on the right foundation by looking at those that specialize even further.
After all, the more closely you align with the audience a foundation is trying to serve, the more likely you’ll score one of its scholarships.
For example, sons and daughters of a deceased parent should review scholarships for military children, such as from the Fallen Heroes’ Children’s Education Fund and Fallen Patriots. If your military parent is alive, you might instead apply to the Fisher House Foundation, The Military Officers Association of America, and Folds of Honor.
Similarly, husbands and wives of military members should seek out charitable organizations that specifically aim to help them. The National Military Family Association, for example, only offers military spouse scholarships. As you scan through these opportunities, be aware of their eligibility guidelines. You might not qualify if you remarried, for example.
4. Your state government
Just as the federal government offers gift aid, your state might also have military scholarships and grant programs to help you attend (or return to) school.
If you’re a surviving child of a servicemember in New York, for example, the Division of Veterans Affairs website offers resources in its Military Corner. There, you’ll find information about two scholarships for military children:
- Military Enhanced Recognition Incentive and Tribute Scholarship
- NYS Regents Awards for Children of Deceased and Disabled Veterans
If you aren’t able to find military family aid details on your state government’s websites, call the listed phone number for more information. Explain your situation so they can direct you to the best resources for aid.
5. Your school
If you’re enrolled in school, don’t forget to foster a relationship with its financial aid office.
Explaining your circumstances — such as a widow seeking military spouse scholarships — will encourage the campus representatives to help you.
If you got the service bug from your family member, you might learn about worthwhile scholarships for dedicated volunteers.
Even if the school itself doesn’t offer scholarships and grants for the spouses and children of military members, it likely has a resource page that can point you in the right direction.
At Florida State University, for example, its Student Veterans Center focuses on providing information about gift aid for service members. But it also lists off military scholarships for dependents. This way, you might find out about a prestigious, national scholarship program like the one offered by the Pat Tillman Foundation.
Applying for military spouse scholarships and scholarships for military children
Applying for military scholarships and grants is much like trying to win gift aid in general. You meet certain eligibility requirements, provide application materials by a set deadline, and await the response.
The difference is that you’ll already be given the benefit of the doubt. Governments, schools, and charitable organizations focusing on military families have a sense of what you’re going through. They want to send help, but you’ll have to take the first step of asking for it.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 2/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.23% – 13.23%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.20% – 11.44%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 10.11%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.85% – 6.99%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|