Scholarship advisor and author Shay Spivey has seen other single parents struggle to work full time, pay for daycare, and take night classes. But in her own experience, she’s refused to give up on being a student just because of her responsibilities as a mom.
She faced a balancing act that isn’t uncommon. About 2 million women, or 60 percent of all in-school moms, are single parents, according to a 2017 Institute for Women’s Policy Research report.
Spivey found many scholarships for moms that allowed her to afford college without racking up student debt. In fact, she earned over $100,000 in gift aid over a five-year period to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana University.
Where to find single mom scholarships
When Spivey returned to school more than a decade after leaving it, she assumed that most scholarship money was reserved for high school seniors. She was pleasantly surprised to find that there are scholarships for all kinds of students, including heads of households.
Here are four sources of scholarships for moms that can help alleviate the burden of student loan debt.
1. Your school
Spivey, who now teaches workshops on finding scholarships, said she’s always surprised to learn that most people think their school’s financial aid office and scholarship office are one in the same.
In her case, visiting the scholarship office helped her get 75 percent of a year’s cost of attendance paid for by the Indiana University Foundation’s Jesse H. and Beulah Chanley Cox Scholars Program.
If you’re a single mother, make sure to explain your situation to your school’s scholarship office. The representatives there can point you in the direction of some scholarships that could help.
2. Your state
Wherever you’re a legal resident — whether that’s in your school’s state — your local government might have a program for single moms.
If you have trouble finding your state’s agency, consult the list of state-based financial aid programs on FinancialAidFinder.com.
3. Women’s organizations
Like scholarships for minorities, religions, and academic or professional fields, there are organizations offering scholarships strictly for women. Some of these groups narrow their focus even further to single mom scholarships.
National organizations like these have chapters by state, which makes networks among donors much easier. Consider the following organizations:
4. Scholarship search engines
- Scholarship.com’s scholarships for single parents
- Scholarship.com’s scholarships for moms
- Fastweb’s scholarships for single parents
- ScholarshipsOnline.org’s scholarships and grants for women
But don’t rely solely on websites like these. They might leave out longstanding scholarships — such as from the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation and the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund.
5 tips for getting scholarships for moms
Spivey has written several books on finding scholarships, but her advice doesn’t always need to be sophisticated. She gives it straight to single parents.
1. Complete your research in advance
Too often, Spivey said, adults go back to school on more of a whim than a plan. They enroll not knowing how they’ll pay for their first year of school, let alone the rest of it.
Spivey said she spent one year reading about scholarships for moms and women before returning to campus. Hogging library books, she would put in 30 minutes to an hour each night researching money for college while her kids did their homework.
“Treat the process like a part-time job,” said Spivey, who more recently spent time over three-plus years helping her daughter earn a full-ride scholarship to a four-year school.
2. Learn from your applications
Spivey submitted 67 scholarship applications her first year of applying. She learned which types of scholarships to avoid (like contests that are only after your personal information). She also picked up on prioritizing single mom scholarships that were seeking students like her.
You can save time on application paperwork by only going after the scholarships for which you are a more realistic fit.
3. Share your story in essay prompts
Spivey, like many single moms, had a powerful story to tell. She wanted to better her family’s future by furthering her education. That’s the story she told to scholarship committees.
“Don’t be afraid of the essay,” she said. “It will be the easiest one you’ll ever have to write because it’s about you. No research needed.”
She also recommended being organized with each application, even adapting existing essays for new applications. Spivey said she would regularly take an essay she wrote for one scholarship and retrofit it to match the prompt of another.
4. Stay in touch and ask for more help
When Spivey earned a scholarship, she often tried to turn it into another scholarship from the same foundation. She did this by sharing updates on her academic progress at the end of every semester. The more scholarship committees learned about her, the more they wanted to help.
“The scholarships, several of them came with a great networking system, mentoring programs, staff at schools who were in invested in my success,” she said. “Someone I could call if I hit an obstacle. That was more valuable than the money.”
One foundation that supported Spivey as an undergraduate even created a graduate scholarship when she asked for support to chase her master’s degree.
When you earn scholarships, keeping in touch might not always result in more money. But good can come from creating long-lasting connections with your benefactors. Those connections might even lead to a job.
5. Put scholarship money toward your family
In her first year of applying for scholarships, Spivey secured $18,500 worth of them, exceeding her cost of attendance.
At no risk of scholarship displacement, she was able to direct some of her single mom scholarship money to costs outside tuition and books. Some of them helped pay for childcare, for example.
When applying for scholarships, don’t overlook opportunities that could help you pay for family-related costs. If a scholarship or grant helps you care for your kids, you will be able to focus more on your education.
Start applying for scholarships today
Anyone can grasp why a single mother might feel alone in financing her degree. But now you know that there are accessible sources of scholarships. Hopefully, you also have a head start on how to win them.
If you still have to take out student loans, remember that there are other solutions if you’re a single parent with debt.
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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
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.
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3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.29% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)..
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.76% – 7.14% (2.76% – 7.14% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.01% – 7.50% (3.01% – 7.50% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.19% – 6.73% (2.19% – 6.73% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.89% – 7.09% (2.89%-7.09% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 9.54% (1.36% – 8.82% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.13% – 9.84% (4.13% – 9.12% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 8.34% (1.36% – 8.04% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.03% – 8.64% (4.03% – 8.34% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.10% – 7.41% (2.10%-7.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.69% – 7.83% (4.69% – 7.83% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.45% – 9.60% (4.45% – 9.53% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.38% – 12.81% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.55% – 7.05% (3.55% – 6.77% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.07% APR).
Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.
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Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.