The complete military family guide to finding and applying for scholarships


By Meg Flanagan

The acceptance letters are starting to roll in. But actually paying for college can be challenging. Luckily, there are a ton of cool scholarship opportunities out there just for military kids!

Get online

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The best resource is the Scholarships for Service search function from Fisher House. From here, you and your child can customize a profile that is run through their database.  Award amounts range from $100 to almost $30,000 or more.

Even with a customized scholarship search, it pays to be diligent. Not every student will qualify for every scholarship. Take the time to really read and understand the requirements or you can get more specific-to-you results. Scholars can narrow or broaden their searches by adjusting their profile.

As a bonus, this service includes scholarships for military spouses, too.

All military dependents should also check out federal resources available to college students. There are scholarships through national organizations or in exchange for joining the ROTC on your campus.

Haunt the high school counselor

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This office is the place to get the dish on local scholarships. Often VFWs and other military affiliated organizations offer scholarships to students in their towns or regions.

You can also find out about other non-military opportunities from the school counselors. Some scholarships are based on ethnic background, declared college major, participation in sports, or academic record. Some local scholarships are given to anyone who takes the time to apply!

Contact your school

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Each college or university has their own collection of scholarships and grants. Many are often not listed or found during basic internet searches. You can look on your school’s website or visit the registrar or recruitment office in person.

Scholarships at the college level, just like at the high school level, are available based on different qualities: college major, GPA, ethnic heritage, military affiliation, or extra curricular activities.

Get with the spouses’ groups on your base

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At every base there are probably a variety of spouse groups. Many of these groups offer scholarships to college students, both dependent children and spouses. Ask around your unit or through social media.

Some of these scholarships might be very specific. For example, a scholarship might only be available to a child with a parent attached to a squadron or in a particular military specialty. Other opportunities might be broad. It depends on the specific group, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Look at bigger programs

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MyCAA is is just for spouses of service members (excluding the Coast Guard), ranks E1-E5, W1-W2 and O1-O2. Eligible dependents can enroll in courses leading to an associate’s degree, with some stipulations. The funds available to each person are capped and a plan of study must be clear and focused. However, this is a great resource for spouses to build a transportable career while their service member serves our country.

Complete the FAFSA

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There are lots of private scholarships out there, but one of the best resources for all college students in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By completing this form, college students become eligible for a whole host of grants, loan programs, and work study jobs.

Often, colleges have tuition or fee reductions, scholarships or grants for students who meet certain income thresholds or fit other categories of need. States also offer aid packages based on those same qualifications.

The federal government has a whole slew of resources, too!

Work study provides a stipend to students in exchange for completing a job on campus. There are often hundreds of work study jobs at large universities. Student who don’t complete the FAFSA are not eligible for these jobs, and may have trouble finding work on campus that is not work study.

There are also grants, which do not have to be repaid, and loans, which do have to be repaid. Federal loan programs typically have lower interest rates than private loans.

More is better

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Apply to as many scholarships or grants as possible! The more hooks you throw out there, the more likely you are to catch something. Yes, even apply to that “pie in the sky” opportunity. You never know unless you try.

Even if your connection could be a stretch, you might still be awarded the scholarship. It depends on the applicant pool that year and how you present yourself. This is why it’s important to make your applications amazing!

Submit the complete package

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For each application, take your time and complete it with care.

Write unique essays or tweak a super strong essay to fit each scholarship’s requirements. Often scholarships want applicants to share personal details, stories, or experiences that relate to the sponsoring person or group. Take your time and make it perfect. Then step away and edit your final draft later.

Double check the other requirements. Submit your transcripts and other supporting documents. Get letters of recommendation from teachers, community or religious leaders, and anyone else you can think of (or need).

Before you mail or email off your final product, make sure all your I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. Triple check that every item the scholarship requires is included. And mark those application deadlines on your calendars. It would be terrible to miss out on free money just because of a date mix-up!

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