How to Get Money for College Through Military Scholarships

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What is a Military Scholarship?

A military scholarship essentially functions as a grant designed to assist military members in financing their college education. These scholarships vary in terms of award amounts, ranging from modest sums to comprehensive coverage of tuition, textbooks, board, and additional expenses.

While many military scholarships are exclusively available to active-duty service members and veterans, some extend their support to include spouses and dependent children. In fact, the latest statistics indicate that a substantial 87% of spouses and dependents have received financial aid, with a majority pursuing undergraduate degrees. It’s important to note that unlike loans, military scholarships do not require repayment. However, certain scholarships may impose specific terms and conditions that recipients must adhere to.

Some providers give scholarships to honor your service. Or, to honor the memory of a fallen hero. As a result, you may find unique programs in each branch of the military:

  • Air Force 
  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Marine Corps
  • Navy

Military scholarships also come from diverse other sources. From the VA and gov’t agencies. To colleges, nonprofits and private donors. Each award program comes with its own criteria. These tell you if you are eligible. And, how to apply.


Types of Military Scholarships

Military scholarships come in various forms, primarily categorized as merit-based and need-based awards. Merit-based scholarships often take into account academic performance, while need-based scholarships address financial constraints in affording tuition expenses. These scholarships serve as valuable resources for financing college, career, or technical education.

Military scholarships can also serve distinct purposes. Some are designed to prepare recipients for civilian roles upon completion of their education, while others provide financial support in exchange for participation in officer training programs.

ROTC Scholarships 

Many colleges collaborate with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to provide scholarship opportunities. The ROTC serves as a training program tailored for college students, and if you meet their eligibility criteria, you can pursue these scholarships. Basic requirements include U.S. citizenship and possession of a high school diploma, with GPA and test scores often factored into the selection process.

ROTC scholarships have the potential to cover tuition expenses, fees, and textbook costs for a four-year duration. Additionally, some recipients receive a monthly stipend to assist with various expenses. In return for this financial support, recipients commit to serving in the U.S. military and participate in ROTC training while pursuing their education.

While you serve after college, the number of years varies by branch. Here are a few examples:

  • Army ROTC scholarships holders serve 8 years (4 years of active duty and 4 years in the reserves) 
  • The Navy contract is 4 to 5 years of active duty 
  • Air Force ROTC service is 4 to 6 years of active duty. Plus, 10 years for cadets trained as pilots 

Scholarships for Military Spouses 

Scholarships designed for military spouses play a crucial role in alleviating the financial burden of tuition expenses. These scholarships, akin to other forms of financial aid, are often directed towards individuals with significant financial need. A military spouse is defined as the husband or wife of a member serving in the nation’s armed forces, encompassing spouses of active duty service members, veterans, as well as widows.

These awards can typically be found through each branch of the military, with programs like the Spouse Education Assistance Program standing out. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, this is a need-based scholarship specifically accessible to spouses of Army soldiers seeking to pursue a college degree.

Scholarships for Military Dependents 

Scholarships specifically earmarked for military dependents and survivors are instrumental in supporting higher education, whether for college or vocational school pursuits.

Military dependents encompass spouses and children of service members, extending to family members of those who are actively serving, retired, or have tragically fallen in the line of duty. To access these scholarships, you may be required to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application aids in evaluating the appropriate financial assistance to be provided, although it is not always the sole determining factor.

In certain instances, a strong academic record, including test scores and GPA, along with a demonstrated history of community service may also be prerequisites.

Fortunately, numerous avenues exist for sourcing such scholarships, with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) being a notable resource. An example is the Fry Scholarship, designed for children and spouses of service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, but specifically after September 10, 2001.

Scholarships for Veterans 

Scholarships support veterans who want to start, continue or finish a degree. They are for use at accredited schools and at many levels of study. 

There are also scholarships you may use at approved vocational or technical schools. These help veterans enter or advance a career in a skilled trade. Like TTT, Troops for Teachers. TTT is for current and former members of the Armed Forces. The program helps them shift to a career as a K 12 teacher. And is available in 31 states. To do so, it gives a $5,000 stipend or $10,000 bonus. Based on eligibility.

Often, the scholarships fill a gap. The one between GI Bill benefits and the cost of school. So, they may kick in to pay for tuition, housing and fees. To be eligible, you must have an honorable discharge from military service. But other criteria vary by program.

One is AMVETS National Scholarships. The American Veterans is a service agency that helps veterans. Each year they offer a few scholarships. Of them, two go Veterans, Active Duty, Guard/Reserves. One is only for their spouses. And another two only for their children and grandchildren.

College Specific Military Scholarships 

Numerous military-friendly colleges actively support military students by offering scholarships, some of which are exclusive to their institution. These scholarships may bear the names of local heroes or commemorate distinguished alumni who have served their country. These awards not only facilitate the educational pursuits of military students but often extend their benefits to direct family members as well.

To apply for these scholarships, individuals must gain admission to both the college and their chosen degree program. Following admission, eligible candidates can submit applications for the scholarship of their choice. In this context, a compelling essay with a clear and impactful message can significantly enhance your chances of securing the award.

Military Scholarships for 2023 

Below is a sampling of military scholarships that you might apply to in 2023/2024.   

HotelPlanner Graduate Technology Scholarship for Military Veterans

The HotelPlanner Scholarship Program caters to United States veterans and extends its reach to include their family members, including spouses, partners, and children aged 16 and older. This initiative disburses $1,000 to each of its ten chosen applicants on two occasions annually. The primary objective of this program is to provide financial support for pursuing a technology degree, regardless of whether it’s at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Amount: $1,000 each
Deadline: Summer – Apply by August 15th / Notified by September and Fall – Apply by December 15th / Notified March
Requirements: To apply, you need to show financial need. You also write an essay or present a video. This must explain how the military spiked your interest in tech.  

NMCCG Enlisted Dependent Spouse Scholarship

Annually, the Navy Wives Clubs of America, Inc. (NWCA) awards a total of 30 scholarships, including two specifically designated for spouses, widows, and widowers: the NMCCG Enlisted Dependent Spouse Scholarships. Eligible spouses can be affiliated with retired or enlisted members of the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard who are currently on active duty.

Amount: $500 – $1,000 each
Deadline: March 31st 
Requirements: To apply, you need to submit a copy of the military ID card. Also, attach a copy of your tax returns.

Blinded Veterans Association Scholarships 

The Blinded Veterans Association is a national agency. BVA members are blinded veterans. And help other blinded veterans. Each year, they award two merit scholarships. While they do not auto renew, you can re apply up to 4 times. One award is the Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship. It gives 6 people scholarships for $2,000 each. The other is the Thomas H. Miller Scholarship Program. This award goes to one person and is for $1,000. It  

Amount: $1,000 – $2,000 each
Deadline: April 
Requirements: To be eligible you need to be a dependent child, grandchild, or spouse of a blinded veteran. But do not need to be a member of the BVA.

Maryland Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts Scholarship

Each year, the Maryland Higher Education Commission offers about 125 awards. The Maryland Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts Scholarships. Armed forced personnel who served in these conflicts are eligible to apply. As well as their sons, daughters and spouses. Awards amounts vary and adjust based on VA benefits. But may cover up to $10,655 per year.

Amount: up to $10,655
Deadline: March 2020
Requirements: To apply, you need to fill out a FAFSA by March 1st each year. You can also renew the awards if you keep your GPA at 2.5 or higher.

Mike and Gail Donley Air Force Spouse Scholarship

The Air Force Association offers a few award programs each year. One is the he AFA Mike & Gail Donley Spouse Scholarship program. It awards two $2,500 scholarships on an annual basis. And aims to help Air Force spouses worldwide pursue a college degree at any level.

Amount: $2,500
Deadline: April 30, 2020
Requirements: The Air Force Spouse Scholarship program is designed to encourage Air Force spouses to pursue associate or bachelor undergraduate or graduate/post graduate degrees.

Pat Tillman Scholars Program

Each year the Pat Tillman Foundation offers awards. These are for military members, veterans and spouses. Tillman scholarship amounts vary. But give annual funding for academic expenses. So, things like tuition, books and living expenses. The average award amount last year was $6,567 per year. Others range from $1,500 to $23,000.

Amount: $1,500 – $23,000
Deadline: February 28
Requirements: To get one, you need to show selfless leadership. And dedicate yourself to make an impact. You will also have to write two essays. Plus, supply references, finances and have a 3.0 GPA.

NMCRS Gold Star Scholarship

The U.S. Navy Marine Corps Relief Society sponsors the Gold Star Scholarship Program. It is for the dependent children and spouses of Navy and Marine personnel. Ones who were killed in the line of duty. Awards range from $500 to $2500 per academic year. And, there are about 30 recipients each year. If you are studying oceanography, NMCRS offers another award. The McAlinden Divers Scholarship. It awards from $500 to $3,000. And is for active duty or retired Sailors, Marines and family members.    

Amount: $500 – $3,000
Deadline: May 
Requirements:  To get an award, the committee looks at two things. Financial need and academic merit (3.0 GPA and above).

American Legion Scholarship

Every year, the American Legion helps children of fallen soldiers. One way they do this is through the Legacy Scholarship. The Legacy Scholarship amounts vary as do the number of people who get one. But past awards were about $1,785.

Amount: Varies
Deadline: April 
Requirements: Awards go to children of post-9/11 veterans who died on active duty. Or who have a combined VA disability rating of 50 percent or greater. 

Military Order of the Purple Heart Scholarship 

A grant from Mr. Frederick W. Smith funds the Purple Heart Scholarship. It is a competitive program, and awards $3,000. 

Amount: $3,000
Deadline: February 15
Requirements: To be eligible, you must meet a few sets of criteria. One is to be a Purple Heart recipient and member of MOPH. You can also apply if you are the spouse or lineal descendant of someone who is or was. But not a great grandchild. Other criteria include being a full time undergrad at an accredited US school. You may also need a GPA of 2.75 and up.

Chief Petty Officer Scholarship Fund

CPOSF is a nonprofit. Their mission is to help qualified family members of US Navy Chief Petty Officers pay for education. Last year, they awarded 30 scholarships. Amounts were $2,000 each. 

Amount: $2,000 each
Deadline: April 1, 2020
Requirements: To qualify, you need to be a non uniformed spouse or dependent child. You also need to have a GED and be on track for an associate or bachelor’s degree. 

Make it Count Scholarship

The Make it Count Scholarship honors Spencer C Duncan. He was an Army Specialist, killed in action is August 2011. Each year, Grantham University offers 4 awards to deserving applicants. Valued at $5,000, you can apply the funds to any degree program at the school.

Amount: $5,000
Deadline: Varies
Requirements: To apply, you need to meet admissions criteria. Then, qualify for the scholarship. The scholarship is also open to a parent, child, spouse or sibling. As long as their family member served or is serving in the US Armed Forces. 

Army Nurse Corps Scholarship 

Every year, the Army Nurse Corps offers scholarships. Its goal is to support nursing education. 

Amount The 2020 ANCA scholarships will be $3,000 per selected applicant. 
Deadline: March 31
Requirements: To apply, there are a few rules to meet. For one, you need to be serving or have served in any branch or rank of the US Army. You also need to be enrolled in an accredited bachelor’s, graduate nursing or anesthesia program. But, cannot be also receiving GI Bill benefits or an ROTC scholarship.

My CAA Scholarship

My CAA scholarship is an award for military spouses. It is part of the Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. Awards only pay for tuition for credentials, certificates, or associate degrees. Or, to pursue a recognized license or industry certification. Certificates and credentials may be for post graduate work also. 

Amount: The scholarship provides up to $4,000 with an annual fiscal year cap of $2,000.  
Deadline:  Varies
Requirements: To qualify, you need to be a military spouse with a high school diploma. And, need the extra education to prep for a career. Spouses can be of service members on Active Duty, under Title 10 orders. Or, spouses of service members with pay grades of E1 through E-5, W1 through W-2, O-1 through O-2.

Military Enhanced Recognition Incentive and Tribute – MERIT Scholarship

New York State’s Division of Veteran’s Services offers annual awards. One is the Military Service Recognition Scholarship (MSRS). MSRS awards vary but in amounts. But may pay about 20 people up to $21,250 each. MSRS awards are for family members of New York State fallen veterans of the US Armed Forces.

Amount: up to $21,250
Deadline: Varies
Requirements: The awards are for spouses and dependents of US Armed Forces or state organized militia. Ones who, at any time on or after Aug. 2, 1990, while a NY State resident, died. Or became disabled while engaged in hostilities or training for it. 


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