Education Grants and Scholarships for Single Moms: The Definite Guide

A single mother must balance many concerns in her daily life. Her first care is to ensure that the needs of her child are met consistently and adequately. This care takes much of her time and makes up a substantial part of her regular budget. However, the sole purpose of a budget should not be to account for expenses. A budget should reflect a person’s income as well. In the case of single mothers, this side of the budget unfortunately might not look very bright. Many single mothers are forced to drop out of college or even high school due to the constraints that are placed on their time by their new children. Furthermore, financially supporting a child and continuing their education is next to impossible.

These circumstances can leave single mothers with a very dull-looking future ahead of them. However, they should not completely forget their hopes of obtaining an education. Scholarships and student grants from the United States Federal government and the states that they live in can make their dream of obtaining an education much easier. College is hard to afford for almost everyone. Consequently, there are numerous opportunities for students to obtain financial assistance from private funds or government assistance.

It is reasonably safe to say that 99% of single mothers will not be able to complete their college education without some sort of financial assistance. They will struggle just to support their children and they will be unable to open new career opportunities that will lead to financial security. The numerous sources of financial aid should ease this burden, right? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Most single mothers are not aware of the financial assistance that may be available to them and, if they are aware of it, they do not know how to obtain it due to the complexities that surround the application process. Consequently, this article seeks to provide clarity on the types of financial aid (both private scholarships and public grants) available to single mothers and how they should best apply for it.

Private vs Public

In applying for financial aid, every applicant has two options. They can seek financial aid from a private organization or they can seek financial aid from the government. While each type of aid has its own unique qualifications, they are all characterized by certain general characteristics that provide the key to understanding the application process.

Financial aid that can be obtained from a private organization normally comes in the form of a scholarship. Almost every scholarship is awarded based on personal merit such as maintaining a good grade point average or being able to demonstrate academic commitment. These scholarships are in high demand and competition can be pretty strong to obtain one. However, there are numerous scholarship offerings to people in need. These people can come from impoverished homes, a certain race, or have other financial circumstances that hinder them from going to college. Single mothers would fall under the last category.

Financial aid can also be obtained from the government. The financial aid that a government offers normally comes in two forms: a student loan or a grant. In this article, we will only discuss the grants. Government grants can be obtained from the federal government via the US Department of Education or from a state government. However, there is a critical difference between grants and private scholarships. Private scholarships are normally awarded to individuals directly from the organization who offers them. Government grants are usually awarded to educational institutions such as universities who then select the students that they feel deserve the financial assistance.

Which source of financial aid should single mothers pursue? BOTH! A single mother will need every ounce of financial aid that she can get to help herself through college. That includes student loans from private lenders and the government, scholarships, and government grants. There is no guarantee that anyone will be able to obtain a form of financial aid. Therefore, it is imperative that a single mother pursue every form of financial aid that is open to her.

Starting the Process

Before this article delves into how you should go about obtaining your financial aid, it is necessary to clear up a common misunderstanding that hinders many applicants from starting the process. Many people think that they must obtain their funding before they apply to a university. Why? Almost everyone views the application to an institution of higher learning to be a binding contract once the university accepts them. They feel that they are then bound to register for courses and pay the regular expenses that come with a college education. However, this view does not provide you with an accurate picture.

You are not compelled to take any classes or pay the university any money after you register yourself as a student. You will have to pay a registration fee because most universities charge $50 for the registration process, but you are not required to commit to any courses until you are ready (this is especially true with online universities). The importance of the last sentence cannot be overemphasized. You do not have to commit yourself financially until you are absolutely certain of your financial position.

Therefore, it is imperative that you apply to a university and get accepted before you begin to apply for financial aid such as a scholarship. Because grants are primarily awarded to institutions which then pass them on to the students that they feel are deserving of them, you must complete the full application process. The university will provide you with a full estimate of your annual expenses. Once you have received this information, you must contact the university’s financial aid office and ask them what assistance they can give you in the form of grants or scholarships. If you can prove that you have financial difficulties or other circumstances that will make paying for your education difficult (being a single mother), you will have a high chance of obtaining a grant or a scholarship that covers some, if not most, of your annual expenses.

Once you have ascertained how much financial assistance that the university can give you, you can start your own hunt for scholarships. However, the most important part is to get the process started. How the university treats your application will provide you with a good indicator to guide your search for scholarships as well as moderate financial assistance.

Qualifying for Grants

Because state grants vary from state to state and have a myriad of requirements and benefits, this discussion of educational grants for single mothers will be limited solely to what the United States Federal government offers. By limiting the discussion in this manner, we are not downplaying the value of a state grant. Instead, we are providing you with the information that we have full knowledge of and you can act on with reasonable assurance that it has been thoroughly explained.

Federal grants are the most used forms of student financial aid. Most federal grants are need-based although most of them have merit qualifications attached as a requirement to retain the annual grant funds throughout your college education. Fortunately, applying for a Federal grant is pretty straightforward and simple. When you apply to the university that you attend and you are accepted, you will be offered a chance to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form.

The FAFSA form requires you to provide specific information regarding your family, including the total household income, the total household assets, and the number of members. Single mothers should be especially aware of a provision in the application process that gives them a special exception. Unlike most applicants who must provide information about their parents’ income, single mothers do not have to provide any information regarding their parents’ income. This provision allows them to qualify for higher grant awards.

The FAFSA form can be filled out any time after January 1st and the Federal government requires that it be filled out before June 30 th. However, many states set their own deadlines so it is important that you take care to find out when your deadlines. For single mothers, it is extremely advisable that you file your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st. By filing early, you will be more likely to obtain financial help.

So how does the Federal government award grant assistance? The information that you provide on your FAFSA is used to calculate the estimated cost of your education and determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The Expected Family Contribution is then used to develop a ratio to determine how much you will be able to pay on your own. The Federal government then forwards the information (Student Aid Report) to your college or university, which then compiles an official financial offer of what they can make available to you. Due to the information that the college or university has received in the Student Aid Report, it may also offer you a scholarship.

Some of the common types of Federal financial aid are listed below along with their qualifications.

Pell Grants:

Pell grants are the easiest form of Federal financial aid to qualify and the US Federal government has been offering them since 1972. They are available to almost every one though. However, special consideration is given to single mothers who are returning to college after dropping out. In order to qualify for a Pell grant, you must be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Financial need that goes beyond your Expected Family Contribution
  • Your enrollment for an entire academic year
  • Your Status as a full or part-time student

The maximum amount of funding that you can receive via a Pell grant is determined by Congress each year. The current levels allow a student to receive annual funding in excess of 5000 dollars.

More information here: http://www2.ed.gov

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG):

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is administered by the US Department of Education and is primarily a need-based grant. Students who can demonstrate the greatest levels of financial hardship related to college expenses will be able to obtain a substantial amount of Federal financial aid through this program. If your Expected Family Contribution score is close to or at zero, you will receive primary consideration for a FSEOG award. However, the disadvantage with this grant is that, once the funding is exhausted, no further grants will be issued. Consequently, filing your FAFSA form early is critical. Those who qualify are eligible to receive up to 4000 dollars annually.

More information here: http://www2.ed.gov

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

The TEACH grant was created by College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 and provides up to $4,000 a year funding to those students who intend to teach in public or private elementary or secondary schools that serve students from low-income families. In exchange for receiving a TEACH grant, you must agree to work for a public or private elementary/secondary school that serves low income students for at least 4 years out of 8 calendar years. If you fail to meet this requirement, your grant will be converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan that must be repaid back to the federal government. You will also be assessed interest from the date the grant was given. Also another condition is you must work in a school that teaches in a high-need field, which are:

  • Bilingual Education and English Language Acquisition.
  • Foreign Language.
  • Mathematics.
  • Reading Specialist.
  • Science.
  • Special Education.

Website: Studentaid.ed.gov

Scholarships for Single Mothers

Scholarships are much more difficult to obtain for students than grants are. Most scholarships come courtesy of private organizations. Therefore, they are rarely based on anything else than academic merit. Unfortunately, many single mothers lack the necessary academic track records for scholarships. In many cases, their pregnancies and the subsequent birth of their child forced them to drop out of high school. Because they do not have a high school diploma and complete high school transcripts, they lack the necessary documentation to prove their academic skills and commitment.

Therefore, it seems that only one option is open to them. They must attempt to make it through the first year of college while maintaining a good grade point average. Then they can apply for a scholarship with a reasonable chance of winning it. It sounds difficult, even impossible? This route is no doubt the hardest one that a single mother can take to obtaining a scholarship. Fortunately, there is an alternate method to enhancing your qualifications for a scholarship.

For single mothers who dropped out of high school, they will need to obtain a General Education Diploma (GED), which is the equivalent of a high school diploma in most states, in order to be admitted into the university that they applied to. They should make every effort to pass it with honors or with as high a score as possible. After taking the GED, they should make an attempt to take the SAT test. If they score highly enough on both tests, they will be able to use both scores to bolster their application for a scholarship.

In order to further enhance their application for a scholarship, single mothers should apply to a university and gain acceptance. Once they have gained acceptance, it would be advisable to declare a major in order to concentrate on the specific scholarships that will enable them to pursue their dreams in a certain career path. In addition to that, if a single mother’s application is impressive enough (No worries! You don’t have to be Einstein! Just have solid grades from your GED, SAT, and high school transcripts), the university may be able to connect her to scholarships that are offered locally.

Finding a scholarship can be a daunting task due to the number of organizations offering them. The key to finding a successful scholarship is to target certain things. For single mothers, they should target scholarships that offer assistance to women in their circumstances. However, isolating these scholarships through a regular Internet search is like searching for the proverbial needle in the proverbial haystack. Consequently, single mothers who are looking for scholarships should use a search service such as Scholarship Search by Sallie May. These search services will enable them to isolate the scholarships that will provide them with the best help for their specific situations.

Each scholarship on Scholarship Search by Sallie May has its own requirements just like every scholarship. Consequently, we have selected a few scholarships that we feel best represent the scholarships that the Scholarship Search by Sallie May provides and provided some details about them below.

Scholarship Search By Sallie May:

Scholarship Search by Sallie May is a private organization that specializes in locating the best scholarships for you based on the information that you provide in your profile. With over 3 million scholarships offers, Sallie May narrows the results that it matches you to without restricting your ability to pursue alternative possibilities. To see what Scholarship Search by Sallie May can do for you, please visit the following link:

https://www.salliemae.com/plan-for-college/scholarships/scholarships-for-women-and-single-mothers/

In the meantime, here are some of the recommended scholarships on Scholarship Search by Sallie May.

  • The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation offers scholarship awards to low-income mothers in order to help them afford the living expenses that come with the attendance of a traditional brick and mortar college. In order to qualify for it, a single mother must demonstrate that her income is below the required threshold, which is 40,000 dollars in most cases. Applicants may be eligible to receive up to 5000 dollars annually if they meet the academic requirements for their categories.
  • The Alice T. Schafer Mathematics Prize is offered to women who major in mathematics. It is somewhat symbolic of the specialty scholarships that are offered on Scholarship Search by Sallie May due to its strict requirements. The applicant must be nominated by a professor or an academic advisor who can attest to their interest and commitment to the subject. Therefore, it would definitely be advisable to have a strong track record in the study of mathematics during high school. Successful applicants can receive up to 1000 dollars annually.

Unigo:

Unlike Scholarship Search by Sallie May, Unigo does not specialize in a specific area of college preparation. Instead, Unigo prides itself on being a wealth of information about college responsibilities in general. Nevertheless, it does provide a researcher with a wealth of scholarship opportunities. The best feature of Unigo is that the student can apply directly for every scholarship without having to involve a third party such as the university, an academic adviser, or a professor. This feature provides you with a measure of freedom and comfort. However, the major disadvantage of Unigo is that there are very few tools to narrow down your search for a scholarship. Consequently, it is best to use Unigo in combination with your regular internet search engine. You would probably need to type in search terms such as “single mother scholarships unigo” or “scholarships for single mothers unigo”. To see what Unigo has to offer in terms of general college knowledge, scholarships, and other advice, please visit their website at the following link:

https://www.unigo.com/

In the meantime, here are some of the scholarships that we thought were most representative of the scholarships that Unigo offers for single mothers.

  • The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program was designed for single mothers who have been the victims of domestic abuse. It was founded in 1999 as a project of The Sunshine Lady Foundation and is now a separate entity. There are no deadlines for applications, but it does take about 2 months to review each application. There are also no set limits on annual assistance amounts as each request is assessed on a case by case basis. For more on the program or to sign up, please visit the following website: http://apply.wispinc.org/
  • The Deana Kendrick Foundation offers scholarships to women over thirty years of age who are returning to school or are currently in school. The applications requires that you be enrolled at a university at the time of the application and that you complete a 300 word essay and submit two letters of recommendation. The total scholarship amount ranges from 250 to 500 dollars per semester. To find out more information or to apply, please visit the following link: tdkf.wordpress.com/scholarship-application/
  • The P.E.O Program For Continuing Education is a program that combines government grants with private scholarships to provide financial assistance to single mothers who dropped out of school and are returning to college to support their children. Single mothers who apply have two years or less to complete their degree and they must prove that they were separated from school a minimum of two years during their adult lives. The maximum amount that an applicant can obtain is 3000 dollars total. There is no deadline for application. The best thing about this program is that she is not restricted on what she can use the money that she receives from the programs. She can use it for childcare or other family related expenses. For more information on the program, please visit the following website: http://www.peointernational.org

Conclusion

College is a lifeline for single mothers who have been forced to drop out of high school due to their pregnancies and the subsequent births of their children. An education is important to obtaining a job in the modern job market and every individual should at least have a high school diploma. However, even with a high school diploma, the ceiling for single mothers is very low in today’s economy. Businesses are on tight budgets and they will only hire the most talented and qualified individuals to work for them. While a single mother’s natural skillset might be superior to her competition for jobs, the training that her competitors receive via their college education gives them a decided advantage over her. Consequently, her job opportunities are extremely limited and she is often relegated to entry level jobs that have a miniscule chance of career advancement and provide her with very little income.

Being a single mother also places a tremendous strain on a financial budget. The needs of the child must be met first before the mother can do anything else and supporting a child can be quite expensive. This expense makes it extremely difficult for a single mother to afford to pay for her college education or even part of it. Without the income that would come with a higher paying job, her dreams of continuing her education and branching into her own career path will remain unrealized. However, financial aid can help her realize her dreams and launch her on a career path that will enable her to comfortably support herself and her child.

As it was explained in the article, financial aid can come from two sectors: the government and private scholarships. Government grants tend to be the most simple and straightforward type of aid that a student can receive. Federal grants in particular are most generous and will cover most of the tuition costs for single mothers. Because grants are generally need based instead of merit based, a single mother will be able to obtain financial assistance even if she does not possess sufficient academic transcripts from her high school years. This financial aid can be the difference between realizing a dream and only having it. On the other hand, scholarships can be extremely difficult to obtain because they are merit based. Merit based financial aid is awarded based on a competitive process and single mothers are at a major disadvantage due to the face that many of them have dropped out of high school when they became pregnant and their children were born.

While many applicants for financial aid may be tempted to focus all of their efforts on a single area, it is wiser to attempt to build a broad base of financial support. Unless you have some serious athletic talent, it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to get a single financial aid award that will pay all of your college expenses. Therefore, you should not pursue one or the other. You must pursue both scholarships and grants in order to build a financial base from which you can cover most of your education from your financial aid resources instead of your own pocket.

It is also important to remember how to start the process. Many single mothers fail to achieve their dreams simply because they are afraid to start the process. It is alright to have apprehensions regarding the obligations that you might have once you begin to pursue your education; however, you should not let that hinder you from pursuing the means to accomplish your academic dreams. The first step is to make an application to a university and get accepted. Once you are accepted, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA form). By filling out this form, you will enable the government to make an analysis of your financial situation so they can provide the university with the information that it needs to offer you Federal grants, state grants, and scholarships.

This article is not meant to be an exhaustive source from which you can script your academic journey as a single mother step by step. In this article, we only provide information relevant to student aid such as grants and scholarships that we know can be applied in all 50 states and by most single mothers. We have not elaborated on the subjects of student loans offered by the government and private lenders. There are many forms of financial aid in addition to the ones that we have mentioned. Your situation will have its own unique facets that will determine how you will progress through the process of obtaining financial aid and what you will need to get in order to make your academic and career dreams a reality. Hopefully, this article has made the first steps that you must take on that journey easier for you. Getting a quality education is a necessity in today’s job market. You owe it to yourself and your children to make the attempt. Good luck!

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