Lesson 8: Scholarship and Grant Opportunities for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
As you explore how you will pay for attending college or career school as a student who is blind or visually impaired, it is a good idea to start with researching sources for money that will not need to be repaid (if you fulfill your end of the agreement). Free money or gift-aid is available in the form of scholarships and grants from many different resources.
Your eligibility for grants is based on the information you submit on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Grants are awarded according to your expected family contributions (EFC), financial need, and the cost of attendance at your school. The most common grant is the Federal Pell Grant, which is usually awarded to undergraduate students and is available for up to 12 semesters. Students must reapply for the Pell Grant each year by completing the FAFSA. According to the US Department of Education, the maximum award for a Pell Grant during the 2016-2017 school year was $5,815. Money awarded from a Pell Grant does not have to be repaid unless you withdraw from school before the end of the semester.
Another form of gift-aid for college is scholarships. Thousands of scholarships are available for you to apply for from businesses, private organizations, and companies. The amount of money awarded from a scholarship could cover the entire cost of your tuition or be a one-time award. Scholarships are awarded to recipients by donors for a variety of reasons, such as having good college entrance exam scores, being affiliated with a certain organization or club, being an athlete, having a special talent, or your parent’s military status.
Scholarships are also awarded based on hobbies, religion, ethnicity, a field of study, etc. Some scholarships are only available to students who are blind or visually impaired, and as a person who meets that criteria, you should take advantage of the opportunity to apply for those scholarships.
Resources for locating scholarships include your high school guidance counselor, the library, and the financial aid office at your college or career school. Other resources include websites such as Federal Student Aid, local organizations, and news stations.
Scholarships will have an application, eligibility criteria, and deadlines, so it will be important for you to begin the search for scholarships you are eligible to apply for as a student with vision loss as early as your junior year in high school.
Learn more about Federal Pell Grants by researching the answers to the following questions:
- What four things determine the award amount for a Federal Pell Grant?
- What is an Expected Family Contribution (EFC)? What will your EFC be?
- What is the maximum amount of money you can receive in a year from a Federal Pell Grant?
- What is an award year?
- Can you receive a Federal Pell Grant from more than one school at a time?
- There are certain circumstances in which a Federal Pell Grant would need to be re-paid, what are they?
To be considered for a scholarship, you will need to complete an application that includes eligibility criteria and deadlines. Many scholarships will require an autobiography or personal statement. The sponsor of the scholarship will select a recipient who will fulfill the requirements set forth by the scholarship committee or chair. Since you may apply for multiple scholarships, it will be helpful to have an autobiography or personal statement (description of your interests, achievements, etc.) available to use for the applications.
- Create either an autobiography or personal statement about yourself in 500 words or less.
- Have two people from your personal network review your personal statement and provide you with feedback. Edit your personal statement and save a copy to refer to or use when you apply for scholarships.
Research the list of scholarship opportunities from the following organizations that offer support to students who are blind or visually impaired.
American Foundation for the Blind
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
American Council of the Blind
National Federation of the Blind
Blinded Veterans Association
Lavelle Fund for the Blind
Research and identify at least two specialized scholarships or grants you might be eligible for, such as scholarships offered for saxophone players, people who are left-handed, scholarships offered by organizations your parents or grandparents belong to, etc.
Create a master list of resources for scholarships you might qualify for and the deadline for submission of each application. Set deadlines for completing each application using a digital calendar. If needed, also set goals to obtain certain merits to qualify for a scholarship.