Master The Scholarship Game

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

I so often hear nurses say, “I can’t possibly go back to school. I simply don’t have the money and don’t want to go into debt.” And yet there is more scholarship money available today than ever before. You just need to know where to look. Here are some tips for finding and getting the money you need. 

If you’re pursuing a degree in nursing or healthcare, contact the following sources for scholarship information:

  • Your state chapter of the American Nurses Association ( Click on Find Your State whether you are a member or not.
  • Any relevant specialty association. These could be related to your current specialty or one you intend to work in afterward. For example, if you currently work in ICU but intend to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, contact both the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses ( and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (
  • Online nursing scholarship lists such as those referenced below. You will have to weed through them because some are designated for certain ethnic groups, different levels of education or certain specialties.
  • Relevant ethnic heritage professional associations, if applicable, such as the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (, National Black Nurses Association (, and the Philippine Nurses Association of America (
  • The financial aid office in the school you are considering attending.
  • Peterson’s Scholarships, Grants, and Prizes [current edition]. This comprehensive book can be found in bookstores or the reference section of your library. Ask the librarian to help you find this and other scholarship listing books.

Whether you are pursuing a degree in nursing or another major, there are many others:

  • Ethnic clubs, such as the Italian American Club. Many have scholarship money available to those of that nationality or ethnic heritage. Similarly, some religious organizations have scholarship money available for those of the same faith.
  • Philanthropic organizations, civic clubs such as Rotary Clubs, veteran’s associations, unions, and organizations that support those with disabilities, if applicable.
  • Your or your parent’s employer — regardless of your age.
  • Other business and professional associations in your community and your home state as well as the state where you will be attending college. Seek out those related to your future career plans. For example, if you are pursuing an MBA, target business and management associations.

When filling out the application, remember these key points:

  • Applications must be filed by the deadline date and be complete. Follow the instructions carefully. Otherwise, your application will not be considered.
  • Read the award criteria carefully because each scholarship has a different focus. Understand what each organization is looking for and provide relevant information.
  • If you are required to write an essay, tailor your comments to the particular scholarship criteria. Choose your words carefully. Do not exceed the allowed word limit. Let the reader know why this is important to you and why you are the right candidate for the award. Remember, those judging the application only have your paperwork with which to make an evaluation. Make every word count. Let your passion and commitment come through on paper. Be sure to mention any hardships, challenges, or special circumstances, such as single parent, disabled, veteran, first-generation American, immigrant, sole supporter of your family, special recognition or honors received in the past. Keep the reader in mind when you write.
  • Just like a resume, your application should be free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. A typed application makes a good impression.
  • The more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances of receiving awards. Some organizations even award money for living expenses in addition to tuition.

Where to find scholarships listings:

Start filling out the applications, writing the essays, and licking the stamps or hitting the ‘Enter’ button. Money, or lack of it, should never be an excuse not to go back to school. Where there is a will there is always a way! There is definitely money out there for you. Go after it.

Copyright All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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