• Learn about military dependents and challenges they may face accessing employment and education.
  • Discover more about the financial aid programs available to military families.
  • Explore scholarship application requirements and helpful tips and tricks.
  • Find some of the best military dependent scholarships.

Military professionals, their spouses, and their children make incredible sacrifices for their country. As a result of their service commitments and responsibilities, military personnel and dependents face numerous obstacles to education, including deployments, location changes, and personal tragedies.

To help these people overcome some of these challenges, federal and local governments, schools, and organizations provide various types of support and financial aid. On this page, we highlight some of the best military dependent scholarships and help prospective students explore more opportunities.

Unique Challenges Facing Military Families

Military families encounter various challenges that can make it difficult to complete higher education and find employment. Military professionals move frequently, work nontraditional hours, and face stressful situations regularly. These circumstances make it difficult for their family members to find work and build experience, especially jobs that can accommodate short-term assignments and unorthodox schedules.

According to Deloitte data, 24% of military spouses experience unemployment and 31-51% experience underemployment. These rates were over seven times the national average prior to COVID-19 and are projected to worsen post-pandemic. Furthermore, nearly half of military families live in locations with limited or negative job availability.

Military families also face higher-than-average mental health challenges, which can hinder educational and professional development. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, military families experience more stress, emotional difficulties, anxiety, and academic problems than non-military families.

Many of these same challenges exist in higher education, as colleges and universities require similar levels of access and commitment. With military dependent scholarships and aid opportunities, families can remove many of the financial barriers to education. In turn, these degree-seekers can improve their skills and qualifications and work toward a meaningful career.

Federal Financial Aid Assistance Programs

Several federally funded programs are available to help military spouses and children pay for a college education. These programs assist dependents in paying for tuition, books, fees, and living expenses.

Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts

A workforce development program, MyCAA Scholarship program provides up to $4,000 of tuition assistance to eligible military spouses pursuing degrees, licenses, certification, or credentials leading to employment in high-demand, high-growth occupations.

The program is open to spouses of service members on active duty in pay grades E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, and O-1 to O-2. Recipients must be able to complete their coursework while their military sponsor is on Title 10 military orders.


Post-9/11 GI Bill

This program administered by Veterans Affairs (VA) provides service members and their dependents with up to 36 months of education. Eligible service members must currently be on active duty, have at least 90 days of aggregate active-duty service after September 10, 2001, or have been honorably discharged or discharged because of a service-related disability.

All unused benefits can be transferred to family members for programs, including undergraduate and graduate programs, vocational training, licensure and certification reimbursement, and on-the-job training.


Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program

Survivors and dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or those who died while on active duty are eligible for up to 45 months of education and training benefits. Recipients can use this assistance for undergraduate and graduate degrees, certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. Children of veterans wishing to use this benefit must be age 18-26.


In-State Tuition

Active service members and their dependents making use of the GI Bill can attend any out-of-state public college or university while paying the in-state tuition rate. The current maximum tuition benefit is just over $20,000. Military families must cover additional funding for private or public universities that cost beyond $20,000.

Financial Aid by Service Branch

Army

James Ursano Scholarship Program

Army Emergency Relief also administers the James Ursano Scholarship Program, which helps the children of Army soldiers pay for their first undergraduate degree. Applicants may receive the scholarship for up to four academic years as long as they meet the requirements. However, students must reapply each year. Award amounts vary.

Navy

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society - NMCRS Education Assistance Program

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society was established to provide financial, educational, and other means of assistance to Sailors, Marines, and their dependents. Interest-free loans and grants are offered to children or spouses of an active-duty, retired, or deceased Sailor or Marine.

Funds range from $500-$3,000 per academic year. Recipients can use the funds to pursue undergraduate/postsecondary education at a two-year or four-year college, technical, or vocational institution in the United States.

Air Force

Air Force Aid Society - General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program

The Air Force Aid Society was established to help Air Force members and their families weather financial distress and pursue their postsecondary education goals. This need-based grant program is for spouses and children of active-duty Air Force members, retirees, or deceased members pursuing an undergraduate degree full time. Grant funding ranges from $500-$4,000. Students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, and children must be younger than 24 during the award year.

Coast Guard

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Education Loan Program

The spouses and children (under age 23) of CGMA clients are eligible for loans of up to $3,000 to assist with education expenses. The student must be enrolled in an associate, bachelor's, graduate, or vocational education program. Qualifying candidates include active-duty Coast Guard military personnel, retired Coast Guard military personnel, and members of the Coast Guard Selected Reserve.

Marines

The Marine Corp Scholarship Foundation

The children of Marine and Navy Corpsmen, including active-duty and reserve U.S. Marine veterans and U.S. Marines who have been honorably discharged, are eligible for scholarship funding.

Applicants must be seeking their first undergraduate degree or a non-degree certificate program or vocational training of less than 12 months at a community college or other institution. Learners can renew scholarships up to three times as long as they meet the criteria each year.

Where to Find Scholarships

Searching for scholarships can prove daunting. Luckily, military families can find scholarships in many different places, both online and in person. This list highlights some of the more common locations that prospective students might find military dependent scholarships.

  • Online Databases: Online scholarship databases and resource guides help scholarship-seekers track down opportunities. Students should always double-check sites' data to ensure they get the most current information.
  • Colleges and Universities: Most colleges and universities host internal and external award databases. Students should look online for scholarship award information or check with their school's financial aid office.
  • Government and Military Websites: Government websites often list or provide information on scholarship opportunities for military personnel and families. Military OneSource, for example, connects visitors with various scholarship and financial aid programs and resources.
  • On-Base Educational Offices: Most military bases house an on-base educational office to provide information and support for personnel and their families looking to attend school or take classes. These offices may also help people look for and apply to military dependent scholarships.
  • National Organizations: Various national organizations run their own scholarship programs for students across the country. Many military organizations, such as the National Military Family Association, offer scholarships for associated professionals and their families.

Scholarship Applications

The scholarship application process for military families follows the same steps as most programs. Applicants may need to provide unique information, such as proof of service, but most other requirements remain the same. While no military dependent scholarships are guaranteed, candidates can improve their odds of winning by adhering to the following application tips and tricks.

  • Start Early: Applicants should start their search and applications well in advance of the deadline. Make a calendar of important dates and look carefully at requirements for each award. Start writing responses early and set time aside to edit and compile all requirements to prevent scrambling.
  • When in Doubt, Apply: While most awards post eligibility requirements, students should not ignore a scholarship just because they do not meet the entire list. Applicants should begin with the awards for which they are most qualified and then pursue others.
  • Gather All Materials: Many scholarship applications feature similar requirements, such as professional references, transcripts, personal letters, and military documentation. Applicants should gather this information ahead of time to resolve issues before the deadline.
  • Look For Local or Niche Opportunities: Local scholarships that feature limited application eligibility or cater to specific educational interests usually receive fewer applicants. Applicants may enjoy better odds of winning these awards.
  • Consider Questions Thoroughly: Applications take time to complete, so students should review questions carefully and take the proper amount of time. Think about the question being asked and avoid getting off topic.

Scholarships For Military Families

ThanksUSA

Eligibility: Applicants must be spouses of U.S. military service personnel or dependent children under age 24. Applicants need at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA. Applicants must be enrolled or plan to enroll full time at an accredited two-year or four-year college, university, or vocational or technical school for the academic year.

Award amount: $3,000

Application deadline: April 15

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AMVETS

Eligibility: This scholarship is for veterans, active-duty service members, guard/reserves, or qualifying family members to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree from the University of Phoenix.

Award amount: $4,000

Application deadline: April 30

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Tillman Military Scholarship

Eligibility: A supplement to the Post 9-11 GI Bill, this scholarship covers tuition and books and provides a living stipend for eligible service members, veterans, or military spouses to pursue undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate degrees at a public or private U.S. institution. The scholarship is renewable.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: February 28

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Folds of Honor

Eligibility: Spouses and children of service members may apply for this funding for education and training. Children are eligible for funding for school tuition, educational tutoring, an approved/accredited homeschooling curriculum, required books, and school uniforms. Spouses enrolled or applying for enrollment at an accredited institution of higher learning are eligible for funding for tuition and books.

Award amount: $5,000 with reapplication each year

Application deadline: March 31

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Marine Gunnery Sergeant John D. Fry Scholarship

Eligibility: The Fry scholarship makes education benefits available to the surviving spouses and children of service members who die in the line of duty. An amendment to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the scholarship pays full tuition and fees directly to the school for in-state students.

Award amount: Tuition and fees, capped at $25,160 per academic year for private and foreign institutions

Application deadline: Any time during the academic year

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Fleet Reserve Association Education Foundation Scholarships

Eligibility: Spouses and children of FRA members in good standing are eligible for several scholarships. Recipients must be U.S. citizens and full-time students at a U.S. accredited college or university.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: April 15

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Alabama G.I. Dependents Scholarship Program

Eligibility: Alabama residents who are the spouses or children of military veterans who were honorably discharged, disabled, or killed in service of their country may apply. Winners receive five standard academic years (10 semesters) of free tuition at any Alabama state-supported institution of higher learning.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: August 1

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Daniel Drevnick Memorial Fund

Eligibility: Residents of Minnesota or Wisconsin who are the spouses or dependents of military veterans who served after September 11, 2001 may apply. Students must be enrolled in a law enforcement program at a technical college or university and must submit a transcript.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: Year-round

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Navy Seal Foundation Scholarships

Eligibility: Scholarship opportunities are available to active-duty service members, their spouses, and dependent children. These scholarships are renewable for 1-4 years for education, vocational, certificate, and leadership programs. These scholarships are awarded based on GPA, SAT scores, and volunteerism.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: Year-round

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The Military Order of the Purple Heart Scholarship

Eligibility: The child or spouse of a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), or veterans killed in action who did not get an opportunity to join MOPH may apply. Applicants must be accepted by or enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student at an accredited U.S. college, university, or trade school.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: TBD

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Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship Program

Eligibility: Nursing or anesthesia students with a parent, spouse, or child who is serving or has served in the U.S. Army may apply. Applicants must be U.S. citizens enrolled in a bachelor's or graduate program in nursing, anesthesia, or a related healthcare field.

Award amount: $3,000

Application deadline: March 31

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The Jack E. Barger, Sr., Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund

Eligibility: Applicants must be veterans or active-duty service members or children or spouses of a veteran or active-duty service member, Pennsylvania residents, and undergraduate nursing students. The scholarship, established to address the state's nursing shortage, requires the recipient to attend the local VFW meeting to accept the scholarship.

Award amount: $1,000

Application deadline: March 30

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The Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship Program

Eligibility: Students must reside in Maryland and enroll full time or part time at a two-year or four-year Maryland college or university as an undergraduate or graduate student. Several different types of people qualify for this scholarship. Visit the scholarship page for specific requirements.

Award amount: Not exceeding annual tuition

Application deadline: July 15

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Salute to Spouses

Eligibility: Scholarships for military spouses of active-duty personnel are available for students in full-time or part-time online associate or bachelor's programs at Bryant and Stratton College. Applicants must submit an essay and required documentation of their spouse's service.

Award amount: $6,000 paid in increments for each consecutive semester

Application deadline: Varies

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Hope for the Warriors

Eligibility: Military spouse scholarships are available for wounded, injured, or killed service members. The program recognizes spouses who have demonstrated "exceptional strength, fidelity, and resolve despite adversity." The spouse must be enrolled in or have applied to an accredited university, college, or trade school.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: TBD

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Career Step

Eligibility: This online provider of career-focused education is offering full-ride military spouse scholarships for any of its online career certificate programs, which include medical coding and billing, medical administrative assisting, and pharmacy technician. Career Step is a partner of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.

Award amount: Full ride for one program

Application deadline: TBD

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The Legacy Scholarship

Eligibility: High school seniors or graduates who are sons or daughters of parents who died while on active-duty military service on or after September 11, 2001 may apply. The Legacy Scholarship helps pay for tuition as recipients work toward an undergraduate degree, as well as books, room and board, and other supplies.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: April 15

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Fisher House Scholarship for Military Children

Eligibility: Unmarried children of active-duty military personnel, reserve/guard and retired military members, and survivors of service members who died while on active duty are eligible for this scholarship. Dependents must be age 23 or younger and enrolled or planning to enroll in a full-time undergraduate program at an accredited U.S. college or university.

Award amount: $2,000

Application deadline: February 17

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Daedalian Foundation Descendants Scholarship

Eligibility: The Order of Daedalians helps the descendants of its members in the fields of aerospace engineering and flight and encourages them to pursue military careers. The foundation awards the scholarships annually to eligible students nominated by Daedalian Flights or submitted directly by the descendant to the foundation's scholarship committee.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: Varies

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Military Child of the Year Award

Eligibility: This scholarship for military children recognizes applicants ages 13-18 who are resilient and demonstrate leadership and achievement in their communities. Applicants must be the legal dependent child of a service member and have valid military ID or currently be enrolled in the DEERS program.

Award amount: $10,000, a laptop, and a trip to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony

Application deadline: TBD

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Grants

Like scholarships, grants are gifted aid that do not require repayment. But while scholarships are often merit-based, grants are often need-based. The federal government, state governments, and various nonprofit and civic organizations offer grants.

When applying for federal grants, such as the Pell Grant, applicants must complete the FAFSA to generate an expected family contribution. State grants and those from nonprofits maintain their own requirements and vary widely.

Pell Grants

The U.S. federal government typically awards the Pell Grant to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelor's or professional degree. This grant often makes up the foundation of a student's financial aid package. Some recipients also apply for other types of aid.

Eligible candidates need a high school or GED diploma. The amount of aid awarded depends on each student's financial need (as demonstrated by their completed FAFSA form), tuition fees, and other factors.

State Government Grants

State and local governments award grants based on criteria like demographics and high-demand career fields. Review your state's website to look for links to the board of education, social services, and other state agencies that might offer grants.

Private Grants

Educational institutions, civic organizations, companies, and philanthropists all provide grant opportunities for students. These grants are often career-specific, and students who come from low-income families or military families are sometimes given preference.

Grants for Military Families

Operation Education

Eligibility: The University of Idaho offers grants for the spouses of severely injured U.S. military personnel. The military personnel must have sustained permanent disability while serving since September 11, 2001.

Award amount: Tuition at the university

Application deadline: Varies

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Columbia College Coast Guard Spouse Grant

Eligibility: Columbia College offers a 50% tuition grant for on-campus or online undergraduate courses. The grant is available to spouses of active-duty Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve members with a pay grade of E1-E5, CW02, and 01-02. The college also offers 20% tuition discounts for the spouses of active-duty military personnel for in-person undergraduate classes.

Award amount: Up to $4,000

Application deadline: Varies

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Military Officers Association of America - General John Paul Ratay Educational Grants

Eligibility: Students under age 24 who are children of the surviving spouse of a retired officer may apply. They must plan to attend an accredited college or university as a full-time student.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: March (not awarded every year)

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37th Davidson Veterans Association

Eligibility: This program provides grant scholarships to assist veterans and descendants of veterans of the 37th Infantry Division in obtaining post-high school and advanced education.

Award amount: Varies

Application deadline: May 1

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Additional Resources for Military Spouses and Children

  • MilitaryBenefits.info: This website provides information on various military benefits and support programs. Visitors can find details on military-friendly careers, housing, and scholarships.
  • U.S. Veterans Magazine: The U.S. Veterans Magazine offers information on many different opportunities for military veterans and their families. Readers can find resources dedicated to education, careers, and partnership opportunities.
  • Military OneSource: Military OneSource strives to meet the needs of military families by offering varied support for employment, education, moves, and transitions. The site provides personal and wellness services and information on reading and translating military documentation.
  • National Military Family Association: NMFA is the voice for military families and works toward improving the services and programs offered to them. The association runs its own programs, including military dependent scholarships and summer camps.
  • Military Spouse Magazine: Designed for military families, Military Spouse Magazine provides articles and information on various topics, including employment, finances, and education.

Frequently Asked Questions About Military Dependents

Who qualifies as a military dependent?

According to the U.S. Army, spouses and children under age 21 qualify as military dependents. Other relatives, such as older children, parents, and siblings, may qualify if they are full-time students. However, they must be registered through the proper channels.

Do military dependents get tuition assistance?

Military dependents can access several tuition assistance programs, including both grants and scholarships. For example, My Career Advancement Account runs a scholarship program that offers tuition assistance funding for military spouses.

Can military spouses go to college for free?

According to MilitaryBenefits.info, many schools offer tuition waivers and no tuition costs for military professionals and their dependents. Prospective students should check out specifications for each school program, as many feature unique requirements that may not apply to every applicant.

Do military spouses qualify for FAFSA?

Many military spouses qualify for FAFSA, though it depends on how much the applicant's family earns. However, completing the form can prove worthwhile for all dependents regardless of eligibility, as the data can be transferred between scholarship applications and save applicants time in the long run.

Are there scholarships for military spouses?

Yes. Independent schools, external organizations, and state and federal governments offer scholarships for military spouses.