Scholarships for Military Dependents and Families

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In many ways, military families serve alongside their loved ones. They frequently move so they can all stay together. They endure deployments that place their loved ones in harm's way. They support their service members at home and while they are on a mission. As of 2018, military families included over 2.6 million spouses and dependents.

Military spouses and military children often face unique challenges when it comes to pursuing a college degree. Frequent moves can complicate completing a degree, and military spouses may find it difficult to gain occupational licensing in a new state. Children may end up applying to college with a hodgepodge of transcripts from multiple high schools.

Fortunately, scholarships for military dependents recognize the sacrifices of military families. Learn more about the financial challenges these families face. And find out about benefits, scholarships, and grants for military spouses dependents.

Unique Financial Challenges for Military Dependents and Families

Tuition

On average, college tuition, fees, room, and board cost about $24,620 in 2018-2019, up about $300 from the year before. Costs can vary widely depending on the location and type of school. Public four-year universities charged an average of about $20,600 compared to $10,950 for public two-year colleges and about $44,300 for private colleges.

Housing

For many students, the cost of housing can exceed what they pay for tuition. In California, the average cost of room and board in the state's public community colleges and university system ranged from about $8,510 to $13,770 in 2017. Financial aid might not consider these costs in student funding. Students may be able to minimize some of these costs by living at home or choosing online programs.

Frequent Moves

Most military families move every 2-3 years. While the military provides some benefits to offset the cost of a move, these changes in service location can stress a family budget. Military Times reports the average family pays $5,000 out of pocket for each move. Additionally, these frequent moves also can make it difficult for military spouses to find a job or advance their careers.

One-Family Income

About half of military personnel are married, but military spouses participate in the labor force at a lower rate than the general population. The unemployment rate for this group was almost triple the national rate, as of May 2017. Military spouses may encounter challenges transferring an occupational license from one state to another or finding a career in their field at a new base.

Uncertainty

Military families live with a lot of uncertainty, including deployments, moves, and federal regulations. Uncertainty in the U.S. Congress can affect military family budgets, including pay increases or government shutdowns. When a military service member leaves the armed services, families may struggle with how to replace the income.

Scholarships for military dependents can help these students complete their postsecondary education and pursue academic and career goals.

Scholarships for Military Dependents

Military dependents include children and spouses of personnel serving on active duty, in the reserves, or in the National Guard. Children of active-duty personnel often change schools frequently as they grow up. According to the USO, some military dependents attend 6-9 schools from kindergarten to high school graduation.

Scholarships for military dependents help students pay for their college education and reduce some of the barriers to higher education.

American Legion Legacy Scholarship

  • Who Is Eligible?: This scholarship is open to children of Post-9/11 veterans who died in service, as well as to children whose parent is a Post-9/11 veteran who has a 50% or higher disability rating. The scholarship provides up to $20,000 in college assistance, and recipients may reapply up to six times. Applicants must be high school seniors or graduates accepted to an accredited college or university.
  • Application Deadline: April
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

AMVETS Scholarship

  • Who Is Eligible?: High school seniors whose parents or grandparents are U.S. veterans, active-duty service members, or in the National Guard or Reserves may apply. Applicants are generally required to have a minimum 3.0 high school GPA, demonstrate academic promise, and demonstrate financial need. The application includes an essay, resume detailing community involvement, and financial documentation. Scholarships may support part-time or full-time undergraduate study at an accredited college.
  • Application Deadline: April
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

Army Scholarship Foundation

  • Who Is Eligible?: Sons, daughters, or spouses of individuals who currently or previously served on active duty in the U.S. Army or with the Army Reserve or National Guard may apply. Sons or daughters of former U.S. Army members who received an honorable discharge or medical discharge, or who were killed while serving in the U.S. Army are also eligible. The program requires a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants must not have turned 24 by the application deadline.
  • Application Deadline: April
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

Army Women's Foundation

  • Who Is Eligible?: Descendants of women soldiers or retired women soldiers may apply for scholarships from the foundation. Scholarship support varies from $1,000 for community college or certificate programs to $2,500 and $3,000 for undergraduate and graduate studies. Minimum 2.5 GPA required.
  • Application Deadline: January
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

Dolphin Scholarship Foundation

  • Who Is Eligible?: The foundation offers 112 ongoing Dolphin Scholarships (25-30 new awards annually) to the children or spouses of members or former members of the submarine force or support staff. The scholarship supports vocational and trade study as well as undergraduate degrees.
  • Application Deadline: March
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

Folds of Honor Foundation

  • Who Is Eligible?: The spouses and dependents of service members killed, wounded, or disabled due to their service may apply. Funding helps pay any outstanding fees or tuition for a student's first bachelor's degree. Recipients may reapply each year for up to four years of funding.
  • Application Deadline: March
  • Scholarship Amount: Up to $5,000

Samsung American Legion Scholarship

  • Who Is Eligible?: Children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of a veteran who served on active duty during a period of war designated by the American Legion may apply between their junior and senior year of high school. They also must have been selected to attend American Legion Boys State or American Legion Auxiliary Girls State programs. The organization names 10 national scholars and 10 national runners-up each year, as well as remaining department finalists.
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

Scholarships for Military Children

  • Who Is Eligible?: Children with a Department of Defense ID card whose parents are serving in or retired from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard may apply for this scholarship through their military installation's commissary. High school applicants need a 3.0 GPA or higher while college applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or higher. Students may renew the scholarship for up to four years.
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Scholarship Amount: $2,000

Scholarships for Military Spouses

Military spouses include the husband, wife, or partner of a member of any branch of the U.S. armed services. About 53% of military spouses take part in the labor market compared to 76% of the general population. While 89% of military spouses have some college education, only 30% have completed a four-year degree. These military spouse scholarships can help them complete their education.

Allied Van Lines Military Scholarship

  • Who Is Eligible?: This award supports military family members seeking a career in logistics or supply chain management. The application includes a brief essay. Allied Van Lines awards two scholarships annually.
  • Application Deadline: December
  • Scholarship Amount: $1,000

Army Aviation Association of America Scholarship

  • Who Is Eligible?: Spouses of association members or deceased members may apply. The scholarship criteria includes academic performance, an essay, and reference.
  • Application Deadline: December
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship

  • Who Is Eligible?: This scholarship supports spouses of personnel who currently or previously served in the U.S. Army through active service, the Army Reserve, or the Army National Guard, and are currently enrolled in an accredited baccalaureate or advanced nursing program. Applicants must not receive educational funding from the U.S. Army, such as GI Bill® benefits.
  • Application Deadline: March
  • Scholarship Amount: $3,000

MyCAA Scholarship Program

  • Who Is Eligible?: Spouses of active-duty, reserves, or National Guard service personnel in specified pay grades who are on Title 10 military orders may apply for the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship. In addition to tuition assistance, the program includes career coaching to develop an education and training plan.
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Scholarship Amount: Up to $4,000

National Military Family Association

  • Who Is Eligible?: With valid military or uniformed services ID, Post-9-11 military spouses or 20/20/20 spouses may apply for scholarship support for a variety of educational needs, including earning a degree, continuing education courses, and supervised clinical hours.
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

ThankUSA Special Military Spouse Scholarship

  • Who Is Eligible?: Spouses may use the scholarship to pursue a degree or non-degree certificate or licensing, such as a nursing or medical license or real estate continuing education. The program does not support graduate education.
  • Application Deadline: April
  • Scholarship Amount: $3,000

Wings Over America Scholarship Foundation

  • Who Is Eligible?: Spouses of active-duty or retired Navy aviation personnel may apply. The applicant must be seeking a first undergraduate degree at an accredited college or technical school.
  • Application Deadline: March
  • Scholarship Amount: Varies

Grants for Military Dependents and Families

Coast Guard Supplemental Education Grant Program

  • Who Is Eligible?: This program supports Coast Guard military dependents enrolled in college or approved vocational and technical training. The funding helps pay for books, supplies, or equipment required for a course of study, but it does not pay for tuition. The program provides funding on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Amount: $500

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

  • Who Is Eligible?: Offered to students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service after Sept. 11, 2001, and who are under the age of 24 at the time of their parent/guardian's death. This grant supports students who would not qualify for a federal Pell Grant due to their expected family contribution.
  • Application Deadline: June
  • Amount: Varies

Military Officers Association of America

  • Who Is Eligible?: The organization offers interest-free loans of up to $7,000 per year to military dependents. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA or higher and not be older than 24. MOAA considers loan recipients for its Designated Scholar Program, which provides a $500 grant, reducing the amount of their loan.
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Amount: $500

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Education Assistance Program

  • Who Is Eligible?: Financial assistance includes interest-free loans and grants for dependents of active-duty or retired Sailors or Marines. Applicants must enroll as a full-time student and be registered in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System. Students need a 2.0 GPA or higher, demonstrate financial need, and military children must be under age 23. Interest-free loan and grant amounts vary from $500-$3,000.
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Amount: Varies

Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance

  • Who Is Eligible?: Military dependents between the ages of 18 and 26 may qualify for this educational program if they are the spouse or child of a service member who died on active duty, was captured by a hostile force, or who has a service-connected disability. The program covers college, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training for up to 36 months.
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Amount: Varies

Additional Resources for Military Dependents and Families

This grassroots coalition brings together families of Blue Star families, Gold Star families, veterans, and patriotic organizations to support active-duty personnel, veterans, and their families. It offers information on childcare, legal questions, moving, and emotional support. Organizations affiliated with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership provide networking opportunities to help military spouses chart their education and career paths. In addition to the many organizations that work with Military OneSource, spouses also can access the help of a career coach. For roughly 50 years, this organization has advocated on behalf of military spouses and military dependents. In addition to military spouse scholarships and other financial support, the organization offers family retreats and summer camp programs. The U.S. Army works with these groups to communicate with families, share information, and connect people with resources. Each branch has a similar program to support families as they move to new posts, as units deploy overseas, or as families struggle with finances or other needs. The DOD offers a number of military spouse benefits and family programs to help support its 2 million uniformed service members. Find education and career opportunities, online learning resources, and financial literacy materials.

Frequently Asked Questions About Military Dependents and Families

Can military spouses go to college for free?

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Military spouses can access several funding resources to finance their education. Military service members and veterans can transfer unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child if they meet specific service requirements. The GI Bill helps pay for tuition and housing, and includes a textbook stipend for up to 36 months.

Other programs help military spouses pursue or complete their postsecondary education. Opportunities include MyCAA, which offers $4,000 over two years. Each of the military branches offers spouse assistance programs, as well. These programs may provide need-based scholarships, grants, or low-interest loans.

Can military spouses fill out the FAFSA?

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Anyone planning to attend a college, university, community college, or vocational college should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form often marks the first step in applying for federal, state, or institutional financial aid. You should never pay to complete a FAFSA. Make sure you file through the U.S. Department of Education.

FAFSA results help schools determine how much a family can contribute toward educational costs and the amount of any unmet need. Schools use this information to develop a student aid report. Many scholarships consider financial circumstances and may require a copy of the student aid report from your school.

What is the Yellow Ribbon Program?

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The GI Bill pays the total cost of in-state tuition at public universities. If you plan to attend a private or out-of-state school, the program caps payments at $26,042 for the 2021-2022 school year. Schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program help make these institutions more affordable for military students by offering additional aid.

Schools must choose to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Supplemental funding may vary by student level, with more benefits for students in master's or doctoral programs. Some schools may limit the number of students they support through the Yellow Ribbon Program each academic year, so be sure to apply early.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/index.asp.


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