Thanks to a surge in interest in female education throughout the 20th century, financial aid for women who wish to attend college is quite extensive. Like all students, women are frequently able to apply for college aid through governmental programs, which may include scholarships, grants, and loans. Other sources of financial aid for women include awards offered by private foundations, gender-specific grants, and open scholarship competitions.
Government aid programs are the typical starting point for financial aid for women. These programs are usually need-based, and can be applied for each year. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA, will calculate eligibility for government programs based on income and school expenses. A student can choose to accept part or all of the package offered, which may cover living expenses as well as tuition. Since many of the programs offered through government resources are loans that require repayment, it may be beneficial to apply for many scholarships and grants to help reduce the amount needed in loans.
Private foundations often provide financial aid for women with specific backgrounds or personal histories. Single mothers, first-generation female college students, and those who had to interrupt their education for child-rearing purposes may be able to find scholarships meant specifically for women in their circumstances. Some scholarships combine a gender-basis with an ethnic or religious background requirement as well, such as scholarships for women originally from sub-Saharan Africa, or Jewish women.
In addition to gender-specific scholarships, women pursuing specific degrees or research projects may also be eligible for gender-based grants. Women choosing college majors in which females are typically underrepresented, such as film, science, or engineering, may also be able to find a wide variety of private grants meant to increase female participation in their particular discipline. Schools looking to increase female participation in certain majors or disciplines may also sometimes award grants to incoming or continuing female students based on merit and financial need.
Outside the world of gender-based awards, there are hundreds of scholarship competitions that can be excellent sources of financial aid for women. Essay contests, video and film-making competitions, and even awards based on entrepreneurship or volunteer work can all help to provide funding for a college or graduate education. There are many Internet databases of open scholarship competitions; many even allow applicants to create a personal profile that helps match the student with competitions based on interests, major, and even gender.