Navigating The Scholarship Landscape

 

A Signpost With Blank Signs Pointing in Many Directions

A Signpost With Blank Signs Pointing in Many Directions

As we have mentioned before, the transition from high-school to college comes with challenges for everyone. Oftentimes, one of the biggest challenges when starting college is figuring out how you are going to is pay for it!

 

With college costs skyrocketing in recent years, scholarships are becoming more and more important for college applicants. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012 the average student at a 4-year institution received $9,740 in scholarship and grant money. This is a quick guide to help students with disabilities navigate the often complex world of scholarships.

 

Finding A Scholarship

 

It’s important to understand the three biggest categories of scholarships: Merit-Based, Need-Based, and what I will call “other.”

 

Merit-Based scholarships award students based on academic, artistic, athletic, and really every imaginable type of achievement.

 

Need-Based scholarships attempt to identify individuals, through the FAFSA form, who need help paying for college. These scholarships are often provided by the college itself, or through the government.

 

The third category, what I referred to as “other,” contains scholarships that you could win for essentially every imaginable reason. Many of these scholarships are essentially an essay contest. There are scholarships for women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who play the drumset, and yes, even people who are really into daydreaming about the zombie apocalypse.

 

There are literally millions of scholarships out there, and a seemingly equally high number of services on the web dedicated to helping you find the right ones for your situation. Luckily for you, I spent some time sorting through those services. I narrowed them down to the three listed below.

 

Here is a list of three free, reputable scholarship search engines:

  • https://www.petersons.com/
    • Peterson’s has over 5000 scholarship providers, 1.5 million scholarships, and $10 billion in scholarships on their site.
    • As well as a scholarship reference, Peterson’s has great resources for finding the ideal university, as well as standardized test prep.
    • Their site is relatively easy to navigate and allows users to search scholarships by keyword (disability, Cerebral Palsy, etc.).

  • https://www.collegeboard.org/
    • CollegeBoard, the same company that administers the Advancement Placement (AP) and SAT tests has $6 billion in scholarships on its website.
    • The real advantage to using this site is that it allows users of AP and SAT testing to use the same login and profile information that they entered for those programs to search for scholarships, as well as a host of other resources.

  • https://www.fastweb.com/
    • Fastweb, a subsidiary of Monster.com, also boasts around 1.5 million scholarships, with $3 billion in total scholarship funds on their site.
    • Fastweb requires users to create a profile in order to search for scholarships. The profile is free and takes 10-15 minutes.
    • Fastweb will tailor the scholarships that it shows users based on their profile, and will notify users of new scholarships that might interest them.
    • Fastweb also has free career advice, financial aid and college search resources.

There are many other sites that may work for you, but these are the three that I relied on when I was applying for college scholarships only a few years ago.

 

Before using these sites, it helped me to sit down and make a profile of myself. Starting with characteristics such as race, gender, disability status, etc. and, then, try to make a list of the things you were involved with in high school such as:  your academic interests, your hobbies, and your potential areas of study in college. Each and every one of these things can open the door to a potentially lucrative scholarship opportunity.

 

It is also important to keep a few things in mind as you begin your search for scholarships.

 

Look Locally

 

Don’t forget to look for scholarship opportunities in your local area. Ask your school counselor about local scholarships, and maybe even give your local area library a call. I learned about a few very important local scholarships through my library.

 

You should also find out which UCP Affiliate is closest to you by using your zip code in our affiliate finder. It is worth giving your local affiliate a call to see if they have any scholarship or  suggestions of other funding opportunities for students headed off to college.

 

Pay Special Attention to the School You Are Attending

 

If you know which school you will be attending, make sure to do everything you can to find out about all of your specific college’s  financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Many of the scholarships you apply to will be specific to that school, and can be found on their website or by contacting their financial aid office.

 

You may also want to contact the disability services offices at your prospective schools to see if there are any grants or scholarships available specifically for disabled students.

 

Keep Track of Deadlines and Eligibility

 

You will find that as you accumulate scholarship applications, you will accumulate even more deadlines. I recommend putting together a calendar that only has scholarship deadlines and keep it separate from your application deadlines.

 

Put the Work In

 

You will notice that there is a wild difference in the amounts of work required to apply to various scholarships. While it may be tempting to spend a lot of time applying to “no-essay” national scholarships with applications that don’t take much time, keep in mind that there are probably hundreds of thousands of other students doing the same thing. I’ve found that you will get out what you put into the scholarship process, so don’t ignore the scholarships that require an essay or two.

 

This is a good little resource for writing scholarship essays. It always helped me to try to envision who was going to be reading my essay, and why they were interested in me and what I had to say. Try to convince your friends, family, teachers, mentors and anyone who is willing to proofread your essays and provide suggestions. Don’t be shy!

 

Getting Started

 

Here are some trustworthy scholarships specifically for individuals with disabilities to get you started on your scholarship search:

Google Lime Scholarship Program

 

Microsoft DisAbility Scholarship

 

Newcombe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

 

Ameriglide Achiever Scholarship

 

Joe Cleres Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

 

Foundation for Science and Disability

 

disABLEDperson Inc. National College Scholarship

 

NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

 

It may also be worth checking out this financial aid resource for students with disabilities put out by George Washington University’s HEATH Resource Center. HEATH serves as a national online clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities.  

 

In conclusion… applying to college is stressful for a plethora of reasons, but scholarships don’t have to be one of them!

What You Need to Know About College as a Student with a Disability

The transition from high school to college can be both a scary and exciting time for every student. College is a whole new world, and unlike anything most students have yet experienced.

 

Before heading off to college, students have questions and concerns about their future. Most students probably wonder about their major, whether they will like the school they have chosen, and what their new friends will be like, but for students with disabilities, the questions can often be a little more complicated.

 

Students with disabilities may wonder about accommodations, accessibility, services and supports, and getting help with everyday needs. And these questions may not be easy to answer.

 

As someone who’s a former college student, and an individual with a disability, I wanted to share some of the things that I wish I had known freshman year in hopes that it may make your transition a little bit easier.

 

Self Advocacy Is Key:

Growing up, it was typically the responsibility of your parents, teachers, or other administrators to make sure you got the accommodations and supports you needed to be successful in school. But, in college, it becomes primarily your responsibility.

 

Self-advocacy is always important but becomes especially essential when navigating college. College is often the first time students have lived away from home, and it is important to remember that you are your own best advocate: there are lots of supports in place to help you be successful, but you have to be proactive and reach out so that the people around you know what you may, or may not need.

 

Most schools have Offices or Departments of Disability Services in place to help students with disabilities get the accommodations they need, such as note-taking support, extra time on exams, or any other reasonable academic accommodation, but nobody from the office is going to seek you out, especially if they don’t even know you’re there.

 

Make a point to become familiar with the services and supports that exist on your campus. Talk to the disability support staff to work on a plan for your accommodations to help ensure success from day one. You are in college now and, like your peers without disabilities, there are still people there to help you, but for the most part, you are in the driver’s seat now!

 

The Laws Are Different:

K-12 education for students with disabilities is mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), this means that students with disabilities are entitled to public education and that it is the responsibility of the school to see that all students are getting an appropriate education. Colleges don’t fall under IDEA, and therefore, are not required to make accommodations to the same degree as the public school system.

 

In college, students with disabilities are protected from discrimination, such as inaccessibility of buildings, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Schools must provide reasonable accommodations such as notetakers or extra time on exams, but they don’t have any obligation to modify coursework to accommodate students with disabilities or provide additional supports such as assistance with personal care or activities of daily living to ensure a student is successful.

So, if you are, for example, a wheelchair user who needs help to get in and out of bed or perform other daily activities, the ADA requires your school to provide you with an accessible dorm room, but there is no legal obligation to provide you with an assistant or other types of personal care support.

 

This is important to know because it means that you will need to set up the supports you need on your own before you head off to school. Some schools have programs to help students with personal care needs, but this is not a requirement for all schools. Look into what your school offers to figure out what kind of supports may be available.

 

For more information about the difference in laws governing K-12 education and college check out the resources below:

 

https://umaine.edu/disability/accommodations-high-school-vs-college/

 

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transitionguide.html

 

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/auxaids.html

 

 

It’s Okay to Reach out for Help and Support:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or struggling more than you thought you would, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Mental and emotional well-being is just as important as physical health, and academic support.

 

Most colleges have a variety of services to support students from health centers, to counseling and other mental health services, and wellness programs, in addition to academic supports. Take advantage of the support and community that exists around you, and don’t be afraid to reach out.

 

Additionally, there are lots of groups and activities on college campuses, and many colleges even have organizations run by and for students with disabilities. These organizations may or may not be support oriented. Many of them may just be social groups, or groups focused on advocacy and activism.

 

Whether or not they are disability focused, student organizations and extracurricular activities can be another great place to find support in college.

 

 

Transition Is Not One-Size-Fits-All:

Everybody is unique, which means that everyone’s experience in transitioning from high school to what comes after will look, feel, and be, very different. Whether you’re planning to go to school far away, attend college close to home, or do something else after high school, it’s important to remember there is no right way to transition from high school to beyond.

 

Whatever you decide to do after high school graduation, focus on making sure that it’s the right option for you, rather than worrying about whether it’s what other people expect.

 

For more information you need to know,  check out the topics below:

What You Need to Know About Preventative Care and Disability
What You Need to Know About Sexual and Reproductive Health and Disability

The RISE Act of 2016

RISE Act – The Respond, Innovate, Support, and Empower Act of 2016 (Bill S.2203)

Students living with a broad range of disabilities are enrolling at 4-year institutions more than ever before, but not all are completing their education. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, students with learning disabilities (LD) enrolled at 4-year colleges or universities are completing their degrees at a rate of only 45%. For their non-disabled peers, the rate of completion for a 4-year degree currently stands at 53%. There are multiple factors that could be contributing to this rate. A new bill, The Respond, Innovate, Support, and Empower Act – or RISE Act, was introduced in the Senate on December 7, 2016 by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). This bill seeks to remove some of the most common barriers faced by students, and their families s, by requiring 4-year colleges and universities to adopt more transparent policies for their disability services – making it easier for students to obtain accommodations, services, and the supports they need throughout their college experience.

The RISE Act would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to clarify the types of documentation institutions of higher education must accept from students who are enrolling who have a disability. This would allow students to submit the same form(s)of documentation for proof of disability as they have done throughout their K-12 education. As stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, sufficient documentation for showing a student’s disability includes:

  • Previous documentation of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), including plans that may be both current and out-of-date;
  • Documentation of a 504 Education Plan;
  • Private school documentation of services;
  • A plan or record of disability from another institution of higher learning

In addition, the RISE Act would authorize $10 million in funds from the National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities (an already existing program under the HEOA). The funds would go towards helping to better equip professors, teachers, and other facility and staff at colleges and universities to meet the growing needs of students with disabilities, including providing training, strategies, and help with providing accommodations. The RISE Act would also require all institutions of higher learning to adopt transparent policies regarding their disability services, and require them to widely share and disseminate that information to parents and families.