The independent, trusted guide to online education for over 24 years!

Best Online College Scholarships

Online college scholarships are a great opportunity for online studentsDistance learning has become so popular that universities now fund online college scholarships just for adult students enrolled in their distance degree programs. If you are searching for financial aid for online education, there’s never been a better time to go online and get educated.

Here’s a list of a few continuing education scholarships to help you get a degree online. Visit these accredited colleges for details on their distance learning scholarships for nontraditional and older college students.

  • Penn State University – World Campus Distance Education Scholarships — Penn State, a regionally accredited university, has been offering distance education courses and degrees for more than 100 years. Online students who enroll in one of more than 30 distance master’s or associate or bachelor degrees offered by Penn State’s World Campus Online are eligible to apply to scholarship funds to help defray the cost of online education. The school offers several scholarships for World Campus students.

    View Degrees

  • University of Wisconsin-Platteville – Distance Education Scholarships — UWP offers a number of scholarships to students in its distance education division: The Dawn Drake Excellence in Distance Education Scholarship is one of them. There is also a Project Management and a Professional Development Online Learning Scholarship.

    View Degrees

  • Kansas State University – Scholarships for Online Education Students — Kansas State University offers several scholarships for online undergraduate and graduate students. K-State also offers the Allan D. Sicat scholarship for military veterans or active duty military seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree through their distance education program. Online students over the age of 25 who are enrolled in a minimum of three credit hours can apply for the Maurine Allison O’Bannon Memorial Scholarship. Online graduate engineering students may be eligible for the Robert F. Sykes Scholarship. Requirements include enrollment in K-State’s distance master’s degree programs in civil engineering or engineering management; one year work experience in engineering; and a 3.5 GPA.

    View Degrees

  • Bemidji State University – Distance Learning Scholarships — Bemidji State University, located in Minnesota, offers the Edward Gersich Distance Education Scholarship to a online bachelor’s degree student over the age of 25 and who has a 3.0 GPA. The university also offers several Minnesota-specific distance education scholarships.

    View Degrees

  • University of Providence – Merit Distance Student Scholarships —Previously known as University of Great Falls, distance students at newly minted University of Providence who have a 3.0 GPA or higher are automatically considered for a scholarship of $2,500. 

    View Degrees

  • Washington State University – Global Campus Scholarships — Washington State University Online and ASWSU-Online (Associated Students of WSU-Online) teamed up to offer a scholarship for WSU Online students. Applicants must have a 3.0 and be enrolled for at least six credit hours.

    View Degrees

  • Babson College Class of ‘49 Scholarship — At the end of each school year, Babson College offers this scholarship to top GPA earners who also have demonstrated financial need…as long as applicants have not already received merit scholarships.

    View Degrees

  • University of Alabama Mary Lois & H. Harrison Parrish Endowed Scholarship — This program is need-based, with variable amounts awarded to undergraduates pursuing nursing at the University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies. Applicants must be enrolled in at least one credit course given via distance education through the College of Continuing Studies, with priority given to students taking courses by video tape.

    View Degrees

  • University of Edinburgh Scholarships — Although not in the United States, the University of Edinburgh offers a variety of scholarships for online, part-time postgraduate programs. They include: The Animals Asia Scholarship, the Edinburgh Global Online Distance Learning Master’s Scholarship, and the Edinburgh Global Health Academy Distance Learning Master’s Scholarships.

As you can see, not all distance learning scholarships are created equally. Understanding the differences between scholarship types will help you decide which types of scholarships to aim for depending on your unique financial situation.

Scholarships for online students often come from the government's piggy bankTypes of Scholarships for Online Students

Need-­Based Scholarships

Got talent, a rock star GPA, and a financial need for tuition assistance? Need-based scholarships generally only look at the last factor to determine eligibility; namely, your assets and income (or of your family’s). Federal student aid, such as Pell Grants, is primarily need–based. That’s why one of your first steps in the financial aid hunt, should be to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The greater your financial need, the greater your chances of winning a need-based scholarship. It also affects how much you can receive.

Merit-­Based Scholarships

While very few among us are truly without financial need when it comes to college expenses, it would be short-sighted to only apply for need-based scholarships. Especially for graduate students (who seldom are awarded Pell Grants no matter how dire their financial need), a merit-based scholarship can be a life-saver. Contrary to popular opinion, merit-based scholarships aren’t just for those with the highest GPAs or superhuman athletic talent. Some also look at community involvement metrics. This can be an ideal type of scholarship for you, if you are not financially eligible for a need-based scholarship.

  • The SR Education Group Scholarships: This organization has multiple scholarships, including one specifically for students who are U.S. citizens enrolled in accredited distance learning colleges. Though merit-based, minorities are generally given preference. Requirements vary, but most require a minimum GPA of 3.0 and an essay of at least 500 words.
  • AFCEA Education Foundation: Open to U.S. citizens only, this is a great merit scholarship if you have a commitment to science. This scholarship awards $2,000 to second year students pursuing a Bachelor or Master of Science degree at any accredited online college. Merit-based requirements include a minimum grade point average, a minimum number of credits signifying that the student is at least a second year student, and recommendation letters from at least two different professors.

Departmental Scholarships

Got a major or career track that you’re strongly committed to? A departmental scholarship may be for you. Some may only be targeted towards new (incoming) students, whereas others are also available to current students. The eligibility requirements of scholarships for online students vary widely – and that includes whether you need to be a current or a former student. At the aforementioned Abilene Christian University, new students can apply for scholarships from ACU’s School of Information Technology and Computing. Current students can go beyond simply the scholarships awarded by ACU Student Financial Services. Schools like Western Governors University also offer a range of scholarship offerings for new students as well as a (more limited number) of scholarships for current students.

Scholarship Funding Sources: Private, Public, & Institutional

Once you know the difference between need-based and merit-based scholarships, you start seeing patterns in the sources of these two scholarship types. Many need-based scholarships are publicly funded via the federal government (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), for example). You can interpret institutional grants similarly as departmental grants: For example, at CUNY, some colleges offer their students grants directly from their own funds…and are considered an addition to any federal, state, or city aid.

Online education is all about making higher education more accessible. Traditionally, more women than men have turned to distance learning. In addition, members of the military, a highly mobile work force, have favored online education. Learners in rural areas in the Midwest and the West have relied on distance learning to deliver essential career and college courses straight to their computer keyboards. The sites detailed below provide online education scholarships especially for the military, low-income individuals or underserved educational groups such as women and rural Americans.

  • AMVETS National Ser­vice Foundation Scholarships — AMVETS (American Veterans) awards scholarships to veterans/active military, their sons, daughters or grandchildren. Descendants of deceased veterans are also eligible. Several scholarships, including the Dr. Aure­lio M. Cac­como and The Henry G. Huestis Memorial Scholarship awards can be applied to online programs.
  • Western Governors University Scholarships — Western Governors University, a regionally accredited online college, offers an array of distance education scholarships for online students. Other WGU scholarships include: WGU Institutional Partner Fund, WGU Healthcare Partners Fund, Teacher Education Achievement, Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD), Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and military service.
  • Moody Bible Institute Scholarships & Grants — Distance learning students can apply for numerous numerous grants and scholarships at Moody Bible Institute. The school also gives a grant to a female student enrolled in Moody Bible Institute’s Distance Learning Center.
  • Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship — Zonta International, a global organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women, awards the Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship each year to women pursuing undergraduate or master’s degrees in business management. Online students are eligible for the award. Each region gives a $1,000 scholarship, with 12 international scholarships of $7,000 given away as well.

Scholarship FAQ

Do I Need to be Enrolled Full Time?

Since scholarships for online students are geared towards non-traditional students, non-traditional schedules are also expected. That’s why some scholarships permit part-time enrollment (which may be defined as a certain number of credit-hours, or as at least half-time enrollment). Full-time and part-time students are usually eligible for the scholarships, under the condition that applicants are currently enrolled in any college or university with an accredited online degree program. Checks will are generally sent directly to the school itself.

How Much Money Can I Expect?

This varies as much by individual scholarships, as by how many scholarships (and financial aid, overall) you apply for. But in most cases, if a scholarship is available to both on-campus and distance learning students, the amount awarded does differ between these two types of students. Remember that unique financial need may change the amounts disbursed.

How Hard is it to Win?

With distance learning options exploding at a historic rate these days, more and more scholarships are designed with online students in mind. There are, of course, many scholarship awards specifically for students enrolled in online courses. But don’t limit yourself to them.

PRO TIP: Online students generally have the same eligibility for scholarships as traditional students. Whether your learning modality is on-campus or from your laptop, many scholarship administrators will still consider you a college student once specific requirements (GPA, financial need, etc.) are met.

Finding Scholarships for Online Students

Though college brochures still feature students at a sunny campus, the world has become more accessible to online students. You can now earn your degree from your living room – and the same goes for applying to distance learning scholarships.

Where to Find Scholarships

Half the battle is not simply finding scholarships: It’s finding the relevant ones that you are eligible for and have a shot at winning. Though the Web explodes with millions of eager results once you enter the keyword “scholarships” in the search box, you won’t get very far sifting through that vast pile. There are strategies for finding the right scholarships in all the right places:

  • Online: In most cases, your search begins at your fingertips: With so many scholarship databases and lists available for free online, you’d be remiss to not check the search engine first.
    • Use specific search terms. Are you an aspiring engineer, and a woman, and living in Seattle? It helps to narrow down your search by entering “scholarships for woman engineers.”
    • Learn cool search shortcuts. “scholarships + women + engineering + Seattle” can help you find information as quickly as typing out full sentences.
    • Exclude keywords in your search. Also, if there are terms you don’t wish to include in your search. Let’s say you’re a minority of Asian descent, but do not wish to sift through millions of scholarships listing Hispanics or other races: Minority scholarships – Hispanics
  • At the School: Even if you’re an online student, you still have access to your school’s financial aid resources. It may mean physically stopping by the campus financial aid office or simply sending emails to find out about departmental scholarships.
  • Within Your Community: One the most important outcomes of higher education, is giving back to one’s community. If you volunteer with a social justice non-profit, attend church regularly, or are active with various community-based causes, chances are they have scholarships available. Religious entities are particularly strong supporters: The Christian Distance Learning Scholarship geared only to distance learning students as well as Christian-based schools. One of the easiest scholarships to apply for, you simply need fill out a form to be automatically entered into a drawing for a $1,000 scholarship towards an accredited Christian distance learning education.
  • At Work: Because of their flexibility and relevance to adding new skills to employees’ skillsets, distance learning is popular among employers. Build a case for how learning a new technical framework will help drive corporate innovation; or how a management degree will help your team cut waste. Possible arrangements: A scholarship sponsored by the company; Full or partial tuition support; Telecommuting on school exam days.

When Should I Start Applying?

No matter what type of financial aid you’re hunting for, it is almost always best to start looking early. The sheer variety of application deadlines is staggering, depending on factors like whether the school has a semester or quarterly system, or the funding cycles for private sponsors.

Scholarships may be announced year-round, or several months before deadline. For example, Kansas State University’s Fall scholarship applications become available in February and due on April 1, 2016. That means if you have your sights set on Fall enrollment, the early bird starts looking for the worm as soon as half a year beforehand!

Other scholarships are available more than once annually, giving you more flexibility. For example, the WSU Global Campus Scholarship, has three deadlines: Academic year (fall and spring), July 1 Spring only, November 1 Summer, March 15.

Last but not in the least, the Get Educated online college grant fund awards $1,000 distance learning scholarships on a biennial basis to students attending accredited online university degree programs. Deadlines are October 15 or March 15, so that’s double the chance to apply and to win.

Ask Your School About Scholarships for Online Students

Don’t see your school in our list? Colleges and universities are continuously adding new distance learning scholarships. Check with your school of choice to see if they offer a general distance education scholarship or one specific to your major.

View Degrees

Related Resources Online Education Scholarship
5 Ways to Earn College Credit for Career and Life Experience