Scholarships, Grants & Loans for Students on the Spectrum

Contributor Chelsea Harris shares resources and tips for scholarship, grant, and loan opportunities for students who have autism. Check them out, and please share additional links and resources in the comments!

If you’re considering taking the next step after high school and looking into a college program, but you’re hesitant because of the cost, you should know that there are some appealing scholarship and grant options out there designed specifically for students on the spectrum.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider beginning with state-specific options. Check out scholarships or loans that coincide with where you’re from, or where you’re planning on going to school. For instance, if you are planning to attend the University of Delaware and majoring in speech pathology, you might want to check out the Daniel and Lois Gray Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship gives preference to students who have autism looking to study psychology, linguistics, or special education. The Charlene Wood Memorial Scholarship offers two $500 general scholarships to New Hampshire students on the spectrum. The website Top 10 Online Colleges has a terrific post, 25 Great Scholarships for Students on the Autism Spectrum. While many are state-specific, a couple are national opportunities.

Another way to help you explore state-specific options is by using a service like College Raptor. College Raptor allows you to customize your preferences and then compare and contrast suggested loans with what works best for you.

On a slightly different note, there are also quite a few U.S. schools and universities that offer “supplementary assistance programs specifically for individuals with ASD,” according to Best Value School’s 20 Best Value Colleges for Students with Autism 2019. These programs are designed to support the specific curricular and extra-curricular needs of students who have autism. Program costs range from approximately $9,000 to $38,000 per year, with many falling in the $9,000 – $16,000 range. These programs provide services such as peer mentoring, tutoring, advocacy support, career coaching, and sometimes resident assistants who are knowledgeable about autism. They can help you with any housing questions or requests you may have. Some of the best value colleges that offer these services include Kent State University, University of South Florida, Eastern Illinois University, and Bellevue College.

To help you get started in your scholarship and loan search, you might also consider the Google Lime Scholarship. This scholarship offers a $10,000 scholarship to students seeking a profession in the tech field. Or, take a look at The CVS, All Kids Can Scholars Program, which offers $1,000 scholarships to students on the spectrum.

The Rise Scholarship Foundation is also a great general option to look into. They give a scholarship to any student with a document learning disability. Another great resource is Fastweb’s scholarship search, which is both free and effective, and can be customized to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

Also, don’t forget to check out Making a Difference for Autism Scholarship which offers a $500 scholarship to any student with autism nationwide. Additional scholarships include the Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships (two scholarships) and the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship, 15 of which were awarded last year. Looking on Peterson’s, an education resource aggregate site, a quick search of “autism” under “funds” shows 10 scholarship opportunities with varying requirements and amounts.

Smaller awards can add up, and as every little bit helps. Plus, scholarships can be important lines on resumes and CVs.

On top of scholarships and loans, there are also some great grant options out there, which offer large grants to families to help offset costs of an autism spectrum diagnosis. These grants can also help with college tuition and cost of living. Finally, Steps to Autism Acceptance podcast guest Eric Endlich has a terrific free resource on autism-friendly colleges at his website. It can help you find a good fit, including giving basic insight into program costs.

There are options that can help you reach your college and workforce goals. We know that higher education can be expensive and that students with diagnoses of autism and similar conditions may already be paying for additional supports in various forms.

If you feel uncertain about how to approach scholarship opportunities, consider scheduling it as you would other tasks in your calendar. Taking time to look at the options for finding opportunities and then systematically exploring those opportunities may pay big dividends. For tips on organizing that you can also apply to your funding search, consider this post: How to Use Your Phone, Calendar, and Daily Planner to Master Your College Schedule: a Video for Autistic Students.

What are some resources you’ve found to be helpful in your loan and scholarship search?
How did you organize your approach to finding opportunities for funding?

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Chelsea Harris has appeared in The Portland Review, Smokelong Quarterly, The Fem, Minola Review and Grimoire, among others. She co-runs a zine and reading series in Bellingham, WA called Wallpaper Magazine. Chelsea received her MFA from Columbia College Chicago. You can find her work here: chelseamarieharris.tumblr.com/writing

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