Lesser known scholarship opportunities for women

August 2, 2012

A wide variety of organizations and community groups throughout the country offer financial support that can help students fuel their mission. Some are well-known and easily recognizable, but often this means those organizations get the bulk of applicants and acceptance is much more competitive. Here are some women-specific college scholarship opportunities that fly under the radar.

Philanthropic Educational Organization
Since 1869, the PEO has grown from a tiny membership of seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College to a quarter of a million members in almost 6,000 chapters across the United States and Canada. With the simple aim of promoting education opportunities to women, PEO has various funds and offers applicants loan, scholarship, award and even continuing education program opportunities.

"I believe our contributions to women seeking to better themselves through higher education are invaluable," said longtime member Paula Johnson, historian for PEO Chapter C. "We mentor and support those whom we sponsor and those who have benefited from our philanthropies, providing a system of friendship and goodwill."

Women's Industry Network
Interested in automobiles and mechanics? WIN is a national organization dedicated to enhancing the collision repair industry, and the role of women in it. They offer a variety of scholarships and financial awards annually. Among other 2012 winners, Leslie Mendoza won a student scholarship to further her collision repair education at Laramie County Community College.

"It has further emphasized the whole reason why I'm going toward the collision industry,
said Mendoza. "It motivated me. We can do anything if we set our minds to it."

American Association of Retired Persons
It may seem unusual for a retirement organization to provide scholarship funding, but the AARP Women's Scholarship Program aims to support older low-income women in order to boost financial security for them and their families. The scholarship requirements are somewhat strict, as applicants must be 50-plus and at 150 percent or less of the Federal Poverty Guidelines in order to qualify. However, those who do qualify have the benefit of a much smaller applicant pool.

State nonprofits
Many states have nonprofit education groups whose primary goal is to support educational opportunities for residents. The Massachusetts Educational Foundation, for example, is a nonprofit created to help women over 35 advance their schooling and careers. They offer scholarships for single parents such as Wendy Sheppard, a mother of three.

"After my divorce, I needed to do whatever it took to finish my schooling so I can provide for my sons," Sheppard told the Boston Globe.

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