Students are able to lower the cost of their college education with the help of scholarships and grants. These are sources of free money which never need to be repaid, making them the most desirable form of financial assistance. As the cost of tuition continues to rise, so does the importance of finding them.
Conducting a successful funding search takes time and effort so start early and investigate all possibilities. The information below provides guidance to candidates seeking assistance specific to the counseling field. You will find scholarship and grant options for different specialty areas as well as information on alternative funding sources.
Before you begin searching, it is important to know the difference between a scholarship and a grant. They both provide students with tuition money which does not have to be repaid, but the qualifications for each differs significantly. A grant is awarded based on financial need, while a scholarship is an achievement award based on academic achievement, class rank, demonstrated leadership, and other selection criteria.
The Pell Grant is the most common grant distributed by the federal government. This award is given only to undergraduate students working towards their first bachelor’s degree. Other sources of funding are available for graduate students, and it is in your best interest to find it. Notice in the graph below the average loan amount for students at both private and public post-secondary institutions:
While this chart shows tuition and fees for both two- and four-year institutions, graduate program costs are greater than or equal the amounts stated. Finding free money helps close the gap between the financial aid package and your personal financial contribution. The steps outlined below will help you find resources, and connect you directly with scholarship and grant programs in the counseling field.
- Make a list of schools you wish to attend.
- Compile a list of your achievements and career goals.
- Google your field of study with the word “scholarship” and let the search begin.
Where to Look
Many companies and professional organizations offer scholarship and grant programs for qualifying students. The key to finding these programs is to think broadly:
- Professional associations
- Your employer (Employee Based Awards)
- Scholarship-focused nonprofits
- Foundations (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, etc.)
- Advocacy and political organizations
- Large corporations (Pepsi, Xerox, Microsoft, etc.)
- Religious organizations
- Social/community clubs and organizations
- Service organizations (Rotary, Elks, Lions, etc.)
What to Consider
The way scholarships and grants are awarded is based on varying criteria including academic major, extracurricular involvement, academic achievement, and financial need.
- Need-Based Scholarships: These scholarships are designed to help financially disadvantaged students by considering family income, the number of siblings in school simultaneously, and cost of living.
- School-Based Individual Scholarships: Many schools offer specific scholarships based on academic major as well as merit-based donor awards. Contact each school’s financial aid office to learn more about campus-wide and departmental scholarships options.
Additional information about grants and scholarships can be found by visiting Student Aid on the Web. Here you can read about other government funding programs as well as search and apply for several financial awards.
Scholarships for Counseling Students
In addition to general scholarships, financial awards for specific academic disciplines are also available. Counseling students can find awards for rehabilitation, addiction, marriage and family therapy, and many other counseling-degree programs.
Marriage and Family Counseling
- The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Minority Fellowship Program encourages academic excellence and professionalism for counseling students. AAMFT offers the Minority Scholarship for qualifying students.
- Martin-Thacker Scholarship encourages students to practice in underserved areas or to focus on helping the developmentally challenged. Preferred recipients are from a rural area and are committed to careers in the rehabilitation of developmentally disabled adults in rural areas.
- The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) awards grants to institutions for providing scholarship assistance to students interested in pursuing careers in rehabilitation. Recipients are required to “pay back” their scholarship through employment in support of the public rehabilitation program.
Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling
- The American Psychological Association offers a scholarship to students pursuing a career as a substance abuse therapist through its Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Predoctoral Fellowship.
- The American Psychological Association offers the Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Fellowship, which provides funding for graduate study in child counseling.
- The Esther Katz Rosen Graduate Student Fellowship through the American Psychological Foundation supports graduate study related to the psychological understanding of gifted and talented children and adolescents. The amount of the award is up to $25,000 for a one year graduate student fellowship.
- The American Occupational Therapy Foundation offers numerous scholarship options for graduate students in occupational therapy. By visiting their site, you’ll also find a list of available state association scholarships.
There are additional scholarships and grant programs available for graduate study in counseling. By navigating the Internet and contacting colleges and universities, you’ll learn more about funding opportunities as well as work-study programs that will help alleviate the cost of higher education.
Loan Forgiveness Programs
If you do not qualify for scholarships or grants, loan forgiveness programs offer many debt elimination options for graduates. School counselors, mental health therapists, and many other fields can apply for these opportunities through various foundations and organizations.
- Licensed professional counselors may be eligible for up to $50,000 in student loan repayment under the National Health Services Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program.
- Under the Federal Perkins Loan program, a portion of a loan can be cancelled for full-time service as a school counselor in a designated elementary or secondary school serving students from low-income families. Students who become full-time counselors and meet specific criteria may qualify for cancellation.
These scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs are by no means exhaustive. Additional funding options are out there and through diligent research and hard work, your efforts will “pay off.” The first step is done for you – our list of accredited schools will help you find the right program to advance your career.