WINOOSKI — For students who are applying to college this year, or who are looking for financial help for ongoing college study or for continuing education, it pays to research scholarship opportunities.
Every year, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) compiles a scholarship booklet of Vermont-specific opportunities, available only to Vermont residents or to students who will work in Vermont after graduation. Here in our state’s “small pond,” many of those scholarships receive only 100 or so applicants – which means you may have a higher chance of winning a Vermont-specific scholarship than you might if you’re competing nationwide.
This year’s booklet includes information on 133 scholarships administered by VSAC, plus an additional 40 scholarships run by outside organizations.
Scholarships for many niches and needs
There are scholarship opportunities for a wide range of academic interests. Some of the more common fields include business, technical industries, environmental studies, public safety, health care and education. But there are also some very specific opportunities for interests like musical performance, ski area management and electrical line work.
There may be specific scholarships for residents of specific towns or counties, or graduates of certain high schools, or for children of parents who work in farming, retail, public safety or broadcasting. And several scholarships are offered only to members of traditionally disadvantaged groups, which includes first-generation students (students who are the first in their families to graduate from college).
Finally, single parents may want to check out the Bernice Murray Scholarship, which covers up to $4,000 in child-care expenses for single parents who continue their education.
Some scholarships offer one-time awards, while others are renewable, meaning the student can receive additional financial awards for each subsequent year of study. The annual award amounts generally range from $500 to $6,500, though there are some exceptions, including several scholarships and forgivable loan programs for medical, nursing, and dental students, which generally cover the student’s full tuition.
New programs for this year
Those who have perused the scholarship booklet in prior years may want to take note of the eight VSAC-administered scholarship and loan programs that are brand-new for the 2023-2024 academic year.
Three new scholarships benefit students in particular communities:
The Robert E. Ashton, Jr. Memorial Scholarship honors a longtime St. Albans educator by offering $1,000 scholarships to graduates of BFA-St. Albans.
The Merle Clough Cutting Memorial Scholarship will offer one $1,000 award to a Newbury resident.
The Grand Isle County VFW Scholarship will assist up to four local students with $2,000 scholarships.
Four new scholarship and loan programs are targeted at students pursuing particular fields of study.
The Scott Campitelli Memorial Scholarship will offer one $2,000 scholarship to a student pursuing a degree in radio, TV, broadcasting, or film.
The VELCO STEM Studies Scholarship will award one $10,000 scholarship to a student from a traditionally underrepresented group who has received an associate’s degree from the Community College of Vermont and wants to pursue a bachelor’s in a STEM field.
A new interest-free and forgivable loan program will cover the full tuition for prospective early childhood educators, working towards an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, who commit to teaching for one year in a Vermont child-care center.
A new interest-free and forgivable loan program will cover exam and first-time licensing fees for prospective tradespeople who commit to working for one year in a high-demand trade or technical field.
And a new VSAC Board of Directors Scholarship in honor of Pamela Chisholm will award two $2,000 scholarships to first-generation students.
Deadlines and requirements
The application deadline is Feb. 15 for all VSAC-assisted scholarships, and all of those programs require a completed FAFSA and Unified Scholarship Application (USA), plus a general essay. The VSAC booklet covers any additional application requirements, such as recommendation letters or transcripts, for each individual scholarship. Deadlines and requirements for the non-VSAC scholarships vary.
Anyone with questions is encouraged to talk with the VSAC outreach counselor at their school, visit vsac.org, or call 800-642-3177.