Reduce Nursing School Debt with Scholarships

Reduce Nursing School Debt with Scholarships

Getting into nursing school is a huge achievement, but for many students, getting in is only the first step. Paying for nursing school is the next hurdle.

When you look at your final financial aid package, there’s likely a bit of a gap between the amount of aid you will get—including grants, federal loans, and scholarships from the school—and the final amount on the bill. There are a couple of ways to bridge this gap with personal savings and personal loans being common routes.

But if you do a little work, you’ll uncover a potential resource many people aren’t aware of.

Scholarships are an excellent way to help pay for your education. There are many scholarships available and they are not all dependent on having a 4.0 GPA. Of course, the Minority Nurse scholarshi p list is a great place to start, but there are also other places you can find funds to offset what you owe.

Scholarships do require work. You’ll have to do some research to find them, but with so many sites and lists available, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Many scholarships require a short essay, but some only require an application. Scholarships based on financial need will likely require you to fill out information about your financial status and your income.

As a nursing student, there are many options to look into. If you are a a member of a professional organization, like the National Black Nurses Association, look into what they might offer. Student nurses can check into the Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association, Inc., to see what kinds of opportunities they have available. You can investigate opportunities specifically for minority nursing students as well like the one offered by Cherokee Nation.

One you have looked into professional organizations, check your community for scholarships, too. May local groups have specific funds set aside for students pursing higher education. If you have actively volunteered, say for a local fair or a community event, look into those parent organizations as well.

Once you have found scholarships, apply! Triple check to make sure you have included all the information they need to consider your application, and then get everything in by the due date.

With a little work, you can graduate with less debt.

Finance Your Nursing School Education with Scholarships

Finance Your Nursing School Education with Scholarships

Often, minority nurses are encouraged to pursue more education so that they can advance in their careers. Going into deep debt to finance that education, though, isn’t always a smart move. Fortunately, there is scholarship money available for nurses who go after it. Unfortunately, the hunt for funds can be daunting.

Six scholarship-savvy nursing students, financial aid pros, award grantees, and thought leaders offer their advice and insights. Follow it and win the funds you deserve. It works for scholarships (e.g., merit-based awards), grants (e.g., needs-based awards), and fellowships (for graduate students, and either merit- or needs-based).

Austin Nation Austin Nation, RN, PHN, MSN
PhD student at University of California–San Francisco School of Nursing

What’s your greatest scholarship success?

I just did a workshop, a “Scholarships 101,” because people found out that I was able to pay for most of my graduate education, and now my PhD, with awards. In the past, I garnered enough scholarship monies to get the down payment for a house! If students are also interested in teaching, there’s a lot of need and money available. I now have a stipend that’s routed directly to me, which is ideal. Before that, I was using credit cards to pay for financial aid. Remember, besides tuition and books, there are living expenses you need to cover, like housing and food.

What are the best resources for finding scholarships for students?

Look for departmental, college-wide, and university-wide scholarships. There’s a goldmine at the local level, and then at the professional and cultural organizations. Corporations, like Pepsi and Coke, may have scholarships. Also, go after scholarships for people with disabilities—which could mean being the first generation in your family to go to college.

Do you have any advice for nursing students about the whole process?

Just mining this stuff is almost like a little part-time job. The scholarship application period is in April of each year. Cast a wide net; my goal was always to do 10 to 15 applications a year, which seemed to yield the best results. Recently, the fifteenth application I sent out was the one I got. It was federal funding for a minority student that’s good for five years. (It’s capped at $30,000 or $40,000 a year, based on the state.) I’m graduating in June of next year and going back to get additional certification. This program will pick up the tab, so why not?

Are there any tactics you employ to stand out from the competition?

The cornerstone of an application is the personal statement. What makes me a good applicant? Who am I? What have I done in the community? My specialty area and who I am as a person are very specific. I’m a male nurse. I’m a queer nurse. I’m a nurse doing work in HIV. Disclosing my background and status isn’t easy. I’m the first person in my family to go to college. My dad has only a fourth-grade education. That may be embarrassing, but that’s who I am. That’s where I came from. It’s a reflection of my character and how I’ve dealt with adverse circumstances.

Jake SchubertJake Schubert, RN, BSN
Founder of the nurse licensure prep site and a travel nurse

What’s your greatest scholarship success?

I won a scholarship provided by a woman’s club made up of wives of university faculty. Very few men applied. When shown a list provided by the university of available scholarships, most men would say, “Oh, it’s a woman’s club…” But you have to put yourself out there—the club was for women, but their scholarship was for anyone. They were glad I applied because most men don’t, and guess which application stood out?

What are the best resources for finding scholarships for students?

Do ask what is available at different institutions you’re looking to attend. But don’t stop there. I know a student who got a 50% offer at a private school and a 100% ride at a state school. He wrote the private school a polite letter, explained his preference and the situation, then asked, “would you consider giving me 100%?” They gave it to him and called his mom to say how amazing he was, and how they’d never had anyone ask for more aid before.

Reach out to organizations of various kinds. Many have scholarships, though they might not be publicized. They may be discretionary, instead, based on a faculty member’s recommendation. I won a university scholarship that wasn’t even listed and wasn’t available to the public—all based on my relationships with the faculty at my university.

Do you have any advice for nursing students about the whole process?

You have to get in the game. Many people are reluctant to apply because they’re afraid of failure. A lot of times people think they’re going to get a full-ride scholarship that will take them all the way through school. It doesn’t work that way. Most are only $500 to $3,500. Think not of winning one, but of winning lots of scholarships; they add up over time. Once you apply for one, it’s easier to apply for the second, and when you get to the fifth application it’s almost a piece of cake. You can just recycle parts of other applications.

Are there any tactics you employ to stand out from the competition?

Look for what makes you remarkable and highlight that trait or activity. It doesn’t have to be the standard nursing things. One applicant I know used to be a music producer, and that stood out. But be careful not to spread your message too thin—pick one or two activities and dive in; invest time and energy in those. Take a leadership role and show your passion and commitment. Focus on one really rich experience on your application and weed out the minor ones. For example, when I was in nursing school I had written an article to highlight the work of a physician I admired and worked with. At my first job interview, that magazine issue was on the nurse manager’s desk. I casually mentioned, “Have you read my article…?” At my second interview, another manager greeted me with “So… we read your article.” That made a remarkable difference. That’s not why I wrote the article, but it showed that I’m engaged in the community. I’m not somebody who will take the money and run and never be seen or heard from again.

Brittney WilsonBrittney Wilson, RN, BSN
“The Nerdy Nurse” author, social media influencer, and blogger at  

Do you have any advice for nursing students about the whole process?

My best piece of advice for nursing scholarships is to apply for everything. You often hear people joke to “vote early and vote often.” This actually does apply to scholarships. Apply early and apply often. Even if you’re not 100% sure you’re the perfect fit for the scholarship or don’t feel you meet the right demographics, go ahead and give it a shot. Unless the guidelines specifically exclude you, then you should assume they include you.

Are there any tactics you suggest to stand out from the competition?

I would also suggest to apply to scholarships that aren’t just for nursing students. Because nurses hold such a strong place in many hearts and are constantly voted as the most trustworthy profession, you may have an edge over other candidates for more general scholarships. You’ll also likely be competing with fewer nursing students and have an ability to stand out. Applying for scholarships that you wouldn’t think would be a good fit could actually give you an edge and let you stand out against other applicants.

Donna CardilloDonna Cardillo, RN, MA
“The Inspiration Nurse” keynote speaker, author, and columnist at

What’s your greatest scholarship success?

Free money is the best kind of money. Some scholarships will even give you money for living expenses. I was going to have to drop out, but I got that scholarship for the next year. I was recommended for the scholarship by a professor at school. Community and women’s groups sometimes contact the school and ask for the name of a deserving student. In this case, they wanted to find a community leader. I’d talked to this professor about my personal and financial situation, so she recommended me. Share your story. People want to help and support you.

Do you have any advice for nursing students about the whole process?

The more you apply, the better your chances of getting money. Every scholarship has different criteria. Some are for entry to practice, some are for advanced levels. Don’t get hung up on meeting all the criteria. You have to cast your net wide if you’re going to catch some fish. Try ethnic community associations, like the Hispanic American Club, in addition to ethnic nursing associations. It’s worth making the scholarship search a part-time job. Contact your state chapter of the American Nurses Association and ask if there’s anyone there who can help you with scholarship information. Ask at the financial aid office, too. Ask a librarian for resources, such as the current edition of Peterson’s Scholarships, Grants and Prizes. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Make as much effort to apply for scholarships as to apply to school.

Are there any tactics you suggest to stand out from the competition?

Read the questions carefully and tailor your application to match, each time. Learn how to write a good essay. They don’t know you, so you have to convince them. Don’t hesitate to share your difficulties; for instance, a background as a single parent or with an illness. People want to be touched, moved. “Oh, I don’t want to go into that,” students say, but it’s important to tell your personal story.

I know many people who’ve financed their whole education through scholarships and grants. When I went to graduate school, I had literally no money. I presumed I’d apply for student loans and pay them off the rest of my life. I applied for a scholarship that I didn’t qualify for because I wasn’t taking enough credits. (I was only taking one course a semester.) In my application, I explained that I wanted to take a full course load but had to work and care for a family, so I couldn’t fit it all in without financial support. I was awarded a special scholarship that year because of my circumstances.

Cynthia J. Hickman, RN, BSN, MSN/Ed
PhD student, established the Cynthia J. Hickman “Pay It Forward” Nursing Scholarship

What’s your greatest scholarship success?

I received the Johnson & Johnson [Community Health Care Leadership] award while working for St. Luke’s hospital [in Houston, Texas]; someone suggested I “pay it forward.” My way of making the world a better place is to help others complete their education toward the goal of becoming a registered nurse. Students must have the first two years, and the scholarship is for the last two.  The scholarships at the national and local Black Nurses Association are for $1,000; however, they have not been active the past few years. When my foundation application and nonprofit status has been complete, I plan to make them available back to my organizations. The scholarship at St. Luke’s is self-renewing, for $2,000 or whatever is the interest for that year. Recipients are encouraged to pay it forward when they graduate. I want to expand the scholarship to high schools—Houston has health services focused schools and some are already offering college courses.

Do you have any advice for nursing students about the whole process?

The scholarship search turns many people off—they see the scholarship application and what they ask for, put it aside and say “No.” I tried to make it easier to apply by talking to other schools and looking at their guidelines. Once I ascertained that, I knew I didn’t have to include certain questions, for instance GPA. Nursing schools require a 2.5 GPA.

Are there any tactics you suggest to stand out from the competition?

Do a dummy application before the real one. You have to be able to write. It’s not as hard to write if you pick your passion. If I applied for an engineering degree I’d have difficulty, but I’m a nurse so I can write with passion about that. Examples are everything. I always wrote about early on, when I was a lifeguard, and saved a life. That job turned into my career in nursing. Safety is part of both fields; be someone who thinks beyond the obvious.Q: Are there any tactics you employ to narrow down applications for a winner?

Be dedicated, focused, and pay attention to instructions—that’s very important. Complete the application. As a nurse, you have to complete things. Someone’s life is at stake; you can’t half do it. I’ve heard about application review committees who break up into teams. One team looks only for completions. Another team looks only for errors. They may start with 3,000 applications, but quickly narrow it down to 150. Each scholarship committee has its own specific criteria. Mine is community service; you have to show a history of community service. If you’re a pediatric nurse, that’s great, but then do something else outside of that. If they’ve had breast cancer, then volunteer for that cause. Now you’ve added another layer of expertise based on your personal experience and passion.

Maria Elena C De GuzmanMaria Elena C. De Guzman
Student funding coordinator at University of California–San Francisco School of Nursing

What’s your greatest scholarship success story?

The greatest success story I’ve encountered so far is from one of our students who is a single parent with a daughter who is also in school. She’s a minority student and is the first in her family to attend a university. She came to my office to get counseled on how to improve on her scholarship applications since she has not been very successful. After that visit, she received a number of awards. Her success was about not so much the amount of scholarship money she received, but how she managed to overcome the personal challenges in her life, with funding being one of them. She was then able to focus more on her studies.

What are the best resources for finding scholarships for students?

Start with your school. Then there are professional organizations, employers, and organizations related to cultural or ethnic backgrounds. I don’t know if something similar is available for undergraduate students, but the UCSF COS [Community of Science] Pivot database that we offer our graduate students is one of the best and most comprehensive. It covers funding opportunities for most disciplines from federal agencies, and private U.S. as well as international foundations. It alerts users every time a new funding opportunity comes up related to their discipline or area of interest. It also has a tool for research networking—quite cool!

Do you have any advice for nursing students about the whole process?

Make sure you meet all the eligibility criteria. Take your time, and do your research when applying for scholarships and grants because they are competitive. After spending time and effort writing an application, use it as a template for other applications. Apply to as many scholarships as possible, including those that are not just for minorities. There are substantial amounts of free money available, but scholarships and grants are always competitive, which is why preparation is so important. Be aware that there are some “free” monies which are not really free because there are commitments attached. These need careful consideration.

Continue to gain experience at work or in school, and do your share for the community by volunteering. Whether the money comes from private or public sources, other people have contributed to put up the scholarship. Your education is a gift that will enable you not only to help improve your life, but also to make a more meaningful contribution for others to succeed as well.

Maximize Your Money by Learning the Differences in Financial Aid

Maximize Your Money by Learning the Differences in Financial Aid

Did you know there are lots of hidden secrets to financial aid – how to find it, get it, keep it, and use it wisely? There’s no one-size-fits-all for financial aid either. Believe it or not, all financial aid isn’t the same. Knowing the difference helps you manage your tuition budget.

Remember financial aid awards are often based on requirements, so make sure you know what they are. For instance, if you are required to take a full load of classes, understand that dropping below that minimum required credit load could jeopardize your funding.

Always remember that you can ask for a formal financial aid review at your school. If you can explain your hardship, the school might be able to offer more.

What kinds of financial aid exist and what’s the difference?

1. Loans – Students and their families can apply for various federal and private loans to pay for their education. Look carefully into each as there are important differences in repaying the loans, limits, and loan terms (like interest rates and when they start accruing).

2. Scholarships – Scholarships can come from the school itself, another educational institution, or private and public organizations (from a local garden or business club to national ones like Minority Nurse Magazine, The Society of Women Engineers, or Lions Clubs International, for example). They don’t have to be repaid. Scholarships can seem like a real process – often requiring applications, essays, recommendations, and other documents. But it’s worth the effort to seek out scholarships that will be a good match for you. Start looking early!

3. Grants – Like a scholarship, a grant is given to you and doesn’t have to be repaid. Grants are often based on merit or merit plus a financial need and can come as part of your financial aid package. This is what we all like to call “free money.” But, like scholarships, some grants are based on strict requirements. You might have to apply, so look around and start the process early.

4. Work Study – Work study jobs are often given by a school’s financial aid office as part of the student’s aid package. Students can generally pick from a range of jobs and will work in exchange for money from the institution.

5. Federal Aid Programs – The government offers several types of aid – from loans to grants. You can apply for various aid packages using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

6. State Aid Programs – Many states have their own aid programs. Check the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ website to find potential funding sources in your state.

Stay focused and on track when looking for financial aid, as it’s not always obvious and schools don’t always wave their free money in front of you! Check and double check all the deadlines, so you don’t miss out on anything because you were supposed to apply two months ago.

Good luck!

Congratulations to Minority Nurse’s 2008 Scholarship Winners!

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 9th Annual Minority Nurse Magazine Scholarship Program awards. Ms. Mary Jo Coll, a nursing student at Drexel University, and Ms. Leah Peterson, a student at the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing, were both awarded scholarships of $1,000. Ms. Tiffany Copeland, a student at Molloy College Division of Nursing, and Ms. Jessy Johnson, a student at Mount Carmel College of Nursing, each received $500 scholarships.

Our four scholarship recipients are exceptional individuals, representing a variety of different backgrounds, interests and goals. Yet they are united by several key qualities: they are all outstanding scholars, have clearly demonstrated leadership ability and are strongly committed to “giving back” by volunteering actively within the communities they serve.

Watch for an article profiling our 2008 scholarship winners next year in the Spring 2009 issue of Minority Nurse. In the meantime, please join us in congratulating these talented students!

You can read the full article announcing all of the 2008 scholarship winners in the Spring ’09 Minority Nurse.

Scholarship winners prove their worth

Pursuing a graduate nursing degree poses many challenges, from finding the right program to fitting classes into busy schedules. But there’s one problem that always seems more common than others: finding a way to pay for it. Luckily, nursing students can obtain financial aid from a number of sources, including scholarships like the AstraZeneca Diversity Scholarships.

“These scholarships provide educational support for minority students, who will be among those in the profession meeting the public demand for culturally relevant care,” says Phyllis Zimmer, President of Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation, the nonprofit agency that coordinated the scholarships. Each winner received a $4,000 award to fund her graduate nurse practitioner education. With unique backgrounds and admirable accomplishments, they represent a promising future in nursing.

Juliet T. Chandler, R.N., F.N.P.-C, J.D., Ph.D.(c)

Seaside, California

Born in the Philippines and raised in Saigon until she moved to the United States as a 10 year old, Chandler’s days are full of volunteer and professional endeavors aimed at lessening the toll diabetes takes on low-income populations.

Chandler works as a diabetes educator and public health nurse, and she serves as preceptor for several colleges and universities. Yet, she also finds time to volunteer at the Diabetes Free Clinic of Rotacare, International, providing care to the uninsured. Chandler’s work has her coordinating diabetes and hypertension screening events throughout the Monterey Peninsula area for the area’s most disenfranchised and impoverished.

After working with undocumented Latino immigrants, Chandler found herself struck by the problems they face, so she returned to school and earned a law degree to become better prepared to advocate for migrant workers. She hopes to provide higher quality, more accessible care to population. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. in nursing, with a focus on health policy, at the University of California, San Francisco.

“There is a dearth of Filipina nurse practitioners pursuing their Ph.D,” Chandler says. “Allowing me to attain my doctorate will help correct this existing professional disparity. In addition, it will allow me, through my research, to address another disparity–i.e., the lack of health care access among a vulnerable group of immigrants. I am currently studying the care-seeking experiences of undocumented Latina immigrants with chronic disease, but with limited access to health care. The award will allow me to finish my research. By it I hope to fill a large gap in the research literature. But, more importantly I hope to make the stories and voices of these marginalized women heard.”

Marcia M. Harris, M.S., F.N.P.

Cedar Hill, Texas

A family nurse practitioner in a Special Needs Offender Program in Dallas, Texas, Harris also began her career in a lower-income neighborhood. There, she saw the gross deficiencies in primary care and mental health services. She was inspired to pursue an education in psychiatric/mental health at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Her post-master’s work will help her provide better care to the underserved patients she encounters, primarily an ethnically diverse population. Harris also donates her time as a tutor in the FAME Mentor program and as a volunteer at neighborhood health care screenings and events.

“Receiving the scholarship has helped me to continue my career in nursing and achieve my goals,” Harris says. “In these tough economic times, it was great to know that nursing organizations are still trying to assist in funding our education. I am so grateful for the award.”

Jacqueline E. Higuera, B.S.N., R.N.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Higuera experience stretches from occupational health to labor and delivery to teaching at the Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas Y Ambientales in Bogota, Colombia. A native of Colombia, she also studied nursing there, obtaining her undergraduate degree before coming to the United States. (She also holds certification in occupational and environmental health from studies in Spain.)

Higuera is currently working toward her Master of Science in Nursing in the Adult Nurse Practitioner track at the University of Michigan. Her volunteer experience includes various Universities activities, such as the annual Gandhi Day of Service in Detroit. Higuera plans to work primarily with women from underserved Hispanic and African American communities. She hopes to improve their health care knowledge and decision-making skills.

“Thank you to the NPHF for this award that means a recognition to my potential and is an important support in the achievement of my professional goals.”

For more information about the Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation, visit