How to Nab those Nursing Scholarships $$

  1. 21

    With just a reasonable amount of time and energy you too can get free money for nursing school. As a recipient of more than $8660 in scholarships, I would like to share some meaningful advice, insight and useful scholarship links, to hopefully help you minimize some of your financial stress. If you understand that free money doesn’t necessarily mean easy money, a little effort will surely take you a long way!

    How to Nab those Nursing Scholarships $$

    Over the last two academic years, I have been a recipient of over $8660 in scholarships for nursing school, plus another $500 while I was completing my prerequisites at a community college. I wanted to share some of my tips and favorite links for nursing scholarships to hopefully inspire some of you to make the effort towards obtaining some free money to get you ever closer to your dreams.

    I had a toddler at home and had been out of school for five years when I decided I wanted to become a nurse. That's when I found out there weren't federal grants available for a second bachelor's degree - I was crushed! I was terrified by the idea of loans. The thought of obtaining a scholarship seemed to help cushion the blow just a bit. So, I started searching, but to be honest, I was intimidated by all the available scholarship information that is out there and I became overwhelmed.

    Don't fall into the trap of thinking that scholarships are difficult to get because that is what I thought at first. Scholarships are free money. FREE money, but not necessarily easy money. If you invest just a reasonable amount of time and effort into your searching, essays and submissions, I think you will be blown away by what is available and what you can actually receive.

    Always Utilize Your School's Scholarship Office

    Even if you aren't yet enrolled, this is undoubtedly the best resource available. Most colleges have a General Application that you fill out once per year. These school-based general applications are where I have had my greatest success! You typically only have to fill out a couple demographic, GPA, and volunteer/work experience questions followed by answering one or 2 essay questions after which you become eligible for hundreds of scholarships (depending on the size of your school). You definitely get the most bang for your buck this way.

    Make sure you find out immediately when the general application period is open, so that you don't miss the deadline. There are always additional scholarship opportunities that are available at other times of the year through the school, so don't overlook these either. The best way to get access to those is to use the trusted website links on your school's Scholarship Office webpage. Better yet, especially for those overwhelmed or intimidated by this process, schedule an appointment with the scholarship office for specialized resources and one-on-one support from an expert.

    To reiterate, as you can see from the comparison of scholarship money that I have received, from school-based scholarships ($6660) versus outside scholarships ($2500), the majority of money was obtained through my school via the general scholarship application process. Therefore, in my opinion, this is where you should invest the most amount of time and energy during your scholarship search experience.

    Writing a Stellar Scholarship Essay

    Most essays can be reorganized or simply tweaked to meet most scholarship essay requirements. However, you must have a solid essay to begin with in order to get away with this. Then, you can easily edit your essay template to meet the needs of other scholarships.

    The simplest efforts are what seemed to be overlooked:

    Do Not Forget to Proof Read - If you don't do anything else, you must at a minimum do this. First, read it aloud in private to make sure your writing has fluidity. Next, have friends, family members, coworkers, etc. take a look. Use their feedback to enhance your essay. Finally, if your school has a writing center (which most do), you most defiantly should use it. I think using the writing center at school is what helped me the most.

    Paint a Picture with your words or Tell a Story - Share your passion with others and illustrate what has inspired you to enter the field of nursing. Preferably start your essay with this to grab the reader's attention, before you go on to talk about other subjects. Create a memorable essay title that echos the essence of the story/visualization that you are sharing. If there is a specific sponsor to the scholarship, do some simple research and try to incorporate what is important to the sponsor into your essay.

    Organize- Write out on paper or audio record yourself describing: Barriers you have overcome, Insight into your own strengths and weaknesses, Short and long term educational and personal goals, How you will utilize your education in the service of others (this makes for a strong closing). Sometimes it is difficult to come up with these on your own and people often feel like they are bragging about themselves, so having a friend or family member around is helpful in brainstorming. You do need to be specific and provide examples to be effective. Also, do not neglect to address the specific essay question that is asked.

    Improve your Style- I always have a printed list of transition words and an online thesaurus open when writing. The list of transition words will help you connect written ideas and the thesaurus will help you find the correct expression without sounding like a broken record. I use Transition Words & Phrases and | Find Synonyms and Antonyms of Words at

    Scholarship search engines and Websites

    1) The best free scholarship search engine that I have found out there is Fastweb

    2) Johnson & Johnson Discover Nursing's website, Discover Nursing, has also been a great resource.

    3) Nursing Scholarships by

    4) Other great nursing scholarship finds:
    American Association of Colleges of Nursing
    CA Board of Registered Nursing
    San Diego county residents

    Make a Scholarship Application Spreadsheet & Calendar

    If you can use Excel or a similar program to get yourself organized, make a spreadsheet that lists scholarship names, deadlines, requirements, website links, and your application status (eg., Will apply, Applied, Do not meet requirements yet, etc.).

    Use the alarm setting in the calendar section of your cell phone to go off one month and also one week before important deadlines, to keep yourself notified (or if you like to use a planner, write multiple reminders in for yourself well ahead of the deadline).

    Sounding Board

    I would like to hear back from other students who have had success in obtaining scholarships. Please share your valuable advice with other students in need.

    Questions are also encouraged.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18
    Do you like this Article? Click Like?

  2. Visit achurley profile page

    About achurley, BSN, RN

    I'm excited to Graduate from a CSU ABSN program May 2016. I am so honored and grateful for all the scholarships that I have received to help make my dream a reality. Please check out my other article on Study Tips for Nursing Students at

    Joined: Jan '14; Posts: 82; Likes: 164

    Read My Articles


  3. by   augurey
    I've generally avoided applying for scholarships as it's always felt so overwhelming. Plus I never really had qualities that would give me a shot (other than entries that don't require anything - just the luck of the draw). I've been considering applying for some now, though. However, I don't feel like stand a chance.

    I've looked through the ones offered through my school. I have to wait until next year to apply as I don't currently meet their requirements; however, if I continue to do well, then I should qualify and hopefully have a shot next year.

    I had a high GPA (around 3.7) by the time I graduated high school. I had gone two colleges and did horribly. I only completed a few classes; the rest were just withdraws/F (as I had just stopped going - a very long time ago). I had since attended a for profit school (Fall 2014) and earned a high GPA in the 1.5 semesters I was there. Due to their accreditation, my GPA never counted towards anything. I recently started a regionally accredited program, getting in by the skin of my teeth.

    If I'm applying for scholarships directed towards nursing students, when they specify that a certain GPA is required, is it cumulative or is it nursing program only? I know it's probably a silly question, but I don't know if it's worth it to bother applying to the majority if my grades before were lousy, even though I'm doing well now.

    Also, if you have a less than stellar GPA because of screwing up 10+ years ago, but are doing well now, how do you even stand a chance at getting scholarships that aren't luck of the draw only? Or is my only chance those luck of the draw scholarships?
  4. by   AZBlueBell
    I have searched and searched for scholarships to help with my schooling. 99% of them are so tailored and specific with criteria that I don't qualify for. The ones I do "qualify" for are typically luck of the draw sweepstakes type scholarships. I don't feel like wasting my time for a lottery drawing.

    I have spent countless hours researching and looking for scholarships only to come up empty handed. Whenever I find a new scholarship search website, I'm excited briefly until I enter in all my info and find that I am matched with 3 things :/

    Really is a bummer because I could use the help with tuition. I've given up on the scholarship route.
  5. by   achurley
    @ augurey

    I am actually very glad that you brought up your concern regarding GPA because it is something that I failed to address in my article. It is a widely accepted myth that only students with high academic achievements (A/B's) will win merit scholarships. There are so many other awards given based on merit aside from academics (i.e., leadership, community service, creativity, etc.). So please do not feel you are only eligible for "luck of the draw scholarships". You are more than just a grade or transcript and I believe that the point of scholarships is to reward students from a variety of backgrounds. You can even discuss in your essay how you have matured and struggled, to where you now value your education when compared to before and currently have a clear, focused goal.

    Now, there are many scholarships that do require a certain GPA. However, there are also many nursing scholarships that do not specify GPA as a requirement at all, or if they do, GPA is only one aspect of the determination process. I am not sure how to address your question regarding which GPA to use (Cumulative vs. current nursing school GPA). However, I would say that if the scholarship doesn't specify which, either email the scholarship sponsors contact about that question or just use the highest of the two, as long as you can provide documentation.

    So, in summary, unless the scholarship specifies you must have above a certain GPA to be eligible (yes, often they can), don't assume your poor GPA makes you ineligible. The scholarship may be on a point system, where multiple factors are taken into consideration.

    I hope that you do keep working hard and apply to your schools scholarships for this next upcoming year. If you have not yet used the Fastweb link, please do so using your cumulative GPA so that it funnels you scholarships that are appropriate to your GPA (most only require a 2.0, if there is a requirement at all). In the meantime, here are some links to hopefully help you:

    5 scholarship myths: Five Scholarship Myths - Fastweb
    Scholarships for Average students: FinAid | Scholarships | Scholarships for Average Students
    Unusual Scholarships: FinAid | Scholarships | Unusual Scholarships
    Top 10 Myths about scholarships:
    The J&J Discover Nursing link that I posted in the article, has the option to select and choose only to view either scholarships requiring >2.0 or >3.0, depending on your current status. All of the AACN scholarships include GPA in the application, but I do not see anything anywhere that lists a minimum required GPA.

    It can defiantly feel overwhelming but it will be worth it in the end. Keep your chin up and keep searching!
    Last edit by achurley on Dec 16, '15 : Reason: Update link
  6. by   achurley
    @ AZBlueBell

    I think to say that you are only eligible for 1% of scholarships is quite farfetched. If you are pre-nursing, which your profile states, it is true that there are many nursing scholarships which do require you are enrolled or accepted into a program to be eligible. However, in the meantime, utilize you schools scholarship office. My $500 that I got, which I applied to finishing A&P, Micro and Bio/OChem, were through the community college and the scholarship awarded was non-specific to nursing. If you feel like you are wasting your time online, get in to speak with a counselor in the scholarship office ASAP, they will be very resourceful and identify where to focus your energy.

    3 matches? Which scholarship search engine are you using? If anything, I usually get way more matches than I can handle.
  7. by   AZBlueBell
    Yes, when I state 1% that's not scientific haha but it sure feels that way to me! So I can't name specific websites that I remember, but I've found them through my college website under financial resources as well as Google searches and posts like this one. The Johnson and Johnson one I do remember. Mine came back with over 100+ "matches" that all but a handful ( a literal handful of less than 5) ended up being legitimate matches that I could qualify for but they were over for the year. Half of the matches were links to organizations that no longer do scholarships. The other half that still did give out scholarships had specific requirements of ethnicity that J&J didn't catch and/or you had to be a member of their organization which in and of itself also had specific requirements which I did not meet. I spent hours on the J&J scholarship search site going through each "match" only to come up empty handed and wasted my time. The same thing I've done with multiple other scholarship search sites.

    It's just been very frustrating and is something I've decided is no longer worth the wasted effort. I can't imagine I'm the only one that this happens to! I'll try and get on with the scholarship office and see if they can be of any help
  8. by   achurley
    @ AZBlueBell
    I am glad that you have decided to actually go on into the scholarship office. You will get more attention this way vs. calling over the phone or searching on the web.

    It isn't wasted effort though. Let's say for instance you spend 24 hours total over the period of schools winter break session (split up into 6 scholarship search/essay writing sessions of 4 hours each). If you obtained even one $2000 scholarship, that means you just made $83/hr! What job pays you that much? Or even one $500 scholarship, you will have made $20/hr...if not, you've only lost out on one day of your life....totally worth it.
  9. by   emgbc
    Hey all, some great info in here - someone else had mentioned the "Scholly" app as well. It was on Shark Tank. It's a powerful little app that is constantly updated with scholarship info and lets you search through what's available based on the information you provide.

    Hope it helps! Here is the link: Scholly
  10. by   nurseactivist
    If the student is a member of a union or the child of a union member, look at the union's website for scholarships.
  11. by   achurley
    Quote from nurseactivist
    If the student is a member of a union or the child of a union member, look at the union's website for scholarships.
    Yes, great suggestion. Also, if you are a member of or were considering becoming a member of a professional nursing association/student nursing association, many offer scholarships on their websites as well.
  12. by   boogalina
    Great article! I received scholarships from two foundations during my associates program (hospital where I work and the community college I attended)...for my BSN and my MSN just from the hospital foundation (so far...waiting to hear about scholarships from WGU). It doesn't take long to apply for these, but it's meant $1600-2250 per year towards tuition.

    Additionally, your employer may offer perks like tuition discounts and tuition reimbursement! Don't forget those!
  13. by   jead1
    I'm a senior in nursing school who could really use some help so I've decided to apply for scholarships. I never apply because all the scholarships available at my nursing school are GPA specific. You have to have an minimum GPA of 3.0 and I don't. I have a 2.7. This ALWAYS discourages me from applying because if I don't meet the requirements, then they'll throw my application away right? They won't even bother to read the essay?
  14. by   achurley
    @jead1 You should really reach out to your scholarship office directly to get the answer to that question and ask for your options. Does your nursing school belong to a larger university that may offer scholarships not based on GPA?