Scholarships for Low-Income or Unemployed Women

Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Lori Pace

As a single mother who has faced the challenges of low-income living firsthand, I deeply understand the significance of scholarships that cater to individuals in similar situations. Statistics show that scholarships for women like us have a meaningful impact on achieving educational goals. In this article, I’ll share valuable insights into scholarships designed to support women like me who are striving for a college education. Not everyone is privileged enough to afford a college education. 

Just ask 19-year-old Nancy. 

She lives by herself, works 40 hours a week, and gets paid the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. She wants more than anything to become a nurse, but she can barely make ends meet as it is. 

Then there’s 46-year-old Mary-Ellen. 

The company she’s been working for for years decided to downsize. Now she’s considering going back to college because she believes that improving her skill set will help her find employment elsewhere. The only problem is that she cannot pay for tuition while unemployed.

If you find yourself in a similar position to either Nancy or Mary-Ellen, this article is for you. It will help you find a scholarship that will assist in covering the cost of your tuition. Or give you an idea of where to start looking and applying for one at the very least.

General Scholarships and Grants

Anyone who meets the income requirements for these monetary awards can receive financial support for their studies.

Federal Pell Grants

These grants are the most widely available form of financial aid for low-income individuals looking to further their education. They usually to undergraduate students, but postgraduate students may, in some cases, also be eligible for this grant.

To apply for this grant, you will need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. You will need to continue to submit the FAFSA form every year you attend school to stay eligible for federal student aid. 

Criteria that determine the amount of aid awarded to a student:

  • The student’s financial need
  • The cost of tuition
  • The full or part-time status of the student

The maximum amount awarded for the 2021-22 award year (July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022) is $6,495.

Any student whose parent or guardian died while serving in either the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts after September 11, 2001, may be eligible to receive more funds from the Pell Grant. However, the student must have been under  24 when their parent or guardian died.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is available for undergraduate students in dire financial need. 

While the Federal Pell Grant provides funds to every eligible student, the FSEOG program is administered directly by the financial aid office of each participating school. Not all schools participate in the program, so you will first have to check with your school’s financial aid office to determine if the school offers the FSEOG.

You will also need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to start the application process for the FSEOG.

The amount of financial aid the FSEOG provides ranges from $100 to $4000 a year. This sum depends on your financial need when you apply, and the availability of funds at your school.

Unmet Needs Scholarship

The Sallie Mae Fund offers this scholarship program. This grant is for low-income students who need extra help to cover their tuition costs. 

Eligible students must have at least $1000 of tuition costs that other scholarships or financial aid packages have not met. 

Some other criteria for selection include – the student must:

  • Come from a family with a total household income of $30,000 or less.
  • Be accepted or enrolled in a full-time undergraduate program at an approved, accredited institution.
  • Have a minimum G.P.A. of 2.5
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

The number of funds awarded starts at $1000 but can be as much as $3000, depending on the student’s financial need.

Low-Income Scholarships Based on Area of Study

Students who wish to apply for the following grants and scholarships must enroll in a specific study area. They are, therefore, only open to individuals who meet particular requirements.

Horizons Scholarship

The Women in Defense (WID) National Security Organization offers this scholarship. 

It aims to provide financial aid to women who demonstrate an interest in the following preferred areas of study: security studies, military history, government relations, engineering, computer science, cybersecurity, physics, mathematics, international relations, political science, and economics. 

They will also consider students with a law or business major related to national security or defense.

Other entry requirements include – applicants must:

  • Be enrolled at an accredited college or university and be either a full- or part-time student.
  • Be undergraduate or graduate students with a minimum of 60 credits.
  • Demonstrate financial need.
  • Have a minimum G.P.A. score of 3.25
  • Be U.S. citizens

Society of Women Engineers Scholarships

The Society of Women Engineers is a not-for-profit organization that offers many scholarships to women who want to pursue a career in engineering, engineering technology, or computer science. 

The requirements for each scholarship vary, but several of them are helping students from under-represented groups.

Applicants submit one application, and they will consider you for all scholarships for which they are eligible.

Grants and Scholarships Based on The Student’s Age

Like Mary-Ellen, many low-income students are older individuals who have been members of the workforce and want to return to school for various reasons. If you fall into this category of women, below are some scholarships and grants you can apply for.

Talbots Women’s Scholarship Fund

Women who earned a high school diploma or GED ten or more years ago can apply for this scholarship. 

Applicants must also meet the following criteria:

  • Reside in the U.S. or Canada
  • Enroll for an undergraduate degree at an accredited two-, three- or four-year institution of higher learning.
  • Have at least 24 credit hours remaining

Jeannette Rankin Foundation Women’s Scholarship

The Jeannette Rankin Foundation, established as part of Jeannette Rankin’s empowering legacy, has been a beacon of hope for low-income women aged 35 and older, like myself. You can verify the foundation’s mission and history on its official website, providing insight into its commitment to women’s education.

To be considered for the award, applicants must be:

  • Enrolled in or accepted to a not-for-profit, regionally accredited institution.
  • Pursuing technical or vocational training, an associate’s degree, or their first bachelor’s degree 
  • A U.S citizen or permanent resident

Emerge Scholarship Fund

The Jeannette Rankin Foundation awards this scholarship annually to low-income students.

Applicants must be:

  • 25 years or older
  • Currently residing in the state of Georgia
  • Accepted into a program of study at an educational institution (the applicant will have to provide an acceptance letter OR a current school transcript)
  • Attending a not-for-profit, regionally accredited institution

It’s worth noting that the scholarship program embraces diversity and inclusivity. Applicants from all races, religions, physical abilities, and national origins are encouraged to apply, making this opportunity open to a wide range of aspiring scholars. You can find more information about the program’s inclusive approach on their official website.

Scholarships for Single Mothers and Low-Income Women with Children

Being a single mother myself, I understand the pressing need to balance work and education while raising children. This reality has driven me to explore scholarships and grants that cater specifically to the unique challenges we face as working mothers. The struggle to juggle a job and education while caring for your children is a challenge that countless women like us understand all too well. Fortunately, there are scholarships available for those of you in this position.

Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation

Patsy Takemoto Mink was an American attorney and politician from Hawaii. She was also an advocate for the federal civil rights law Title IX. Therefore, title IX prevents individuals from being denied an education based on their sex. 

The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation, named after a trailblazing advocate for women’s rights, offers invaluable scholarships to low-income mothers seeking to continue their education. As someone who has personally experienced the challenges of balancing motherhood and academics, I’ve navigated the scholarship landscape and understand the importance of such opportunities for women like us.

Applicants must be:

  • 17 years or older
  • Pursuing a first vocational degree/certificate; a first associate’s degree; a first bachelor’s degree; or a first professional/master’s/doctoral degree
  • enrolled in a not-for-profit, accredited institution or program in the U.S.

Association of Non-Traditional Students for Higher Education (ANTSHE) Scholarship

ANTSHE, an organization dedicated to aiding non-traditional students like us who aspire to advance their education despite facing financial challenges, has been a guiding light in my educational journey. They focus on helping individuals like us who may not fit the traditional student mold, providing essential support for our educational goals.

The association offers four annual scholarships—the amounts awarded change every year.

There are many application criteria, but prospective applicants must only meet one of these to be considered for the award.

Applicants must, however, be enrolled at an accredited college or university in a degree program of study and be 23 years of age or older.


In conclusion, as someone who has personally navigated the challenges of financial hardship while pursuing education, I want to reassure you that despite the initial daunting nature of the financial aid application process, your academic aspirations are entirely attainable. My own journey, filled with its ups and downs, serves as a testament to the opportunities available to low-income women. I’ve successfully accessed scholarships and aid to achieve my educational goals.

It’s essential to note that if none of the low-income scholarships or grants mentioned earlier align with your particular needs, the Internet offers a plethora of additional resources for women in search of financial aid. As someone who has scoured countless online platforms for scholarships, I can attest that various hidden gems might be tailored perfectly to your unique circumstances. It’s worth exploring a wide array of websites and scholarship directories, as new opportunities surface frequently. Check out our article on scholarships for single mothers for more information.

Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!