Ten Scholarships for Military Spouses 

Scholarships for Military Spouses - featured image

Military spouses and their families make extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of their family members who are active-duty service members. Frequent relocations combined with unpredictable deployment schedules and transition to civilian life can take their toll on their finances. Their academic pursuits, in turn, can be negatively affected, particularly in terms of financing their education. 

The cost of college education in the United States is no joke either! According to US News & World Report, the average in-state tuition and fees at public colleges is $10,662, while out-of-state students in public colleges spend $23,630 per year (AY 2023-2024). Students in private colleges spend $42,162 on average yearly tuition and fees – and these exclude living costs and incidental expenses that can be in the thousands every year. 

Scholarships for Military Spouses - fact

Do these sound familiar to you? If it does, then you must be a military spouse dealing with challenges in your academic pursuits, finance-wise! 

Featured Programs

Don’t despair, either! In the following sections, we will discuss scholarship programs that are specifically intended for military spouses pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees and professional credentials. 

How Scholarships Help Military Spouses Overcome Financial Challenges

If you’re struggling with financing your education and training, your first step should be researching the best schools for military spouses that accommodate military-connected students and their spouses. These schools offer exclusive tuition discounts, allow students to join the Yellow Ribbon program, and give access to the Forever GI Bill and similar military education benefits.

Military-friendly schools like the University of Maryland University College, American Military University, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are known for offering these resources.

As a military spouse, you have expensive childcare, healthcare, and housing costs to think about. Sometimes, you might feel that discontinuing your studies makes sense, but it does not have to be that way!

Below are the common financial challenges that military spouses and their families face, and the ways to address them through military-specific scholarships. 

Educational Expenses

With inflation rates reaching record highs, many families find it a struggle to make ends meet. The basic needs like food, clothing, and housing come first and education becomes less of a priority. Even with tuition and fees fully paid through VA and DOD-approved military education benefits, military spouses still need to pay for books and supplies, cover transportation costs, and pay Internet bills for online courses. 

Scholarships help you pay for these education-related costs that government-issued education benefits do not. You can then continue with your studies with less financial worry. 

Financing Professional Licensing and Certification Costs

Many scholarships from non-government organizations can also be used for professional licensing and certification costs, among other costs associated with employment and career advancement. This is of particular benefit for military spouses dealing with out-of-state relocations where new licenses or certifications must be obtained in their new address for professional continuity. 

Military spouses can also look for scholarships and grants that can be used for costs related to professional development. Frequent relocations can make it more challenging for military spouses to build their networks through attendance at conferences, workshops, and seminars. These grants make it easier to maintain your network even with frequent moves. 

We also suggest looking into grants that will cover childcare costs, housing expenses, and transition to civilian life. While the funds cannot be applied for education-related purposes, these can ease your financial worries and improve your focus on your studies. Examples of organizations and programs that offer financial aid and other resources include Child Care Aware of America, the Defense Travel Management Office (Dislocation Allowance), Helmets to Hardhats, and Small Business Administration (SBA) Veterans Advantage.

Strategies for Maximizing Scholarship Opportunities

If possible, you should treat scholarship opportunities as a military operation! You must plan, plan for the unexpected, and plan for success. You want to take advantage of as many scholarship opportunities as possible and, hopefully, get a college education or professional credentials for less cost, perhaps even for free (i.e., tuition and fees). 

  • Look into military-specific scholarship programs for military spouses first, as previously mentioned. MyCAA, Post 9/11 GI Bill transferability, Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance, and Marine GySgt John D. Fry Scholarship programs are prime examples.
  • Apply for federal and state aid as well as general scholarship programs. You should do so even when you believe that you won’t qualify for need-based scholarships. Look into merit-based scholarships offered by charitable organizations, colleges, and universities.
  • Maintain a competitive GPA and achieve above-average scores on standardized tests (e.g., SAT/ACT and GMAT/GRE). Your chances in merit-based scholarships will be better for it.
  • Understand the eligibility requirements, follow the application process, and prepare a customized application for each program. Many scholarship programs require a resume and personal statement that allow applicants to advocate for themselves – and it’s your opportunity to shine! 

Scholarships for military spouses are competitive. You must put your best foot forward in every application. You’re well-advised to seek guidance from counselors, financial aid officers, and previous scholarship recipients if it will boost your understanding of the scholarship programs.

Top Scholarship Programs for Military Spouses

Note that the scholarship programs featured here are administered by non-profit organizations instead of by federal agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. 

National Military Family Association (NMFA) Military Spouse Scholarship Program

The NMFA, a private non-profit association, offers its Military Spouse Scholarship Program to the eight uniformed services.

Applications are accepted throughout the year, but awards are granted on a quarterly basis. Scholarships are one-time payments, but there’s no limit on the number of times you can apply and receive funds. 

Military spouses who meet both of these eligibility requirements are welcome to apply: 

  • You, the military spouse/applicant, must be the legal spouse of a service member who served after 9/11 and must be one of these categories: 
  • In active-duty 
  • Retired 
  • Totally disabled veteran 
  • Reservist 
  • Guardsman 
  • Fallen service member 

or 

  • You are considered a 20/20/20 spouse in accordance with the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. 

AND 

  • Your spouse, the service member, either possesses a valid military/Uniformed Services identification or is eligible for its possession. 

Scholarship amounts range from $500 to $2,500, with the funds allowed for use in tuition and fee payments, professional licensure or certification costs, or professional examinations.

Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) Education Grant General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program

The AFAS, the US Air Force official charity, considers the Hap Arnold Grant as its centerpiece in education assistance since it’s the basis for its merit scholarship and interest-free supplemental loan programs. Applicants are evaluated based on their family income against their education-related costs, and thus, award amounts will vary based on their demonstrated financial need, among other factors. 

Eligibility requirements for military spouses are: 

  • Spouses of Air Force or Space Force service members who are either active duty or Title 32 Guards on full-time active duty until December 1 of the academic year or Title 10 Reserve and Guard on extended active duty
  • Legally married spouses during the application and disbursement periods 
  • Surviving spouses of Air Force or Space Force service members who died during active duty or as retirees 

This is a needs-based but competitive grant program. Grant amounts range between $500 and $4,000 every year for grant recipients.

Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) iWorks Scholarship

The AFCEA, a non-profit membership association, offers its iWorks Scholarship for qualified military spouses in STEM academic degree programs and cybersecurity programs. Note that only one recipient will be awarded the $2,500 scholarship that can be used for education-related expenses.

Applicants can be in their undergraduate (i.e., from junior to senior years only) or graduate studies. Other spouse-relevant eligibility requirements are: 

  • Spouse of either active-duty member or veteran of the Armed Forces 
  • Students of an accredited community college or a four-year institution
  • In good academic standing (i.e., at least 3.0 unweighted GPA)
  • Demonstrate aptitude for STEM topics and pursue STEM-related disciplines. 

Aerospace engineering, biometry/biometrics, geospatial science, and cybersecurity are among the accepted STEM disciplines under the program. AFCEA requires a letter of recommendation, an essay, and official transcripts from applicants.

Hope For The Warriors Spouse/Caregiver Scholarship

Hope for the Warriors offers its Spouse/Caregiver Scholarship Program in celebration of the spouses and caregivers of post-9/11 veterans. Recipients can use the scholarship for payments of education-related expenses and, thus, empower them toward achieving their educational and professional goals. 

Applicants must present appropriate proof that the post-9/11 active duty service members or veterans in their care sustained combat-related injuries and 100% total and permanent disability. Award amounts vary. 

Hope For The Warriors also offers other scholarships, including the New Beginnings Scholarship, Restoring Family Scholarship, and Restoring Self Scholarship.

ThanksUSA Scholarship Special Military Spouse Scholarship

ThanksUSA offers scholarships to military spouses based on demonstrated financial need, academic performance and potential, and community service. Applicants come from all 50 states and all branches of the military, meaning it’s among the most competitive military-specific scholarship programs.

Eligibility requirements for interested military spouses are: 

  • Spouse of US Armed Forces personnel 
  • Either current high school seniors or high school graduates with plans of pursuing postsecondary education or enrolled students at accredited two-year and four-year institutions/technical-vocational schools for the current academic year 
  • At least 2.0 cumulative GPA 

The scholarship amount can also be used for payment of certification and licensure-related costs.

Army Emergency Relief Fund (AER) Mrs. Patty Shinseki Spouse Scholarship

AER, a non-profit charitable organization, accepts applications to its Mrs. Patty Shinseki Spouse scholarship program throughout the year. However, since it’s a non-renewable scholarship, past recipients must reapply every year to be evaluated for another round. Award amounts vary based on applicant evaluation, but the award amounts range between $500 and $2,200. 

If you’re the surviving spouse of an Army who died while on active duty or after reaching eligibility for retirement and you haven’t remarried, you may be eligible. If you’re pursuing your first associate’s or bachelor’s degree or your first technical certification, you may receive funding for either eight academic years (part-time enrollment) or four academic years (full-time study).

Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship for Military Spouses

Named after Pat Tillman, the late NFL player who served during post-9/11 times, the Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship for Military Spouses program emphasizes academic excellence, community service, and leadership in selecting its recipients. Military spouses who want to apply must be: 

  • Current spouses of active service members and veterans or surviving spouses 
  • Full-time students enrolled in undergraduate (at least bachelor’s degree level) or graduate or professional degree programs 

Scholarships can only be used for education-related expenses for the upcoming fall or spring terms. Applicants must reapply if they want to be considered for renewal in addition to demonstrating their academic excellence (i.e., at least 3.0 GPA), Tillman Scholar community engagement, and community service. 

Tillman Scholars receive funding for tuition and fees, books, and living expenses, as well as enjoy the benefits of a global community and lifelong leadership development opportunities.

Fisher House Foundation Heroes’ Legacy Scholarships for Children of the Fallen and Disabled

Established with then-President Obama’s donation in 2010, the Fisher House Foundation Heroes’ Legacy Scholarships for Children of the Fallen and Disabled program welcomes applications from the surviving spouses and children of disabled and deceased military members since 9/11. Note that this isn’t a need-based scholarship program and scholarship funds can only be used for the payment of undergraduate tuition, and payments are made directly to the school. 

This scholarship program evaluates applicants based on their academic achievements, participation in curricular, extracurricular and community service activities, and work experience. An essay is required for evaluation, too.

American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Non-Traditional Student Scholarship

The ALA, an independent organization of the American Legion, offers its Non-Traditional Student Scholarship for military spouses, among other non-traditional students, who want to achieve their academic goals later in life. Military spouses who were unable to complete their undergraduate degrees in two-year and four-year institutions are welcome to apply, as are military spouses pursuing technical certifications.  

Note that only one recipient of the $2,000 scholarship will be chosen every year from each of the Auxiliary geographic divisions. Applicants must submit their application by March 1 (11:59 PM Eastern) of the current year. If you’re a military spouse, you must either be the legal spouse of an active-duty Armed Forces member or a veteran with honorable discharge. Applicants must show that they are eligible through academic achievement, financial need, character or leadership traits, and initiative and goals.

Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Spouse Education Assistance Program

MOAA’s Spouse Education Assistance Program (SEAP) offers grants and interest-free loans to military spouses pursuing their first undergraduate degree in accredited institutions as full-time students. Recipients can receive grant funding for up to five school years, maximum. 

You may be able to combine two or more of these scholarship programs to finance your college education as a military spouse. You may just be able to enjoy a worry-free learning experience, finance-wise, if you adopt an effective strategy for combining as many scholarships as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you demonstrate financial need when applying for scholarships?

You must be honest and transparent in the personal and financial information in your applications for scholarships. Every scholarship program has its rules, process, and criteria for determining financial need and choosing its recipient, but your household income and expenses, the number of people in your household, and unique circumstances are usually required information. 

Are there scholarships for military spouses in online or distance education programs? 

Some military-specific scholarships allow military spouses to use their scholarship funds for online learning or distance education purposes. The NMFA, AER, and AFAS scholarship programs are good examples.

Can you use scholarship funds for any level of education?

Not necessarily. You must review and understand the approved ways of using scholarship funds, whether these can be used for undergraduate or graduate studies, technical-vocational training, or professional licenses or certifications.

Are there restrictions on the number of scholarships you can apply for? 

Generally speaking, you can apply for as many scholarships as you find in an academic year. You should read and understand the eligibility and application requirements to be sure.

How can you find and stay updated about scholarship opportunities?

  • Subscribe to the email lists for alerts and newsletters for more information on the scholarship programs’ official websites.
  • Attend military family networking and support events.
  • Explore online scholarship databases.
  • Communicate with the education and career counselors in your school, with the VA and DOD, and with the specific branch of your spouse.

Sources: 

US News & World Report 

Statista

National Military Family Association

Air Force Aid Society 

Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association

Hope For The Warriors 

Military OneSource 

Pat Tillman Foundation

Fisher House Foundation 

American Legion Auxiliary

Military Officers Association of America