A common myth about scholarships and similar financial aid is that they are only offered for traditional, classroom-based learning. While that may have been true in the past, you will find that scholarships for online degrees are easily available. If you’ve searched for “scholarships for online college” and didn’t find the results you were looking for, that’s probably because they’re often referred to as distance learning scholarships. 

Let’s take a look at the main types of distance learning scholarships you can apply for:

Broadly, there are 2 major types of scholarships awarded to online students:

General/Standard Scholarships

General/Standard Scholarships are the usual scholarships, offered to students based on certain eligibility criteria. Some of these scholarships are available to online students as well. Such scholarships are typically offered by philanthropic organizations, associations, non-profits, and colleges. General scholarships are usually awarded to students who meet specific criteria which could include factors such as demographics, ethnicity, choice of subject/program, academic or extracurricular performance, and more. 

Certain general scholarships may not be available for distance learning, so it is important to go through the criteria carefully before applying. 

Scholarships Exclusively for Online Students

A number of scholarships are awarded exclusively for virtual or distance learning. Although not as abundant as general scholarships, this additional exclusivity can benefit you, if you happen to secure such a scholarship. These scholarships are most commonly offered by colleges and universities that offer online degrees in various subjects. Colleges that offer these scholarships can either host classes virtually, or can have virtual learning wings – or both. Scholarships that are exclusively for distance learning may also be available only for specific subjects or programs. It is best to read the eligibility requirements carefully prior to applying for any scholarship. 

Whether you’re aiming for an online Master’s degree, an online Bachelor’s, or even an online PhD, there are bound to be scholarship opportunities to help finance your distance education. 

An Overview of General and Exclusive Scholarships for Online Degrees

General/Standard ScholarshipsScholarships Exclusively for Online Students
Short DefinitionGeneral scholarships commonly offered to students, for which online students may also be eligibleScholarships that are only awarded to online students and not to traditional, on-campus learners
Availability Abundant Not as common as general scholarships
CompetitivenessUsually high for popular scholarshipsTypically low. For some college-specific scholarships, you may even have no competition at all. 
Amount of aid offered*Tends to be higher, to account for additional fees such as lodging, on-campus resources, etc.Varies, but is typically lower, to help you pay for all the distance learning facilities alone

*The amount offered differs with every scholarship. Additional eligibility criteria may also influence the final amount. 

As with general scholarships, you should do a good amount of research to find the right scholarship for your online degree program. 

  • Visit the official website of colleges that offer online programs in your areas of interest, particularly their ‘financial aid’ or ‘student resources’ page. 
  • Contact professional associations and organizations that are relevant to your areas of interest. There are many free resources that you can use to do a scholarship search. Make the best use of them!
  • You could always approach the academic counselor of your institution for guidance. 

The application process for scholarships for online degrees is also usually conducted online. This makes it easier and more affordable. Go through all the information you can find before applying for any scholarship. With online applications, there’s usually less scope for human error, since you can easily rectify common mistakes like spelling, grammatical, or formatting errors. 

Fill out the FAFSA

Even with scholarships for online degrees, it is recommended that you fill the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Colleges with regional accreditation usually accept the same federal financial aid, whether they offer on-campus learning, virtual learning, or both. 

There may be some exceptions, that is, some colleges and universities with alternate accreditation may not accept federal aid. Even so, filling the FAFSA can help you find the scholarships you’re looking for.

Scams can be found in every corner of the internet. While searching for scholarships and financial aid, be as cautious as possible. 

Watch out for these common scammy tactics:

  • Mails or messages telling you that you have won an award
    Even if you did apply for a scholarship, check the sender’s email ID before opening any links or attachments that may be in the mail. 
  • Registration fees or charges
    Most online scholarship searches are free and you shouldn’t have to pay a fee for registration or processing. If asked to pay a fee, make sure to verify the legitimacy of the site or organization. Try to find further information and visit their privacy policy page (if they don’t have one, that’s another red flag).
  • Services that claim to complete the application processes for you

ONLY YOU can fill out the forms for the scholarships you want to apply for. No one can legally write your application/essay on your behalf. So, if anyone claims to offer this service, it is most probably a scam.

That said, there is a good amount of genuine, useful information that you can benefit from while looking for distance learning scholarships. You just have to learn to recognize and filter out the spam.

Scholarships for online degrees do exist and can prove to be incredibly beneficial. 

They can be open to all students, or be exclusively for online learners, or have certain other eligibility criteria. The key to finding the right scholarship is doing diligent research and reaching out to the right people or organizations to gather relevant information. It is recommended that you fill out the FAFSA, since most colleges accept federal financial aid. It’s best to be wary of potential scams while searching for scholarships. You usually shouldn’t have to pay a fee while applying for scholarships online. As an online student, don’t forget to go through all available information thoroughly before applying. 

Now that you’re all set to find the perfect scholarship for your online college program, we hope you find the one that’s best for you.

What are the eligibility criteria for scholarships for online degrees?

While the eligibility criteria for scholarships for online programs vary as per the scholarship selected, most scholarships require you to be enrolled in an accredited online degree or certificate program, possess a minimum GPA, and showcase a financial need. Certain scholarships may also require you to be enrolled at least half-time and take courses that fulfill degree program requirements.

How can I demonstrate financial need for a scholarship for online degree programs?

To demonstrate financial need for scholarships for online degree programs, you can follow these tips:
– Complete the FAFSA well before the deadline
– Draft a financial need essay to highlight both your need and your desire to pursue higher education
– Compile relevant financial information