There’s Money for the Asking-Just Ask on Time

January 18th, 2012

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By , BSN, RN

I know it is mid-January and many nursing students are just starting back to classes but it is time to think about money for next year. Going to college, getting any level of nursing degree, is a pricey ambition and there is no reason why all the money should come from your own pocket.

For many of the students in the RN-to-BSN programs there is money available to finance your education from your employer. That's great if you work for an institution that pays for education upgrades. But, usually they just pay for the classes and the books. There are still other financial needs to be met: maybe you need a new computer, or some special software would help you study or you need other help with out of pocket expenses before your employer reimburses you. Getting a scholarship would sure help.

For the rest of the nursing students out there, traditional students just starting down the path to earning that ADN or BSN, or the nurse going back to school on her own time, financing an education can be a real burden. Loans are great but why not try to get some cash flow that doesn't have to be paid back?

One of the best things about the nursing shortage is it makes for a field that has an abundance of scholarship opportunities. And, there are many kinds of scholarships, something to fit almost anyone.

  • Merit-based Scholarships – These are just what they sound like, they are based on the individual's merit. These types of scholarships are usually awarded by a colleges, universities, or private foundations. The merits of the applying individuals are reviewed: grades, letters of reference, community service and future goals. There is often a personal interview or essay component then a committee awards the scholarship money to the student deemed most worthy.
  • Need-based Scholarships – This type of offering is based on financial need or to groups who are under-represented in higher education. Requirements to apply usually include tax returns and an accounting of money being received from other sources. Many need-based scholarships are focused on people with specific ethnic or religious backgrounds, such as being Hispanic or African-American, being of foreign descent like Italian or Greek, or being Jewish, Episcopalian, or Lutheran. Many states offer scholarships to their own citizens.
  • Obligatory-service Scholarships – The United States government offers a lot of scholarships in a lot of arenas including nursing. While the money will often cover all of your expenses while attending school they do come with a commitment-an obligation to serve your country in some capacity. All four branches of the armed services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) offer scholarship money and in return you serve in the military after graduation. Other government agencies like the Veteran's Administration and the National Health Service Corps will pay your way with the agreement in place that upon finishing your degree you will work for them for anywhere from two to eight years. That may seem like a lot to commit but keep in mind your education is paid for and when you are paying it back with time and service you are still earning a paycheck. Not a bad deal.

I do offer a little advice when it comes to the applications process:

  • Follow all the application instructions precisely.
  • Have a checklist for each application and make sure you include and sign everything. You don't want to lose out because one letter of reference fell under the bed.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. Spelling and grammar count.
  • Write down your deadlines. Maybe devote a special calendar to scholarship applications only. Again, you don't want to miss out on money for school because of an amateur mistake like missing the final application date.

Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes. Some will offer complete financial coverage for every year of school that your grades are maintained; some with the same criteria will offer a couple of hundred dollars. Don't turn up your nose at the small scholarships. You will often find less competition for them, easier applications and if you are awarded $400 dollars every semester, that adds up.

There is no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for and no limit on how many you can earn. I'm still paying off my nursing school loans 10 years down the road. I had a classmate who walked away from nursing school completely debt free because of her organization and skill at applying for scholarships. Wish I'd paid more attention to her back then.

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