Financial Aid and Scholarships for Students Who Learn and Think Differently

By The Understood Team
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At a Glance

  • Loans and scholarships are available through federal, state, and private programs.

  • Some financial aid programs are just for kids who learn and think differently.

  • There’s also financial aid that rewards specific talents and accomplishments.

It’s not a secret that college can cost a small fortune. What you may not know is that specific scholarships are available for students who learn and think differently. There are also general grants, loans, and scholarships.

Explore some of the opportunities below. College financial aid offices are a great place to learn more.

Scholarships for Students Who Learn and Think Differently

Many private scholarships are available for students who learn and think differently. FinAid is a good place to look for information about financial aid and specific scholarships.

Here are a few of the scholarships available:

Anne Ford & Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships: These scholarships, offered by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, range from $2,500 to $10,000. They’re for high school seniors with learning disabilities and/or ADHD who are pursuing higher education or career training.

BMO Capital Markets Lime Connect Equity Through Education Scholarships: This scholarship is designed for current undergraduate or graduate students with disabilities at a four-year university or college in the United States or Canada. Candidates should be pursuing a degree in business/commerce, computer science, engineering, math, physics, statistics or a related discipline and have an interest in a career in financial services (a focus on capital markets is preferred). Recipients will receive a scholarship for $10,000 (studying in the United States) or $5,000 (studying in Canada).

Disability Care Center Scholarships: This organization offers two $500 scholarships to qualifying college students. Students with a documented learning or thinking difference are eligible for the Disabled Student Scholarship. Students majoring in special education are eligible for the Special Education Scholarship.

Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award: This $1,000 award from Smart Kids with Disabilities recognizes the strengths and accomplishments of young people with learning disabilities and ADHD. It will be given to a student age 19 or younger who has demonstrated initiative, talent and determination resulting in a notable accomplishment in any field—including art, music, science, math, athletics, or community service.

Google Lime Scholarships: This scholarship is designed for current undergraduates, graduate students or PhD students with disabilities who are enrolled at a four-year university or college in the United States or Canada. Recipients will earn a scholarship for $10,000 (studying in the United States) or $5,000 (studying in Canada), based on tuition costs. Selected students will also be invited to attend the annual Google Scholars’ Retreat at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. Candidates will also be considered for software engineering internship opportunities with Google.

Joseph James Morelli Scholarships: This $500–$2,500 scholarship supports high school and college students with dyslexia, dysgraphia and/or dyscalculia who wish to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Karina Eide Memorial College Scholarships: The Dyslexic Advantage offers these $2,500 scholarships to students with dyslexia who are currently enrolled in college, university or vocational school. A total of 16 awards will be given.

Lime Connect Pathways Scholarships: This scholarship is designed for current high school seniors with disabilities who intend to pursue a degree at a four-year university or college in the United States or Canada. Recipients will each receive $1,000 in support of their university/college studies. The awards are merit-based, but financial need will be taken into consideration.

Microsoft DisAbility Scholarships: This $5,000 scholarship is for high school seniors planning to attend a two-year or four-year university or college program. Applicants must be living with a disability, have financial need and plan to major in engineering, computer science, or a legal or business-related major.

P. Buckley Moss Endowed Scholarship: An annual college tuition grant of up to $1,000 to one or more high school seniors with language-related learning differences. Applicants must be planning to pursue a career in visual arts.

Pine Cone Foundation Scholarships: This organization offers multi-year scholarships for financially disadvantaged California students who want to go to community college. Applicants must have documentation of a specific learning disability.

Federal Student Aid Programs

The U.S. Department of Education provides billions of dollars of federal aid each year. This goes to students pursuing higher education. Grants and scholarships are “free.” But you have to repay loans. These are examples of federal aid programs:

  • Federal Pell Grants are for undergraduates.

  • Federal Stafford Loans are based on financial need and have variable interest rates. The government pays the interest on the loan while your child is in school.

  • Federal PLUS Loans are made to the parents. These have variable interest rates.

  • Campus-based programs are managed by participating schools. They include federal supplemental educational opportunity grants, federal work-study and Perkins loans.

Before your teen applies to any of these programs, check to see if the college participates. You can get more information by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

Other General Scholarships and Awards

States also offer grants and loans. You can learn more through the high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office.

A wide range of other sources may offer aid. Some target a student’s specific achievements, interests or background. Don’t forget to check opportunities like these:

  • Your employer

  • Local organizations, like labor unions or the Elks Club

  • Religious groups

  • Chamber of Commerce

All students interested in financial aid need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible. You can also contact the college’s financial aid office. Many schools offer grants, loans and scholarships. Separate funding also might be available from college academic departments.

Key Takeaways

  • Work with the high school guidance counselor and college financial aid office to learn about financial aid programs.

  • Look for scholarships aimed specifically at kids who learn and think differently.

  • When searching for financial aid, cast a wide net.

About the Author

About the Author

The Understood Team 

is made up of passionate writers, editors, and community moderators. Many of them learn and think differently, or have kids who do.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD 

is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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