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Even with just a quick look at the news it’s easy to see that college classes are filling up with record numbers of students this fall, and single moms are among them. Both campus and online colleges from coast to coast are bursting with enrollment, despite an increased need for financial aid.

Fortunately, the large number of older, “non-traditional” college students is beginning to get more attention these days, and student aid providers are creating more financial aid opportunities tailored to students in special circumstances. Single mom scholarships fall into this category of financial aid.

Before applying for scholarships, however, be sure to thoroughly read our section on scholarships for moms scams. Unfortunately, the business of scholarships is peppered with a couple organizations who use deceit and false promises to take money from vulnerable or unsuspecting moms.

leisure activitySingle Mom Scholarships Start with Federal Education Grants

If you’re a single mom returning to school to pursue your first college degree or career certification, and you’re within a certain income range, you’ll almost certainly qualify for need-based federal education grants such as the Pell Grant. Grants, unlike student loans, do not need to be repaid, and they’re not age-restricted. The money you’ll qualify for will depend on what year you’re in in your program and how many dependents you’re supporting, along with meeting other basic eligibility requirements.

There are federal education grants for single mothers also. To apply for these grants, you must go to the federal Student Aid on the Web site and file a FAFSA:

  • Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
  • Academic Competitive Grant (ACG)
  • National SMART Grant
  • TEACH Grant

State Financial Aid Agencies Also Offer Single Mom Scholarships

Most, if not all, states also offer scholarships reserved for women and single parents. Different states have financial aid programs customized with their own eligibility requirements, grant amounts, and application procedures. Find your state higher education agency at this site and see what single mom scholarship programs they offer.

Keep in mind that single mom scholarships (and single dad scholarships) are going to be need-based. All scholarships of this type will ask for proof of financial need and may also ask for proof of your being the custodial parent. Many will require you to file a FAFSA (see above).

In many cases, state single mom scholarships will actually be offered through a college or university system in the state. In addition to contacting your state higher education agency, you should contact the financial aid office of the school you want to enroll in and ask if the school offers single mom scholarships or grants.

A few examples of state and school financial aid programs for single parents include:

Single Mom Scholarships from Private Foundations & Organizations

A wide range of philanthropic and corporate foundations provide scholarships for single parents. Like the state and school scholarships above, these programs may be getting ready to open their new application season. Check their websites to see when their 2010-2011 scholarship applications will be available:

Single Mom Scholarships are a Win-Win Investment

Officials from the federal level all the way down to your town council know that helping you get valuable higher education now is a way of “paying it forward”: If your college degree or career training helps you ensure financial stability and a better life for you and your family, everyone benefits – your community, our larger society, and you.

Still not sure how to get started with finding Financial Aid? Start here:

1) 4 Ideas for Single Moms Going Back to School offers a basic back-to-college plan.

2) How to Prepare for the FAFSA: 3 Pre-FAFSA Steps provides a basic introduction to the Federal Application for Pell Grants and other federal financial aid.

3) The EducationGrant Guide to Grants & Scholarships has tips and information on:

  • Understanding the difference between grants and scholarships
  • How to apply for Pell Grants and other federal financial aid
  • Searching for state and private grants and scholarships appropriate for you
  • Some characteristics of successful applications for state and private grants and scholarships
  • Websites and addresses for more than 80 scholarships, so you can contact them