It's probably not a newsflash that women are still largely outnumbered by their male counterparts in science and engineering.
What might be news: More colleges and employers are making it a priority to get women into STEM fields—and they're making financial investments to back that up. That means there are ever-increasing options for female students who are hunting for scholarships. Here's how to find that sweet "free money" to help fund your STEM education.
Most of these scholarships are awarded annually. If the deadline for this year has already passed, put a note in your calendar to check back in a few months.
Some scholarships require memberships in certain organizations. If you're not a member, don't let that deter you—instead, find out how to become one. Sometimes it's as easy as filling out an online application form and sending in nominal dues. Many professional organizations have a student-level membership that will allow you to join for a reduced cost. You may be surprised to find that membership in some of these organization can be a powerful educational and networking tool in itself.
General scholarships for women in STEM
We know you're here for the scholarships, so we'll get right to them! Just be sure to scan down to the end of this article to read up on tips to find even more scholarships. And away we go ...
Aysen Tunca Memorial Scholarship—$2,000
This merit-based scholarship program seeks to encourage undergraduate female students majoring in STEM fields. Interested applicants must be U.S. citizens, members of the Society of Physics Students national organization and in their sophomore or junior year of college. Preference will be given to a student with a disadvantaged economic background or to someone who had to overcome significant obstacles and is the first person in her family to study a STEM topic. Learn more.
Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship—$3,000
Candidates must be female undergraduate students at an accredited four-year institution, who are majoring in math, engineering, or biological or physical sciences. Candidates may be residents of any country. Learn more.
The BHW Scholarship offers $3,000 to a female student pursuing an undergraduate or master's degree and majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. This scholarship is offered by tech firm The BHW Group in Austin, Texas. Learn more.
Scholarship America’s Dream Award—$5,000-$15,000
This program offers renewable scholarships to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who demonstrate financial need. Applicants have to be at least 17 years old; U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or granted deferred action status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (or the equivalent); and plan to enroll in an accredited two- or four-year college, university, or vocational-technical school. Learn more.
Drone Technology College Scholarship—$1,000
Two $1,000 scholarships are available for current or prospective college students who are interested in pushing forward the drone industry. (They also have a smaller scholarship just for high school students.) Learn more.
And psst ... here are a few with no essay requirement
Science Ambassador Scholarship—up to full tuition
This scholarship is awarded to the female STEM student who creates a winning three-minute YouTube video on the STEM subject of her choosing. Offered by the makers of Cards Against Humanity, the scholarship covers a full ride at the winner's chosen college or university. Additional partial scholarships are also offered. Learn more.
SMART Scholarship—up to $38,000
This scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense is pretty incredible and covers the full cost of tuition up to $38k. The SMART Scholarship is open to students who are citizens of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom at time of application, at least 18 years of age, able to complete at least one summer internship (if interested in a multi-year award),willing to accept post-graduation employment with the DoD, and pursuing a technical degree in one of the 21 STEM disciplines prioritized by the DOD. (See the site for details. Awards are available for undergraduate and graduate students. Learn more.
Women in science
For students in the sciences, there are plenty of options under the general sciences umbrella, but also for specific fields like physics, geology, biology, and others.
Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI) Academic Scholarship—$2,000
Offered by a woman-owned business, the SSAI scholarship is intended to encourage the study of physics. Applicants must be members of the Society of Physics Students. Learn more.
AWIS Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award—$2,000
This merit-based scholarship program is for the benefit of female students majoring in physics, space physics, geophysics, or geoscience who demonstrate they are well-rounded, including non-academic pursuits and/or have overcome obstacles to pursue their studies. Funds may be used for any aspect of education, including tuition, books, housing, or travel. Applicants must be members of the Society of Physics Students. Learn more.
Women in engineering
UPS Scholarship for Female Students—$4,000
This award is for female students who are studying industrial engineering. Schools may be located in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. Learn more. (Scroll down on the linked URL to view this specific scholarship, but feel free to skim over the many other opportunities on the page.)
American Airlines/Women In Aviation Engineering Scholarship—$3,000
Women looking to pursue a career in aeronautical, electrical, or mechanical engineering within the airline industry are welcome to apply for one of these four awards. Applicants must be members of Women in Aviation to qualify. Learn more.
Lynn G. Bellenger Scholarship—$5,000
Scholarships are awarded to undergraduate engineering or pre-engineering students who are enrolled full-time in a course of study that traditionally has been a preparatory curriculum for the HVAC&R profession. Must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Learn more. (Check out the rest of the site for more scholarship opportunities.)
Society of Women Engineers—up to $16,000
Women in engineering should also consider applying for scholarships through the Society of Women Engineers or SWE (and join your campus chapter, while you're at it!). The organization awards 260 scholarships worth a combined $1 million each year to women in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science for up to $16,000. Graduate students may also apply. Learn more.
Palantir Women in Technology Scholarship—$7,000
Ten winners are selected for awards through the Palantir Women in Technology Scholarship. Applicants must be women pursuing degrees in computer science, engineering, or technical studies. Learn more.
For high school seniors
The best time to apply for scholarships is while you're still in high school. While many scholarships are available to any student in higher education, some are only available for students in certain years or who are pursuing certain degrees. These tend to be targeted specifically at incoming college freshmen.
Yes, there are plenty of options in future school years. But if you're hoping for scholarships to help pay for school during freshman year, applying in high school will give you the greatest odds of success.
Girl Scout Scholarships—multiple awards
Girl Scouts take note: your scouting makes you eligible for a whole host of scout-specific scholarships, some of which are targeted at STEM students and many for students in any major.Learn more.
Lounge Lizard Web Design Scholarships—$1,000 per semester
Web designers take note: This scholarship with two yearly applications awards scholarships to students in, or about to enter, college. The no-essay application does require you to submit a web design you've created. (Bonus: The winner also gets a critique on the design of your choice from the company's founder and chief creative officer. Learn more.
For graduate students
Don't let the number of scholarships for freshmen dissuade you; if you're pursuing your master's degree or PhD in a STEM field you also have lots of options available to help foot the tuition bill.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled not only for scholarships targeted specifically at graduate students, but also any student within higher education. (That includes some of the scholarship opportunities mentioned above.)
Palantir Women in Technology Scholarship—$7,000
Women pursuing an undergraduate or masters degree in STEM are encouraged to apply. Recipients will be invited to Palantir HQ for a workshop and internship opportunity. Learn more.
Society of Women Engineers—up to $16,000
Women in engineering should also consider applying for scholarships through theSociety of Women Engineersor SWE (and join your campus chapter, while you're at it!). The organization awards many scholarships each year to women in engineering, engineering technology and computer science for up to $16,000. Learn more.
How to find more STEM scholarships for female students
Scholarships that are geared toward all STEM students may mean that more people competing for the same prize, but as a woman, your underrepresented status in the field makes you a more competitive and appealing candidate to scholarship committees.
Begin your search in a robustscholarship database, but definitely check search engines as well—new scholarships come online all the time. Start with the most obvious search: women in STEM scholarships. Try different combinations of search terms, both broad and specific. Using very focused terms, such as space physics or HVAC (if they're relevant to what you're studying) can turn up under-the-radar opportunities that most people miss. Be sure to add in terms that may correlate with your hobbies. (You saw the drone-related scholarship above, right?) You never know what's out there.
Remember: Most scholarships are offered annually. If you're interested in one but the deadline has already passed, make a note in your calendar to check it out next year.
Anytime you're doing a scholarship search, it's important to do some soul-searching about what makes you unique and competitive as a scholarship applicant.
STEM scholarships for women are everywhere, but so are the students applying. To stand out in the crowd, go deeper and find a way to convey your individuality.
Are you a good writer? A lot of STEM students tend to be stronger in math than English and language skills. If you feel confident about your ability to turn a phrase, keep an eye out for scholarship opportunities that require essays. (Need some help getting started? Check out: How to Start a Scholarship Essay)
What else makes you unique? Your heritage? Your church affiliation or lack thereof? Your culture? Your artistic talents? Your resume of service to your community? Whatever it is, feature that information in your application and search for scholarships that are specifically geared to your individual characteristics.
Lastly, more than anything, make sure you apply! Deadlines come and go and it can be easy to prioritize other more pressing issues like college applications and schoolwork. (And let us repeat: If a deadline has passed, mark you calendar to apply next year. Most scholarships are offered annually.)
Finally, if you find that scholarships and federal student loans don't cover your entire tuition bill, you may want to check into getting a private student loan. Here are our picks for the best private student loans of 2021.
Carol Katarsky is a contributing writer for Nitro. She is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience writing about both finance and education. Her corporate and non-profit clients include AIG, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Project Management Institute. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, son, and one cat more than she should. Read more by Carol Katarsky