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The best computer science scholarships: Get help paying for college

Accessing computer science scholarships can make your path to a STEM career less pricey. And it's now easier than ever for women and people of color.
Written by Matthew Sweeney, Contributing Writer

(Image: Shutterstock)

Looking to jumpstart a career as a software engineer or computer scientist? These jobs often require a potentially costly computer science degree. Computer science scholarships are one safeguard against excessive debt.

According to the Education Data Initiative, the national student loan debt balance climbed to 1.76 trillion dollars in 2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2021, the median salary for all computer science and information technology professions is $97,430.  

However, computer science majors can still end up in debt. Enter computer science scholarships, which make it easier for learners of all backgrounds, races, and genders to join this highly-qualified and paid field.

Read on for our list of the top general, identity-based, and women's computer science scholarships, along with how they can help you.

SEE: Scholarships for minorities in STEM

Computer science scholarships for women


READ THIS: Scholarships for women in STEM

How do you apply for computer science scholarships?

A variety of organizations offer computer science scholarships, including nonprofits, foundations, and businesses. You can find scholarships through online search engines, state and government agencies, and your college's departmental resources. Many scholarship search engines allow you to quickly apply to various scholarships with a single application by connecting to the Common App service.

If you need help applying for scholarships, you can reach out to guidance counselors, admissions officers, and university recruiters to get suggestions.

What are the typical scholarship requirements?

Scholarships differ from grants in that they can set their own requirements for receiving scholarship money. Though scholarship guidelines can vary widely, most computer science scholarships share some typical requirements in common:

  • Minimum GPA: Students typically need to maintain a baseline GPA, e.g. 3.0, to qualify for scholarship money.
  • US Citizen or permanent resident: Most scholarships require candidates to be US citizens or permanent residents.
  • Majoring in computer science: Computer science scholarships only accept computer science or IT-related majors.

What are the typical scholarship application components?

Scholarship applications can ask candidates for widely differing documents to go along with the basics, including resumes, standardized test scores, and references. On most computer science scholarships, you can expect to include the following list of documents with your application:

  • Personal essay
  • Two or more letters of recommendation from professors or employers
  • High school or college academic transcripts
  • Application fee

Four tips for applying to computer scholarships

When applying for computer science scholarships, it helps to keep some key tips in mind. Most of the tips listed below are simple, powerful tools toward crafting a solid scholarship application.

1. Start early and stay ahead of deadlines

Remember to keep ahead of deadlines and manage your time carefully. The different scholarship application elements, such as writing essays, getting approval for letters of recommendation, and collecting documentation, take up time. Use time strategically. Don't let things come down to the wire.

2. Stay organized

Keep organized. Don't forget to use useful tools such as spreadsheets, planners, and calendars when keeping abreast of various application deadlines or things you need to include. A spreadsheet, for example, can sort information instantly and present it in a clearer format.

3. Choose which scholarships to prioritize

Prioritize scholarships based on sum amount and deadline. You want to spend all your available time up to application deadlines crafting a perfect application for the largest award possible. You can put smaller scholarships on the back burner.

4. Get feedback

Get feedback for your application, especially your personal statement/essay. A second pair of eyes can help clean up grammar, mechanics, and concision in your application whether or not writing is your strong suit. Extra feedback will always offer new tips for refining your application.

Are there other financial aid options for STEM students?

STEM learners can access various other computer science financial aid options. Unlike scholarships, federal and state grants are need-based, but they do not need to be repaid. Fellowships provide funding for students interested in research. Enlisted military students and their families can also get military aid. Work-study programs allow you to pay off tuition with part-time work.

As a final resort, students can access loans. Keep in mind that all loans -- even subsidized ones -- need to be repaid, unlike scholarships. To recap, alternate financial aid options include:

  • Federal grants
  • State grants
  • Fellowships
  • Loans
  • Work-study programs
  • Military aid

How can computer science students spend scholarship money?

Scholarships usually give learners limited options for how to spend scholarship funds, and only allow computer science students to spend money on tuition, on-campus living expenses, and computer science course materials.

Though scholarship committees cannot realistically track how students spend scholarship money, it pays to follow these guidelines. Spending money irresponsibly on non-academic items such as new clothes can add up, and cause your scholarship funds to quickly run out. Observe scholarship guidelines to stay self-accountable.

Can you use scholarship money for computer science certifications?

Some scholarships only allow students to spend scholarship money through their school. Other scholarships observe lighter guidelines and may not mind learners spending scholarship money externally on professional certifications, such as coding bootcamps. When in doubt, check up on your scholarship's guidelines. Remember that it is important to stay accountable.

In conclusion

Finding viable computer science scholarships can seem intimidating at first, but taking things step-by-step helps. 

Remember that filling out the FAFSA can make applying to scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid easier and is often required. The number of online colleges that accept the FAFSA has increased in recent years, also.

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