In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for computer and IT occupations was $91,250. Earning a computer science degree can lead to landing a well-compensated, rewarding computer science job as a programmer, developer, or administrator. However, a college degree can be expensive, and you should know all your financial aid options before taking out a student loan.
According to the Institute for College Access and Success, 62% of the college class of 2019 graduated with student loan debt. Applying for computer science scholarships (including identity-based, academic, and need-based scholarships) or other financial aid options, such as Pell Grants, can reduce the cost of college and the risk of student loan debt.
Below, we’ve laid out the different types of computer science scholarships and how you can access them to help pay for college.
General computer science scholarships
General computer science scholarships like those listed below serve all populations. They are usually merit-based and come from sources as diverse as Google and Lockheed Martin.
Identity-based computer science scholarships
Identity-based computer science scholarships tailor to people of color and LGBTQ+ learners to increase their representation in STEM. Take advantage of these scholarships if you belong to a qualifying group.
Computer science scholarships for women
Because men have historically dominated computer science, there are now many computer science scholarships for women majoring in computer science. Today, these scholarships help thousands of women pay for STEM education annually.
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 to 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
- 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.
Paying for a computer science degree and finding a great career becomes easier by accessing college financial aid options such as scholarships. College Board reports that from 2019-2020, the average undergraduate received $9,850 in scholarship or grant aid. While you might not get a full ride, scholarship money can go a long way towards paying for college.
Computer science scholarships can help reduce or even eliminate student loan debt. The main advantage scholarships offer is that they do not need to be paid back, unlike loans. This page has listed three main types of computer science scholarships: general, identity-based, and women’s. Just as each computer science scholarship type serves different populations, each individual computer science scholarship sets its own unique guidelines and award amounts.
To find additional scholarships, use the careeronestop scholarship search engine. You can also contact the Office for Federal Student Aid and your state’s different educational agencies for additional information on scholarships.