Scholarships For Mental Illness And People Living With Disability

July 7, 2023 by Linda Samuel

College education often comes with a hefty price tag, causing significant anxiety for students, particularly those living with mental illness. Fortunately, there are organizations and colleges that recognize this challenge and offer scholarships specifically designed for students with mental illness, including bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and other conditions. In this article, we will explore some of the top scholarships available to support students with mental illness on their educational journey.

Understanding Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Scholarships for students with disabilities play a crucial role in ensuring equal access to education and opportunities. These scholarships recognize the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and aim to support their educational pursuits. Financial assistance in the form of scholarships can alleviate the financial burden often accompanying disabilities, enabling students to focus on their studies and achieve their academic goals.

Benefits and Opportunities Provided by Disability Scholarships

Disability scholarships offer a range of benefits that positively impact students with disabilities.

5 Benefits of Disability Scholarships:


  1. Financial assistance

Disability scholarships provide essential financial support to cover various educational expenses, including tuition fees, textbooks, accommodation, assistive technology, and other related costs. This financial assistance significantly reduces the financial barriers faced by students with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access to education and creating a level playing field. By alleviating the financial burden, disability scholarships empower students to focus on their studies and fully engage in their educational pursuits.


  1. Equal opportunities

By providing financial support, disability scholarships ensure that students with disabilities have equal opportunities to pursue higher education. These scholarships recognize the unique challenges faced by students with disabilities and aim to create an inclusive environment that fosters academic success and personal growth. By levelling the playing field, disability scholarships contribute to a more equitable education system and empower students to reach their full potential.

  1. Personal growth and development

Many disability scholarship programs go beyond financial assistance. They offer additional opportunities for personal growth and development, such as mentorship programs, networking events, and internship opportunities. These experiences allow students to build connections, gain practical skills, and develop a deeper understanding of their chosen field. By engaging in these activities, students enhance their employability, expand their professional networks, and increase their chances of success in the competitive job market.

  1. Supportive community

Disability scholarships often provide access to a supportive community of peers who share similar experiences. Students can connect with fellow scholarship recipients, participate in support groups, and engage in activities that promote social integration and inclusivity. This sense of community offers emotional support, fosters a sense of belonging, and helps students navigate the challenges they may face during their educational journey. By building connections and forming relationships, students with disabilities can overcome feelings of isolation and thrive in their academic pursuits.

  1. Recognition and empowerment

Disability scholarships acknowledge the unique strengths, talents, and resilience of students with disabilities. By receiving a scholarship, students gain recognition for their academic achievements and the barriers they have overcome. This recognition can boost their confidence, self-esteem, and motivation, empowering them to pursue their educational and career goals with determination and resilience. Disability scholarships play a vital role in empowering students with disabilities, instilling in them a sense of pride and inspiring them to make a positive impact in their chosen fields.

Available Scholarships for People with Disability

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of inclusive education. This has led to an increase in the number of scholarships available for students with disabilities. Many universities, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations offer diverse scholarships to promote accessibility and support the educational aspirations of individuals with disabilities.

5 Types of Disability Scholarships:


  1. Merit-based scholarships

These scholarships are awarded based on academic excellence, extracurricular achievements, and leadership qualities. Merit-based scholarships do not solely focus on disabilities but consider the overall achievements and potential of the applicants. An example of a merit-based scholarship is the Google Lime Scholarship, which supports students with disabilities pursuing degrees in computer science.


  1. Need-based scholarships

These scholarships take into account the financial need of the applicants. They ensure that students with disabilities from low-income backgrounds have equal opportunities to pursue higher education. Need-based scholarships can provide vital financial assistance to cover tuition, fees, and living expenses. The College Scholarship Program by the National Federation of the Blind is an example of a need-based scholarship for students with disabilities.


  1. Specific disability scholarships

Some scholarships are specifically tailored to support students with particular disabilities, recognizing their unique challenges and needs. These scholarships target specific disabilities such as mental health, visual impairment, mobility impairments, cognitive disabilities, and more. The Jack Scura Fund and JC Runyon Foundation Scholarship are examples of scholarships that provide financial support to students with mental health disabilities like bipolar.


  1. Advocacy scholarships

Advocacy scholarships focus on supporting students with disabilities who have demonstrated a commitment to disability rights, activism, or community involvement. These scholarships aim to empower individuals who are actively working to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The Tom and Judy Gaschler Disability Scholarship is an example of an advocacy scholarship.


  1. Career-specific scholarships

Some scholarships are designed to support students with disabilities pursuing specific career paths or fields of study. These scholarships aim to increase diversity and representation in professions where individuals with disabilities may be underrepresented. An example is the Microsoft DisAbility Scholarship, which supports students with disabilities pursuing careers in technology.

Scholarships for Students with Mental Illness

While going to college might be exciting for high school graduates, for a person experiencing mental illness, this transition might not be exactly exciting. Mental illness is common in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults and 17% of those between 6 and 17 experience mental illness.

5 scholarships for students with mental illness:

1. The Andrew Q. Peschard Memorial Scholarship

Graduating seniors, attending high school in San Mateo County can take advantage of the Andrew Q. Peschard Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was created in memory of Andrew Q. Peschard, who demonstrated resiliency in their mental health journey and determination in pursuing a college education. Applicants are required to write an essay describing a life challenge that has impacted the applicant’s mental health and has contributed to their high school experience.

Applicants are also required to provide a Letter of Recommendation that best describes the applicant’s inspirational dedication to overcoming challenging life experiences related to their mental health and why the applicant should receive this award. $1,000 is awarded to recipients of the Andrew Q. Peschard Memorial Scholarship annually. Interested applicants can visit the Andrew Q. Peschard Memorial Scholarship page for more information.

See also 25 EU Excellence Undergraduate Financial Aid

2. The Quell Foundation

3 mental health scholarships the Quell Foundation offers:

a. The Quell Foundation Survivor Scholarship

The scholarship is awarded to select high school seniors or current undergraduate/graduate students. They have experienced the devastating loss of a parent, caregiver, or sibling to suicide. The scholarship offers up to $1,000 to college students with a 3.40 GPA

b. The Quell Foundation Bridge the Gap Scholarship

This is awarded to juniors and seniors in college or graduate students. The recipients of this scholarship are pursuing a degree in psychology, social work, or other fields of study related to the provision of mental health services.

c. The Quell Foundation Fighter Scholarship

This is awarded to a select high school senior or a current undergraduate/graduate student treated for a diagnosed mental health condition.

3. Jack Scura Fund Scholarship

The scholarship was designed to recognize students with special needs who are of good standing in school and their communities. Recipients of the Jack Scura Fund will receive $5000 for the Fall. To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must be incoming or current students of an Undergraduate Program of a New Jersey College or University with either an intellectual disability, severe physical disability, or psychiatric disability.

Applicants must have a 3.2 and above GPA (based on a 4.0 scale) and are required to provide proof of disability documentation, a Transcript of Records, Two (2) recommendation letters, a Resume and a 600-800 word essay that answers the question: Recount a time you have faced a challenge or setback in your life. How has this experience moulded you into the person you are today?  Applicants can visit the Jack Scura Fund page to apply for the scholarship 

4. JED’s Student Voice of Mental Health Award

The JED’s Student Voice of Mental Health Award was created to raise awareness for mental health issues, reduce prejudice around mental illness, and encourage help-seeking among peers. Undergraduates in any university/college living with mental illness can apply for the award. The undergraduate college student selected for this award receives a $3,000 cash scholarship, recognition on JED’s website and social channels, and a trip to New York to accept the award at JED’s Annual Gala.

5. The Microsoft Disability Scholarship

Students living with mental illness who wish to major in engineering, computer science, computer information systems, law, business, or related fields can apply for the Microsoft Disability Scholarship. Recipients will receive $5,000 annually for four years of college but must maintain a 3.0 GPA for renewal of the award.

Notable Organizations Offering Disability Scholarships

Several organizations are dedicated to supporting students with disabilities through scholarship programs.

5 notable organizations that offer disability scholarships:


  1. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB)

The NFB offers 30 merit-based scholarships, ranging from $3,000 to $12,000 for blind and visually impaired students. The NFB scholarships aim to empower blind students to achieve their academic goals and contribute to their communities.


  1. The American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD)

AAHD offers the AAHD Scholarship Program, which supports students with disabilities who are pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies in the field of public health or disability-related disciplines. Scholarships will be limited to under $1,000. These scholarships aim to promote diversity and inclusion within the public health sector.


  1. The Foundation for Science and Disability (FSD)

FSD provides scholarships worth $1000 each to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are studying Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science, or a related field. The FSD scholarships aim to encourage students with disabilities to pursue careers in these fields, promoting their inclusion and contributions in scientific and technical disciplines.


  1. The Autism Society

The Autism Society offers $3,000 scholarships for individuals on the autism spectrum who are pursuing postsecondary education or vocational training programs. These scholarships recognize the unique strengths and potential of individuals with autism and support their educational aspirations. By providing financial assistance, the Autism Society scholarships aim to empower individuals with autism to achieve their academic and career goals.


  1. The Google Lime Scholarship

The Google Lime Scholarship is a partnership between Google and Lime Connect, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals with disabilities. It is for students with disabilities pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a closely related technical field. Recipients of the Google Lime Scholarship receive a monetary award 5,000 CAD or 10,000 USD, depending on where they are studying, an invitation to attend the annual Google Scholars’ Retreat, and the opportunity to be considered for an internship with Google.

Scholarships for Specific Disabilities

Numerous scholarships are tailored to support students with specific disabilities.

5 scholarships for specific disabilities:


  1. Visual disabilities

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) offers several scholarships for blind and visually impaired students. The ACB Scholarship provides financial assistance to blind or visually impaired individuals pursuing higher education. The ACB Scholarship ranges in value from $1,000 to $3,500 and supports students in their academic pursuits.


  1. Hearing disabilities

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing offers the AG Bell College Scholarship Program. It supports students with hearing loss pursuing degrees in communication sciences and disorders. The scholarship awards range from $1,000 to $10,000, providing significant financial support to recipients.

  1. Mobility Disabilities

The 180 Medical Scholarship Program provides financial support to students with mobility disabilities. These include spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, or neurogenic bladder who are pursuing higher education. This scholarship awards $1,000 to selected applicants, assisting them in their educational endeavours.

  1. Cognitive Disabilities

The Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships are offered by the National Center for Learning Disabilities. It provides support to students with learning disabilities who demonstrate strong academic achievements and leadership potential. These scholarships offer a value of $2,500 each, helping students with cognitive disabilities pursue their educational goals.

  1. Physical disabilities

The Travis Roy Foundation offers the Travis Roy Foundation Scholarship, which supports individuals with spinal cord injuries pursuing higher education. The scholarship provides a value of $4,000 per year for up to four years, totalling $16,000 in financial assistance.

Scholarships for Neurodivergent Students

Neurodivergent students, including those with autism and ADHD, have access to specific scholarship opportunities.

scholarships catering to neurodivergent students:

  1. Autism scholarships

The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) offers scholarships for students on the autism spectrum pursuing postsecondary education or vocational training programs. The OAR Scholarship Program provides awards ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, supporting students with autism in their educational pursuits.

  1. ADHD scholarships

The Shire ADHD Scholarship Program, now known as the AbbVie ADHD Scholarship Program, provides financial assistance to individuals diagnosed with ADHD pursuing higher education. The scholarship offers $1,000 to $5,000 in recognition of the unique challenges faced by students with ADHD.


  1. Dyslexia scholarships

The Dyslexia Scholarship, offered by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), supports students with dyslexia pursuing higher education. The scholarship ranges from $2,000 to $2,500, assisting students with dyslexia in their academic endeavours.

  1. Learning disabilities scholarships

The Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships, provided by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, offer support to students with learning disabilities. These scholarships provide $2,500 each, empowering students with learning disabilities to pursue their educational goals.

  1. Tourette syndrome scholarships

The Tourette Association of America offers the Tourette Syndrome Scholarship Program, which provides financial assistance to students with Tourette Syndrome who are pursuing higher education. The scholarship awards range from $1,000 to $5,000, recognizing the achievements and potential of students with Tourette Syndrome.

See also Victoria University of Wellington Master’s Scholarship

Scholarships for Students with Chronic Illnesses and Medical Conditions

Students with chronic illnesses and medical conditions have access to scholarships specifically designed to support their educational pursuits.

5 scholarships for students with chronic illnesses and medical conditions:

  1. Cystic fibrosis scholarships

The Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation provides scholarships to students with cystic fibrosis who are pursuing postsecondary education. These scholarships aim to alleviate the financial burden of education and support students with cystic fibrosis in achieving their academic goals.


  1. Cancer-related scholarships

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Scholarship supports students who have been impacted by cancer. This scholarship provides financial assistance to students who have either battled cancer themselves or have had a close family member affected by the disease. The scholarship aims to empower and support these students in their pursuit of higher education.


  1. Chronic illness scholarships

The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) offers the Kelsey B. Diamantis TS Scholarship Family Foundation, which supports students with chronic illnesses. This scholarship provides financial assistance to students with chronic illnesses, enabling them to pursue their educational dreams.


  1. Diabetes scholarships

The Diabetes Scholars Foundation offers scholarships for students living with type 1 diabetes. These scholarships aim to support individuals with diabetes in pursuing higher education and easing the financial burden associated with managing their condition while studying.


  1. Chronic disease scholarships

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation offers the “Take Steps” Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships for students living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. These scholarships aim to empower students living with these chronic diseases to pursue higher education and support them in their academic journeys.

University-Based Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Universities often provide scholarships specifically tailored to support students with disabilities.

university-based scholarships for students with disabilities:

  1. The University of Washington (UW) DO-IT scholarships

The DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Scholarships at the University of Washington aim to empower students with disabilities in pursuing postsecondary education. These scholarships recognize academic achievement, leadership potential, and the determination of students with disabilities.  It awards $2,500 per academic year.

  1. The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) Chancellor’s Undergraduate scholarship program

The Chancellor’s Undergraduate Scholarship Program at UC Berkeley provides financial support to outstanding students with significant disabilities. The program covers full tuition and fees, and recipients also receive additional support for housing, books, and other educational expenses.

  1. The Ohio State University (OSU) diversity scholarships

The Diversity Scholarships at OSU aim to promote diversity and inclusion by providing financial assistance to students from underrepresented groups, including students with disabilities. The scholarships vary in value, with some covering full tuition and fees, supporting students in their academic endeavours.

  1. The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Disability Resource Center scholarships

The Disability Resource Center Scholarships at UIC are designed to support students with disabilities in their pursuit of higher education. These scholarships provide financial assistance to help cover educational expenses and support the academic success of students with disabilities. They award up to $2,500 per academic year.

  1. The University of Michigan (UM) Services for students with disabilities scholarships

The Services for Students with Disabilities Scholarships at UM are dedicated to supporting students with disabilities in their educational journey. These scholarships aim to alleviate financial burdens and provide assistance for students with disabilities pursuing their academic goals at the University of Michigan. They award up to $2,000 per academic year.

Eligibility Criteria for Disability Scholarships

Eligibility criteria for disability scholarships depend on the scholarship program. Common eligibility factors include proof of disability, academic performance, extracurricular involvement, and personal essays. Each scholarship program will outline its specific requirements, so it is essential for applicants to carefully review the eligibility criteria before applying.

Application Process for Disability Scholarships

The general application process for disability scholarships involves submitting an application form, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statements or essays, and any supporting documentation related to the disability. It is crucial to pay close attention to deadlines and ensure that all required materials are submitted accurately and on time.

Tips for Winning Disability Scholarships

When applying for disability scholarships, it is essential to keep a few tips in mind.

5 tips for winning disability scholarships:


  1. Research and identify suitable scholarships

Take the time to explore various scholarship opportunities that align with your disability and educational goals. Create a list of scholarships that you qualify for and prioritize them based on your interests and eligibility.


  1. Prepare strong application materials

Craft well-written personal statements or essays that highlight your achievements, aspirations, and how the scholarship will help you overcome barriers. Request letters of recommendation from teachers, mentors, or employers who can speak to your abilities and potential.

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