While women continue to outnumber men in the world of higher education, gender equality in the workforce remains elusive for female students who simultaneously raising families and/or who belong to traditionally under-represented demographics. In 2015, women working full-time and year-round made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a 20% gender wage gap. A recent study estimated it will take 44 years for women to finally close the pay gap with men in the year 2059; for Hispanic women and black women, the wait is extended even further to 2248 and 2124, respectively. Many women also face the challenges of finding childcare and continuing to work while earning a college degree. More than 80% of the 12 million single-parent families in the U.S. are headed by women, leading many working female students in recent years to consider more affordable community colleges and embrace the convenience of online programs. In fact, more than 70% of online undergraduate students and 72% of online graduate students were women as of 2015.

Today, many grants for women are available, not only to help offset the cost of earning a degree but also to address some of the systemic issues that prevent women from accessing the same opportunities as men in the workplace. Women historically receive less financial aid, graduate college with more debt than men, and are more likely to live in poverty, especially single mothers, women of color, and LGBTQIA women, with trans women among the highest risk group. Opportunities including both college grants for women and career-oriented awards, such as small business grants for women, are designed to support hard-working students in their efforts to minimize gender, race, and economic gaps for future generations.

While scholarships and grants for women are essentially the same thing (college loans that do not have to be repaid), they are typically awarded based on different criteria: scholarships are usually merit-based, or contingent on individual achievements, while grants are need-based. Because many college grants for women are awarded based on financial need, they especially benefit low-income single mothers and groups considered at a high risk for poverty in their state. For these need-based grants, many of which are funded by state or federal government, the first step in applying is to submit a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Some grants are privately funded by an individual college or university, corporation, or nonprofit. Depending on the source of the funding and the nature of the award, some grants for women may also come with merit eligibility requirements. Qualifications for these types of grants can vary widely, as private organizations are free to establish their own terms. There are also program-specific awards, such as grants for women starting a business or grants for women business owners, for example, in addition to general government grants for women enrolled in a college program.

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Eligibility Requirements

As expected, eligibility requirements for college grants for women have at least one thing in common: applicants must be female. Beyond this criteria, additional requirements can vary considerably. Some grants require that you be a single parent, be returning to school after a long absence, live in a low-income household, or pursue a specific field or profession. While government grants for women are typically need-based, private grants tend to have unique requirements that may or may not include financial need. Generally, graduate grants are more competitive than undergraduate grants for students of both genders. Below are just some of the different types of grants you may encounter in your search.

Types of Women's Grants

AAUW Career Development Grants

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  • Amount: $2,000-$12,000
  • Deadline: December 15, 2017

The American Association of University Women offers numerous grants to women in graduate studies with plans to re-enter the workforce or pursue a new career through an advanced degree or credentialing or licensing program; minority applicants are encouraged to apply for this award.

AAUW Selected Professions Fellowships

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  • Amount: $5,000-$18,000
  • Deadline: January 10, 2017

Women enrolled in master's degree programs in architecture, engineering, computer science, and math are eligible for a fellowship grant provided by the American Association of University Women.

AWM Travel Grants

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  • Amount: Up to $2,300 for domestic travel and $3,500 for foreign travel
  • Deadline: Varies

The Association for Women in Mathematics offers competitive travel grants to women pursuing post-doctoral research in mathematics. The awards specifically cover international travel expenses for guest speaking appointments in the mathematics field.

Barnard College Alumnae and Donor Sponsored Internship Grant Program

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  • Amount: Up to $800 for fall and spring; up to $2,000 for summer semester
  • Deadline: April 10, 2017

Students of this women's college who participate in unpaid internships are eligible to apply for donor-sponsored grants through this program.

IWF Fellows Program

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  • Amount: $27,500
  • Deadline: June 1, 2017

The International Women's Forum at Harvard Business School offers a hands-on mentorship/fellows training program to help women polish their organizational leadership skills, in addition to offering full program tuition for awardees.

PEO Grant for Women Returning to College

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  • Amount: $3,000
  • Deadline: Varies

The PEO Grant at Illinois State University is open to women whose educational endeavors were interrupted for at least two years and are returning to college to finish their degree.

Smith College Quigley Research Fellowship

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  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: May 6, 2017

Junior-year Smith students majoring in any women or gender studies discipline are eligible for research assistance through this award.

Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund

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  • Amount: $5,000-$10,000
  • Deadline: May 15, 2017

Through the American Business Women's Association, SBMEF distributes grants and scholarships to women pursuing post-secondary degrees while maintaining professional careers.

Women in Engineering and Computer and Information Science Awards

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  • Amount: $27,500
  • Deadline: Varies

The National Science Foundation sponsors this fellowship program for women interested in entering STEM programs at the graduate level.

NWSA Graduate Scholarship

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  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: March 31, 2017

The National Women's Studies Association offers the NWSA Graduate Scholarship to current NWSA members who are pursuing their master's thesis or Ph.D. dissertation in an interdisciplinary field of women's studies.

Lesbian Caucus Award

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  • Amount: $500
  • Deadline: May 31, 2017

The National Women's Studies Association offers this research award to a female student developing a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation project in lesbian, queer, and LGBTQIA studies; applicants must be current members of the NWSA.

Patsy Takemoto Education Support Award

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  • Amount: Up to $5,000
  • Deadline: Varies

The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation offers five grants to low-income mothers and students pursuing a skills training program, vocational or associate degree, or first bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree.

Traub-Dicker Rainbow Scholarship

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  • Amount: $1,500-$3,000
  • Deadline: May 10, 2017

Stonewall Community Foundation sponsors this scholarship for women-identified applicants who are high school seniors or college students in undergraduate or graduate study.