Knowing you want to become a nurse is one thing. Actually making that happen is an entirely
different ballgame. To put it plainly, nursing school isn’t cheap. Depending on what type of nurse
you aspire to become (CNA, RNA, LPN, RN, etc.), the price tag can range anywhere from $5k
to $100k per year. And that’s just tuition. There’s also the cost of books and materials to
So, what happens if you’re ambitious but don’t have the financial ability to fund your education?
Does that mean a career in nursing is out of the question? Not necessarily. You could take out
student loans or apply for grants. Or, you could try to get a scholarship. Let’s take a closer look
at the latter and see what your options are, who is eligible to apply and how to improve your
chances of being awarded.
Where to Find Nursing Scholarships
A simple Google search for the term ‘nursing scholarships’ should bring back several pages of
results. The problem is, not all scholarships are created equal, which means they’re not all worth
applying for. This is especially important for someone who is short on time. To help you avoid
wasting your efforts where they may not be fruitful, here’s a list of places where you can find
scholarships that are worth your time.
(Note: The list that applies to you will depend on where you are in your education. Feel free to
skip to whichever areas apply to you and skip the ones that don’t – but keep in mind that some
resources do overlap.)
Currently in High School (or Recently Graduated)
If you are just finishing up your high school diploma or recently graduated from high school,
there are a number of great resources available to you for finding a nursing scholarship. For
• Guidance Counselor – Your high school guidance counselor should be well-versed in the
various local scholarships that are available for which you might qualify. For instance,
there might be a local memorial scholarship for someone pursuing a degree in health
care. Make an appointment and ask what your options are.
• Online – There are a ton of websites devoted specifically to helping students find relevant
scholarships. To save time, sort and filter by your location and your intended major. (Here
are a few sites to get you started: BestColleges.com, Scholarships.com and Scholarship
• Nurse Associations – Research various nurse association(s) and apply. For instance, the
American Nurses Association offers scholarships, as does the National Student Nurses
• Local Organizations – Many local chapters of national organizations offer scholarships to
graduating high school seniors. This is another great reason why asking your guidance
counselor for assistance can pay off. There’s even a way you can search by state.
• National Brands – There are a surprising number of national brands that offer scholarships
for college. Scholarships.com recently compiled a list of general scholarships, and
Johnson and Johnson keeps a running tally specifically for nursing scholarships.
• Needs-Based – There are lots of scholarships available to help students based on their
situation and/or need. For instance, some are designated for first-generation college
students or students that meet certain low-income criteria. If this applies to you, check
with your guidance counselor and apply to one (or all) of them.
• Niches and Specialty Groups – Finally, there are plenty of scholarships devoted to certain
niches or special groups. For example, there are Native American scholarships or
scholarships for people with a disability. Again, do some research and check with your
Currently Enrolled in College
For students already enrolled in college, finding scholarships can be a bit more challenging, but
it’s not impossible. You’ll just have to do so without the assistance of your high school guidance
counselor. Here are a few resources to help you get started in your search:
• Online – As mentioned above, there are some excellent online resources dedicated to
helping students find scholarships for which they qualify. Most allow you to search by
state, major, and even certain hobbies or special interests you may have.
Scholarships.com or Fast Web, for instance, are great places to start.
• College Website – Chances are, your local college or university may have a few
scholarships available. Check their website or contact Admissions to find out.
• Specific Nurse Associations – Are you interested in pursuing a certain nursing specialty? If
so, there are probably scholarships for that specific focus. For instance, the Academy of
Medical-Surgical Nurses offers a list of scholarships and grants right on their website.
How to Improve Your Chances
With many applicants, obviously not everyone who applies will be awarded a scholarship. And
while the nitty gritty details of eligibility may vary scholarship to scholarship, there are certain
criteria that just about all decision-makers use when selecting a recipient. You can improve your
chances by focusing on the following key areas:
Schools, organizations and businesses don’t want to invest money into a student who won’t
capitalize on it. That’s why strong academic ability is often a deciding factor for scholarships.
This applies both to high school as well as college grades. In fact, most scholarships require a
GPA of at least 3.0. Given the fierce competition, however, the higher your grades, the better
Another factor often considered when selecting someone to award a scholarship to is his or level
of involvement within the community. For example, many decision-makers give more weight to
applicants who volunteer their time. In terms of nursing scholarships, focusing your community
involvement on medical facilities – such as nursing homes – and other health care related
organizations is your best bet.
Demonstrating your ability to lead and inspire others is another great way to improve your
chances of receiving a scholarship. There are plenty of ways you can do this. For instance, if you
are in high school, heading up a group or committee can look great on your application. For
those in college or already in the workforce, any position of leadership can be helpful.
Strong Communication Skills
Most scholarships still include a mandatory essay in order to apply. This isn’t just to learn about
your story. It’s also how they assess your communication skills. If writing isn’t your strongpoint,
have someone else proofread and edit your response before submitting it.
You may also want to spend some extra time honing that skill. Trust us – it’ll pay off in the long run.
What did we miss? Have a great resource for nursing scholarships to share? Please post it in the
comments section below!
Dave is the Chief Medical Officer for ProMed Certifications. He has 20 years of experience as an Anesthesiologist. He has a DO in anesthesiology, a master’s degree in physiology from Georgetown, and Bachelors of Science degrees in both biology and psychology. He currently works on staff at 8 hospitals and 6 Surgicenter’s in Arizona. He is also a trustee board member of the Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association and serves as the District 5 President.