Many of today's college graduates face staggering student loan debt, and excessive debt has even caused some to put off major life milestones like buying a home, getting married, or having children. Fortunately, current and future students have access to a variety of scholarship options.
If you need help paying for your education, you can apply for scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities that could minimize or even eliminate future loan payments. And if your education will give you an in-demand skill or prepare you for a fast-growing field, you may be able to increase your options even further by taking advantage of major-specific scholarships.
Related: Find scholarships for your major
What are major-specific scholarships?
Major-specific scholarships are available to students who want to pursue particular fields of study. Whether you want to major in math at a four-year university or pursue vocational training at a two-year school, your narrowed educational focus may qualify you for one or more major-specific scholarships. Federal and state grants are especially common for majors in education, science, technology, engineering, and math.
Scholarships can also be found for certain vocations and technologies. Sometimes specific organizations or even the schools themselves will offer these scholarships. For example, the American Welding Society provides regional and national fellowships, scholarships, and loan programs, while the Tulsa Welding School holds a competition for high school seniors, allowing future welders to demonstrate their burgeoning skills in exchange for a $500 scholarship for each participant. The three students with the most impressive techniques then have the chance to receive other scholarships that could cover between 25%–100% of their tuition.
Another area offering major-specific scholarships is the agricultural industry. The Humboldt County Farm Bureau in Eureka, California, offers scholarships to local students who want to major in science, agriculture, or education. Students may use these agricultural grants at community colleges, four-year universities, or vocational schools, and each student may reapply annually to continue receiving aid for up to four years. These types of opportunities may also be available in your town, county, or state.
Related: Scholarship Search Best Practices
Benefits of major-specific scholarships
How can students and society benefit from major-specific scholarships? These awards are investments in the future because they give students incentive to pursue valuable skills. Thanks to innovations like 3-D printing and solar power, new and up-to-date skills will continue to be in-demand as industries grow and change.
Engineering and manufacturing are especially good examples. Over the past decade, U.S. News & World Report has tracked the ongoing push to encourage more students—especially young women and minorities—to gain skills and pursue jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. STEM skills range from metal manufacturing to laboratory research, but women and minorities only make up a fraction of the professionals who currently have these skills. As technological advances make the need for STEM skills more urgent, STEM scholarships are a way for industry leaders to reach more qualified candidates.
In fact, major-specific scholarships are so useful that President Obama created an initiative to encourage them. On June 22, 2015, the president signed an expansion of the US Presidential Scholars Program to include high school students who have demonstrated excellence in career and technical education (CTE). The criteria for obtaining these scholarships include technical competence, academic rigor, employability skills, and ingenuity and creativity.
When students declare a major or pursue vocational training, they focus their studies on gaining specific knowledge and skills. Your field of study may be a result of passion, practicality, or both, but when you narrow your academic goals to particular professions, you may qualify for additional funding for school. Research your scholarship options now to find a major-specific award that will make it easier to pursue an in-demand education.