Paying for the Parchment—Scholarships to the Rescue!

Each time I glance at my AU parchment, hanging near my desk, I think back to the effort that went into earning my degree.  And, inevitably, I think back to the money that went into it, too.

When I began pursuing my degree, I assumed that I’d qualify for the same financial assistance that younger students do.  But as many other mature students have experienced, our demographic is excluded from sources of financial-need based funding designed with a much-younger student in mind.

Scholarships saved my education.

I applied for any scholarship I qualified for.  Some were long shots and others I felt confident about.  Not knowing, in most cases, how many other students would be vying for the same scholarship, I reminded myself that some organizations get very few applications.  Each chance was worth the effort.

There are many sources of scholarships.  Here are a few that helped me on the road to my degree:

Athabasca University

AU lists over 80 awards available to undergrad students.  Some are program-specific, while others are general.  The deadlines are spread out over the year, and awards with upcoming deadlines are highlighted.  I checked the list each month to see which awards had deadlines in the coming month or so, then applied for any I was qualified for.  I don’t know how many applications AU gets for any of their awards, but I won most of the scholarships I applied for, and even one I didn’t. is where to go to see the full list of AU awards.


The student union offers a smaller suite of scholarships, but they award them twice per year.  For most scholarships, AUSU often received only a few dozen applications each, and sometimes fewer than ten.  Despite the low application numbers, I found these awards tougher to earn, even after earning similar awards from AU (for community service, for example.)  Dozens of applications over the years produced only two award wins, but I’m grateful for them.  AUSU is now accepting applications for the May 1 deadline; check them out at

External organizations.

This vast category covers awards sponsored by non-academic organizations.  Industry, banks, retail, not-for-profits, service groups—the list of organizations offering scholarships is long.  And the application requirements vary considerably.  While most asked for an essay of some length, one scholarship I won required only a 150-word composition.  AU, similar to many universities, maintains a list of external awards, but there are many more than appear on their list at Voice features one scholarship with an approaching deadline in its Scholarship of the Week column at

My degree wouldn’t have been possible without scholarships.  Although I wasn’t successful with many of my applications, I was still able to fund well over half of my university education with scholarships.

And that’s part of what’s behind that parchment hanging on my wall.