If you're a student pursuing an education in horticulture studies, you know that it takes air, sunlight, and water to make a garden grow—and you also know that it takes a lot of dollars to make your education grow into a successful future. In honor of Arbor Day on April 27, we've been busy digging up scholarships for those of you interested in turning your green thumb into a lifelong career.
Students pursuing horticulture can be found greening urban landscapes, improving the quality and nutritional value of crops, owning and operating nurseries and garden centers, and even working in floral design.
While the vast number of career options for students of horticulture is a big plus, all the subfields and specialties can make a scholarship search difficult. Our advice: look for scholarships with broad criteria, or those that focus only on your specialty. A little extra research could help you win thousands of dollars, or even full tuition, from organizations like these that have a vested interest in cultivating students like you:
• The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers two excellent programs that provide full tuition and employment.
1. If you're pursuing or plan to pursue a bachelor's degree in agriculture, natural resource sciences, or a related field at one of 18 institutions known as the 1890 historically black land-grant universities, you may be eligible for the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program. Full tuition, fees, books, and room and board are included, as is employment with the USDA, employee benefits, and even your own laptop and printer.
2. Scholars participating in the Public Service Leadership Scholarship Program work as paid interns with the USDA and become permanent employees upon graduation. They are provided with mentoring, leadership, career development, and a personal computer.
• The Garden Club of America offers 24 merit-based scholarships and fellowships and distributes more than $200,000 to students each year. These programs include:
3. The Douglas Dockery Fellowship in Garden History and Design, which is meant "to further the study of history and design in the American garden and to look to the future of gardens and their unique place in our environment." One graduate student receives $4,000 annually toward study and research at an institution in the United States.
4. The Anne S. Chatham Fellowship in Medicinal Botany awards one annual grant of $4,000 for a student to research about the medicinal use of plants. It is open to students currently enrolled in Ph.D. programs at recognized universities and Ph.D. graduates who have received their degrees in the last five years.
• Several colleges and universities throughout the country offer scholarships to horticulture students. Here are just a few:
5. On the West Coast, the University of California—Davis Rossi Prize is one of the largest and most prestigious scholarships in the field. Napa Valley high school students in graduate and undergraduate enology and viticulture studies may compete for this $20,000 scholarship.
6. In the Midwest, the University of Wisconsin—Madison offers 17 different awards to both graduate and undergraduate students through its College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
7. Out east, the Virginia Tech Department of Horticulture offers scholarships for both new and advanced students. Many are for students with particular career goals or from particular regions of the state. Collectively, undergraduate students are awarded more than $90,000 in scholarships annually.
While the majority of scholarships in horticulture-related fields are on spring deadlines, we don't recommend resting on your laurels. It's never too early to begin building your application for the upcoming year and working to meet the requirements.
[Note these five considerations for renewing scholarships.]
To increase your chances, seek out volunteer opportunities with a local green organization such as a nature preserve, a botanical garden, or arboretum. Whether you're near oceans, rivers, or lakes, you can lead the charge in organizing shoreline cleanup and restoration activities in your community.
Partnering with a human services organization to provide therapeutic gardening not only helps the environment, but has the added benefit of enhancing the emotional well-being of those in need.
Our research revealed hundreds of scholarships available for students pursuing horticulture. What we've listed above is only a small sampling of available opportunities to pay for school.
When you're finished planting trees this Arbor Day, take a little time to get your hands dirty doing some further research and planning. With a little extra effort, you can secure yourself the financial aid you need to pursue a horticulture degree and sow the seeds of success for your future.
Jenelle Montoya is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. With the help of federal student aid and private scholarships, she completed her English studies in 1999 and was the first member of her family to earn a B.A. Montoya joined Scholarship America in 2012.