Don't Let Cancer Stop You From Earning a College Education

There is money available for students who have battled or are currently battling cancer.

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Over the past 30 years, the number of cases of metastatic breast cancer in women under the age of 40 has tripled, experts say.
Survivorship programs at hospitals help address the long-term needs of people who have had cancer.

Every October, nonprofit organizations, medical associations, and government agencies band together to raise awareness and share information about breast cancer, which affects nearly 300,000 women each year. Most of us likely know at least one person who has been diagnosed with breast cancer or another form of cancer—and some of us can even assume the title of cancer survivor ourselves.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we offer scholarships for college available for all of you who have been immediately affected by cancer—and for all of you who are currently fighting. 

[Learn about scholarships for students who have lost a parent.]

Though breast cancer typically affects women over the age of 50, younger women can also get breast cancer. If you are a breast cancer survivor diagnosed at age 25 or younger, or if you have lost a parent or guardian to breast cancer, you are likely eligible for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure College Scholarship Program, established in 2001 to help students for whom breast cancer creates a significant financial barrier to attending college.

The scholarships, worth $10,000 and renewable for up to four years, can be used to help you earn a bachelor's degree at a state university. Though this year's scholarship deadline is already past, check back next fall for an opportunity to apply. Multiple scholarships are awarded every year.

If you were diagnosed with cancer or are currently battling cancer and are under the age of 25, we encourage you to search for youth cancer survivor scholarships from the American Cancer Society office in your state. Opportunities like the Youth Cancer Survivor College Scholarship for residents of Ohio, and the Youth Scholarship Program of the Midwest for residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota, can help make a dent in the cost of your college education.

[Find out how to start your scholarship search.]

Another excellent scholarship program available is the Cancer Survivors' Fund, a nonprofit whose mission includes providing postsecondary education scholarships for cancer survivors. In addition to the application and letters of recommendation, the organization asks you to provide an essay in response to the question, "How has my experience with cancer impacted my life values and career goals?" To apply for this scholarship, check back in February when the application will reopen.

Lastly, we hope you will also check out Cancer for College, an organization that has provided more than $1.75 million in scholarships to more than 1,000 cancer survivors since 1993. Though California applicants and those who are attending Southern California colleges are given priority, any cancer survivor with U.S. citizenship is encouraged to apply. You must submit your application by Jan. 31, 2013 in order to be eligible for a scholarship for the 2013-2014 school year.

Michelle Showalter joined Scholarship America in 2007 and is an alumna of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.