Getting into, paying for, and navigating through college is rarely easy. For students who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities (LD), that struggle can take on even more dimensions.
Learning-related issues such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often lead to difficulties in traditional classrooms and on standardized tests; if scholarship applications look foremost at test scores and GPAs, it can mean that LD students lose out. Fortunately, there are resources and scholarships out there that can help.
Note: Many scholarship providers, like the first two below, do not include ADHD as a specific disability on its own. And most schools and scholarship organizations consider Asperger's and other autism-spectrum disorders separately from LD, so we'll cover those scholarships in a separate post.
[Find out where you should start your scholarship search.]
If you're unaware of the Rise Scholarship Foundation, it's a great place to start. Their website features a ton of articles and resources specifically for LD students, covering everything from navigating the Common Application for Undergraduate College Admission to keeping yourself engaged in classes.
And, true to its name, the foundation also gives out Rise Award Scholarships each year; in 2012, five students received $2,500 scholarship awards. If you're currently a high school senior, head over and apply before February 15 for your chance to win a 2013 scholarship.
Like the Rise Awards, the Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships are available to students across the nation who have a diagnosed learning disability. Presented by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, these are highly competitive awards, and well worth the time it will take to apply.
The Anne Ford Scholarship is a four-year renewable award, worth $2,500 each year; the Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship is a newer program and provides a one-time $2,500 award to a student attending a two-year community college, technical or vocational school, or specialized program for LD students. (The NCLD website also lists a number of smaller and more specific programs on its site.)
If you're a student under 19 with LD or ADHD, your accomplishments in or outside of school could qualify you for the Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award, given annually by Smart Kids With LD. The $1,000 award (which also comes with a trip to the organization's benefit gala in Connecticut) is presented in honor of "initiative, talent and determination resulting in a notable accomplishment in any field—including art, music, science, math, athletics or community service." Applications are open through January 31, with the winner and honorable mentions announced in April.
Artists can also benefit from one of the scholarships provided by the P. Buckley Moss Society. Moss, a painter and dyslexia sufferer, created the Moss Endowed Scholarship to help students with learning disabilities who are planning educations and careers in the visual arts. You'll have to send some portfolio items and secure a nomination from a Moss Society member, and the scholarship award of $1,500 is potentially renewable for up to three more years.
If you're not looking at an art career, the Moss Society also funds the Anne and Matt Harbison Scholarship for LD Students and the Judith Cary Scholarship for college students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in special education. All of the Society's applications are open now and due March 31.
Finally, if you've been diagnosed with ADHD, the Shire ADHD Scholarship could be a valuable resource. Applications from high school seniors and college undergrads are being accepted online or by mail through March 27; the scholarship not only means a $2,000 award, but also a full year of free access to an "ADHD Coach" who can help with your transition to college or with navigating campus life.
In addition, like the Rise Scholarship site, Shire's application site also features a number of useful tips and resources.
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.