The Complete Guide to Scholarships, Grants, and Aid for Military Members, Veterans, and Families

Military veteran reads about scholarships aid for grad school
June 6, 2024 7 min read Liaison

For military members and veterans, scholarships often consider service and sacrifice, offering financial assistance to those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces.

For those who have served or are currently serving in the military, as well as their dependents, the transition to civilian life can present significant financial obstacles.

Every year, nearly 200,000 active-duty service members transition from the military to civilian life, joining the ranks of American veterans. The unique challenges faced by the military community, such as frequent relocations, deployments, and the demands of service, often necessitate additional support in accessing and affording education.

Scholarships, grants, and various forms of aid can alleviate this burden, providing the necessary support to ensure that these individuals can access the opportunities they deserve. Understanding and utilizing these financial resources allows military families to achieve greater financial stability and future success.

With that in mind, this guide aims to provide comprehensive information on scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid available specifically to help military members, veterans, and their families pay for their education.

Understanding Financial Aid Options

Exploring the world of financial aid can be particularly difficult for military members, veterans, and their families, who often juggle multiple responsibilities. This section aims to simplify the different types of financial aid available, outline the general eligibility criteria, and break down the application process into easy-to-follow steps.

Types of Aid

Financial aid is generally categorized into four main types: scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs. Each type has its own characteristics, eligibility criteria, and application processes.


Scholarships are financial awards designed to support students in their pursuit of education, awarded based on various criteria such as academic merit, leadership qualities, community involvement, or specific talents.

Unlike loans, scholarships do not need to be repaid, making them a highly valuable resource for students. For military members and veterans, scholarships often consider service and sacrifice, offering financial assistance to those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces.

Scholarships can be categorized as follows:

  • Merit-Based Scholarships: Awarded based on academic, artistic, or athletic achievements.
  • Need-Based Scholarships: Granted to those who demonstrate financial need.
  • Service-Specific Scholarships: Targeted at military members, veterans, and their families.


Grants are similar to scholarships in that they do not require repayment. However, they are typically based on financial need and are provided by federal or state governments, educational institutions, or private organizations. Examples include the Federal Pell Grant and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. Grants often target specific demographics or fields of study.


Unlike scholarships and grants, loans must be repaid with interest. They can be sourced from federal or private lenders. Military members and veterans may have access to special loan programs with favorable terms or loan forgiveness options.

Work-Study Programs

These programs provide part-time jobs for students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to pay for education expenses. These jobs are often related to the student’s course of study.

Tuition Assistance Programs

Offered by various branches of the military, these programs cover a portion of tuition costs for service members pursuing education while on active duty.

Eligibility Criteria

While eligibility criteria can vary widely depending on the specific financial aid program, there are common factors to consider:

Service Status

  • Active Duty: Eligibility for certain aid programs might depend on factors such as length of service, duty status, and rank.
  • Veterans: Aid programs often consider the nature and duration of military service, discharge status, and any service-connected disabilities.
  • Family Members: Spouses and children of military members and veterans can qualify for specific aid programs. Considerations influencing eligibility include the service member’s status, whether they were injured or killed in action, and the family’s financial need.

Academic Performance

Many scholarships require a minimum GPA or specific academic achievements. Requirements can vary from one program to another, with some emphasizing overall academic excellence while others focus on improvement in specific subject areas.

Financial Need

Need-based aid evaluates the applicant’s financial situation. Applicants are typically required to provide comprehensive financial information, demonstrating their need for assistance.

Field of Study

Certain scholarships and grants are available only to students pursuing specific degrees or careers, such as those in STEM fields, healthcare, or public service.

Other Factors

Additional criteria may include community service, leadership experience, involvement in extracurricular activities, and specific personal circumstances or demographics (e.g., minority status, first-generation college students).

Application Process

Applying for financial aid involves several key steps:


Begin by researching the various scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs available. Utilize resources such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, military service organizations, educational institutions, and online databases.

Prepare Documentation

Collect the necessary documents, which may include:

  • Proof of military service (e.g., DD Form 214 for veterans)
  • Financial information (e.g., tax returns, bank statements)
  • Academic records (e.g., transcripts, diplomas)
  • Personal identification (e.g., driver’s license, Social Security card)

Complete the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is essential for accessing federal grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. The FAFSA collects detailed financial information to assess eligibility for various aid programs.

Write Essays and Obtain Recommendations

Many scholarships require personal essays and letters of recommendation. Essays might discuss career goals, experiences in the military, and reasons for needing financial aid. Obtain recommendations from credible sources who can attest to your qualifications and character.

Submit Applications

Follow the specific instructions for each scholarship or grant application. Pay close attention to deadlines, as late submissions are often not considered. Be sure to include all required documents and information.

Follow Up

After submitting applications, follow up as necessary. This might involve confirming that your application materials were received and providing any additional information requested by the aid providers.

Top Scholarships for Military Members and Veterans

Veterans, upon completing their service, often seek to transition into civilian careers through higher education. There are numerous scholarships tailored specifically to veterans, each with its own set of criteria and benefits.

Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship

The Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship is named after Pat Tillman, an NFL player who left his sports career to enlist in the Army and was subsequently killed in Afghanistan. This scholarship supports active-duty service members, veterans, and military spouses who demonstrate leadership, ambition, and a commitment to service.

The scholarship covers tuition, fees, books, and living expenses for students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, or professional degrees.

  • Eligibility: Open to veterans, active-duty service members, and military spouses pursuing an undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree.
  • Application Tips: Highlight leadership roles, community service, and personal experiences that demonstrate a commitment to service. Strong essays and recommendations are crucial.

AMVETS Scholarship

AMVETS (American Veterans) offers several scholarships for veterans, active-duty service members, and their families. These scholarships aim to ease the financial burden of higher education and support those who have served.

  • AMVETS National Scholarship Program: This program provides scholarships to veterans and active-duty service members pursuing undergraduate degrees.
  • AMVETS Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship: Focused on veterans pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies, this scholarship emphasizes academic achievement and community involvement.

Eligibility and Application Tips

  • Eligibility: Open to veterans and active-duty service members who are members of AMVETS.
  • Application Tips: Provide detailed information about military service, academic achievements, and involvement in community activities. Ensure that all application materials are complete and submitted on time.

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Education Assistance

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) offers education assistance programs for active-duty and retired Navy and Marine Corps service members and their families. The Society provides interest-free loans and grants to undergraduate students enrolled in accredited institutions. These programs aim to help overcome the financial barriers faced by military families and ensure that they have access to quality education.

GI Bill Scholarship Programs

The GI Bill is perhaps the most well-known and comprehensive education benefit available to veterans and their families. Several versions of the GI Bill exist, each providing different levels of support:

Post-9/11 GI Bill

This program offers substantial benefits, including full tuition coverage at public in-state schools, a housing allowance, and a stipend for books and supplies. For veterans attending private or foreign schools, the program covers up to a specified limit.

Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)

This older program provides financial support for education and training to active-duty and certain reserve members of the military who have paid into the system while serving. Benefits are available for a set number of months and can be used for a variety of educational programs.

Yellow Ribbon Program

An extension of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, this program allows institutions to partner with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. This is especially beneficial for veterans attending private schools or out-of-state institutions.

Scholarships for Specific Fields of Study

Many scholarships are available for veterans and military members pursuing degrees in specific fields, recognizing the importance of these careers and the skills brought by service members:

  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics): Scholarships such as the AFCEA Educational Foundation STEM Scholarship support veterans studying in STEM fields.
  • Healthcare: The Veterans Affairs Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) provides financial support to veterans pursuing healthcare degrees.
  • Public Service: The Tillman Scholar program encourages veterans to pursue careers in public service, education, and other fields dedicated to community improvement.

Scholarships for Spouses of Military Members

Military spouses often put their own educational and career goals on hold to support their service member’s duties. Recognizing this, several programs and organizations offer scholarships tailored to the needs of military spouses.

Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA)

The MyCAA program provides up to $4,000 in financial assistance to eligible military spouses pursuing licenses, certifications, or associate degrees in portable career fields. The goal is to enhance employment opportunities and career stability for military spouses.

  • Eligibility: Spouses of active-duty service members in the pay grades of E-1 to E-6, W-1 to W-2, and O-1 to O-3. The service member must be on Title 10 orders.
  • Application Tips: Research and choose programs that are approved by MyCAA. Ensure that the chosen career field is portable and can accommodate the military lifestyle. Prepare all required documents, including proof of eligibility and educational plans, before starting the application.

National Military Family Association (NMFA) Scholarships:

The NMFA offers several scholarship opportunities for military spouses, including the NMFA Military Spouse Scholarship and the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship. These scholarships can be used for degrees, certifications, and licensures, supporting a wide range of educational pursuits.

  • Eligibility: Open to spouses of active-duty, retired, and reserve/Guard members.
  • Application Tips: Highlight personal and professional goals in the application. Provide detailed explanations of how the scholarship will impact your career and family. Strong personal statements and a clear demonstration of need and purpose are crucial.

Scholarships for Children of Military Members

Children of military members often experience unique challenges due to their parents’ service, such as frequent moves and changes in schools. Scholarships for military children aim to provide stability and support for their educational journeys.

Fisher House Foundation Scholarships

The Fisher House Foundation offers the Scholarships for Military Children program, which awards scholarships to children of active-duty, reserve/Guard, and retired military members. The program is designed to help military children achieve their higher education goals.

  • Eligibility: Open to those under the age of 23 who are unmarried children of active-duty, reserve/Guard, or retired military personnel.
  • Application Tips: Focus on academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and community service. Ensure all required documents, such as transcripts and proof of military affiliation, are complete and submitted by the deadline.

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation

The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation provides scholarships to children of Marines and Navy Corpsmen pursuing post-secondary education. The foundation focuses on need-based scholarships, aiming to support students with demonstrated financial need.

  • Eligibility: Open to children of active duty or veteran Marines and Navy Corpsmen who served with a Marine unit. Applicants must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or career and technical education.
  • Application Tips: Include detailed information about the parent’s military service and the applicant’s achievements and community involvement. Write clear and heartfelt essays that convey the impact of the scholarship on your educational journey.

Grants for Military Members and Veterans

The federal government offers several grant programs specifically designed to assist students with financial need. Two of the most prominent grants are the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG).

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are one of the largest sources of federal grant aid for undergraduate students. They are designed to provide financial assistance to low-income students to help them access higher education.

The maximum award amount for Pell Grants changes annually and is dependent on federal funding levels. For the 2023-2024 award year, the maximum award was $7,395.

Eligibility: Eligibility for Pell Grants is determined based on the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is calculated through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Both full-time and part-time students can qualify, but the grant amount may vary based on enrollment status.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

The FSEOG program provides additional grant money to low-income undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. Unlike Pell Grants, which are guaranteed to eligible students, FSEOG funds are limited and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Award amounts for FSEOG range from $100 to $4,000 per year, depending on the student's need, the amount of other aid received, and the availability of funds at the institution.

  • Eligibility: Each institution’s financial aid office determines the award based on the student’s financial need and the availability of funds.

Vocational Readiness and Employment (VR&E) Program

The VR&E Program, also known as Chapter 31, is designed to help veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, find, and maintain suitable careers. The program offers a range of services, including vocational counseling, training, education, and job placement assistance. VR&E provides financial support for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and other necessary expenses related to training and education.

Moreover, veterans can receive subsistence allowances while participating in the program, helping them cover living expenses during their transition to civilian employment.

Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is available to students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001.

To be eligible, the student must be under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian's death. This grant provides financial support similar to the Federal Pell Grant, covering tuition, fees, and other educational expenses, ensuring that the children of fallen service members have the opportunity to pursue higher education.

Specialized Grants

In addition to educational grants, there are specialized grants available to address specific needs of military members and veterans. These grants can provide crucial support in various aspects of life:

Housing Grants

Programs like the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant and the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant help veterans with service-connected disabilities modify their homes to accommodate their needs.

Small Business Grants

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers grants and funding opportunities for veterans looking to start or expand their businesses. Programs like the Veteran Small Business Certification program (VetCert) for veteran-owned small businesses and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) programs provide financial support and resources to help veterans succeed in entrepreneurship.

Emergency Assistance Grants

Various organizations provide emergency financial assistance to veterans facing unexpected financial hardships. These grants can help cover essential expenses such as rent, utilities, medical bills, and other urgent needs, ensuring that veterans have the support they need during difficult times.

State-Specific Grants and How to Find Them

In addition to federal grants, many states offer their own grant programs to support residents pursuing higher education. These state-specific grants can be an important rsource of income for military members and veterans, as well as their families.

State Education Departments

Each state has an education department or higher education agency that administers grant programs. Visiting their official websites can provide detailed information on available grants and eligibility criteria.

Financial Aid Offices

The financial aid offices at colleges and universities often have information on state-specific grants for veterans and active-duty military members and can assist students in identifying and applying for these opportunities.

Online Resources

Websites like the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid portal offer comprehensive information on state financial aid programs.

Grants for Military Families

Grants for military families play a crucial role in supporting the spouses and dependents of service members. These grants help to alleviate the financial burden associated with education and other essential needs, providing opportunities for growth and stability.

Such grants can bridge  financial gaps to ensure that family members have access to quality education, career training, and necessary support services.

Folds of Honor Higher Education Scholarship

The Folds of Honor Higher Education Scholarship provides financial assistance to the spouses and children of service members who have been killed or disabled while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The scholarship supports undergraduate, graduate, and technical education. It aims to honor the sacrifices of military families by providing them with the means to pursue educational opportunities. This scholarship covers tuition, fees, books, and room and board, making it a comprehensive source of support for those who have endured significant losses.

National Military Family Association Spouse Scholarships

The National Military Family Association (NMFA) offers scholarships to military spouses pursuing higher education, including degrees, certifications, and vocational training. These scholarships recognize the unique challenges faced by military spouses, such as frequent relocations and career interruptions.

NMFA scholarships help spouses gain the education and skills needed to secure meaningful employment and contribute to their family’s financial stability. The scholarships can be used for tuition, fees, and other educational expenses, supporting a wide range of educational pursuits.

Grants for Family Support Services

In addition to educational grants, there are grants available to support the overall well-being of military families. These grants can provide assistance for various needs, including:

  • Emergency Financial Assistance: Organizations such as the Armed Services YMCA and Operation Homefront offer grants to military families facing financial emergencies. These grants can help cover essential expenses such as rent, utilities, medical bills, and groceries.
  • Childcare Assistance: Programs such as the Child Care Aware of America’s Military Child Care Assistance Program provide grants to help military families afford quality childcare. This support is especially valuable for families with young children, enabling spouses to pursue education or employment.

Additional Aid and Resources

Beyond scholarships and grants, there are numerous additional resources available to help manage education costs, plan finances, and receive support from dedicated organizations.

Tuition Assistance Programs (TAP)

Tuition Assistance Programs (TAP) are offered by various branches of the military to support service members in pursuing their educational goals while serving. These programs typically cover a significant portion of tuition costs for courses taken at accredited institutions.

Each branch has its own TAP with specific guidelines and eligibility criteria.

  • Army Tuition Assistance: Covers 100% of tuition costs for courses up to $250 per credit hour, with an annual cap. Available to active-duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members.
  • Navy Tuition Assistance: Provides funding for both undergraduate and graduate courses, covering up to $250 per credit hour and up to $4,500 annually. Available to active-duty sailors and Reservists.
  • Air Force Tuition Assistance: Covers up to $250 per credit hour and $4,500 per fiscal year for active-duty airmen and selected Reservists.
  • Marine Corps Tuition Assistance: Similar to the Navy’s program, this covers up to $250 per credit hour and $4,500 annually for active-duty Marines and selected Reservists.
  • Coast Guard Tuition Assistance: Offers funding for active-duty personnel, covering up to $250 per credit hour and $4,500 per fiscal year.

State-Specific Benefits and Programs

Many states offer additional educational benefits and programs to support veterans and their families. These benefits can include tuition waivers, grants, and scholarships for state residents. Some notable examples include:

  • California: The California College Fee Waiver for Veterans Dependents program waives tuition and fees at California community colleges, California State University, and University of California campuses for eligible dependents of veterans.
  • Texas: The Hazlewood Act provides up to 150 credit hours of tuition exemption at public institutions for eligible Texas veterans and their dependents.
  • Illinois: The Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) Program covers tuition and mandatory fees at all Illinois state-supported colleges, universities, and community colleges for eligible veterans.

Military families should check with their state's veterans affairs office or educational institutions to explore specific benefits available in their state.

Financial Planning and Counseling

Effective financial management is crucial for achieving long-term stability and success. Military members and veterans have access to various resources for financial planning, debt management, and budgeting:

Personal Financial Management Programs

Offered by military installations, these programs provide workshops, one-on-one counseling, and resources on budgeting, saving, investing, and managing credit.

  • Military OneSource: A comprehensive resource offering financial counseling, tax preparation assistance, and educational materials on various financial topics. Available to active-duty, National Guard, Reserve members, and their families.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Groups such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offer free or low-cost financial counseling and debt management services to military families.

Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs)

Veteran service organizations play a pivotal role in supporting military members, veterans, and their families. These organizations offer a wide range of services, including assistance with finding and applying for financial aid:

  • American Legion: Provides resources and support for veterans seeking educational benefits, career assistance, and financial aid. Local posts often offer scholarships and grants.
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW): Offers scholarships, emergency financial assistance, and career support services. The VFW’s “Help A Hero Scholarship” is specifically designed for veterans pursuing higher education.
  • Disabled American Veterans (DAV): Provides comprehensive support for disabled veterans, including assistance with navigating VA benefits, securing grants, and accessing educational resources.
  • Student Veterans of America (SVA): Supports veterans transitioning from military service to higher education through a network of campus chapters. SVA offers scholarships, advocacy, and resources tailored to student veterans.


The various scholarships, grants, and aid available to military members, veterans, and their families can be complex, but accessing them is essential for educational and professional opportunities.

Your sacrifices in service to our country have earned you these opportunities. The available resources are designed to help you succeed, whether you are pursuing higher education, vocational training, or other career advancements.

Take the next step in your educational journey by researching the scholarships and grants that best fit your needs. Gather your documentation and begin the application process. For additional assistance, explore the resources and contacts provided in this guide. Your future is filled with opportunities—seize them with the support and recognition you’ve earned.

Resources and Further Reading

To further assist you in your quest for financial aid, here is a list of additional resources, websites, and contacts:

  1. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • Website:
  • Contact: 1-800-827-1000
  1. Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  1. Military OneSource
  1. Pat Tillman Foundation
  1. Fisher House Foundation
  1. National Military Family Association (NMFA)
  1. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
  • Website:
  • Contact: 1-833-839-8387

About The Author: