Scholarships can offset some of the expenses a visually impaired or blind student may incur while attending school. Awards can range from a few hundred dollars to a full tuition waiver. These scholarships may require that the applicant be legally blind, prove a certain level of vision loss, or be the client of an agency that serves the visually impaired. Study the eligibility requirements of the scholarships you apply for and follow application procedures carefully. In addition to researching scholarships, check out schools that provide services to blind and visually impaired students.

Organizations that provide services to the blind and visually impaired are a good place to start when looking for scholarships. If you already have experience with such an organization, inquire about their scholarship opportunities. Some of these organizations sponsor scholarships; others have websites that list scholarships offered by other agencies. Contact the local or regional chapter of service clubs that support services for the blind to find out whether they have any scholarships available.

Scholarship search websites can help you locate awards that match your qualifications. These sites might ask you to create a user profile where you can identify your disability. Not only will you find scholarships related to your vision impairment, but you'll also discover scholarships based on your grades, college major, and other factors that you provide. Filter through the search results to find the ones that fit you best. As a safety precaution, avoid search sites and scholarships that require you to pay a fee.

If you know which school you want to attend, check its website and contact the school for information about scholarships for blind or visually impaired students. While some of these scholarships may also be offered at other schools, you will find many that are only for students who attend that particular school. Not every scholarship a school offers is shown on its website. To unearth more details about scholarships, contact the school's financial aid office, its disability services office, and the department in which you are majoring. If you intend to participate in Greek life or other campus clubs, check with those organizations for scholarships as well. Take your time reviewing all of the scholarships available at your school. The title alone might not indicate that blindness or low vision is an eligibility criterion.

State agencies are another resource for finding scholarships and tuition waivers based on your level of vision. Some states, such as Texas, have enacted laws to provide college tuition waivers to residents who have a qualifying level of visual impairment and meet other criteria. Waivers typically apply only if the resident attends an in-state school. The state of New York provides funding to help cover the cost of a note-taker or reader through its Readers Aid Program. Check with your school's disabilities service office or career counselor for more information about laws that can help you.

Some scholarships for blind or visually-impaired students are limited to those pursing a specific field of study, such as technology. Others are limited to members of a specific group, such as blinded veterans, athletes, or musicians. It may be more difficult to qualify for scholarships with such narrow criteria. However, the competition for these scholarships will be less than those with broad qualifications. Study the rules of each scholarship well in advance of applying so that you know that you can meet the requirements.

Schools may serve visually-impaired students in different ways. The Alabama School for the Blind, for example, provides an education from kindergarten through the 12th grade. The Hadley School for the Blind offers a high school curriculum and an adult continuing education program along with a distance education program. Individuals of all ages with vision loss can take courses in music at the Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenberg Music School in New York. At Arizona State University, blind and visually-impaired students use 3-D tactile boards in their beginning biology and astronomy labs. Visit the school you plan to attend and find out what services they can provide for you.

Although researching and applying for scholarships may be time-consuming, it can be worthwhile. Unless you qualify for a full tuition waiver, your scholarships may be just one part of a larger financial aid package that you will receive from your school. If your scholarship is renewable, apply for it again as long as you remain eligible. Scholarships are often funded by donations from individuals and organizations devoted to enhancing the life of blind and visually impaired persons. When you receive a scholarship, take the time to express your gratitude to the party that sponsored it.

Article written by Lexi Westingate
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