Pursuing a Master’s degree in Special Education can open many doors to helping children with different abilities reach their full potential. However, the cost of higher education continues to rise each year. The good news is that there are scholarship opportunities available to help fund your graduate studies.
This guide provides an overview of some of the top scholarship programs for those seeking a Master’s in Special Education.
Understanding Special Education Scholarship Eligibility Requirements
Before diving into specific scholarship programs, it’s important to understand some common eligibility requirements. Most special education scholarships require applicants to:
Be accepted into a Master’s in Special Education (or related) program at an accredited college or university. Programs can be on-campus, online, or a hybrid format.
Demonstrate a commitment to and passion for working with students with special needs. This is often shown through previous experience as an education assistant, teacher, or volunteer work.
Maintain a minimum GPA, such as a 3.0 or higher. Transcripts from prior undergraduate and/or graduate studies will be required.
Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen. Some programs accept international students while others are limited to domestic applicants only.
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Even if you do not expect to qualify for need-based aid, this application is often a prerequisite.
Meet application deadlines, which are usually in early spring for the following academic year. Prepare materials well in advance.
Commit to teaching students with special needs after graduation for a set number of years, such as two years. This ensures the investment pays off through your future work.
With those common requirements in mind, here are some top scholarship options to explore further:
U.S. Department of Education Scholarships
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) awards competitive scholarships annually through its Personnel Development Program. There are specific scholarships for various disability categories:
Career Change for Special Educators Scholarship. Up to $10,000 per year for individuals transitioning from other careers into special education teaching.
Personnel Preparation in Special Education Scholarship. $8,000-$10,000 per year for full-time master’s students and $4,000-$5,000 per year for part-time students.
Leadership Preparation in High-Incidence Disabilities Scholarship. $20,000 per year for full-time doctoral students pursuing careers in special education leadership and policy roles.
All OSEP scholarships require a two-year teaching commitment after graduating. Selection is merit-based and considers your background, career goals, and program of study.
Council for Exceptional Children Scholarships
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is a large international special education advocacy group. They offer various merit-based scholarships through their divisions:
Future Leaders in Visionary Scholarship. $2,000 awarded to a graduate student specializing in visual impairments and blindness.
LEND Trainee Scholarship. Fully funds one year of a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) training program.
Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities Scholarships. $1,500–$2,500 for focus on autism spectrum disorders.
Division for Early Childhood Scholarship. $1,000 for early childhood special education graduate study.
CEC scholarship applications are typically due in late fall/early winter for the next academic year. They require a detailed personal statement and letters of recommendation.
SPEL Portfolio Scholarship
The Special Needs Opportunity Portal/ SPEL Education Foundation award a $5,000 scholarship each year to a graduate student based on a video portfolio submission. The portfolio should demonstrate your mission and talents in serving students with disabilities. Application deadlines are usually in early March.
State and Local Scholarship Opportunities
In addition to national options, research scholarships offered through your state’s department of education, regional special education cooperatives, and local autism orDown syndrome associations. Some examples include:
- Kansas AUCD Training Program Scholarships. Fully fund interdisciplinary training in developmental disabilities at the University of Kansas.
- Maryland Judges’ Scholarship. $5,000 for Maryland residents pursuing special education degrees.
- Idaho Bureau of Educational Services for the Deaf & Blind Future Educator Scholarship. Pays tuition/fees for Idaho residents to become teachers of the deaf or blind.
Contacting special education administrators in your geographic area can uncover hidden local scholarship gems as well.
Developing a Competitive Scholarship Application
Now that you’re familiar with top scholarship resources for special education master’s students, it’s crucial to package yourself as the best possible candidate. Scholarship selection committees will review many qualified applicants, so take time to thoughtfully plan your materials:
Clearly communicate your motivation and passion for the field through concrete examples. Explain why special education is important to you on both an academic and personal level. Share relevant experiences working with children who have special needs.
Highlight your education background, related coursework, certifications, employment history, volunteer roles, publications/presentations, memberships, and awards demonstrating your competency and commitment to special education.
Letters of Recommendation:
Request these from professors and supervisors who can personally attest to your character, abilities, and fit for the profession based on interactions over time. Provide recommenders ample notice and any required forms/questionnaires.
Request official transcripts to verify your solid academic standing. A high GPA, especially in special education and related coursework, supports that you can succeed in graduate studies.
Articulate clear, realistic short- and long-term career aspirations consistent with the mission of the scholarship. Connect this path back to how the funding would directly help you achieve your objective of becoming a special educator.
Assembling scholarship materials requires time, thought, and feedback from mentors. But with diligent preparation of application components highlighting your unique strengths and fit for each opportunity, your chances of obtaining special education funding improve greatly. The potential payoff is life-changing in terms of expanding your ability to help children with disabilities.
Pursuing a Master’s in Special Education opens doors to a career spent ensuring all students have access to learning. However, the cost of graduate study presents challenges.
The good news is that dedicated scholarship programs exist specifically to support those aspiring to teach students with special needs. Researching options, developing strong application materials emphasizing your passion and qualifications, and meeting deadlines increases the likelihood of obtaining support.
With strategic planning and execution, you can earn a valuable degree and embark on your journey to empower children without the burden of overwhelming student loan debt. Stay determined and best of luck in your special education studies and career path ahead!