By Liz Harvey

Anyone looking to continue their education understands the struggle to pay for tuition, books, and fees. And once enrolled, taking classes, studying for tests, writing papers – all while juggling a job – can be very stressful. The good news is that Maine has dozens of scholarships for learners of all ages to help them manage their education. There are scholarships for short term programs, English language learning, professional skills, adults returning to school, high school success, colleges, trade schools, and more. Check out these opportunities, and then scroll down to learn what makes an excellent application. If you missed a deadline for a particular opportunity this year, mark your calendar for next year!

Deadline: March 1
ProsperityME will award scholarships of up to $5,000 per school year ($10,000 maximum per student). To be eligible, candidates must Not be eligible for federal financial aid, must live in the state of Maine, sustain a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher, plan to enroll or currently are enrolled in a Maine college or university and demonstrate financial need. For more information, contact Byron Bartlett – [email protected]

Maine Community Foundation scholarships provide financial assistance for Maine residents attending accredited colleges, universities, technical and career schools. Some funds also support students attending private high schools, camps, and experiential learning programs.
For more information, contact Liz Fickett – [email protected]

Maine Community Foundation Adult Learner Scholarship
If you are an adult returning to school, the Adult Learner Scholarship is specifically aimed at supporting you. Applicants may be enrolled full time or part time. For more information, contact Cherie Galyean – [email protected].

Maine Community Foundation – Short-term credential award – up to $1,500
Application Deadline: 1st of each month for short-term credential awards. The short-term award will have a rolling deadline of the 1st of each month. Applicants are eligible for a short-term award if the program lasts less than a full semester. See web site for more criteria.

Maine Community Foundation – Long-term scholarship award – $1,500 – $5,000
Application Deadlines: June 15 and November 15. This award is renewable. Applicants are eligible for a long-term award if the program will last more than a full semester. See web site for more criteria.

Applications must be received at least two weeks before your class or program begins. This scholarship helps build language & professional skills for higher education. See requirements on web site.

This scholarship helps workers learn new skills. If you are eligible, you can receive up to $6,000 per year for a full-time student and $3,000 per year for a part-time student. You can qualify for a grant each year you remain in your training program. Visit the web site to see a list of job skills that qualify for the grant. Check with the Career Center to see if it is an open application period.

Deadline: April 2
For high school students who plan to pursue degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Six $5,000 scholarships awarded to students who live in and attend high school in one of Unitil’s service territories. See web site for list.

These scholarships are very competitive. Only for the highest achievers.
Cooke Young Scholars Program
Deadline: March 22, 2021
The Cooke Young Scholars Program is a selective five-year, pre-college scholarship for high-performing 7th grade students with financial need. It provides comprehensive academic and college advising, as well as financial support for school, Cooke-sponsored summer programs, internships, and other learning enrichment opportunities.

Cooke College Scholarship
Deadline: October 30, 2021
The College Scholarship awards up to $40,000 per year for four years of undergraduate study to complete their bachelor’s degree. The application is available exclusively via the Common App’s online platform.

Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship
Deadline: Early January 2022
The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship awards community college students with up to $40,000 per year for up to three years to complete their bachelor’s degree making it among the largest private scholarships for community college transfer students in the country.

All colleges offer scholarships. On your first day of school, ask the admissions counselor or your advisor about available scholarships.

The SMCC Foundation administers a variety of scholarships with a range of criteria from financial need to academic merit. The application process is simple: one form to apply for all foundation scholarships you qualify for. Deadline is the end of August and are usually awarded in October or November.

SMCC – Path to Graduation
Path to Graduation (P2G)
P2G is designed to help first-year college students plan for success and achieve their goals. The program helps new college students connect with their peers and offers one-to-one guidance.
TRIO Student Support Services provides support for low-income, first-generation or disabled students from the first day of college through graduation. Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program provides individualized advising, peer mentoring and other support services aimed at student success. Trio is also offered at USM.
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society is The Official Honor Society for Two-year Colleges. If you are in the honor society at SMCC, joining Phi Theta Kappa is strongly recommended. PTK offers its own scholarships and showing you are a member is beneficial when applying to a four-year college.

The Promise Scholarship
Applications for the 2021-2022 school year are being accepted through March 15th.
The Promise Scholarship program is designed to help Maine students overcome financial and academic barriers, remain in school, and graduate in four years with less debt, prepared to make their own contributions to Maine’s social and economic well-being. The Promise Scholarship serves as a “top-off” award to ensure 100% of USM tuition and fees are covered for up to four years. The program generally accepts a cohort of up to 25 students. For more information, please contact Daniel Barton at 207-780-4199 or [email protected].

Osher Re-entry Scholarship
For students who have experienced a cumulative gap in their education of 5 or more years. Not to exceed $5,000 per student, per award cycle (12 months) and are to be applied to tuition exclusively.

The Adult Degree Completion Scholarship fund supports students returning to school to complete their academic studies.
The Opening Doors Scholarship offers assistance to newly enrolled students pursuing their degree or workforce credential.
The Senior Citizens Waiver offers tuition and Board approved mandatory fees for students 65 years of age or older who register for undergraduate courses on a credit or audit basis at any university of the University of Maine System.




How to become a top contender:

Leadership, Persistence, Community Service
Many scholarships look for leadership skills. Were you the president of a school club? Have you started your own club or social cause organization? It is important that you show examples of how you are a leader – at work, at home, at school, in your place of worship, and in your community.

Another thing that foundations look for is persistence. Do you have a strong drive to achieve your goals? Have you overcome significant obstacles? Are you resilient? Do you accept change and adapt accordingly? Give examples. Be specific. Recount a story where you showed persistence, drive, and resiliency.

Community service is always a great asset to an application. Do you volunteer in your community? Have you worked at a local food bank? Showing that you serve those in your community is a great way to make your application stand out.

Academic Ability And Achievements
While some scholarships don’t focus on academics, others might require a minimum grade point average. Academic ability is not only good grades, it also means other academic achievements. Have you received any academic awards and honors? Are you taking honors classes? Do you have a thirst for knowledge? Your application needs to show that you also have a desire to be challenged and you have an enthusiasm for learning.

The Essay
The essay is a perfect place to highlight examples of your achievements, leadership, persistence, and community service. They will also be looking at your writing. Do you use proper grammar, strong vocabulary, and structure? Are your ideas well developed and expressed clearly? Make sure someone edits your essay – preferably a native English speaker and ideally an English teacher. Don’t skip this step. It can be the decision between getting the scholarship and not. Remember, evidence is key. Give specific examples of how you excel above the other applicants.

Clear Plans
Foundations are looking for applicants with a clear plan for their education and their future. What do you want to study? How long will it take? The more specific you can be, the better. Be sure to explain how you will manage your employment and school responsibilities. After expressing your goals, clearly explain how you will pay for school and juggle responsibilities.

Ask someone who knows you well to write your recommendation. Provide them with a personal statement or resume to allow them to be specific and align with the goals and plans you express in your application. Be sure to give your recommendation writer plenty of time. Teachers are very busy, so at least three weeks is best.

Proper Planning
Planning is an incredibly important part of the process. It is obviously too late to think about these things if the application deadline is a week away. Start planning now for the scholarship that you want to apply for in a few months, or even next year. Join clubs, volunteer in the community, and take leadership roles when you see them. Application deadlines are firm. Write down the date and plan ahead.

Getting your dream scholarships takes work – and foresight – so plan now to have a strong application ready. Remember, sometimes the decision may be very close between you and another applicant. Put your best foot forward so you shine. Save this article and sit down with a friend or advisor to help you choose the best scholarships for you.


About the author: Liz Harvey is a Writing Tutor at Southern Maine Community College. She is also a Scholarship Reader for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

Cover photo: Belyse Ndayikunda, a member of the Ladder to the Moon board of directors. Amjambo Africa is a program of Ladder to the Moon Network. To read her story, along with others: