By Liz Harvey

Anyone looking to continue their education understands the struggle to pay for tuition, books, and fees. 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. There are scholarships for short term programs, English language learning, professional skills, adults returning to school, high school success, colleges, trade schools, and more.

Each funding source has different requirements. While some only require an applicant to demonstrate financial need, others evaluate criteria such as leadership, persistence, and community service. More competitive scholarships focus on academic ability and achievement. Some applications require an essay, others do not.

Before talking about specific scholarships, it’s important to understand what makes an excellent application.

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 to show examples of being a leader – at work, at home, at school, in a place of worship, and in the 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 showing 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 others is a great way to help an application stand out.

Academic ability and achievements

While some scholarships don’t focus on academics, others might require a minimum grade point average (GPA). Academic ability is not measured by only good grades, but also by other academic achievements. Have you received any academic awards and honors? Are you taking honors classes? Do you have a thirst for knowledge? An applicant needs to show a desire to be challenged and an enthusiasm for learning.

The essay

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

Clear plans

Funding sources look 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 the better. Be sure to explain plans to manage employment and school responsibilities. After describing goals, clearly explain plans to pay for school and juggle responsibilities.


Ask someone who knows you well to write a recommendation. Provide them with a personal statement or resume to allow them to be specific and to align what they write with the goals and plans described in the application. Be sure to give recommendation writers 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 scholarships that are due in a few months or even next year. Join clubs, volunteer in the community, and take leadership roles when they are available. Application deadlines are firm. Write down the date and plan ahead.

Federal student aid

Many residents of the U.S. who are not citizens still qualify for federal student aid. These include students with a green card, refugees, and asylum seekers who already have been granted asylum. Those who are seeking asylum are not eligible for federal student aid. However, someone who is not eligible for federal student aid may still be eligible for state or college aid, in addition to private scholarships. Check with college financial aid departments for more information. The PROSPER scholarship, listed below, is available only for those not eligible for federal student aid.


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

Selected scholarships available in Maine

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

These scholarships are very competitive and are only for the highest achievers.

  • Cooke Young Scholars Program for 7th grade students This a selective five-year, pre-college scholarship is for high-performing seventh-grade 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. Deadline: May 9, 2022.

  • Cooke College Scholarship This program awards up to $55,000 per year for four years of undergraduate study to complete a bachelor’s degree. The application is available exclusively via the Common App’s online platform. Deadline November 18, 2021.

  • Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship This fund awards community college students with up to $55,000 per year for up to three years to complete a bachelor’s degree, making it among the largest private scholarships for community college transfer students in the country. Deadline January 10, 2022.

Maine Career Center Competitive Skills Scholarship This scholarship helps workers learn new skills. Eligible applicants can receive up to $6,000 per year for full-time study, and $3,000 per year for part-time study. Students can qualify for a grant each year that they remain in the training program. Contact the Career Center for information on open application periods. See website for more information and a list of qualifying job skills. Deadlines vary.

Maine Community Foundation (MCF) 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]. Deadlines vary; see website.

  • MCF Adult Learner Scholarship The Adult Learner Scholarship is specifically aimed at supporting adults returning to school. Applicants may be enrolled full time or part time. For more information, contact Cherie Galyean,  [email protected]

  • MCF Short-term credential award Up to $1,500 is available for short-term credential awards. The award has a rolling deadline of the 1st of each month. Applicants are eligible for a short-term award for programs lasting less than a full semester. See website for additional criteria.

  • MCF Long-term scholarship award Between $1,500 and $5,000 is available through this renewable award. Applicants are eligible for a long-term award for programs lasting more than a full semester. For additional criteria, see Deadlines June 15 and November 15.

ProsperityME ProsperityME awards PROSPER 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 Maine, must sustain a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher, must either plan to enroll or be currently enrolled in a Maine college or university, and must demonstrate financial need. For more information, contact Byron Bartlett, [email protected]. Deadline March 2022.

Scholarships for Maine Immigrants Applications must be received at least two weeks before a class or program begins. This scholarship helps build language and professional skills for higher education. See website for requirements and further information.

Unitil Scholarship Fund For high school students who plan to pursue a degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Six $5,000 scholarships are awarded to students who live in and attend high school in one of Unitil’s service territories in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. See website for list. Application packets will be available online after January 1, 2022.

Selected Maine college- and university-based scholarships

All colleges offer scholarships. Here are a few offered in Maine. Ask an admissions counselor or advisor for more information about what is available.

Central Maine Community College (CMCC) Ask about foundation scholarships and other external scholarships.

Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC) Contact [email protected].

Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) The SMCC Foundation administers a variety of scholarships with a range of criteria from financial need to academic merit. One single form lets a qualifying student apply to all foundation scholarships. Deadline is at the end of August; scholarships usually are awarded in October or November.

  • SMCC – 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 peers and offers one-to-one guidance.

  • TRIO Student Support Services TRIO 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 includes individualized advising, peer mentoring, and other support services aimed at student success. TRIO is also offered at USM.

  • Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society The official honor society for two-year colleges, PTK offers its own scholarships. Showing PTK membership is beneficial when applying to a four-year college.

Worthington Foundation Scholarship

The Worthington Scholarship Foundation provides renewable scholarships of $1,500 per semester for students in Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo, and Washington counties for study at one of Maine’s seven community colleges. Contact j[email protected].

Husson University

University of Maine System

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

University of Maine Offers first-year and transfer merit scholarships.

University of New England

Portland Housing Authority Scholarship Portland Housing Authority awards scholarships of up to $2,500 per recipient. To be eligible, candidate must be a current legal Portland Housing Authority public housing or Section 8 voucher resident, a graduating high school senior, Diploma/GED/HiSET recipient, or already attending an institution of higher education, and be awaiting acceptance into or already accepted for admission to an accredited post-secondary vocational school, trade school, technical school, college, or university. Candidates must demonstrate financial need in order to attend such an institution, and demonstrate community leadership through volunteer work or school or community involvement. For more information, contact Emily Mancini-Fitch, [email protected], (207) 773-4753 ext. 8263. Deadline May 15, 2022.

About the author: Liz Harvey is a writing tutor at Southern Maine Community College and a scholarship reader for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.