Scholarships That Students With a Deceased Parent May Be Eligible For

Navigating college finances after the loss of a parent can be a challenge, but these scholarships might be able to help.

Updated May 27, 2023
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Each year, it becomes harder and harder for young students to afford going to a college or university. If you have a deceased parent, finding a scholarship can be a helpful step in affording more education. Many organizations recognize that your loss can negatively impact your ability to afford college, and there are scholarships that can help. But finding these niche scholarships before the deadline comes knocking can be super hard to do, so we've scoured the internet for you.

Scholarships Students With a Deceased Parent Can Apply For

When it comes to being eligible for a scholarship, the specifics are important. You may be able to find scholarships by searching for organizations related to your parent's cause of death. You may also be eligible for need-based aid. Here are some prominent scholarships you can apply for.

Aretta J. Graham Scholarship

The Aretta J. Graham scholarship is available to students attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of ACES. If you've lost one or both parents, you'll be first in line for the scholarship, but it can be awarded to students in a single-parent household or single parents who are also students.

David J. Ewing Scholarship

The David J. Ewing Scholarship is available to full-time students of the University of North Texas who have lost a parent. The amount varies based on available funds. In addition to the application, you'll need two letters of recommendation, any high school or college transcripts you have, a two-page essay that explains why you need the scholarship, and a copy of your Student Aid Report (part of your FAFSA).

Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund

The Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund was created for the dependents of the people killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The scholarship money can be used at technical schools, trade schools, or two-or-four-year colleges, but applicants must be registered with the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund and must be younger than 24. In some cases, even graduate students qualify.

Once you've filled out your application online, you'll be asked to mail or fax additional documents. There are multiple application deadlines: May 5 for full-time students and a rolling deadline for part-time students or full-time students who could not meet the May 15th deadline.

MaryEllen Locher Foundation(R)

The MaryEllen Locher Foundation(R) scholarship is for full-time students at two-or-four-year schools whose mothers have either died of breast cancer or complications from breast cancer, or survived breast cancer. Applicants must live within a 50-mile radius of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Also, grades, essays, and financial need all play into how they award the scholarship, and the scholarship can be renewed each year with the appropriate paperwork as long as the winners are making progress toward a degree.

Currently, they don't have their application form available online, but you can contact them via email or phone to get more information.

W.H. "Howie" McClennan Scholarship Fund

The W.H. "Howie" McClennan Scholarship Fund is supported by the International Association of Fire Fighters Charitable Foundation and awards children of IAFF members whose parent died in the line of duty financial assistance for secondary education. Specifically, the fund awards students $2,500 each year for up to four years.

If you're a child (biological or adopted) of a deceased IAFF member, you'll need to provide an official transcript, a brief statement explaining why you want to attend university, and two letters of recommendations by February 1st.

LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program

The LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program awards amounts between $1,000 and $10,000 to students between 17-24 years old who write essays or make videos about how the loss of a parent has affected their lives. They accept applications from February 1st to March 1st every year and notify the winners in August.

If you're eligible, you'll need to fill out an application online or mail one in, in addition to creating the essay or video. When writing the essay or making the video, don't just focus on the immediate effects of the loss of your parent or how difficult it is to pay for college since they're gone. Be sure to cover the effects the death had on the family as a whole, how a lack of life insurance impacted the family, as well as anything you've done to alleviate stress for other family members over the years.

Diane Dawson Memorial Scholarship

Students who live in the Denver and Sacramento areas who have a parent that's struggling with a terminal illness or has passed to a terminal disease while they're in high school can apply for the Diane Dawson Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship awards $1,000-$3,000 to each recipient.

To apply, you need to have a death certificate or letter from the attending physician confirming your parent's illness, and two letters of recommendation, and a one-page essay. The deadline to submit applications is March 10th.

James F. Byrnes Scholarship

If you live in South Carolina, performed well in school, and lost a parent, you're eligible for the James F. Byrnes Scholarship. The scholarship awards $3,250 to winning applicants based on their financial need and scholastic performance. Unlike some scholarships, you don't have to reapply every year as it's renewable for up to three years.

To apply, you'll need to fill out an application by February 1st as applicants are awarded their scholarships in May.

MedEvac Children's Scholarship

The MedEvac Foundation International awards one student whose parent was killed or seriously injured during an air medical/ground transport accident a $5,000 scholarship to a university or vocational-technical school.

In order to apply, you'll need to be enrolled in a university or vocational-technical school and be a dependent of a transport crewmember who lost their life in an on-the-job transport accident. Applications are usually due in the fall.

Additional Scholarships to Consider Applying For

When you need financial assistance to go to college, you can never apply to too many scholarship funds. Here are some other scholarship resources you can investigate where you may be able to find more scholarships to apply for:

Scholarships from Kids' Chance

Kids' Chance is an organization devoted to providing financial help to the families of people injured or killed in the workplace. If your parent passed away due to a work-related accident, you may be eligible for a scholarship from Kids' Chance. To apply, you'll need some basic information about your family's financial situation, a brief description of the accident, and your transcripts.

Scholarships for the Families of September 11 Victims

If your parent was killed in the September 11 attacks, you are most likely eligible for a variety of scholarships. You'll find more information about specific programs on the website of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Many scholarships are restricted to students attending specific institutions, but it's likely there is a scholarship to help anyone who lost a parent as part of the September 11 attacks.

Scholarship List from FastWeb

Although you need to register to apply, FastWeb has an exhaustive list of scholarships for children of deceased parents. How much you can get awarded varies significantly, ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Scholarships for Children of Deceased Service Members

To find information about scholarships for dependents of service members, visit Financial Aid for Veterans and their Dependents page on Here, you'll find an exhaustive list of scholarships that may apply to your situation.

Places to Go When You've Applied to the Known Scholarship Funds

In addition to these resources, you may be able to find information about state-specific scholarships online. Visit the website for your state's Department of Education to learn more about potential scholarships.

You can also talk to the financial aid department at your chosen school. Many schools have scholarships for students in your situation, and it never hurts to ask. If you recently lost your parent, you can bring a copy of the death certificate to your financial aid office. This loss can impact on your financial aid status and may make you eligible for additional scholarships.

A Note on Grants

Grants are another form of financial aid that does not need to be repaid and can come from government, private or non-profit organizations, or colleges or universities themselves. The main difference between a scholarship and a grant is that grants are generally need-based and scholarships are merit-based. Government grants, including the Pell Grant, are given to students that "display exceptional financial need" so if you're in a situation with financial need and have a parent who's passed away, you may be eligible.

There is also a specific Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant; if you are a student who had a military parent who died as result of service after the events of 9/11 and meet other eligibility criteria, you could qualify for this grant.

To qualify for government grants, be sure to to complete your FAFSA. Check with the colleges you're interested in to see if they offer additional grants for students in yoru situation as well.

Sometimes We Have to Make the Impossible, Possible

No matter what kind of situation you're in, it takes a lot of research to find and apply for scholarships. It can be incredibly stressful waiting to find out if you've been awarded enough aid to actually afford the upcoming year's tuition. However, don't let that fear paralyze you from applying to any and every scholarship out there. It might feel like it's impossible that you'd win these high-paying scholarships, but you'll never know until you try.

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Scholarships That Students With a Deceased Parent May Be Eligible For