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How to Look for Nursing Scholarships and Grants, According to Financial Experts

Saving a few thousand dollars now on your education can lead to hefty student debt savings when you factor in the interest over time.

Image by Cancemi (Shutterstock)

Student debt got you spinning? A college education is costly between tuition, books, labs, clinicals, and a rising cost of living. Even if you know your degree will be worth the return on investment, it doesn't make it any easier on your pocketbook. 

Whether you plan on starting nursing school or want to return for a graduate nursing degree, saving just a few thousand dollars now on your education can lead to hefty student debt savings when you factor in the interest over time.

Read on to learn about the most lucrative nursing scholarships and grants. 

How Each Work

Nursing scholarships and grants are ways to save on college expenses. But what’s the difference between a grant and a scholarship?


Grants are financial aid provided to students to cover education costs, often funded by the government, institutions, and foundations. Grants are not typically repaid. They are often need-based and designed to alleviate financial barriers to education and remain accessible to all students. 


Scholarships are often merit-based financial aid awarded for academic ability, talent, or achievements. Many groups fund scholarship programs, including universities, corporations, individuals, charities, etc. Scholarships are typically unpaid. 

Search Tips for Scholarships and Grants

Finding the right nursing scholarship or grant takes patience. Don’t feel like you have to search through all the internet cobwebs to find the best one. 

Here are some tips on how to direct your search:

  • Start in your immediate circle. Ask your parents or extended family if their workplace offers scholarships. Many large corporations provide scholarships for family members of their employees. 
  • Ask a librarian. Not all libraries are created equal, but some public libraries have a database for local scholarships, or your local librarian may have a pulse on what nearby businesses offer scholarships each academic year. 
  • Go directly to your college or university. Schools frequently offer scholarships for prospective students who maintain a certain GPA. They also may offer other non-academic scholarships for students with talents in sports, writing, or other areas. There are also usually need-based scholarships determined by socioeconomic status.
  • Browse professional organizations. Sometimes associations offer scholarships, like your state nursing board, for example. Try searching “nurse association scholarship” to see if any results resonate with you. 

Biggest Payouts

Smaller scholarships are often less competitive, but it’s worth seeing if a bigger scholarship is attainable for you. According to financial experts, here are some of the most lucrative scholarships and grants available for nurses. 


Pell Grant

The Pell Grant is a need-based financial aid program named after the late U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, an advocate for education. The Federal Pell Grant Program was established in 1965 as part of the Higher Education Act. The maximum Pell Grant payout is $7,395 this 2023-2024 academic year.

The Pell Grant is a need-based grant determined by two factors:

1. The cost of attending a college or university. A more expensive tuition would warrant you receiving a higher Pell Grant. 

2. Expected family contribution (EFC). If you are an unemancipated dependent, your expected family contribution will be based on your parents' income. If you’re married, it will be based on you and your spouse’s combined income. The EFC guide provides a formula for you to calculate your EFC. Once you calculate your EFC, you can use the Pell Grant table to estimate how much assistance you can expect.


Many scholarships are available in the $1,000 to 2,000 range, but some go up to $5,000 or even $10,000. It’s rare for a scholarship to exceed the $10,000 mark. 

Since most scholarships are merit or achievement-based, keep in mind that you will be competing with lots of other prospective students. 

Here are some of the highest payout nursing scholarships:

  • A Nurse I Am Scholarship: This scholarship is available for nursing students and is based on submitting an essay or video. The scholarship prize is $3,000.
  • BoardVitals Nursing School Scholarship: BoardVitals offers scholarships for nursing students to support their educational endeavors. This essay contest gives $2,000 to the first-place winner, $1,000 to the second-place winner, and $500 to the third-place winner. 
  • Nurse Corps Scholarship Program: According to Steven Kibbel, CFP, ChFC, CLU, and personal finance columnist with Expat Frontier, “This program covers tuition and fees and provides a monthly stipend. In return, recipients commit to working in underserved communities,” Kibbel explains. He adds, "it’s a significant grant because it covers tuition, fees, and other educational costs and provides a monthly stipend.”

Applying for Scholarships and Grants

Kibbel’s tips for applying for scholarships include:

  • Start early: Begin your search well before the academic year starts.
  • Apply widely: The more scholarships you apply for, the higher your chances of securing one.
  • Tailor your application: Ensure each application is specific to that scholarship, highlighting why you’re the perfect fit.
  • Stay updated: Join nursing forums, subscribe to newsletters, and stay connected with your school’s financial aid office for new opportunities.

High-payout scholarships are enticing, but Jack Wang, a college financial aid advisor at Innovative Advisory Group, suggests they represent a tiny portion of overall aid. He recommends applying for smaller scholarships because they are less competitive. 

What scholarship is going to be most worth your time? Wang suggests, “Apply to schools that are more generous with merit aid. Those dollars can be much bigger.” 

Your Tuition Prescription

Narrow your focus when applying for scholarships. If eligible, attend an affordable school with generous merit aid and utilize the Pell Grant. If you want additional scholarships, start applying early and don’t dismiss lower-payout scholarships.

Want more nursing financial tips and tricks? Subscribe to TNB for weekly recommendations from financial experts. 

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