$3,000 scholarships for students with autism

Current status: CLOSED until December 2021.

OAR is delighted to congratulate the 2021 winners of the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarships and Schwallie Family Scholarships. A press release announcing the award recipients may be found here.

All applicants should have received an email notifying them of the decisions at the beginning of August. We encourage those who did not receive an award this year to apply again in the 2022 award cycle. Please check this page in December for updates.

OAR maintains a list of scholarships from other organizations that are available to students on the spectrum. Scroll to the bottom of this page to view it.


In 2008, OAR introduced the Schwallie Family Scholarship to support the post-secondary, undergraduate education of qualified individuals with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Schwallie Family Scholarships are supported through generous gifts from the family of former Board member, Ed Schwallie. In 2013, we announced the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship Program, an expansion of our scholarship program that benefits students attending two-year degree programs, as well as any of the growing number of certificate and life skills/transition programs in the country. Board member and Scholarship Committee chairwoman, Lisa Hussman, championed the initiative, which is supported through a generous gift from the Lisa Higgins Hussman Foundation. As of August 31, 2021, we have awarded a total of $1,331,000 to 440 students from across the country.

Scholarship Program

Our scholarship program provides $3,000 scholarships to students across the autism spectrum. We are pleased to invite applications from persons with an autism diagnosis (DSM-IV or later criteria) pursuing full-time, post-secondary, undergraduate education or vocational-technical training in any of the following:


Four-year undergraduate college or university


Two-year undergraduate college


Trade, technical or vocational school


Cooperative life skills programs

Applicants must choose between one of the following options

The Schwallie Family Scholarship:

Supports students attending two or four year universities. Schwallie applicants typically pursue degrees at four year universities. Students attending two year universities with the intention of completing a four year degree also typically apply to the Schwallie Scholarship. Many applicants with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome choose to apply for this program.


The Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship:

Supports students attending two year universities, life skills or postsecondary programs, or vocational, technical, or trade schools. Hussman applicants typically make up the pool of talented students who face daily challenges related to autism and attend programs that assist in skill-building, job-readiness, and other transition-related skills.

Scholarship Timeline


Any individual with an established autism diagnosis and who will be attending an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education in the United States for the Fall 2021/Spring 2022 semesters is eligible to apply.

Eligible individuals need to be enrolled on a full-time basis (minimum 6 credits) or be working toward certification or accreditation in a particular field (e.g., studying to be a paralegal, chef, etc.). Past recipients of a Schwallie Family Scholarship/Lisa Higgins Hussman scholarship or immediate family members of any person serving on OAR’s Board of Directors or Scientific Council are not eligible to apply.

Proof of Diagnosis

Due to the sensitive nature of medical information and the volume of applications we receive, the application process assumes the applicant has an autism diagnosis from a licensed medical professional. Once we identify finalists, we require each applicant to submit copies of the medical documentation that established their autism diagnosis. This is not part of the application process. Before applying, however, each applicant should review the proof of diagnosis criteria:

  • Clearly stated diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder
  • Diagnosis conducted by a licensed medical professional
  • Information about testing or evaluations conducted by the medical professional (ie. CARS, ADOS, Vineland, psychiatric examination)

Please refer to this checklist to ensure that your documentation contains all the information OAR needs.

Note: Based on recent changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for autism spectrum diagnoses, OAR will be asking all scholarship finalists to verify that they meet criteria for either a DSM-IV or DSM-5 diagnosis.


We exclusively use an online application system. Applicants will select either the Schwallie Family Scholarship or the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship. Our scholarship application contains basic contact information, date of diagnosis, proof of enrollment, and three short essay questions. Students are expected to complete the applications on their own.

In the case of applicants for the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship whose written communications skills may be more limited, we require two letters of recommendation. The first letter of recommendation must come from a teacher, counselor, coach, or other non-relative. The second letter letter must come from a parent or guardian in the form of a personal letter of support.

For Schwallie Family Scholarship applicants, one letter of recommendation from a non-relative is required.


The Scholarship Review Committee is comprised of members of OAR’s Board of Directors, and augmented by selected parents of children with autism and self-advocates. Each complete application is reviewed. Incomplete submissions are disqualified.

The review proceeds in two phases: (1) Initial Review and (2) Final Review. Approximately 10 percent of applicants advance to the Final Review. From there, the Scholarship Review Committee identifies intended scholarship recipients and a list of alternates should a primary candidate subsequently not qualify for any reason.

Reviewers base their evaluation and recommendations on the personal story as conveyed by the essay’s original content: challenges that have been overcome, future aspirations, the importance of the chosen field of study, and how the scholarship will help achieve academic, career, and personal goals.

Note to Applicants, Parents, and Counselors

This is a highly competitive program. Each year, we receive 400-500 applications for up to 40 available scholarships. We encourage any interested person to apply. At the same time, we caution anyone submitting an application against incorporating this scholarship into any financial plans for post-secondary education until notified of selection.

To learn about other scholarship opportunities for students on the spectrum, please refer to the links below.

For a list of more scholarship opportunities for students on the spectrum, please visit the US News Scholarship Coach or Affordable Colleges.

Please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions page for further details.

If you are unable to find what you are searching for here or on our FAQ page, please contact or call 703-243-3466.