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$3,000 scholarships for autistic students

Current status: CLOSED

Online Application

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

BACKGROUND

In 2007, 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 the late Ed Schwallie, one of OAR’s founders and its only Board member Emeritus.

In 2013, we added the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship, the first expansion of the OAR Scholarship Program, to further benefit students attending two-year degree programs, as well as any of the growing number of certificate and life skills/transition programs in the U.S. Board member and Scholarship Committee chairwoman, Lisa Hussman, championed the initiative, which is supported annually through gifts from the Lisa Higgins Hussman Foundation.

The Synchrony Scholarship for Autistic Students of Color, the newest scholarship, began in December 2021, with the opening of the 2022 Scholarship application period. It was established through a partnership with Synchrony’s Disabilities Diversity Network as part of their national “Education as an Equalizer” initiative.

As of today, the OAR Scholarship Program has awarded a total of $1,331,000 to 440 highly deserving students.

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:

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Four-year undergraduate college or university

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Two-year undergraduate college

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Trade, technical or vocational school

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Cooperative life skills programs

Applicants must choose one of the following options

Schwallie Family Scholarship:

Supports students attending two- or four-year undergraduate colleges. Schwallie applicants typically pursue degrees at four-year colleges. Students attending two-year colleges with the intention of completing a four-year degree also typically apply to the Schwallie Scholarship.

 

Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship:

Supports students attending two-year undergraduate colleges, 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.

 

Synchrony Scholarship for Autistic Students of Color:

Supports students attending any type of undergraduate postsecondary education: two- or four-year colleges; life skills or postsecondary programs; or vocational, technical, or trade schools. Applicants must belong to an underrepresented racial/ethnic minority group. (Please note that autistic students of color are eligible to apply to any of the three programs for which they qualify, but they can only apply for one of them.)

Eligibility

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 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters is eligible to apply. However, students who have already received a Bachelors degree are not eligible, and the scholarships do not support graduate or postgraduate studies.

Eligible individuals need to be accepted for enrollment or 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 an OAR scholarship or immediate family members of any person serving on OAR’s Board of Directors or Scientific Council are not eligible to apply.

For the Synchrony Scholarship for Autistic Students of Color, only applicants from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds are eligible to apply. This includes applicants who are Black/African American, Indigenous (Native American, Native Alaskan), Hispanic/Latino, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern/North African, or Multiracial.

Please contact us if you have any questions about your eligibility for the different scholarships.

 

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 to include:

  • 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 the timing of changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for autism spectrum diagnoses, applicants may have received their diagnoses based on the criteria for either the DSM-IV or DSM-5. Either is acceptable. There is no need for an applicant diagnosed under DSM-IV to obtain a subsequent diagnosis under DSM-5 criteria. Applicants with DSM-IV diagnoses of Asperger syndrome, Childhood disintegrative disorder, or PDD-NOS are eligible to apply.

Application

We exclusively use an online application system. Applicants will select the Schwallie Family Scholarship, the Synchrony Scholarship for Autistic Students of Color, 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 must come from a parent or guardian in the form of a personal letter of support.

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

For Schwallie Family Scholarship applicants, the letter of recommendation from a non-relative is not required. Nonetheless, it is highly recommended as an additional source of information for the Scholarship Review Panel.

 

Online Application

 

Review

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.

Reviewers base their evaluation and recommendations on the personal story as conveyed by the applicant in the essay responses. More specifically, they seek to understand: 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 600 or more applications for up to 50 available scholarships. So, less than 1:10 applicants will receive a scholarship.  Nonetheless, we encourage any interested person to apply.

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 scholarship@researchautism.org or call 703-243-3466.