$3,000 scholarships for students with autism
Current status: CLOSED as of May 4, 2020 at 11:59 PM ET.
Applications for the 2021 competition will open on SurveyMonkey Apply in December.
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 7, 2019, we have awarded a total of $1,068,000 to 356 students from across the country.
2020 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. 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.
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 2020/Spring 2021 semesters is eligible to apply.
Eligible individuals need to be enrolled on a full-time basis 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 may be submitted if the applicant chooses to do so.
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.
- The Kelly Law Team Autism Scholarship Contest: Offers a $1,000 scholarship open to those with autism who wish to continue their education.
- The Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship: Offers $1,000 scholarships to undergraduate or postgraduate students with autism or students with a relative with autism
- Autism Delaware – The Adult with Autism Scholarship: Offers $1,000 for Delaware residents on the spectrum who wish to pursue post-secondary education.
- The Autism Family Services of New Jersey Scholarship: Offers $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors with autism. Restricted to NJ residents
- The Jacob Trotter Memorial Scholarship: Offers $500 to a South Central Wisconsin resident on the autism spectrum who will be attending college
- The Percy Martinez Autism Scholarship: Offers $5,000 to a high school, undergraduate, graduate, or law school student
- Autism Research Texas: Offers $500 scholarships to Texas residents with autism attending a college or vocational school.