If you're interested in computer science careers, don't let the cost of a college education keep you from pursuing your dream. Many colleges and universities provide computer science scholarships for departmental majors. There are also many national scholarships, including the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Applicants for this scholarship must be full-time students, in their sophomore or junior year, who are planning on entering the fields of computer science, mathematics, or engineering. Some companies, such as Microsoft, even award computer science scholarships that come with paid internships to help you gain related job experience.
As you might expect, most computer science scholarships will have certain criteria for academic achievement. This might mean you need to have a specific overall GPA, a specific GPA in your major, or a certain score on the ACT or SAT. If the scholarship award is for several semesters, you may also have to agree to meet certain academic requirements in order to keep receiving funds.
Closely tied to academic achievement, extracurricular activities are another important factor frequently used to award computer science scholarships. This includes internship experience in the computer science field as well as active involvement in professional organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) or the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T). Even volunteer work relating to science and technology, such as helping to run a summer computer skills workshop for low-income elementary school students, can be used to show that you are passionate about your future career.
Financial need, while not a consideration for every award, does come into play for some computer science scholarships. Financial need is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the form all students must fill out if they wish to receive grants or loans to pay for their education. It asks for information regarding assets and income from the past year. Both parent and student information must be reported unless the student is married, a parent, a veteran, a ward of the court, or over the age of 24.
Another criterion sometimes used to award computer scholarships is gender or ethnicity. Women and minorities have been historically underrepresented in the computer science field. Therefore, awards like the Gates Millennium Scholars Program and the Google Scholarship Program seek to encourage talented women and minorities to enter this field in hopes of eventually bridging the gap.
When applying for computer science scholarships, planning and preparation are key. Research all award opportunities carefully to determine which scholarships you are best qualified to receive. Pay careful attention to program deadlines and have a trusted academic advisor look over your application materials to make sure you're presenting yourself in the best possible light.