Scholarships for Biology Majors: How to Find and Apply

Federal financial aid and private student loans make up a large part of a student's college funding. Students may also receive assistance though grants, scholarships and fellowships. Several of these options specifically target students interested in the biological sciences.

How Do Biology Majors Find and Apply for Scholarships?

A great way to search for scholarship opportunities is by using the internet. There are a variety of online databases which provide information for students looking for financial aid. These websites offer scholarships in a range of disciplines, including biological sciences. Some scholarship sites are very general, providing information on a range of award options, while others are targeted toward a specific student population or discipline.


General Scholarships 

General scholarship websites will allow students to search for funding sources according to a variety of criteria. Some of these websites will be for any students, while others will target one broad discipline.

An example of a general scholarship website is CollegeScholarships.org, which lists financial aid options for a number of majors, including biology.  Established in 1999, the site is an independent resource providing free information on a wide variety of scholarships. The application requirements differ for every scholarship, but typically students complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or similar submission, a written essay, and provide proof of eligibility and recommendations from teachers or professionals. Biology scholarships and financial aid found throughout the site include the following: 

  • A research fellowship for biology undergraduates through the American Physiological Society to aid microbiology students.
  • Internships and fellowships from the American Museum of Natural History for students interested in evolutionary biology.
  • Undergraduate scholarships and graduate and postdoctoral fellowships for biomedical African American students through the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and The Merck Company Foundation. 

An example of a general scholarship website which is geared toward a broad field is the National Science Foundation website. This organization offers the S-STEM program, Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, which provides financial aid for students in these four disciplines. The National Science Foundation awards these scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students based on financial need. There are many STEM assistance programs and scholarships designated for biology majors which can be found through a school's financial aid office.


Biology Scholarships 

Some scholarship websites will only be for biology students. These websites will display a variety of funding opportunities, often geared toward select groups of students, such as those at a particular grade level, with specific educational/professional goals, or involved in one particular branch of biology.  


Scholarships for Women

This website provides information on scholarships aimed toward female students, and has an entire section dedicated to women in science, with a biology subsection. Two of the highlighted funding opportunities on the website include the Women Divers Hall of Fame Scholarships and Grants, awarded to students of marine biology, and the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program which awards scholarships to graduate students, particularly women and minorities, in ocean and coastal area conservation.


Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) Scholarships

SICB offers scholarships for a variety of purposes related to biological studies, including to those pursuing Ph.D. degrees in biological sciences, such as cellular biology, physiology or zoology. Some prizes require completion of an online application, while others are given to students who present research findings at the organization's annual meetings. Students should go to the SICB website for specific application requirements.


The SICB also awards the Libbie H. Hyman Memorial Scholarship to first- and second-year graduate students or to exceptional undergraduates in the field of marine or terrestrial biology. The scholarship funds field research or academic studies for students enrolled in graduate biology courses.


American Society for Microbiology Scholarships

The American Society for Microbiology funds several awards, grants and research fellowships to students actively engaged in microbiology research and studies. Fellowship opportunities offer research projects to society members, microbiology faculty and microbiologists. Each award has its own eligibility requirements and application procedures, and students are offered discounted rates on society membership.


Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholarships

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute offers grants and scholarships to many schools across the country for undergraduates in biomedical research programs and general science education. Since 2005, this institute has given over $8 billion in financial aid to research and education in various scientific fields.


Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

This organization offers fellowships and scholarships for high school and undergraduate students and teachers. This website lists a variety of resources, as well as offers the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Summer Education Program. This ten week program has three tracks for full time, part time, and internship research positions. While not every slot has funding attached to it, there is a financial award program which provides students with free room and board, paid travel and a stipend for the summer.

More Information about Studying Biology

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, biological and biomedical sciences were one of the most popular doctoral degree fields in the 2011-2012 school year. Of the degrees awarded, approximately 7,900 were conferred in this major.

Many companies, universities, foundations and organizations offer financial aid and research opportunities for students interested in biology. The scholarships listed in this article make up only a few of the free-money options of which biology majors may take advantage.

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