FORT LEE, Va. -– Though the 2019-2020 school year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scholarships for Military Children program came through for 500 students from military families who were each awarded a $2,000 scholarship grant for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
The program, created in 2001, recognizes the contributions of military families to the readiness of the fighting force and celebrates the commissaries’ role in enhancing the military’s quality of life. It’s administered by the Fisher House Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps service members and their families.
The Foundation’s recent efforts to modernize the entry process contributed to the successful outcome in the face of social distancing and other restrictions in place this year.
“This was the second year that the entire application process was done online,” said Jim Weiskopf, Fisher House Foundation vice president. “We experienced a server problem on the final day for submissions that prevented applicants from submitting their completed applications, but since we had their email addresses, we were able to communicate with the entire applicant pool and extend the submission deadline by two days, so no one was penalized for something not their fault.”
The stores where ceremonies would normally be held to honor scholarship awardees had to also adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.
“While we would normally hold a ceremony at the commissary, during these uncertain times with social distancing, ceremonies could not be held this year,” said Marye Dobson, the Defense Commissary Agency’s scholarships program liaison.
Instead, scholarship winners were notified by mail.
Scholarship applicants submit their official transcript indicating a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale for high school applicants, or indicating a cumulative minimum GPA of 2.5 or above on a 4.0 scale for students already enrolled in college; and an essay of 500 words or less, no longer than two pages.
“In this, the 20th anniversary year of the scholarship program, we were pleased once again with the overall quality of the applicants,” said Weiskopf. “We received a total of 4,851 applications from 225 commissaries.”
Eligibility is determined using the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System database. Applicants must ensure that they, as well as their sponsor, are enrolled in the DEERS database and have a current military dependent ID card. The applicant must also be planning to attend or already be attending an accredited college or university, full time, in the fall of 2020 or be enrolled in a program of studies designed to transfer directly into a four-year program.
Applicants who are awarded a full scholarship to attend a college or university or receive an appointment to one of the military academies or affiliated preparatory schools are not eligible to receive funds from this program. A full scholarship is usually defined as one that provides for payment of tuition, books, lab fees and other expenses.
All rules and requirements for the program, as well as links to frequently asked questions are available at the Scholarships for Military Children website, as is the full list of this year’s winners.
Fisher House also recently added a custom scholarship search engine to the site, tailored to military families, called “Scholarships for Service.” It’s free, easy to use, and available on mobile devices or computers at their website here.
“The window to apply for the 2021-2022 Fisher House Scholarships for Military Children should open in December and close in February, but the exact dates have not been determined yet,” said Dobson. “Be sure to check the scholarship page in mid-December for the opening of the program.”
Fisher House Foundation is ranked a Four Star Charity by Charity Navigator. No government funds are used to support the Scholarships for Military Children Program.
Commissary vendors, manufacturers, brokers, suppliers and the general public donate money to fund the program.