The Yellow Ribbon Fund, the Blewitt Foundation, and University of Maryland University College are offering up to five scholarships—which include full tuition, fees, and course-required resources—for volunteer caregivers of recovering servicemembers and veterans through the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program. This scholarship aims to honor the unparalleled selflessness and extraordinary commitment of these caregivers.

The application deadline for the 2018–2019 academic year is February 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program, you must have served or be serving as a volunteer caregiver of a military servicemember or veteran with a disabling wound, injury, or illness that occurred while on active duty after 9/11. Examples of volunteer caregivers may include a spouse, parent, stepparent, sibling, stepsibling, fiancé, child, stepchild, or friend of a recovering servicemember or veteran who serves or has served as a volunteer caregiver (e.g. U.S. Department of Defense nonmedical attendant) to that servicemember or veteran.

A scholarship review committee—comprised of members of the Yellow Ribbon Fund, the Blewitt Foundation, and UMUC—will verify each applicant’s volunteer caregiver status based on the supporting materials required as part of the application process.

In addition, you must

  • Have received a high school diploma or GED
  • Be currently enrolled or plan to enroll, if selected, in a degree or certificate program at UMUC with a minimum of 6 credits per term for undergraduate students or 3 credits per term for graduate students during the fall and spring terms; winter and summer term registration is optional, although the scholarship covers courses taken in those terms
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid before the scholarship application deadline; UMUC's school code is 011644
  • Demonstrate financial need as determined by the UMUC Office of Financial Aid based on information supplied on the completed FAFSA; applicants with loans in default will not be considered for the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program
  • Agree to participate in activities to help promote the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program; activities may include a photo shoot, attendance at an event, and the creation of a video documenting scholarship recipients

How to Apply

Step 1: Submit the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program application by February 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. After submitting the form, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with your application ID.

Step 2: Complete the FAFSA by February 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. if you have not already done so. UMUC's school code is 011644.

Step 3: E-mail your supporting documentation to pillarsofstrength@umuc.edu by February 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. Include your application ID (which you will receive after submitting the form in Step 1) in your e-mail.

You will need to submit

  1. One document containing short essay responses to all five of the following prompts:
    • Describe the circumstances and challenges of your volunteer caregiver role and the condition of the recovering servicemember or veteran you care for. (200 words max)
    • Describe your personal, academic, and career achievements to date. (200 words max)
    • Describe your extracurricular interests and pursuits and any of your volunteer or community activities. (200 words max)
    • Describe what you hope to achieve with this scholarship. How will it help you achieve your goals? How will it help you and your family overcome challenges? (300 words max)
    • How will you represent UMUC, the Yellow Ribbon Fund, and the Blewitt Foundation as an alumnus of the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program? (100 words max)
  2. A signed letter of reference from someone familiar with your circumstances and qualifications; the letter should not be from a family member
  3. Documentation of your volunteer caregiver role including the condition of the recovering servicemember or veteran who you assist; examples of documentation include
    • Nonmedical attendant orders
    • A letter from a nurse case manager
    • A letter from a military commander verifying the servicemember or veteran's need for a caregiver
    • A letter from a VA Caregiver Support Program case manager
    • Proof of enrollment in the VA Caregiver Support Program, such as a pay stub from the past 60 days or an enrollment letter

Deadline and Submission Information

Submit the scholarship application and e-mail supporting documentation to pillarsofstrength@umuc.edu by February 28, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.

You must also complete the FAFSA by February 28, 2018.

Review Process

Once you submit the scholarship application and e-mail your supporting materials, your complete application package will be reviewed by a committee from the Yellow Ribbon Fund, the Blewitt Foundation, and UMUC. The review committee will assess your application based on

  • Whether you fulfill the eligibility requirements
  • Your individual circumstances
  • The strength of your application
  • Your financial need, according to the UMUC Office of Financial Aid, based upon information supplied on the completed FAFSA

All applicants will be notified—whether they receive the scholarship or not—by April 30, 2018. If you are not selected to receive the scholarship for the 2018–2019 academic year, you may apply for the scholarship again next year.

Award Information

The Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program covers full tuition, fees, and course-required resources for each term during the academic year.

FAQs: Requirements for Renewal and Continuous Eligibility

I received the Pillars of Strength Scholarship. How can I renew my award for subsequent years? +

If you are selected to receive the scholarship, you will not need to resubmit the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program application each year to continue receiving your award. You may continue to receive the scholarship for up to five additional years if you are an undergraduate student or up to three additional years if you are a graduate student.

You will need to

  • Complete the FAFSA each year before the fall FAFSA deadline
  • Register for at least 6 credits each term if you're an undergraduate student or at least 3 credits each term if you're a graduate student in the fall and spring terms; winter and summer term registration is not required to maintain your eligibility, although the scholarship covers courses taken in those terms
  • Remain in good academic standing by meeting the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement

Once you have completed your degree or certificate program, funding from the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program will not be available for any additional studies.

Will I continue receiving the Pillars of Strength Scholarship if I do not continue to meet and maintain my eligibility requirements? +

You will not be eligible for scholarship funds if you do not meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements each semester. You must also complete the FAFSA each year before the fall FAFSA deadline. Also, you must register for at least 6 credits each term if you're an undergraduate student or at least 3 credits each term if you're a graduate student in the fall and spring terms; winter and summer term registration is not required to maintain your eligibility, although the scholarship covers courses taken in those terms. You will be required to pay for courses on your own until you are able to meet those requirements.

In which scenarios will I become ineligible for additional funds from the Pillars of Strength Scholarship? +

You will not be eligible for additional scholarship funding after the expiration period—up to five additional years for undergraduate recipients or up to three additional years for graduate recipients. If you have not completed your program of study within the established scholarship period, you are still eligible to continue your studies. However, you will be responsible for all remaining payments.

UMUC reserves the right to make reductions or cancellations to your Pillars of Strength Scholarship award if you

  • Become ineligible for financial aid due to a default status on your current loans
  • Are receiving more than one UMUC universal application scholarship that exceeds institutional award maximums as determined by the UMUC Office of Financial Aid
  • Are receiving another tuition-restricted scholarship
  • Are receiving additional financial aid that exceeds your financial aid eligibility when coupled with this scholarship
  • Withdraw or fail to complete the required enrollment for the term
  • Are deemed ineligible for funding based on unsatisfactory academic performance or financial aid standing

Note for Donors

If you are interested in contributing to this great cause, please consider making a donation in support of the Pillars of Strength Scholarship Program.