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Scholarships for Nontraditional UW-Madison Students

Thanks to generous contributions of our donors, the Adult Career and Special Student Services office of UW-Madison Continuing Studies administers a number of scholarships specifically designed for nontraditional and returning adult students. While the eligibility criteria vary, there are two main categories of scholarship awards:

The application period for all scholarships is December 1–February 20. A single online application can be used to apply for all Adult Career & Special Student Services' administered scholarships.

To be eligible, applicants must be degree students at UW-Madison or must have applied to a degree program at UW-Madison (with the expectation of receiving an admission decision by early or mid-March). All applicants must demonstrate financial need and be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or eligible non-citizens as defined by FAFSA.  All scholarships include a minimum enrollment requirement that varies by award. Additional criteria, specific to each award, are listed in the scholarship descriptions that follow.

The application deadline is February 20. To apply for these scholarships, please complete the following steps:

1) Access the scholarship application through Scholarships@UW-Madison. If you haven't used this website before, take some time to explore it before beginning the application process.  You also can access Scholarships@UW-Madison through your Student Center. 

Once you begin the formal online application, you may save it and return to it at any time before this scholarship application closes on February 20.  If you would like to prepare your responses in advance, we invite you to view this practice copy of the application. 

2) After January 1, submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Even if you do not intend to accept financial aid, your FAFSA application will be useful as an indicator if you meet the financial need criterion of this competition.  We recommend submitting your FAFSA for Academic Year 2016-2017 before submitting this scholarship application.  A FAFSA submitted after this scholarship competition closes on February 20 will be too late for us to consider.  

Need help with the FAFSA? Each year, the new FAFSA becomes available after January 1.  Before filling it out, you are encouraged to gather the documents that you may need (e.g., your 2015 federal tax information).  A very useful guide for preparing to fill out the FAFSA is available from the Federal Student Aid office.  Also useful is the FAFSA Help page.  After January 1, you will be able to complete your 2016-2017 FAFSA online.  See the How to Apply, Step-by-Step guide on the Office of Student Financial Aid website for specific information on UW-Madison's financial aid process. 

3) Ask a reference to submit a letter of recommendation in support of your ACSSS scholarship application. For full consideration, please urge your reference to submit his or her letter of recommendation before the February 20 deadline.  Choose someone who knows your academic potential and who understands the challenges involved in developing that potential.  That could be an instructor, an advisor, a research mentor, an employer, or a member of the community.  Note: The online scholarship application will ask for the email address of your reference and it will send an email message directly to that reference, requesting a letter of recommendation for you.  So please check the accuracy of the email address you provide.  And follow up with your reference or check the status of that letter in your Scholarships@UW-Madison account to ensure that the letter has been sent and received by the deadline.


  • Take a moment to look over the Scholarships 101 help page, especially if you are looking for the FAFSA link, or if you are a new student or applicant who needs help activating your NetID.
  • For tips on putting together a strong application and for examples of short bios, please see our Tips sheet.
  • For additional questions, please contact us at 608-263-6960 or

Returning Adult Student Scholarships

A number of Returning Adult Student Scholarships are available for newly admitted or currently enrolled UW-Madison undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree students who are returning to school after a break in their education. Specific award criteria are described below.

Alma Baron Second Chance for Women

The Alma Baron Second Chance for Women Scholarship was established by Alma Baron in 2001 to support a female returning adult student who, like herself, came back to school to resume her education later in life.  Alma Baron returned to college at age 51 to earn a doctorate in adult education.  Following Alma's death in 2006, friends and family continue to support the fund in her memory.  


  • Woman, 45 years or older
  • Recently admitted or continuing UW-Madison student in good academic standing
  • Evidence of probable academic success, based on her experience within the past five years

Bernice D. Kuney Scholarship 

The Bernice D. Kuney Scholarship was established in 1989 with a gift from Edith Martindale to honor her mentor, Bernice Kuney.  Ms. Kuney taught English for forty years at UW Extension, serving adults returning to college for degree work or professional development.  This scholarship is available to both new and continuing students. 


  • Returning adult student with a commitment to learning and the potential for academic success
  • Preference for a returning adult student who has experienced a significant gap in their education (e.g., 5 years)
  • Recently admitted or continuing UW-Madison degree student at any level (undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree student)

Kindness Matters Scholarship

The Sosa family started the Kindness Matters Scholarship as supporters of the university to give returning adult students with financial need and strong academic history the opportunity to focus on achieving their target degree. Beth and Brandon's daughter Aanya chose the name Kindness Matters in light of their family belief that, above all, love and kindness are most important.


  • Returning adult student in good academic standing and a potential for success
  • Undergraduate or professional program students

Osher Reentry Scholarship

The Osher Reentry Scholarship Program is supported by the Bernard Osher Foundation, which seeks to recognize the commitment, efforts, and financial hardships of reentry working adults as they balance their family, work, and school responsibilities in order to achieve their educational goals. Osher Reentry Scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis to a limited number of undergraduate students who demonstrate the potential for academic success.  Scholarship awards are applied directly to student tuition.


  • Nontraditional student who has experienced a cumulative gap of five or more years in their education 
  • Undergraduate pursuing first baccalaureate degree
  • Anticipates workforce participation for a significant period of time following graduation
  • Shows academic promise and a commitment to obtaining their degree 

PLATO Scholarships

Historically, PLATO Scholarships have supported the degree completion goals of single parents whose family commitments presented unique challenges to their academic progress.  Since 2013, PLATO has extended its support not only to single parents but also to other nontraditional students who are striving to complete their UW-Madison degrees.  Read about our 2014-2015 PLATO Scholarship recipients in the Aug/Sept 2014 edition (page 8) of the Persimmon.


  • Nontraditional adult student pursuing a UW-Madison degree program as an undergraduate student, graduate student, or candidate for a professional degree
  • Strong potential for academic success

Stuart Daily Seeds of Learning Fund

To support a returning adult graduate student, Karen Doerfer Daily established the Stuart Daily Seeds of Learning Fund in 2004 to honor the memory of Stuart G. Daily, a teacher of much, to many.  His most valuable asset was his knowledge, and he encouraged others in their quest for knowledge. 


  • Recently admitted or continuing UW-Madison graduate student in good academic standing      
  • Evidence of probable academic success, based on experience within the last five years

Single Parent Scholarships

Single Parent Scholarships are available for newly admitted or currently enrolled UW-Madison undergraduate, graduate or professional students who are single parents. These scholarships are supported by the following donors: The Professor Nancy W. Denney Memorial Scholarship Fund, the Evjue Foundation Inc. the charitable arm of the Capital Times, the AAUW-Madison Branch, The University League, Inc., The Joe Corry and Barbara Weston Corry Scholarship Fund, and other private donors.


  • Single-parent student who is head of household as defined by the IRS
  • Recently admitted or continuing UW-Madison degree student in good academic standing (undergraduate, graduate, or professional)
  • Evidence of probable academic success