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Cost and Financial Aid

Organization for Autism Research Scholarship

The Schwallie Family Scholarship:

Supports students attending two or four year universities. Schwallie applicants typically pursue degrees at four year universities and have a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome if diagnosed under the DSM-IV, or ASD (Level 1 Supports) if diagnosed under the DSM-5.

The Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship:

Supports students attending two or four year universities, life skills or postsecondary programs, or vocational, technical, or trade schools. Hussman applicants typically make up the pool of talented students who face daily challenges related to autism and attend programs that assist in skill-building, job-readiness, and other transition-related skills.


Any individual with an established autism diagnosis and who will be attending an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education in the United States for the Fall 2019/Spring 2020 semesters is eligible to apply.

Eligible individuals need to be enrolled on a full-time basis or be working toward certification or accreditation in a particular field (e.g., studying to be a paralegal, chef, etc.). Past recipients of a Schwallie Family Scholarship/Lisa Higgins Hussman scholarship or immediate family members of any person serving on OAR’s Board of Directors or Scientific Council are not eligible to apply.

Proof of Diagnosis

Due to the sensitive nature of medical information and the volume of applications we receive, the application process assumes the applicant has an autism diagnosis from a licensed medical professional. Once we identify finalists, we require each applicant to submit copies of the medical documentation that established their autism diagnosis. This is not part of the application process. Before applying, however, each applicant should review the proof of diagnosis criteria:

  • Clearly stated diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder
  • Diagnosis conducted by a licensed medical professional
  • Information about testing or evaluations conducted by the medical professional (ie. CARS, ADOS, Vineland, psychiatric examination)

Note: Based on recent changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for autism spectrum diagnoses, OAR will be asking all scholarship finalists to verify that they meet criteria for either a DSM-IV or DSM-5 diagnosis.


We exclusively use an online application system. Using a drop down box, applicants will select either the Schwallie Family Scholarship or the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship. Our scholarship application contains basic contact information, date of diagnosis, proof of enrollment, and three short essay questions. Students are expected to complete the applications on their own.

In the case of applicants for the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship whose written communications skills may be more limited, we require two letters of recommendation. The first letter of recommendation must come from a teacher, counselor, coach, or other non-relative. The second letter letter must come from a parent or guardian in the form of a personal letter of support.

For Schwallie Family Scholarship applicants, one letter of recommendation may be submitted if the applicant chooses to do so.


The Scholarship Review Committee is comprised of members of OAR’s Board of Directors, and augmented by selected parents of children with autism and self-advocates. Each complete application is reviewed. Incomplete submissions are disqualified.

The review proceeds in two phases: (1) Initial Review and (2) Final Review. Approximately 10 percent of applicants advance to the Final Review. From there, the Scholarship Review Committee identifies intended scholarship recipients and a list of alternates should a primary candidate subsequently not qualify for any reason.

Reviewers base their evaluation and recommendations on the personal story as conveyed by the essay’s original content: challenges that have been overcome, future aspirations, the importance of the chosen field of study, and how the scholarship will help achieve academic, career, and personal goals.