Scholarships for Cleft Palates

Cleft Palate can be Overcome and College Can Be Yours

A cleft palate is a congenital deformity in which the two plates that form the roof of the mouth are not completely joined during a child’s development in the womb. Cleft palates can occur as complete, leaving a fissure in both the soft and hard palate, or as incomplete, leaving a hole in the roof of the mouth. Cleft palates are also often accompanied by a cleft lip, a gap or fissure in the upper lip.

It is estimated that 1 in every 700 children are born with either a complete or incomplete cleft palate. These children are immediately faced with a variety of health concerns.

Children born with cleft palates often have difficulty feeding, and due to the gap in the hard and soft palate can be prone to food born infections of the nasal cavity and inner ear. These infections can ultimately lead to hearing loss, making it difficult for the child to accurately learn to recognize and mimic speech. Moreover, because the lips and palate are structurally compromised, the child will have further difficulties forming words as their language skills develop.cleft palate scholarships

Left untreated, a cleft palate can also have profound psychological effects on a child. Often, children born with cleft palates have difficulty integrating with their peers, and can feel socially ostracized. As they grow into their teens, it is not unusual for children to develop anxiety disorders, or to suffer from depression. Fortunately, the majority of cleft palate cases can be treated with surgery. However, some extreme craniofacial anomalies may require multiple surgeries, and the child may need extensive speech therapy to overcome their earlier disability.

Because the effects of the deformity can last well into adulthood, there are a number of foundations and associations dedicated to the needs of children born with cleft lips and cleft palates. These organizations help children and their families with both financial and emotional support. They help parents locate surgeons who can perform the necessary operations to repair the palate, and counsel children as they rehabilitate following their surgeries.

Children born with cleft palates often find school difficult. The social setting itself can cause anxiety, and the hearing and speech problems associated with a cleft palate can make learning in a standardized classroom problematic.

Too often, students become disheartened and choose not to pursue their higher education. It is also true that the costs of the corrective surgeries may have greatly impacted their parent’s ability to build a substantial college fund. But college-aged students who were born with a cleft palate or cleft lip should not give-up on their post-secondary education. A college education is transformative, and there are a variety of scholarship programs specifically designed to help students with cleft palates achieve their educational goals.

Scholarships for Students with Cleft Palates

Scholarships for students with cleft palates are typically funded and sponsored by charitable foundations. These organizations advocate for children born with cleft palates at all stages of their development. Some scholarship programs are national, while others will be regional. The one thing they all have in common is helping students born with cleft palates find the money they need for college.

  • The Cleft Palate Foundation offers the annual Cleft Palate Foundation College Scholarship for Students with Craniofacial Differences. The program is open to all college-bound students who have been effected by a cleft palate or other craniofacial deformity. Awards are based on academic performance, leadership qualities, and community and school involvement. Scholarships are available for students enrolled in community colleges, technical schools and four-year liberal arts colleges. Award amounts range from $500 to $750.
  • The Florida Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association sponsors a one time $1000 scholarship for a Florida high school senior with a cleft palate or other craniofacial anomaly. Students must be nominated by a member of the association, and must be planning to attend an accredited state college or university. Students must submit a 125 word essay, in addition to their school transcripts and history of their community and extracurricular activities.
  • The Cleft and Craniofacial Support Network and Organization of Maine administers the Robbie Foundation Academic Scholarship Program for for students with special needs who are pursuing their post-secondary education. Award amounts range form $2000 to $5000, and are decided on the basis of academic achievement and financial need.
  • The Virginia Smiles Katie Higgins Memorial Scholarship is available to college-bound residents of Virginia who were born with a cleft palate. To be eligible, students must be registered at an accredited college or university. Students must submit a 500 word essay explaining why they deserve to win the scholarship. The annual award is $1000.

Children born with cleft palates must overcome many challenges, not the least of which is preparing for college. Thanks to the generosity of charitable foundations and associations around the country, college aged students who were born with a cleft palate or other craniofacial anomaly have access to a number of scholarships designed to help them pay for their higher education.


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