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A Helpful Guide to Scholarships for Students of Color

Scholarships are important to minority students' success and ability to pay for college. Here's a guide to awards for students of color and tips to find them.

Not only is paying for college expensive, but finding ways to pay for college can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities available for all students—based on your major, academic achievements, location, extracurricular activities, and much more. Students of color often face unique barriers to entry and college completion, which means that securing funding is necessary to complete their degree. Many organizations recognize this and offer scholarship opportunities specifically designed for racial and ethnic minority students. Read on to learn more about these unique opportunities, lists of scholarships for different minority groups, and tips for researching and applying.

How are students of color defined?

A student of color is defined as a non-White student who is a member of a racial minority group such as African American/Black, Latino/Latina, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander. Students of color are often defined as minority students and referred to by a more recent and popular term: BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). According to the US Census, by 2050, people of color are expected to become the majority and will make up 54% of the population. With the United States becoming more of a melting pot, this has enormous implications for colleges and universities that want to increase educational access to underrepresented students. Ensuring that students of color have the financial resources to succeed is a key step toward ensuring educational equity.

With more students of color attending college, their access to scholarships is increasingly important. This guide includes scholarship opportunities available to students of color at community, technical, and four-year colleges. It also includes helpful tips in finding and applying to scholarships.

Related: Q&A: Promoting College Success for Students of Color

Scholarships for specific majors

Are you pursuing an Engineering degree? Are you a Journalism student looking for money to pay for college? Many organizations and professional associations provide scholarships to students of color based on their academic discipline or major. Check out the following groups and opportunities!

Scholarships by demographic group

Here are some popular scholarship-providing organizations and opportunities they offer by demographic group.

Scholarships for Black or African American students

  • National Society of Black Engineers: NSBE was founded in 1975 and is the largest student-governed organization in the United States. Their goal is to increase the number of Black engineers who can make an impact in their local community. This organization offers a diverse array of scholarships to NBSE students with a current membership.
  • Blacks at Microsoft Scholarship: Microsoft offers scholarship opportunities to Black high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in technology.
  • National Black MBA Association Undergraduate Scholarships: The NBMBAA was established in 1970 to support the educational achievement and advancement of Blacks in the corporate sector. This organization offers several undergraduate scholarship opportunities for students enrolled in Business programs.
  • United Negro College Fund: Established in 1944, UNCF is the nation’s largest private scholarship provider to minority groups. It has helped more than 500,000 students earn their degree since its founding.

Scholarships for Hispanic students

  • La Unidad Latina Foundation: Established in 1999, LULF is dedicated to promoting and advancing educational achievement among Latinx populations. Scholarship opportunities are offered to both undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund: HSF selects 10,000 outstanding students each year and awards more than $30 million in scholarships. Graduating high school seniors, undergraduate students, and community college students who identify as Hispanic are eligible to apply.
  • Us Scholarship: TheDream.Us group offers two scholarship opportunities for undocumented students who are high school seniors or community college graduates.
  • Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities: HACU offers several scholarship opportunities to students attending a member college or university in the United States or Puerto Rico.

Related: STEM Scholarship Opportunities for Minority Students

Scholarships for Asian American and Pacific Islander students

  • Asian Pacific Fund: The Asian Pacific Fund is a community foundation designed to strengthen Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the Bay area. There are 10 scholarship programs that provide financial support to both undergraduate and graduate students.
  • APIA Scholars: APIA Scholars is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. Since 2003, they’ve distributed more than $150 million in scholarship opportunities to AAPI students.
  • USPAACC: USPAACC was founded in 1984 and has donated over two million dollars to scholarships for AAPI high school students who are pursuing post-secondary education.

Scholarships for Native American students

Related: 3 Scholarship Action Steps for Native American Students

Tips for finding and applying to scholarships

Finding and applying for scholarships can be very time intensive—but for many students of color, having access to ample scholarship funding is the key to success in college and earning your degree. Here are some tips for finding and applying to scholarships.

Utilize your network

One of the best places to start searching for scholarships is within your own network. Do you belong to any clubs, organizations, or religious associations? Are you currently working full- or part-time? Many clubs and organizations offer scholarship opportunities, and many businesses like Amazon and Chick-fil-A offer scholarship opportunities for students to pursue higher education. Additionally, you should also visit your high school counselor or your college’s career center or financial aid office, as they often provide students with a list of both internal and external scholarship opportunities.

Compile a list and track deadlines

Scholarship deadlines can sneak up on you fast, and you may be applying to multiple scholarships at the same time. It’s important to compile a list of scholarship opportunities and track the deadlines to ensure you turn in your application materials on time. Time management is critical to managing competing deadlines. Consider using time management apps like Evernote and Toggl Track to keep track of everything or utilizing tools like a scholarship search spreadsheet.  

Ask for references

Most scholarship applications require you to list several references or provide a recommendation letter. References can be past or current teachers, advisors, coaches, mentors, or supervisors. It’s important you have three to five reliable references that you can depend on and who can vouch for your character. When requesting a reference letter, make sure you ask two or three months in advance of the scholarship deadline, and give your references a copy of your résumé, the scholarship application, and the scholarship criteria. For many applications, your references can make or break you, so it’s important you have people in your life who can validate your success as a student.

Write a compelling essay

The essay is a critical part of many scholarship applications. You want to demonstrate your character and academic readiness as well as convey why you’re the best candidate for the award. Telling a profound or compelling story that demonstrates your resolve and resilience or talking about a point in your life where you learned a valuable lesson makes for a great scholarship essay. Also, be sure to have multiple people proofread your essay and give feedback on it before you submit it.

Related: Secrets to Writing an Amazing Scholarship Essay

The scholarship search doesn’t have to be daunting, and there are plenty of resources to ensure students of color are successful in securing these opportunities and in college in general. Be proactive, do your research, and remember to put your best application forward for each award you seek.

You can find even more scholarship opportunities right here on CollegeXpress by searching for keywords like “minority students” or “students of color” with our Scholarship Search tool.

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