Native American students pursuing higher education have unique opportunities to stack multiple scholarship awards; in addition to qualifying for typical merit awards or other criteria, Native students will also find they have access to a breadth of Native American–specific scholarships. There are opportunities for high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students, but it’s essential to follow these three action steps to maximize your potential of winning these awards.
Step 1: Research your family history
Scholarships for Native American students can be generous as well as renewable for multiple years of education. They all require official documentation supporting membership of the student or their parent or grandparent in a tribe. If you’re not already in possession of this documentation from your family’s tribe, advanced genealogical research is recommended—you want to be ready to expedite applications. There are many ways to start researching your family tree. First, start conversations with or write to your relatives to learn more about your family history. Reach out to libraries, historical societies, and regional branches of the National Archives (branches are located throughout the US) to have a higher potential of finding the information you need. The Board for Certification of Genealogists is an organization that can also help you find a professional researcher; they can assist you in finding birth, marriage, and death records to track your Native American heritage.
Step 2: Connect with national organizations that support Native American students
National organizations are incredible sources for support and information—and most of them have specific scholarships you can apply for as well. For example, the American Indian College Fund provides scholarships for Native American and Alaskan Native students who are seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees. Established in 1947, the oldest Native American scholarship program is the Association on American Indian Affairs. The scholarships they award support undergraduate and graduate students. Applicants must be members of a tribal nation, but their nation doesn’t have to be among the nations recognized by the federal government. Additional Native-supporting organizations are the American Indian Graduate Center and the Bureau of Indian Education. Scholarships from these organizations include:
American Indian Graduate Center Scholarships
The American Indian Graduate Center provides multiple scholarships for high school, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional program students. Applicants must be able to demonstrate tribal affiliation, and the award amounts vary. The deadline for the high school application is May 22, and the deadline for the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate application is June 1.
Association on American Indian Affairs Scholarship
The Association on American Indian Affairs scholarship is for full-time enrolled students in two-year, four-year, or graduate programs with a 2.5 minimum GPA. Applicants must be directly recognized as a citizen member of a tribe, which may be federally or non-federally recognized. Award amounts aren’t disclosed, and the deadline is May 31.
Full Circle Scholarship
This scholarship from the American Indian College Fund is open to US and Canadian students who are enrolled in a certificate, associate, bachelor’s, or graduate program. Applicants must be registered as an enrolled member of a federal or state-recognized tribe or a descendant of at least one grandparent or parent who is an enrolled tribal member. Award amounts aren’t disclosed to the public. Applicants must have a 2.0 minimum GPA, and the deadline is May 31.
Step 3: Broaden your search
Many students make the mistake of only focusing on scholarships that align perfectly with their heritage. Try broadening your search to include scholarships for students from underrepresented minority groups, as opposed to just scholarships for Native American students, and your list of possible opportunities will expand tremendously. Examples include:
ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund
Offered by the American Bar Association, this scholarship is open to first-year law students who are Black/African American, Native American, Hispanic American, or Asian/Pacific Islander. The award is worth $15,000 with a deadline of May 1.
AfterCollege STEM Inclusion Scholarship
The AfterCollege STEM Scholarship is open to currently enrolled, underrepresented college students working toward a degree in the STEM fields. Underrepresented groups may be defined by gender, race, ethnic, background, disability, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, nationality, or other non-visible differences. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA for this award of $500. The deadline is September 30.
Sharp Index Scholarship
The Sharp Index Scholarship is for medical school students, residents, and non-medical students interested in improving the lives of physicians. An additional scholarship is also awarded specifically for diverse students interested in studying the connection between racism and burnout. The award is $1,000 with a deadline of November 1.
The key steps to your scholarship search are spending time researching in advance, connecting with supportive organizations, and broadening your search. Anyone on a scholarship pursuit would be wise to follow these action steps, but in honor of Native American Heritage Month, we wanted to share specific scholarships for Native students to help pay for college. Good luck in your search!
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