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Top 5 Scholarship Opportunities for Black and African American Students

Many organizations are dedicated to promoting and uplifting Black students through scholarships. Learn about opportunities and tips to improve your search!

The scholarship process is a year-round endeavor, and there’s no particular month that will offer more opportunities for students than another. However, we’re reminded during honored months of the year of additional resources that can be useful for scholarship seekers and their families—and this is absolutely true during Black History Month.

Black History Month spotlights the achievements of Black individuals, organizations, and foundations and their impact on the history of the United States. Generous private scholarships from companies, organizations, and foundations exist for students regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, career goal, or demonstrated skill. But in honor of Black History Month, here are some scholarships from organizations and companies dedicated to advancing the education of Black and African American students in the United States.

1. Ron Brown Scholar Program

The Ron Brown Scholar Program scholarship is open to Black and African American high school seniors who are US citizens demonstrating financial need. This scholarship program is named after the late Secretary of Commerce and is given away in his honor for his dedication to public service. Between 45–50 $40,000 awards are available and given in increments of $10,000 for each of the recipient’s four years of education. Check the website for updates on this year's deadline!

2. Sphinx Competition

The Sphinx Competition scholarship is open to Black and Latinx classical string players. This Junior Division competition is open to musicians ages 17 and under, and the Senior Division is open to musicians ages 18–30. All applicants/competitors must be US citizens. Awards vary depending on competition placement, with the lowest award at $5,000 and the highest at $50,000; the Junior Division’s lowest award is $3,000, and the highest is $10,000. The deadline for entry falls in October each year.

Related: How to Turn Your Hobbies Into Scholarships With Ease 

3. KnowBe4 Scholarship for Black Americans in Cybersecurity

Administered by the Center for Cyber Security and Education, this KnowBe4 Scholarship is for Black high school seniors as well as undergraduate and graduate students in the United States who are pursuing a degree in Cybersecurity or Information Assurance. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.2. This scholarship is a $10,000 tuition award, plus a $3,000 housing award. The deadline for applications usually falls in April.

4. Gensler Rising Black Designers Scholarships + Design Challenge

The Gensler Rising Black Designers Scholarships + Design Challenge is open to Black or African American students enrolled in an Architecture program. The organization gives out numerous awards that amount to $60,000, with opportunities to win academic tuition scholarships or micro-scholarships for textbooks and other materials. Applications are due at the beginning of March.

5. Black and Positively Golden Scholarship

McDonald’s and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund have partnered to offer scholarships to outstanding students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Over 60 students will be chosen to receive up to $15,000 for the academic school year ($7,500 per semester). Applicants must be US citizens or legal permanent residents; enrolled full-time as an undergraduate first-year, sophomore, junior, or senior at an HBCU; have a GPA of 2.7 or higher; and demonstrate leadership abilities as well as financial need. The deadline closes at the end of March.

Related: Why the Scholarship Search Matters, Plus Quick Tips and Tricks

Some final scholarship search advice

A reminder for all scholarship seekers: look for scholarships in every possible expanded scholarship category that may align with you as a person. If you’re a student who is Black, identifies as female, and is pursuing an Engineering degree, don’t limit your search to “Scholarships for Black and African American students.” Searching only for scholarships based on your race or ethnicity limits your search and the possible awards you could find. This particular scholarship search should include, at a minimum, the following expanded categories:

  • “Scholarships for Black/African American students”
  • “Scholarships for women”
  • “Scholarships for Black/African American women”
  • “Scholarships for women in Engineering”
  • “Scholarships for Black/African American female students in Engineering”
  • “STEM scholarships”
  • “Engineering scholarships”
  • “Scholarships for women in STEM”
  • “Scholarships for minority students”
  • “Scholarships for minority students in Engineering”
  • “Scholarships for minority students pursuing STEM careers”
  • “Scholarships for Black/African American students pursuing STEM careers”
  • “Scholarships for Black/African American students pursuing Engineering careers”

Related: 3 Scholarship Search Mistakes Students Should Avoid

Expanding your scholarship search spotlights every potential aspect of who you are. Race or ethnicity is only one of many categories to search for—and only one important part of your complete identity. As with all search categories, scholarship seekers should continue to revisit these terms every semester as more awards are created and added throughout the year. Good luck in your scholarship search, and Happy Black History Month!

Find even more opportunities to help pay for college using our Scholarship Search tool, including the quarterly CollegeXpress Scholarship for Students of Color.

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About Jean O'Toole

Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book Scholarship Strategies: Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying Jean’s scholarship strategies. In 2008, Jean co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. Visit Connections101.com for more information, and follow Jean on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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