The cost of higher education is getting tougher for Americans to afford. Annual fees range from $20,770 for public schools up to $46,950 for private schools. And, on average, students graduate with $37,000 in student loan debt.
The situation is often worse for different ethnic minorities, where historic socioeconomic injustices and systemic hurdles have made it hard to get ahead. Despite some closing of the educational performance gap between African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and white groups, minority students are often hampered by attending schools in high-poverty areas, which often have fewer resources, after-school activities, and less-challenging curriculums.
Since it is harder for some minority groups to get into and afford their colleges of choice, a variety of scholarships is available to them to try to level the playing field, based on academic or athletic excellence, need, community service, and other criteria.
The most common scholarships available to high school seniors include:
- Local community scholarships
- Ones based on academic achievements — high SATs/ACTs scores, in particular
- State-sponsored scholarships for high school seniors with military parents
Besides the colleges themselves, scholarships for minorities can come from:
- Community organizations and associations
- Charitable organizations
- Professional associations
- Minority advocacy groups
Places to Start Looking for Minority Scholarships
One good place to start looking for scholarships is the free Scholarship Finder tool, sponsored by the United States Department of Labor. It allows searches of more than 8,000 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial aid award opportunities, arranged in order of closest deadlines. A keyword search function permits searches for specific types of scholarships, including ones for different minority groups.
Other places and people to get information include:
- High school counselors
- The financial aid offices at colleges and universities you want to apply to
- Ethnicity-based organizations
- Foundations, nonprofits, and other organizations that are related to your field of interest
- Scholarship database search websites like Peterson’s and Cappex
Some of the things you might be asked to accompany your scholarship application include:
- Copy of your driver’s license, state-issued photo ID, or passport to verify you are a U.S. citizen (a copy of your green card and/or visa, if you are not)
- Certified copies of transcripts, certificates, and/or diplomas
- Two or three letters of recommendation from teachers, supervisors, and/or guidance counselors
- Undergraduate scholarships often require test results for SATs and/or ACTs
- GRE, LSAT, GMAT, and/or MCAT results are usually required for graduate scholarships
- Motivational letter and/or essay that shows the scholarship committee why you are a worthy recipient
AICPA Minority Scholarship
Outstanding minority students receive scholarships of up to $5,000 per academic year to encourage their selection of accounting as a major and their entry into the profession. For over four decades, this program has provided more than $14.6 million in scholarships to approximately 8,000 accounting scholars.
American Meteorological Society (AMS) Minority Scholarship
The AMS awards funding to minority students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, including Hispanic, Native American, and black or African American students.
Students must plan to pursue careers in the atmospheric or related oceanic and hydrologic sciences. A GPA of at least 3.0 is required. Successful applicants receive a $6,000 two-year scholarship ($3,000 per year).
Gates Millennium Scholars Program
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the goals of the program are to promote academic excellence and provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential. High-achieving students of African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander, and Hispanic backgrounds are eligible.
Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program
This program bestows scholarships to minority students who have proven leadership qualities and a commitment to community service. Its scholars receive grants of up to $30,000 over four years to complement the financial aid they receive from their colleges or universities. Scholars are also offered mentoring, leadership conferences, and internships.
National Press Club Scholarship for Journalism Diversity
Promoting diversity in journalism, the award consists of a $2,000 one-year scholarship, which can be renewed for up to three years at $2,500 per year. The first-year scholarship includes an additional $500 book stipend.
Phyllis G. Meekins Scholarship
This is a need-based scholarship that goes to a female high school senior from a minority background who will do a full-time course of study as she plays collegiate golf at an accredited college or university in the U.S.
African American Scholarships
Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award
Following in the footsteps of the man who did much for the equality of African Americans, this scholarship is designed for minority students who have demonstrated a commitment to pursuing a career in the criminal justice field. All candidates must write a 250-word essay on the ideals and philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King and “how they have attempted to emulate these qualities in their lives.”
Ron Brown Scholarship
The selective scholarship program helps community-minded and intellectually gifted African Americans receive higher education. It awards four-year $40,000 scholarships ($10,000 each year) to the most talented and economically challenged high school seniors who demonstrate great interest in public service, community engagement, business entrepreneurship, and global citizenship.
United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is the country’s largest private scholarship provider to minority group members and has helped more than 500,000 students earn their college degrees since its founding.
Each year, it awards more than $100 million in scholarships to students attending over 1,100 schools across the country.
Bestowed by New York Women in Communications, this scholarship is awarded to a student of Hispanic heritage pursuing the dream of a career in communications. It is funded by Daisy Exposito-Ulla and her firm d exposito & Partners.
Hispanic Scholarship Consortium
The program seeks applications from “highly motivated student leaders with a clear vision for their future.” It is open to graduating high school seniors, undergraduates, and graduate Hispanic/Latino students residing in Texas. Candidates must have a 2.5 GPA (or a 3.0 for renewable scholarships).
La Unidad Latina Foundation Scholarship
Undergraduate Hispanic and Latino students who have completed at least one year of full-time study and are seeking a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree and have shown they are dedicated to advancing the Latino community are eligible to apply.
Native American Scholarships
Catching the Dream Scholarship
Scholarship funds are provided to students who demonstrate “academic achievement, clearly defined goals, leadership, the determination to succeed, and the desire to return to their communities and help others realize their dreams.”
The CTD scholarships range from $500 to $5,000 per year based on merit. More than 95% of students who applied have been awarded a scholarship.
Cherokee Nation Scholarship Program
Scholarships are awarded to candidates who prove tribal membership in the Cherokee Nation and plan to attend or are attending an accredited U.S. institution. The scholarships are contingent on the availability of funding.
Full Circle Scholarship
This scholarship is provided by the American Indian College Fund to American Indian and Alaska Native college students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees at tribal colleges, nonprofit, and accredited schools. It also administers scholarships for 35 tribal colleges and universities in the United States.
Asian/Pacific Islander Scholarships
APIA Scholarship Program
Aimed at students with Asian and/or Pacific Islander ethnicity who have a low socioeconomic status and are first-generation college students, this scholarship provides a one-time $2,500 award or a multi-year $20,000 award. Applicants must have a minimum 2.7 GPA and be actively involved in community service.
Central California Asian Pacific Women Scholarships
The scholarships financially assists Asian and/or Pacific Islander (API) women pursuing higher education from Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, or Tulare County. First-generation students are judged on criteria that include academic achievement, leadership qualities, contribution to the API community, and ethnic diversity.
For Students With a Dream of College Education
Receiving a successful higher education is three parts drive, intelligence, and character and two parts funding and planning.
CollegeFinance.com can help you with the latter, providing the resources you need to get the most out of your investment in school. With the right data, you can minimize your borrowing costs and receive the most value from your college years.