Scholarships for Minority College Students

ASO Staff Writers
Updated May 14, 2024
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Paying for college can be tough for anyone. For certain segments of the population, however, a number of unique opportunities are available to help lower the overall cost of a degree and they’re often reserved specifically for minority groups. This guide offers several scholarships for minorities and provides expert information on how to find, apply for, and win similar financial awards to help you achieve your higher education goals.

10 Scholarships for Minority Students

ACS Scholars Program cursor-click

  • Amount: $5,000 per year
  • Deadline: March 1, 2019

African American, American Indian and Hispanic high school students or college freshmen, sophomores, or juniors completing a chemical sciences or chemical technology degree can apply to this scholarship. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA in chemistry or the sciences to qualify. Scholarships can be renewed and are typically awarded to approximately 350 students per year.

Actuarial Foundation Diversity Scholarship cursor-click

  • Amount: $1,000-4,000 per year
  • Deadline: TBD for 2019

The Actuarial Foundation offers this award to students who identify as Black/African American, Hispanic, Native North American, or Pacific Islander. Applicants must be full-time undergraduates at an accredited U.S. institution. Competitive students have a 3.0 GPA or higher with a 28 on the ACT or a 620 SAT math score. Applicants should also want to pursue a career in an actuarial profession.

Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship cursor-click

  • Amount: $5,000
  • Deadline: March 31, 2019

This award is for minority students who are enrolled in a full-time healthcare management master’s program, including those in MHA, MPH, MBA in Healthcare Administration or comparable programs. Applicants should be entering their last year of the program and must be U.S. citizens with demonstrated financial need.

American Bar Association Minority Scholarship cursor-click

  • Amount: $15,000
  • Deadline: TBD for 2019

Up to twenty incoming law students receive $5,000 annually over three years of law school to encourage and support diversity in the profession. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and have a 2.5 GPA or higher. Applications must include a personal statement, list of community service activities, and resume with educational background.

American Indian College Fund Full Circle Scholarship cursor-click

  • Amount: TBD
  • Deadline: May 31, 2019

All undergraduate and graduate students of American Indian or Alaska native heritage who have official tribal affiliation may apply. Students must be enrolled full-time in an accredited nonprofit school, including tribal colleges and universities. Applicants must have a 2.0 GPA or higher.

American Library Association Spectrum Scholarship cursor-click

  • Amount: $5,000
  • Deadline: March 2020

The American Library Association offers this award to minority graduate students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Applicants must be enrolled at an ALA-accredited college or university as a full- or part-time learner. Students must take at least two classes per semester to receive the scholarship funds.

BLM Scholarship Foundation cursor-click

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: July 3, 2019

Applicants for the BLM Scholarship Foundation program must be minority students who have an outstanding high school record and have plans to attend a four-year college. Students should be Illinois residents with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Award winners must enroll during the fall semester of the year they receive the award.

Hispanic Dental Association Foundation Scholarship cursor-click

  • Amount: $15,000
  • Deadline: July 2019

This scholarship is for current members of the Hispanic Dental Association who have been accepted to or are enrolled in an accredited dental program. Applicants should have a 3.0 GPA or higher and show interest in improving oral health within Hispanic communities. Applicants must also include a letter of recommendation.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund cursor-click

  • Amount: $500-5,000
  • Deadline: February 2020

The HSF scholarship fund is open to graduate students as well as high school seniors, undergraduates, and community college students transferring to four-year universities. Applicants must be of Hispanic heritage. All majors may apply but STEM students receive preference.

NBPA Alphonso Deal Scholarship Award cursor-click

  • Amount: $500
  • Deadline: May 17, 2019

Offered by the National Black Police Association, high school seniors may apply to this scholarship to help cover the cost of their upcoming college education. Students must be planning on majoring in criminal justice or a related field. To be considered, applicants must submit a 500-word essay, senior photo, letter of acceptance to a college or university, high school transcript, and a letter of recommendation.

Scholarship Resources for Specific Student Groups

Scholarship money primarily comes from three sources. Minority students can take advantage of financial assistance from one or all of these sources, which are outlined below:

Federal and State Government

The federal government offers four types of grants: Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. To apply, students must complete a FAFSA. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), during the 2015-16 school year, college students at four-year institutions received an average of $4,765 in federal grants and took out $7,858 in student loans.Individual state governments also offer scholarship awards that are funded by state resources. These scholarships are offered in a range of categories and are usually open to college students with in-state residency. The NCES reports that during the 2015-16 academic year, students received an average of $3,436 in state/local grants.

Colleges and Universities

These scholarships come directly from higher education institutions and are typically reserved for its own students unless the school partners with a third party and welcomes outside applicants. The NCES reports that students received an average of $10,551 in institutional grants during the 2015-16 school year. Unlike federal and state grants, the amount of institutional awards has steadily increased since at least the 2000-1 academic year.

Private Organizations

Many private organizations also offer scholarship awards to minority students. According to, private organizations distribute approximately $3.3 billion in student scholarships each school year. Examples of such organizations include:

  • Minority advocacy groups
  • EmployersSmall businesses
  • Private companies
  • Major corporations
  • Nonprofit groups
  • Charitable organizations
  • Professional associations
  • Religious organizations
  • FoundationsCommunities

Types of Scholarships for Minorities

Tons of scholarship opportunities are available to minority students. Some, however, are harder to find than others. To help ensure you locate all potential sources, try searching for awards by categories that are relevant to your interests and background. As a starting point, below are some of the most common types of scholarships for minority students:

Tons of scholarship opportunities are available to minority students. Some, however, are harder to find than others. To help ensure you locate all potential sources, try searching for awards by categories that are relevant to your interests and background. As a starting point, below are some of the most common types of scholarships for minority students:

Athletic Scholarships

These awards are typically offered by colleges and universities or private foundations. They are competitive and the number of available awards usually depends on the sport. Only about one percent of high school student-athletes receive full or partial athletic scholarships for college. These scholarships also tend to have strict requirements for student-athletes to continue receiving funds, such as a minimum GPA, minimum course load, and adherence to classroom attendance guidelines, to name a few examples.


Merit-based Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are awards that are granted based on a student’s academic performance, leadership roles, ACT or SAT scores, community service, and any other extracurricular activities that make them an above-and-beyond student. As a result, the scholarship review committee uses applicants’ academic performance as one of the primary distinguishing factors when selecting final candidates and award winners. Merit-based scholarships can came from governments, colleges and universities, and private organizations.


Need-based Scholarships

Need-based awards are scholarships that are awarded based on a student’s financial need, which is calculated by subtracting a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the cost of education. These scholarships can come from the federal government in the form of a Pell Grant. Pell Grants are usually awarded only to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need and are working towards an undergraduate degree. These awards can also come from private organizations and colleges and universities themselves. In many cases, students only need to demonstrate significant financial need to be considered for a need-based award — criteria such as GPA may not always be evaluated.


Unique Scholarships

Some scholarships and grants are reserved for degree seeks with unique hobbies, special interests, and/or unique creative pursuits. There are many awards offered by private organizations, for example, that support learners with original ideas and research interests. In fact, some of the applications simply ask for students to submit a project proposal outlining how and why they’d carry out a project given the proper funding, access to resources, and education. Scholarships are sometimes available to students with interest in baking pastries, working in agriculture, creative writing, or rock climbing. Conduct some serious online searches for any of your notable interests or hobbies. You may be surprised at what you find.


Subject- or Career-specific Scholarships

Many awards outside of the need-based category are created to support students who want a college education to pursue a specific career. Academic societies and career-specific organizations are most likely to offer these types of awards. Most of the time, applicants must have a strong academic record in addition to a documented interest in the field or subject. For example, if you are interested in pursuing a career in photography or music, scholarship committees will expect that your resume reflect that interest over time through coursework or extracurricular activities. You may even be asked to submit samples of your work or a project portfolio for consideration.


Employer Scholarships

Some major companies and businesses offer scholarships to their employees or employees and their families. Even the federal government offers some funding opportunities for government employees and their children. These opportunities are often merit-based and require applicants to be active members in their professional communities. Some companies, such as JetBlue for example, give employees funding retroactively for courses they’ve already completed. Some employers are even actively involved in helping their employees locate classes and finish their degrees in a timely manner.


Community Service Scholarships

Students have many reasons to participate in community service activities. In addition to helping others and serving their communities, prospective college students may also be able to receive scholarship money based on their volunteering and service record. There may be additional considerations for these awards, such as your GPA and career interests. Regardless, there are hundreds of community service awards at the local, regional, and national levels through private organizations and foundations.


Q&A: How to Find and Apply to Scholarships

Although scholarships can be hard to find and are often competitive, they are still well worth the time and effort. To help with the research and application process, Dr. Deniece Dortch, creator of the African American Doctoral Scholars Initiative and a visiting assistant professor at George Washington University, offers valuable insight by answering the following frequently asked questions.

question-mark-circleWhere and how do I find scholarships?

Finding scholarships can be a very overwhelming and time-consuming process. That said, if you are persistent, you should be able to find scholarships that fit your interests, goals, and your identity. The first thing that you should do is create a list of relevant terms to search for, similar to how you would if you were researching a class paper or project. For example, I am an African American woman who is in the field of education. My search terms might be: “grant funding for African American women”, “scholarships African American women”, “scholarships for women”, “college scholarships”, “university scholarships”, “government scholarships”, and “scholarships for high school seniors”. Then conduct an internet search and see what organizations you can find using those terms.

Another way of looking for scholarships is by perusing items within your own household. Many companies provide college and university scholarships if you go on their websites. Are you a soda fan? Did you know that Coca-Cola gives away 150 scholarships each year? Did you just eat McDonalds for lunch? They are giving away scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. Also try, Taco Bell, Burger King, and KFC. Do you use a Dell computer? Did you just drink a bottle water? If you live in Maine, Poland Spring gives away nearly $15,000 to high school students. These are just a few examples.

Also, consider applying for local scholarships. There are insurance companies, restaurants, law firms, and other local businesses that might have college scholarships available. A good way to look up local businesses in your area is through the closest chamber of commerce. The chamber of commerce will have a list of registered businesses in one place.

Lastly, I would suggest the following websites: UNCF-United Negro College Fund, American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Fast Web, and The information on these sites may give you additional or alternate scholarship options and resources to support your academic goals.

Make sure you create a table or spreadsheet with information for each potential donor, the application deadline, and the award amount so that you can keep track of everything you find.

question-mark-circleHow do I apply for scholarships?

Each application will provide you with instructions for how to fill out the application and meet the requirements. Usually there is a submission of grades, personal essay, and sometimes recommendation letters.

question-mark-circleWhen do I apply?

You want to make sure that you apply for scholarships as early as possible and definitely before the deadline. It is best to begin looking at least one year in advance to allow yourself some time to get your materials together. Usually, for financial aid purposes, all scholarship information is communicated to institutions by March. That said, apply for as many scholarships as possible during the fall semester of your senior year of high school. Some scholarship deadlines are as early as October.

question-mark-circleHow do I get my scholarship money?

The application form usually indicates how the money will be transferred. Sometimes, the funds are transferred directly to the school, but are credited to you. Other times, the money is given to you in the form of a check (made out to the institution) for you to deliver to the institution. Finally, sometimes, you actually don’t receive the money at all, but you are reimbursed for items purchased (i.e., books, supplies). All of this will depend on the scholarship award benefactor.

question-mark-circleWhat can I use my scholarship money for?

You scholarship money can be used for all sorts of things, but primarily it will depend on what the donor (benefactor, grantor) says that the money is for. For example, if you go to the website for the American Association of United Women, there are different types of grants/scholarships available for different women (e.g. women who are conducting research full-time, women who want to advance their careers or gain a certificate, women who are underrepresented in a professional field, women who are pursuing graduate degrees, individuals or organizations who are interested in promoting equity for women and girls). They tell you how the money can be spent and what it can be spent on. For them, you can spend the money on rent or food, or supplies related to your research. That said, tuition scholarships are used for tuition. Book scholarships are used for books. If there is left over scholarship money, and sometimes that happens, usually it will be transferred to the student in the form of a refund and at that point it is left up to the student’s discretion. Check with the benefactor and your financial aid office if anything is unclear. The last thing that you want is a financial aid nightmare where you have to return money.

6 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Winning a Scholarship

As a minority student, you may be competing against a smaller applicant pool per each scholarship, which has its pros and cons. Following the tips below can help increase your chances of standing out and winning a scholarship.

  1. 1

    Do your research

    You should apply for as many scholarships as you can, but make sure you give yourself enough time to give a 100 percent effort on every single one. You’ll need to examine all of the application requirements and eligibility rules before you spend any time working on the documents you’ll submit. Initially, give it a close look to ensure it makes sense for you to apply in the first place and to make sure you understand all the requirements so you cover them all when actually applying.

  2. 2

    Search for local scholarships

    Sure, winning those $10,000-20,000 awards to support your education would be a massive help. But what often goes overlooked are local scholarships through small organizations and local businesses or foundations, especially those that serve specific minority groups. It can take some time to locate them, but these smaller dollar awards can be more attainable and will add up quickly.

  3. 3

    Use personal connection and anecdotes in your application

    It’s important to apply for scholarships that you connect with on a personal level. Whether it’s a career-specific award or based on a lifelong hobby you enjoy, your application will benefit from this real life connection.

  4. 4

    Complete and submit the FAFSA, no matter what

    Even if you think you don’t need federal financial aid, submit a FAFSA anyway. Every year, the U.S. Department of Education gives billions to students and you must submit a FAFSA to be considered. A large amount of that money is distributed on a rolling basis, so the sooner you submit your FAFSA, the more likely you will obtain free money for college.

  5. 5

    Don’t ignore scholarships with labor-intensive applications

    Although the most common advice is to apply to as many scholarships as possible, doing so is time-consuming, which means some students may be tempted to skip over scholarship opportunities that have labor-intensive applications. This is a big mistake. If you are a strong candidate and have planned ahead to submit your application well before the deadlines, it is worth the extra time and effort to meet a longer list of application requirements.

  6. 6

    Do not pay to apply

    Scholarships and grants should be about obtaining money for your education, not spending money for consideration. If you come across a scholarship where you are asked to pay an application fee, forget it and move on. In many cases, these are scams that take advantage of eager students.

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