Scholarships for
Black College Students
Maximizing Financial Aid to Help Fund Your Education

Meet the Experts

Pam Andrews CEO of The Scholarship Shark Read bio
Shannon Evans College Recruiting Coach and owner of The Scholar Coach Read bio
Carl J. Thomas Associate Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Minority Services at Berea College Read bio

Written by…

Kenya McCullum Read bio

With the rising cost of college, all students are concerned about how they will pay for their higher education. For African-American students who often come from underprivileged families, this concern is even more real because in many cases, financial aid can mean the difference between being able to go to college and not having that opportunity at all. This guide provides vital information for these prospective college students. Continue reading to find out how African-American students can find and win scholarships, and the different funding sources out there.

Advice for Finding & Landing Financial Aid for Black Students

Financial aid can go a long way toward helping black students achieve their college dreams without as much student loan debt. But they have to find and win the scholarships first. In this section, we get advice from the following experts on how black students can find and land the financial aid and scholarships they need to pay for their education.

Pam Andrews, CEO of The Scholarship Shark
Shannon Evans, College Recruiting Coach and owner of The Scholar Coach
Carl J. Thomas, Associate Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Minority Services at Berea College

Finding Financial Aid & Scholarships

Black fraternities and sororities

“There are nine Black Greek letter organizations that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council. These organizations are referred to as “The Divine Nine.” Most of the Divine Nine offer scholarships for African-American high school students.”

Pam Andrews

Churches

“Many black churches provide scholarships for their members at either the local church level or at the denominational level.”

Pam Andrews

Organizations

“Depending on where the student lives, there are organizations that are looking for students specifically from underserved populations, and award scholarships and grants to students who apply. The key is finding those organizations during your junior year of high school (Rotary, Civitan, Kiwanis Clubs, as well as local chapters of groups like the ACLU and UNCF) and then finding out what are the deadlines and requirements for applications and then following through.”

Shannon Evans

Colleges

“While searching for colleges, ask them what scholarships and grants are available to students and especially for minority students. Many colleges have admissions counselors that will be assigned to students based on geographic region, and will be well-versed in specific types of scholarships and grants available based on geography and based on minority populations.”

Shannon Evans

Family, friends, and professionals

“Inquire about scholarships others may have received while they were in college. These sources may also have knowledge about community programs that may provide scholarships or financial support—churches, PTA, Optimist Club.”

Carl J. Thomas

College access programs

“There are numerous college access programs that provide assistance to first-generation students with great financial need. Students who plug into these programs receive support with ACT/SAT prep and help finding college scholarships and applying for local community scholarships. Community foundations, upward bound programs, the Urban League are all places to seek help finding scholarships.”

Carl J. Thomas

Landing Financial Aid & Scholarships

Tell a compelling story

“Carefully think through obstacles if asked in an essay prompt. African-American students have had to overcome many barriers, both social and economic, in their pursuit of a college education. When writing an essay on the hardships that you’ve had to overcome, highlight what you have learned or who you have become as a result of overcoming it.”

Pam Andrews

Prepare for interviews

“Know how to communicate in person because some scholarships require interviews. Students should know how to listen, so that they can think critically and quickly during a scholarship interview.”

Pam Andrews

Be disciplined

“Demonstrate self-discipline. Colleges and scholarship committees are looking for great, likeable kids.”

Shannon Evans

Build relationships in the community

“Cultivate a good rapport with your community leaders at school, church/mosque, organizations, etc. They will be the ones you ask for letters of recommendation!”

Shannon Evans

Raise GPA and test scores

“Raising your GPA and test scores will increase your chance of earning a merit scholarship. Take both the ACT and SAT to increase your chances of meeting requirements.”

Carl J. Thomas

Get to know college admissions counselors

“Find out who the college admissions counselor is for the area where you live. Call them and introduce yourself and let the counselor know how serious you are about attending the college. Ask for help in identifying scholarships.”

Carl J. Thomas

Financial Aid Opportunities for African-American Students

Armed with the tips from our experts on how to find and secure scholarships, students can apply with confidence to different funding opportunities that are available to them. This section contains information on several scholarships that African-American students can apply for.

Scholarships

  • Jackie Robinson Foundation: Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program
    • Amount:

      Up to $28,000 for four years

    • Deadline:

      Early February

    Available to African American high school seniors planning to attend an accredited four-year school. Applicants must participate in community service activities, get a minimum combined SAT score of 1,000, and demonstrate financial need.

  • National Merit Scholarship Corporation: The National Achievement Scholarship Program
    • Amount:

      $2,500

    • Deadline:

      Students are automatically considered for the award by taking the PSAT/NMSQT test by their junior year in high school.

    Awarded to African-American students who demonstrate high academic achievement. Scholarship winners are chosen by earning a high score on the PSAT/NMSQT.

  • Ron Brown Scholar Fund: Ron Brown Scholar Program
    • Amount:

      $10,000 per year

    • Deadline:

      Early January

    Scholarship is granted to high school seniors who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership potential. Applicants must participate in community service activities and prove financial need.

Grants and Fellowships

In addition to scholarships, students can also win grants and fellowships to help pay for their college education. This section outlines some of the grants and fellowships that are available to black students.

Grants are a form of financial aid that is completely based on student need. As a result, factors such as grades and extracurricular activities are not considered when students apply for them. Grant money can be used toward college tuition and fees, books, or other education-related expenses.

TYPES OF GRANTS:

  • Federal Pell GrantsThese grants are provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Students can be considered for Pell Grants by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Government Grants by StateIn some cases, students are able to secure grant money from their state. Generally, applicants must attend college in the state in order to receive the grant.
  • Private GrantsIn order to promote diversity in a specific field, some private companies or professional associations may offer grants to promising African-American students.

Fellowships not only allow students to pay for their education, they also give them the opportunity to get hands-on experience in their field. As a result, students who win fellowships may participate in activities such as research projects or community service work. Generally, fellowships are available to graduate students, although some organizations do provide this type of aid to those enrolled in undergraduate degree programs. The following are some examples of the types of fellowships that African-American students can receive.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, were given their designation by the Higher Education Act of 1965, which defined these schools as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.” These colleges and universities were created after the Civil War in order to meet the needs of black students who, up to that point, had very few opportunities to obtain a higher education. Classes were often conducted in church basements and old school houses until the Morrill Act of 1890—which required states to provide land-grants for colleges that cater to black students—allowed these schools to build their own campuses.

Although African-American students today have a myriad of choices when it comes to higher education, HBCUs are still significant in the black community. With over 100 HBCUs around the country to choose from, these schools give students the opportunity to learn among those who share their unique backgrounds and experiences.

Like students at other schools, those who enroll in HBCUs have the opportunity to get scholarships to help pay for their education. The following are some examples of these scholarships.

Additional Resources for African American Students

Students who are going through the college application process are extremely busy, and in some cases it may be difficult for them to find all of the scholarship opportunities that are out there. Below are some resources that can help African-American students find the funding they need to pay for their higher education.