Scholarships & Financial Aid for LGBTQ Students

LearnHowToBecome Team
Staff Writer
Updated October 7, 2020 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Students wondering how they can afford the rising costs of higher education often benefit from scholarships. Scholarships provide learners with free money, and many scholarships only extend awards to specific types of students, including LGBTQ+ students. There are plenty of scholarships for LGBTQ+ students, though applicants may not know where to find them.

More so than other types of students, LGBTQ+ learners may require financial aid to attend school. Many LGBTQ+ students in higher education come from financially difficult backgrounds, and LGBTQ+ youth have a 120% higher risk for homelessness. The LGBTQ+ community continues to be underrepresented, and students may experience difficult circumstances and challenges that other learners do not.

Fortunately, LGBTQ+ students can secure funding to help cover the cost of their degrees. Through financial aid and scholarships, LGBTQ+ students can afford their education while maintaining sound financial footing.

Thousands of students win scholarships each year. Several of these scholarships only extend awards to LGBTQ+ students, particularly those who come from financially challenging backgrounds. LGBTQ+ scholarships often set no requirements for major, level of study, or school.

Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship Award

Who Can Apply: LGBTQ+ students who demonstrate an interest in journalism may apply. Applicants submit five relevant work samples in print, video, audio, or photography and must also maintain a 3.2 GPA during the academic year after they win the award.
Amount: Up to $5,000

League Foundation LGBTQ Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Self-identified LGBTQ+ members currently graduating high school can apply for the League Foundation LGBTQ+ Scholarships. Applicants submit two personal essays and two letters of recommendation.
Amount: Varies

Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award

Who Can Apply: Created in 2000, the Colin Higgins Youth Courage Awards help LGBTQ+ students who experienced hardship cover higher education costs. Winners also receive an all-expense paid trip to New York or Los Angeles for Pride weekend.
Amount: $10,000

Pride Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Available to LGBTQ+ students across the Northwest, the Pride Foundation Scholarships helps applicants who demonstrate financial need. The foundation selects multiple winners each year.
Amount: Varies

NOGLSTP Scholarships

Who Can Apply: NOGLSTP offers multiple scholarships of varying award sizes to LGBTQ+ students interested in STEM. Applicants must intend to pursue or currently pursue an undergraduate or graduate STEM degree.
Amount: Varies

How To Apply for Scholarships

Step 1
Make Note of All Deadlines
Each scholarship sets its own deadline, and some even extend awards multiple times per year. However, scholarships typically align with college application or acceptance deadlines, and most awards select winners during the second half of the year. When applying to schools, make note of each deadline for scholarships. LGBTQ+ students who currently study at a higher education institution should begin their scholarship research immediately, paying special attention to deadlines.
Step 2
Choose Which LGBTQ Scholarships to Pursue
While all LGBTQ scholarships only select winners who identify as LGBTQ+, many awards also set additional criteria. Some scholarship criteria include level of study, major, GPA, financial need, current location, and community involvement.
Also, pay attention to award sizes. While all scholarships help, larger awards provide much more to students in serious financial need. However, large awards also attract more applicants. Determine which awards you might qualify for and focus your time and energy on those applications.
Step 3
Gather Necessary Information and Documents
Most scholarships require several pieces of information from applicants including college or university, major, financial need, GPA, and community involvement. Aside from this information, some scholarships may require a personal essay, letters of recommendation, or a portfolio.
Gather high school and/or undergraduate GPA information, FAFSA information, and a professional resume. Preparing these materials ahead of time can help LGBTQ+ students complete scholarship applications faster.
Step 4
Request Letters of Recommendation
If any scholarships you plan on applying for require letters of recommendation, request these immediately. Scholarships usually require letters of recommendation from teachers, employers, or community leaders. These letters demonstrate an LGBTQ student's character, so curtailing a letter for a specific award could help an applicant win a scholarship.
However, letters of recommendation take time to write. You should request a letter of recommendation as soon as possible to guarantee timely delivery before the scholarship application deadline.
Step 5
Start Formulating Essays
Around the same time you request letters of recommendation, you should also begin formulating essays. Scholarships that require essays usually announce a prompt well ahead of the application deadline, giving applicants plenty of time to complete the essay. However, putting off the essay could lead to rushed or sloppy work, potentially disqualifying the LGBTQ+ applicant.
After completing the essay, ask several people to review and edit the piece. A strong essay could determine the winner of the scholarship, so spend ample time preparing these.
Step 6
After gathering the materials and information required for each scholarship, LGBTQ+ students should send in their applications. Those who take note of application deadlines sooner might even send their applications in early, giving them time to focus on the next scholarship.
Similar to searching for scholarships, plan on completing and applying for scholarships in a specific order. Large scholarships or those that LGBTQ+ students feel confident they can win should take precedence over other award applications.

Scholarships provide one of the best funding methods for LGBTQ+ students, but there are other forms of college funding as well. Many LGBTQ+ students use popular funding methods like grants and student loans, but lesser-known methods could prove even more useful.

Before researching additional college funding options, LGBTQ+ learners should apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA provides special financial aid resources to students who demonstrate financial need. Use this valuable resource to learn more about the different types of financial aid available to learners, including LGBTQ+ students.


Similar to internships, fellowships provide learners with money in return for work. A fellowship falls under a specific field, so LGBTQ+ students can gain relevant professional experience while also securing additional funding. Most fellowships only accept graduate students or those close to completing an undergraduate program.


Grants come from the federal government, state governments, private organizations, or colleges. Grants often come as free money, meaning LGBTQ+ students do not repay grants after graduating. Students often secure grants automatically after applying to college, though some grants accept applicants.


After covering some of the costs associated with a degree, learners often use student loans to pay remaining tuition costs, fees, living costs, or miscellaneous expenses. LGBTQ+ students must repay loans after graduating, though specific loan terms vary depending on who issues the loan. Students secure loans through the government and private organizations.

Work Study Programs

Colleges and universities receive state and federal government funding to pay students for various work-study positions. Work study essentially creates jobs on college campuses to be filled by students. Depending on the program, students can use the money they earn any way they choose. Students must demonstrate financial need to qualify for work-study programs.

Employer Sponsored

Employers want to develop existing talent and sometimes fund employee education in a relevant field to do so. Employer sponsored funding can cover the entire cost of an education, though LGBTQ+ students must continue working while earning their degree part time. Learners do not repay this funding to their employer after graduating.

How should transgender students disclose their gender?

Transgender individuals should answer the question about gender (male or female) based on their gender at birth. This question is used to trigger the question about Selective Service registration. U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are male age 18-25 are required to register with Selective Service to be eligible for U.S. federal student aid. Selective Service bases gender on the assigned gender at birth.

How does adoption status affect the financial aid process for students with same-sex parents?

A student with same-sex parents usually has one biological or adoptive parent. Sometimes the other same-sex parent adopts the child, sometimes not. If the biological or adoptive parent dies, and the surviving parent never adopted the student, the surviving parent is treated the same as a surviving stepparent, since the surviving parent's status as a parent was through his or her relationship to the biological or adoptive parent, not through his or her relationship to the student. The practical implication is that a surviving stepparent is not considered a parent for federal student aid purposes (e.g., not eligible to borrow from the Federal Parent PLUS loan program), so the student becomes independent if there is no known surviving biological or adoptive parent.

Let's talk about LGBTQ+ students who might be estranged from their parents -- how do they handle financial aid if they can't get certain information?

LGBTQ+ students who are estranged from their families should contact the financial aid office at the college to ask for a professional judgment review. Usually, the college financial aid office will perform a dependency override to treat an otherwise dependent student as independent, eliminating the need to get information from the student's parents. A dependency override is common when there is a hostile home environment or where it is dangerous for the student to have contact with his or her parents. The financial aid office may want letters from people who are familiar with the student's situation, such as teachers, guidance counselors, police, social workers, clergy, etc.

Financial Aid Hurdles Facing LGBTQ Students & Families

Going through the financial aid process can be difficult for anyone. However, LGBTQ students and their families may be faced with a unique set of challenges when applying for financial assistance.

Stating gender on application forms

Many financial aid application forms, including the FAFSA®, require students to list their gender. For many LGBTQ students, this is easier said than done. In addition to instigating insensitivity to gender issues, listing gender can require students to ignore their own gender identity, which is an unfair situation for any student.

Submitting necessary documentation

In order to apply for financial aid, most students need to submit their parent's financial statements, including tax returns and bank documents. Parents who are unsupportive or hostile toward their LGBTQ child might refuse to cooperate. This can be particularly challenging for students under 24 years old, who are required to file the FAFSA® as dependents.

Acquiring parental signatures

If a student needs a loan, some institutions might require the parents as a cosigner. If the student doesn't have a strong relationship with an understanding, caring parent, asking them to become a cosigner might be impossible.

Data mismatch

In situations where LGBTQ students are able to comfortably state their sex as “male” or “female,” data inconsistencies could arise and significantly delay the processing of financial aid, particularly if the student has changed names or sex on government issued identification cards or documents. Students who can't afford or don't have parental permission to officially change their names or sex might be forced to out themselves when applying for financial aid, discouraging them from applying at all.

Straightforward discrimination

When applying for non-governmental financial aid, the FAFSA® is often still required as a part of the overall application. Even if it isn't, LGBTQ students may be put in situations where they either have to hide their LGBTQ status or be true to themselves and risk a prejudiced scholarship or financial aid committee that may hold their gender status or sexual orientation against them.

LGBTQ+ Financial Aid Resources

Campus Pride

Campus Pride is a leading resource for LGBTQ students and promoter of LGBTQ student rights on college campuses. Campus Pride's website also includes a comprehensive LGBTQ scholarship database.

Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals

This organization has the simple goal of promoting LGBTQ equality in higher education.


Fastweb is a large and comprehensive source of scholarships and advice for students.

Federal Student Aid

This is the primary source for information about federal student aid. It is run by the U.S. Department of Education.

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Campaign is a major national organization for advancing LGBTQ civil rights.

National LGBTQ Task Force

Their mission is to achieve equality for LGBTQ individuals. The organization also offers internships and fellowships to students.


PFLAG is a nationwide organization of family members and allies of LGBTQ individuals that works to improve civil rights. LGBTQ individuals and their families can obtain support from any of the PFLAG local chapters.

Point Foundation

Point Foundation encourages LGBTQ students to achieve their educational goals. One of the ways the Point Foundation does this is to provide scholarships and mentoring opportunities.

Pride Foundation

The Pride Foundation works to advance LGBTQ individuals' rights, especially through financial assistance, including grants and scholarships.


This is an online source that facilitates the college experience with scholarships (including LGBTQ scholarships), internships and career and academic information.

Financial Aid Office

This office will provide information on financial aid options available to students along with general assistance when applying for financial aid.

LGBTQ+ Resource Center

Depending on the school, there will be specifically tailored LGBTQ+ resources available, such as counseling. The center also includes issues that students should be aware of and information about the LGBTQ student population and school policies.

LGBTQ+ Student Group

This student group serves as an invaluable resource, answering questions or pointing LGBTQ+ students in the direction of assistance. The group also provides social support to LGBTQ+ students.

Become Team
Staff Writer
Contributing Writer is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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