Minority students have long encountered hurdles to attending college. And while enrollment rates are on the rise, minority students still often face an uphill battle covering tuition and associated fees. That’s why scholarships and other financial assistance are vitally important in helping minority students achieve their college and career dreams. This guide aims to make the process of finding and securing this aid a little easier, from its detailed scholarship list to invaluable advice from a financial aid expert.
Sorting through scholarships can be exhausting, so we’re here to help with a list of popular scholarships available to minority students. As you look through the following scholarships, remember that some organizations offer more scholarships than the ones listed here, so make sure to use this as a launching pad to discovering other awards.
Despite the fact that there are so many scholarships available, there are also a lot of students vying for those awards. This may be especially true for minority students, who might turn to scholarships to avoid taking out too much in student loans. Keep these tips in mind to help craft the best possible scholarship application and land on the award committee’s shortlist:
Make sure your GPA and standardized test scores are the best they can be. Get tutoring if possible and take on tougher classes, such as AP courses. Having a high class rank and being in an elite SAT or ACT percentile is one of the best ways to stand out in a sea of applicants.
In today’s world, social media is everywhere, and the scholarship committee might look you up online. Make sure your social media pages represent you in a way you would be proud to share with anyone.
Remember that the best teachers and community members are often very busy people. Choose your references wisely, and give them ample time to finish the letters. Try to find a person who can address your status as a minority student and explain how that contributes to why you should win the scholarship.
Having extracurricular activities helps show that you are a well-rounded student who has a life outside of class. Choose activities that you truly enjoy and believe in. For example, if you support the advancement of a minority group in a given area, join a club or organization which actively supports it.
If you’re going to write about any hardships you’ve faced as a result of being a minority, give real-life examples and experiences in your essay. You might have experienced challenges that required planning or perseverance to get through, and a scholarship committee could be impressed by your ability to overcome them.
It’s normal to worry about paying for college, and the financial aid process can be stressful for students who think they won’t get enough money to go to school. However, there are several compelling reasons why every minority student should apply for financial aid:
When it comes to financial aid in general, minority students receive a proportional amount of financial aid compared to white students. However, minority students receive a larger share of need-based financial aid.
Even if a minority student won’t be awarded any merit-based scholarships and will only be provided federal student loans, those loans are better than no financial aid award at all — and in some cases, loan forgiveness might be an option. For instance, aspiring teachers who agree to serve in underprivileged or urban areas are often eligible for full or partial loan forgiveness.
Even students who might see hurdles to financial aid – such as those who have wealthy parents or have underwhelming grades – should apply anyway. Remember that a great deal of financial aid is determined by need, not grades, while some scholarships look only at merit and pay no attention to need. The old saying that “you never know” is appropriate here, so prospective students should apply when in doubt.
Oftentimes, minority families are so focused on students getting into college that they fail to properly plan how to financially keep them there. The biggest challenge for many minority students is the reality that they approach the financial aid process as a semester-by-semester experience, scrambling to identify funds to close the gaps in their financial aid packages within unrealistic timelines. Over the last few years, increased competition for limited scholarship dollars has literally created financial aid emergencies for students who have failed to consider eligibility enhancers such as leadership and civic engagement that would make them stand out to scholarship committees.
To overcome these obstacles, students should focus on two things:
1. Creating a four- to five-year college funding plan that would anticipate shifts in their financial aid packages, such as tuition increases and unexpected family financial circumstances.
2. Identifying ways to use leadership, civic engagement and entrepreneurial projects to increase their eligibility for scholarships. Students who are able to properly "brand" themselves as community leaders, overcomers or creators have a much higher likelihood of securing private scholarship dollars.
At The Scholarship Academy, we teach our students to "think like a scholarship committee." Instead of applying for a large number of available scholarships, rely on the 3/4 rule. If there are four main criteria for a scholarship — GPA, community service, evidence of commitment to a particular field, and financial need, for instance — a student must feel confident that they will score high in at least three of the four categories to justify submitting an application. This process helps students narrow down their potential scholarship list to the top 15 to 20 "good-fit" resources that are connected to their scholarship profiles.
It is worth noting that seven out of 10 minority students cite finances as the primary barrier to staying in school. Perhaps the best thing about the financial aid process is that it is ongoing. There are tons of scholarship opportunities for current college students from alumni associations, donor-based awards and student organizations. The most important thing to remember is to never give up!
It is never too early to seriously research financial aid options. The following list provides additional resources for students to keep the financial aid process on track and make it as successful as possible.
The premier association for lawyers in the United States, the ABA also supports internal groups, including one for minority law students.
The American Indian College Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and other forms of academic support.
One of the most comprehensive compilations of scholarships for students, including those of minority descent, Fastweb! is a portal that matches students to scholarships that are appropriate for them.
Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid is the headquarters for everything relating to financial aid.
The Hispanic Education Association’s mission is to facilitate career growth and academic achievement for Hispanics.
MALDEF, a civil rights organization that leverages the legal system to improve the political and socio-economic standing of Latinos in the United States, also provides scholarships to Latino students.
MSAN is an alliance of school districts dedicated to eliminating educational disparities in schools. As part of its mission, it maintains a comprehensive list of scholarships for minority students.
NAPABA represents various legal professionals and students, from lawyers to judges to law school educators.
The NAACP strives for equality for everyone, in all areas of society, with education being one of its primary issues.
USPAACC promotes the interests of Asian-American businesses and professional organizations, while also nurturing future Asian leadership by facilitating college scholarships and internships.
Academic advisors exist to help students learn. They can provide advice and guide students to additional assistance, if needed.
From facilitating the financial aid application process to answering questions to awarding scholarships, a college’s financial aid office should be the primary on-campus resource for students.
Minority groups, including minority-themed student organizations, will often have tailored information about financial aid options specific to particular minority students. At some schools, minority student organizations may even sponsor scholarships.