Scholarships for Minority Students
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Meet the Expert
Jessica Johnson is a Howard University graduate and recipient of over $200,000 in scholarships. As the Founder and Executive Director of The Scholarship, she has spent the last decade serving as a family scholarship consultant and travels throughout the country conducting scholarship workshops for organizations such as The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), The U.S. Department of Labor, The New York Urban League, and the National Center of Philanthropy.
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.
Scholarships for Minority Students
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.
How to Stand Out When Applying for a Minority Scholarship
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:
Academics and test scores matter
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.
Manage your online presence
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.
Provide references plenty of notice
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.
Join a minority advocacy group or get involved in other leadership activities
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.
Write an essay demonstrating the unique challenges of being a minority
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.
Additional Financial Aid Opportunities for Minority Students
There is financial aid out there, but before sorting through it all, students should first understand the categories of aid and who provides it. That way, they can think strategically about what financial aid to target. Federal aid comes in multiple forms, including loans, grants, perks for veterans and tax benefits. States provide their own forms of financial aid. Beyond that, students can look to direct aid from the college they’ll be attending, employer assistance, and private sources. Visit our financial aid primer to find additional funding options
3 Reasons Every Minority Student Should Apply for Financial Aid
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.
Sources: Inside Higher Ed; FinAid.org; U.S. Department of Education
Minority Financial Aid
- 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.
- 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.
Helpful Resources for Minority Students Seeking Financial Aid
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.
American Bar AssociationThe premier association for lawyers in the United States, the ABA also supports internal groups, including one for minority law students.
American Indian College FundThe American Indian College Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and other forms of academic support.
Fastweb!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.
Federal Student AidAdministered by the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid is the headquarters for everything relating to financial aid.
Hispanic Education AssociationThe Hispanic Education Association’s mission is to facilitate career growth and academic achievement for Hispanics.
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational FundMALDEF, 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.
Minority Student Achievement NetworkMSAN 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.
National Asian Pacific American Bar AssociationNAPABA represents various legal professionals and students, from lawyers to judges to law school educators.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored PeopleThe NAACP strives for equality for everyone, in all areas of society, with education being one of its primary issues.
U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of CommerceUSPAACC 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.Financial Aid Offices
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 Student Organizations
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.
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