This guide provides a list of notable college scholarships available for African American and Black students.
Paying for higher education can be the most challenging and stressful part of pursuing a degree. Thankfully, financial aid programs and scholarships can help relieve the financial burden of an education and allow students to focus on their studies.
Financial aid opportunities can also help reduce racial inequalities and disparities in higher education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Black students make up less than 15% of the college student body. Scholarships that support Black students can increase the diversity of college and university campuses and the workforce.
The following page highlights some of the best scholarship programs available to African American students and provides details on how learners can apply.
Challenges for African American and Black Students
Black and African American learners typically face greater challenges when pursuing an education than their white peers. Here are just some of the most significant obstacles these students face.
According to financial aid data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Black students require financial aid at higher rates than any other race, with over 95% of Black students receiving some form of support in 2016. This disparity points to a lack of resources and available financial support within Black communities.
According to NCES enrollment data, only 11% of Black students were not first-generation students in 2012. First-generation students tend to earn lower college readiness scores, receive less familial support, and acheive lower success rates overall.
According to a national survey, students of color feel less prepared for college and more stressed during their studies than white students. This can lead to lower success and retention rates.
According to NCES school crime and safety data, 43% of the reported hate crimes on higher education campuses across the country in 2017 were related to race. In addition to facing outward prejudice and racism, Black students are less represented in classroom instruction: Only 6% of higher education teachers are Black.
According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Black students graduate from their degrees 42% of the time — 20% lower than the graduation rate for white students. This likely results from a combination of the racial climate, ill-equipped retention programs, school locations, financial factors, and lack of representation on campus.
Across some of the country's top schools, Black students represent just 6% of first-year students — a number that has remained consistent since 1980. Underrepresentation at colleges and universities leads to larger disparities in the workforce and more financial challenges for Black students.
The Importance of Grants and Scholarships
For many students, scholarships and grants provide the financial support necessary to attend college or university. According to Sallie Mae, 58% of families utilize this type of funding, making it one of the largest sources of tuition payments. Of the total amount paid in tuition by the average American family, 25% comes from scholarships and grants.
While all forms of financial aid play a role, many Americans struggle with accumulating student debt and high-interest payments on loans. Scholarships and grants can help reduce debt more than most sources because the funds typically do not require repayment. These awards help reduce financial stress after graduation.
In addition to financial aid, scholarships and grants can also help students access employment opportunities. Merit awards in particular may help recipients stand out from the competition. Some awards even offer winners access to internships or careers within an organization in their chosen industry.
Finding and Applying to Scholarships
Black and African American students can pursue many different scholarships. These awards may focus on academic achievements or financial need. Some recognize students from a specific state, county, city, or school district, while others support learners attending specific colleges or studying certain disciplines.
Plenty of scholarships and grants are specifically for Black or African American students, along with more general scholarships for minority applicants. Some of these awards also emphasize certain characteristics, such as first-generation college student status or community involvement. To maximize award potential, candidates should consider all categories, starting with the broad and working toward the very specific.
While most scholarships provide funding to help cover tuition costs, some awards enable recipients to use funds more broadly. For example, financial aid can help with housing, transportation, textbooks, and course materials, giving students more financial flexibility. It's a good idea to apply to as many scholarships as possible to keep your options open.
Where To Look
While students should leave no stone unturned when looking for scholarships, some learners struggle to find available scholarships. Sites like Scholarships.com, Scholarship Points, and Student Scholarships offer access to large databases that students can filter through to find the most applicable awards.
For scholarships and grants specific for Black and African American students, applicants can explore databases like Black Scholarships or industry-focused organizations, such as the Black Business and Professional Association and the National Association of Black Accountants.
Black and African American applicants should also explore location- and school-based awards. For students applying to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), HBCU Connect and HBCU Lifestyle also offer searchable databases. Most schools have their own internal scholarship databases, along with links to reputable external sites. State, city, and district government websites often provide scholarships for minority students as well.
How To Apply
Applications take time and effort. Thankfully, completing a FAFSA makes it easier to qualify for a large number of scholarships and grants. Many schools also automatically consider their students for financial awards. In general, applicants should begin their scholarship searches as early as possible, compiling a list of awards and paying close attention to their deadlines and required materials.
While requirements vary, candidates typically need school transcripts, resumes, community involvement examples, personal essays, and recommendation letters, so it's best to assemble these things ahead of time. These will help streamline the general application process, allowing applicants to spend more time pursing awards that have unique essay questions and requirements.
African American and Black Scholarships
The following list highlights some of the best scholarships available for Black and African American students. It offers a helpful starting point, but students should still perform their own research to confirm details and find awards that match their unique achievements and circumstances.
|About||The ACS Scholars Program aims to improve diversity in the sciences by recognizing minority undergraduates pursuing chemistry-related degrees and careers. Each applicant must belong to a minority group, possess a minimum 3.0 GPA, and already major in or plan to major in chemistry or a related field.|
|About||Duke Energy established the African American Network of the Carolinas Scholarship Fund in 1996 to improve diversity in the North and South Carolina workforces. Candidates must be pursuing a STEM or business-related field as a graduating senior with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must plan to attend North or South Carolina colleges or universities.|
|About||This scholarship aims to improve diversity in the travel, tourism, and transportation industries. Applicants must major in travel and tourism-related fields at the undergraduate or graduate levels, demonstrate diversity, and submit a 500-word essay.|
|About||The AMS Minority Scholarships promote diversity in the sciences and advance the American Meteorological Society's core values. Each candidate must belong to a minority group as a first-year college student with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Winners may renew the award for a second year if they maintain high academic performance.|
|About||Striving to support and relieve financial stress for aspiring Black scholars, the BLM² Scholarship Foundation offers several awards for Illinois residents. Black or African American graduating high school seniors with minimum 3.0 GPAs may apply.|
|About||Brown and Caldwell's scholarships recognize promising Black, minority, women, and Native American students to improve diversity in engineering. Award requirements vary, but a candidate typically needs to pursue an engineering degree and possess a minimum 3.0 GPA.|
|About||EMPOWER stands for Encourage Minority Participation in Occupations with Emphasis on Rehabilitation. These scholarships recognize promising students pursuing medical or rehabilitation education and careers. Each candidate must be ethnically diverse and academically proficient, demonstrating a passion for rehabilitation.|
|About||The George Washington Carver Scholarship recognizes high-achieving students from minority groups who are entering their first year of college. For eligibility, applicants must graduate in the top 25% of their class, possess a minimum GPA of 3.5, and post minimum scores of 24 on the ACT and 1100 on the SAT.|
|About||Named after former Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, this scholar program awards financial support to high-achieving African American students. Winners also receive employment opportunities and leadership experiences. Each candidate must be Black or African American, have strong grades, demonstrate financial need, and participate in the community.|
|About||The Jackie Robinson Foundation offers several awards, mentoring opportunities, and support services to promising students who demonstrate financial need. The foundation provides a four-year grant to an eligible minority student pursuing a bachelor's degree. Candidates must also demonstrate community involvement.|
|Amount||*Up to $30,000 over 4 years|
|About||Aiming to improve diversity in the technical sciences and engineering fields, the Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship Program recognizes promising minority students pursuing STEM-related degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. An applicant must possess a minimum GPA of 3.0.|
Scholarships for First-Generation Students
|About||The Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship Program supports minority students in pursuit of legal degrees and careers. Each candidate must attend a participating school, possess suitable academic achievements, and demonstrate community involvement. Winners must agree to a three-year commitment and can renew the award annually.|
|About||Available to Colorado Christian University students, the World Changers Scholarship recognizes high-achieving applicants who demonstrate financial need. For eligibility, candidates must receive an invitation to participate, possess a minimum 3.5 GPA, and not have accepted any other scholarships. Winners who attend the two-day event may, however, receive an additional scholarship afterward.|
|About||Supporting first-generation college and university students, the Fontana Transport Inc. Scholars Program rewards promising undergraduate applicants. For eligibility, candidates must pursue one of the listed four-year programs, including some from STEM fields and transportation management, and possess a minimum 3.5 GPA.|
|About||The Thurgood Marshall College Fund recognizes high-achieving, first-generation high school seniors entering their first year at one of the participating HBCUs. Each applicant must possess a minimum 2.5 GPA, demonstrate financial need, and submit an essay. They must also receive a recommendation from a guidance counselor.|
Scholarships for Women
|About||Named after Dr. Arnita Young, the founder of the National Hook-Up of Black Women, this scholarship rewards African-American students who show academic promise. Applicants must possess strong grades, demonstrate community involvement within the Black community, and exhibit a strong passion for education.|
|About||The Dr. Barbara Odom-Wesley Spirit of Achievement Scholarship recognizes promising African American female high school seniors in Tarrant County and Grand Prairie, Texas. Applicants must possess a minimum 2.5 GPA, provide a letter of recommendation, and submit a 1000-word essay.|
|About||Named after the founder of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, Dr. Gussie M. Ware, this scholarship recognizes high-achieving Black women. Each candidate must be graduating high school or receiving a GED certificate and possess a minimum 2.5 GPA. They also need to reside in Winnebago County, Illinois.|
|About||The National Hook-Up of Black Women introduced the Dr. Wyneta A. Frazier "Sister to Sister" Scholarship to support mature African American women in their educational and professional pursuits. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation and high school transcripts.|
|About||Established to support minority women or gender non-conforming students, the Illustrating Awesomeness Scholarship recognizes high-achieving undergraduate learners. Each candidate must submit a 500-word essay or a five-minute video that addresses how they plan to change the world.|
|About||The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs provides a variety of scholarships for promising African American women students. Applicants must be graduating high school seniors with minimum 3.0 GPAs. They also need to submit a letter of recommendation and a 300-word essay on a specific topic.|
|About||The American Meteorological Society established the AMS Minority Scholarships to improve the diversity of programs and careers in the sciences. Each applicant must maintain a 3.0 GPA, study a science program, and plan to pursue a career in hydrologic or oceanic sciences.|
|About||Aiming to support Black employees and encourage more Black students to pursue careers in technology, the Blacks at Microsoft Scholarship provides funding for promising students pursuing degrees in STEM or select business programs. They also need a minimum 3.3 GPA and must demonstrate a passion for technology.|
|About||Established in 2007 to increase diversity in the software industry, the Entertainment Software Association supports women and minority students in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) fields. To qualify, applicants must attend an undergraduate program full time and have a minimum 2.75 GPA.|
|About||The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering introduced the Scholars Block Grant Program to support underrepresented minorities. Applicants must attend computer science or engineering programs at NACME partner schools or be graduating high school seniors. They also need a minimum 3.0 GPA.|
|About||The National Society of Black Engineers offers scholarships for Black students pursuing an education and careers in engineering. The requirements vary by award, but many of the scholarships require applicants to possess minimum GPAs between 2.0 and 3.5. Some awards accept both undergraduate and graduate candidates.|
|About||The Sachs Foundation offers scholarships for promising Black students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees. Each candidate must have maintained Colorado residence for at least five years. They should also be high school seniors with a minimum GPA of 3.0.|
|About||The National Society of High School Scholars introduced its scholarship program to support promising students pursuing degrees and careers in STEAM. Applicants need to demonstrate academic proficiency and submit both a resume and a 500-word essay on why they chose the STEAM field.|
|About||To promote diversity in education and careers in the atmospheric and related sciences, SOARS offers a bridge program for minority undergraduate students moving into graduate programs. Applicants can come from many different educational disciplines. Winners gain access to research, networking, and employment opportunities.|
African American and Black Grants
Grants, which typically award candidates based on financial need, differ from scholarships, which often depend on merit-based requirements. Like scholarships, grants very rarely require repayment. Learners can find most grants in the same databases where scholarships are found. Students can also access some of the most significant and widely available grants directly through FAFSA.
Three of the largest grant categories include:
- Federal Pell Grants: Federal Pell Grants provide funding for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. Applicants must complete the FAFSA for consideration, with awards based on financial need, enrollment status, and family contribution ability.
- State Grants: State grants come from state government funding. These aid programs typically aim to entice promising students to stay and study in their home states. To qualify, applicants typically need to demonstrate financial need and state residency. They may also need to attend specific state schools.
- Private Grants: Private grants can come from many different sources, including local organizations or industry associations. These grants typically reward students who demonstrate financial need and plan to pursue a specific discipline. Candidates may also need to commit to employment or internships with the organization.
Though students should complete their own research to find the grants that meet their unique circumstances, the following list explores some of the most popular grants for Black and African American students.
|About||UNCF Grant Programs provide Black students with both grants and scholarships. Requirements vary for each award, but candidates may come from all educational levels and disciplines. Most awards require applicants to demonstrate need for financial aid.|
|About||Students attending HBCUs can find scholarships and grant opportunities through the Hundred-Seven website. Requirements vary considerably by award, but most require candidates to establish financial need. They may also need to demonstrate community involvement and a passion for a specific field.|
|About||Established by the State of Wisconsin's Higher Educational Aids Board, the Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant supports minority students pursuing a degree in a Wisconsin school. Candidates must maintain enrollment in an undergraduate degree beyond their first year. They also need to reside in Wisconsin and have a high school diploma or a GED certificate.|
Frequently Asked Questions
According to enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 37% of Black students attended college or university in 2018 — an increase of 6% since 2000.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are accredited schools established prior to 1964 that focus on the education of Black students, as per the Higher Education Act of 1965.
According to NCES enrollment data, 9% of Black students attended HBCUs in 2010, falling from a high of 18% in 1976.
Black students can access major scholarship boards and resource pages online, search through state and school scholarship databases, and look for opportunities through local or industry-related organizations.
Learn more, do more.
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