With more minority students attending college, their access to scholarships and financial aid has become increasingly important.
Grants and scholarships for minority students make it easier and more affordable to access a quality education. They lessen the overall financial burden and ensure that learners can complete the credentials they need for professional success, which is especially important for minorities who face barriers and structural inequalities in higher education.
This guide explores popular scholarships and grants available to minority degree-seekers. The U.S. government officially recognizes minorities based on ethnicity, but this page also includes minority demographics beyond racial groups. It also provides answers to common questions, highlights challenges faced by minorities, and lists some prominent minority scholarships.
Minority Student Challenges
Pursuing a college education is difficult for anyone, but minorities face unique obstacles that make the learning experience especially challenging. These include accessibility issues, lack of representation, and economic difficulties. Obtaining relevant and applicable minority scholarships helps aspiring degree-seekers face and overcome these complex challenges.
Recent figures indicate that the average total cost of a college degree in the U.S. was $42,681 in 2017-2018. Most learners cannot afford these costs without some form of financial aid — especially minorities, who face income inequality and wage disparities. With the ongoing student debt crisis disproportionately affecting these populations, grants and scholarships for minority students are crucial to building equity in education.
Financial aid opportunities are not the only resources necessary for academic success. Student support services like academic advising, tutoring, and faculty interaction also have a significant impact on student success. A study conducted by the American Center for Progress revealed that public institutions spend much less money on resources for minorities than for other students — about $1,000 less per student.
A recent Inside Higher Ed report found that minority learners often struggle to maintain a sense of belonging at their colleges, especially at major four-year institutions. Feeling out of place on campus affects emotional well-being, mental health, academic success, and intellectual achievement, and a diminished sense of belonging may disproportionately affect minorities.
The Importance of Grants and Scholarships
Obtaining financial aid can be the difference between attending college or not. Grants and scholarships, which do not require repayment, are the most economical resources for making up a financial gap. Degree-seekers can receive them based on need or merit and then can use those funds to finance tuition, fees, and other education expenses.
The alternative to financial aid is student loans, which must be repaid — with often very high interest rates — and present high financial risk. The amount of student debt carried by Americans has more than doubled over the last decade, rising to a whopping total of $1.5 trillion. At the same time, $3 billion in scholarship and grant funding remain unclaimed.
This situation presents an opportunity that learners can use to their advantage. The funding is out there: You just need to know where to look for it and how to apply. Minority scholarships and grants like those below can help you access a quality education and graduate debt-free.
Types of Minority Scholarships
According to the New York Times, African American learners are more underrepresented on college campuses today than they were 35 years ago. Affirmative action measures and diversity efforts help, but they often neglect the rising costs of education. Acceptance to a college doesn't help a student who can't afford to attend. Scholarships for minority students in this group help close the gap by providing financial opportunity and access.
Degree-seekers in these demographics demonstrate high levels of college enrollment and educational attainment, outperforming most other groups across the board. Minority scholarships for learners who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander can help ensure that these academic achievements translate into future professional success.
The American Council on Education reporte that the Hispanic and Latino/a population has seen the largest growth rate among racial groups nationwide, increasing by 7% between 1997 and 2017. But when it comes to higher education, these groups are still underrepresented. Minority scholarships for Hispanic learners can help to rectify this problem.
College enrollment rates for most minority demographics tend to increase over time due to population growth. Unfortunately, Native American degree-seekers face an opposite trend: According to NCES, enrollment rates for Native Americans have remained static between 2000 and 2016. However, scholarships for minorities in this demographic can offer opportunities to increase those numbers.
LGBTQ+ learners are more visible now than ever, but precise numbers about their presence in academia are relatively new. The Postsecondary National Policy Institute reported that in 2016, approximately 10% of surveyed students identified as LGBTQ+. Like other groups, these learners face unique challenges in higher education. Minority scholarships specific to the LGBTQ+ population can help increase opportunity and visibility for this population.
According to NCES, 19% of college learners identified as students with disabilities in 2019; this statistic includes all races and genders. Students with disabilities often face accessibility issues in higher education, which can even mean extra expenses. Scholarships specific to students with disabilities help offset the costs associated with higher education and other expenses. They can also help connect learners with any accessibility resources they might need.
It may seem odd to list women as minorities, considering that they account for over half of the U.S. population and 57% of college students in 2017. However, women in academia face barriers to high-paying degrees and a lack of financial support when compared with their male counterparts. Two-thirds of national student loan debt is held by women, and women are underrepresented in STEM fields like computer science. Scholarships specifically for women can help reduce student loan debt and support women in pursuing STEM fields.
Finding And Applying To Scholarships
Where To Look
When searching for scholarships, the Department of Labor's scholarship database, which offers search filters to help you narrow down options. Scholarship Owl and Tuition Funding Source also offer up-to-date directories for the latest scholarships for minorities. Check out our page on how to locate scholarships for more information.
Searchable directories and databases like these compile nationally available scholarships, which tend to see more applicants than local scholarships do and thus be fairly competitive. Supplementing these broader searches with more targeted research based on demographics you belong to will help increase your odds of receiving a scholarship.
To start, narrow your search based on discipline, major, or field of study. Most of the sites listed above offer filters to help with this. For a more local approach, contact department administrators and financial aid offices within the schools where you plan to apply or attend. They often know about less-publicized minority scholarships designed specifically for students at their schools.
How To Apply
Locating viable minority scholarships is only the first step. You still need to submit a polished, compelling application package that represents your achievements and potential. Each scholarship will have different specific requirements, but most follow the same basic procedures.
First, applicants will need to submit resumes, official academic transcripts, and standardized test scores. Most scholarships for minorities also ask for at least 1-2 letters of recommendation — usually from a teacher or community member — and a short personal statement outlining your values or career goals.
For best results, apply early and often. Be sure to contact your references well in advance and start drafting your personal statements early so that you're prepared when deadlines roll around. Applying to more minority scholarships than you think you need takes more effort, but it also increases your chances of landing enough aid to cover all of your expenses. Likewise, applying early shows initiative and dedication to your education and gives you time to fix any problems that arise.
This section lists popular scholarships for minority students, including their mission statements, deadlines, and application requirements. Application criteria and award outcomes for financial aid opportunities frequently change, so candidates should conduct their own research to ensure they have the most recent information before applying to any of these.
|About||Sponsored by the Poise Foundation in partnership with the NAACP, this award supports high school seniors and full-time undergraduate learners. Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens, at least 25 years old, and current members of the NAACP. They should also be currently enrolled at an accredited college or university in the U.S. and must demonstrate clear financial need based on federal poverty guidelines.|
|About||This scholarship assists African American, Native American, and Latino/a learners studying computer science, computer engineering, mathematics, business, marketing, or human resources. Candidates must be graduates of U.S. high schools with at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA in the second or third year of their studies at an accredited college or university.|
|About||This organization offers three merit-based minority scholarships — with special emphasis on the Latino/a population — that help learners from underserved communities receive equal access to higher education and professional opportunity. Scholarship awards are decided based on grades and academic performance, GPA standing, and standardized test scores. LULAC national scholarship fund is a national fund with additional financing from corporate partners.|
|About||Offered by the Institute for International Education of Students, this minority scholarship provides financial support for learners interested in studying abroad. Applicants must come from groups traditionally underrepresented in study abroad programs. To apply, students much complete an online application and provide a 500-word personal statement describing their background, creative aptitudes, and academic aspirations. Additional requirements include verification of financial need.|
|Deadline||May and November|
|About||Since 1970, this award has provided financial aid for persons of color with demonstrated scholastic achievement, leadership development, and community engagement. Interested applicants must hold a 3.0 cumulative GPA with full-time study at a four-year college or university. They must also provide two letters of recommendation, official academic transcripts, and a written essay that discusses their education and long-term career goals.|
|About||The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides scholarships for minority students with clear leadership potential and demonstrated financial need. Eligibility criteria include U.S. citizenship, dedication to community service, competitive SAT/ACT scores, and intent to attend an accredited four-year college or university. Applicants must complete the online form and respond to four essay questions.|
Special Interest Scholarships
|About||Sponsored by the American Library Association, this scholarship supports U.S. residents who identify as members of a recognized minority group and plan to pursue a career in library science. Eligible applicants must be currently enrolled in an accredited program with a minimum part-time course load. They must also complete an online application and provide a personal statement, official transcripts, and three professional references.|
|Award||*$5,000, with an additional $1,500 for professional development|
|About||This award is designated for minority learners interested in actuarial professions. It recognizes service and academic achievement. Candidates need a 3.0 cumulative GPA and SAT/ACT scores that meet the threshold requirement specified by the selection committee. They must also verify full-time enrollment at an accredited institution in the U.S., submit a current resume, and complete a personal statement questionnaire.|
|About||The American Bus Association offers scholarships for minorities who are pursuing work in the transportation, travel, and tourism industries. Eligible applicants must attend an accredited school with a major related to travel, tourism, or hospitality management. They must demonstrate their diversity to the selection committee and submit a 500-word essay that discusses their academic achievements.|
|About||This minority scholarship supports learners with declared majors in environmental science or a related engineering subfield, such as civil, chemical, mechanical, or electrical engineering. Applicants need a competitive GPA and must submit a resume, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a 250-word essay outlining a significant experience that influenced their career goals.|
|About||The American Chemical Society offers renewable scholarships to underrepresented minorities majoring in chemistry or a closely related field. Application requirements include a 3.0 cumulative GPA, full-time college enrollment, and official academic transcripts.
Eligible applicants must also supply two letters of recommendation and a copy of the student aid report generated by their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Enrollees at two- and four-year institutions may apply.
|About||These awards provide financial aid for minority learners in the sciences. Candidates need a competitive GPA and must intend to pursue a career in atmospheric, oceanic, or hydrologic sciences. Applicants must also be rising first-year students with recent SAT and ACT scores. They must also submit high school transcripts and one letter of recommendation from a previous teacher or guidance counselor.|
|About||This minority scholarship is funded by the Architects Foundation and designed to support minority students planning to work in architecture-related fields. Eligible degree-seekers must be entering or continuing study in programs recognized by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Required application materials include a professional resume, two letters of recommendation, a portfolio of 3-5 creative works, and a 1,200-word essay that discusses the applicant's background, motivation, and intent to study.|
|About||Founded in memory of Julie Schoo, a former director of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, this non-renewable award supports minority learners who bring diversity to American journalism. Prospective recipients must be high school seniors planning to pursue professional journalistic work. Candidates must submit at least five writing samples, three letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, and a brief written statement.|
|About||Microsoft offers tuition and conference scholarships for minorities pursuing education in technical fields like science, technology, engineering, and math. Eligible applicants must be enrolled full time at four-year institutions in North America and demonstrate a record of clear academic excellence with at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA. The selection committee prioritizes applications that indicate exceptional leadership, community engagement, and advocacy.|
Scholarships for First-Generation Students
|About||These minority scholarships help first-generation learners make their college dreams a reality. Eligible recipients must plan to attend four-year institutions in the U.S. and major in transportation, management, math, science, engineering, architecture, environmental design, Spanish, or psychology. Applicants must hold a 3.5 cumulative GPA and may optionally submit a letter of recommendation.|
|About||Supported by Haines Law Firm, this award provides financial assistance to first-generation learners. Candidates must be enrolled in an accredited community college or four-year university within the U.S. and maintain a 3.0 GPA for the duration of the award. Applicants must submit a resume, academic transcripts, and a 750-1,000-word statement describing their professional aspirations.|
|About||The Connecticut Trial Law Firm offers a one-time scholarship for first-generation college students in the U.S. Eligible learners must be in good academic standing at an accredited institution with a competitive GPA. Candidates must submit an application and a 750-word essay that discusses how local and national governments can improve the public education system.|
Scholarships for Minority Women
|About||These scholarships help women from all minority groups achieve academic excellence and finish their degrees. Eligible applicants must be first-year enrollees at U.S. colleges or university programs. To apply, candidates must complete several short answer questions, craft two personal essays, and submit two letters of recommendation, with at least one from an academic source. Selected candidates must also participate in phone interviews.|
|About||This award is open to minority women interested in studying engineering or environmental studies. Eligibility criteria include U.S. citizenship, full-time enrollment at an accredited institution, a 3.0 GPA, and a major in engineering or environmental science. Applicants must provide a recent resume, two letters of recommendation, and a 250-word written statement discussing their motivations and intent for study.|
|About||This award, sponsored by Next Day Animations, offers financial aid for minority women currently enrolled in four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Applicants must complete the online application, provide verification of their academic standing, and submit either a 500-word essay or a five minute video discussing their identity and how they plan to change the world following graduation.|
|About||UNCF offers this award to support African American women pursuing computer science and other computing-related industries. Eligible applicants must be first-year students or sophomores enrolled full time in relevant, accredited programs. They must provide proof of a 2.5 cumulative GPA and experience with career and leadership development. Additional materials may also be required.|
|About||Sponsored by Soroptimist, an international nonprofit and volunteer organization, these tiered scholarships are open to minority women in any field of study. Eligible applicants must reside within the organization's service area and maintain enrollment in recognized undergraduate or vocational training programs. They must also demonstrate clear financial need and supply a 750-word personal statement and contact information for at least two professional references.|
Scholarships for Graduate Students
|About||First-year minority learners pursuing MBAs in the U.S. can receive this award from Goldman Sachs. Recipients must complete all application requirements and agree to serve as summer associates with the company. The opportunity can lead to full-time employment, which sometimes includes a signing bonus.|
|About||The Government Finance Officers Association offers this scholarship for outstanding minority degree-seekers intending to work in state or local government finance. Eligible applicants must be studying public administration, accounting, finance, political science, economics, or business administration. Candidates must provide one letter of recommendation from an individual who can assess their commitment to the public sector.|
|About||Funded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, this award provides aid for minority degree-seekers studying finance or accounting. Qualified candidates must be currently enrolled in an accredited program and intend to obtain CPA licensure following graduation. Each applicant completes the online form and provides materials stipulated by the selection committee.|
|About||This scholarship supports late-stage minority graduate students pursuing healthcare management or a closely related field. Offered by the American College of Healthcare Executives, the award helps defray costs like tuition, fees, and other education expenses. Applicants must provide a current resume, official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a short personal statement discussing their career goals.|
|About||The American Political Science Association offers scholarships for minorities planning to engage in relevant teaching or research after graduation. Qualified learners must be U.S. citizens or DACA recipients actively pursuing graduate degrees in political science or related disciplines. Application materials include recent GRE scores, official transcripts, and letters of recommendation. The association awards scholarships twice per year.|
|About||Minority learners interested in law school can receive these scholarships from the American Bar Association. Candidates must be entering law school during the year of application with a 2.5 cumulative GPA, and they must sign a release form and supply official academic transcripts. Additional application materials include a personal written statement and 2-4 recommendations from individuals who can assess potential for success.|
|About||Sponsored by the National Association of School Psychologists, these minority-specific scholarships support learners planning to pursue professional roles in school psychology. Qualified applicants must be U.S. citizens and NASP members in good standing currently enrolled in an accredited program. They must also provide academic and demographic information, references, a current resume, and a professional goals statement.|
Grants For Minorities
Grants are similar to scholarships in that they can provide financial aid tied to your individual circumstances. The main difference between scholarships and grants is eligibility: Most minority scholarships are both need- and merit-based, while grants tend to be exclusively need-based.
Like scholarships, grants provide funding for learners who could not otherwise pursue higher education. They come in three major forms, and most of them require applicants to complete the FAFSA. The three types of grants are listed below.
- Federal Pell Grants: The government awards these grants to undergraduate learners who with clear financial need. Recipients can apply these grants toward tuition-related expenses throughout the duration of their studies. These require degree-seekers to complete a FAFSA to determine eligibility.
- State Grants: Most states offer their own higher education grants to supplement federal aid for low-income students. Recipients can apply these funds toward in-state tuition expenses. Exact amounts and eligibility vary, but generally speaking, if you qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, you probably also qualify for state-level aid.
- Private Grants: Nonprofit organizations, higher education foundations, and other related agencies can also offer grants. These typically require some sort of service or research component and are specific to certain disciplines or fields of study.
Minority learners enrolled in undergraduate programs can pursue the following grants. As with scholarships, interested degree-seekers should conduct additional research to determined their personal eligibility based on their unique situation and school of choice.
|About||Reserved for learners attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), these grants provide funding for students planning study abroad experiences through the Institute for the International Education of Students. Applicants must attend a qualifying institution and submit a one-page statement about their experience upon return. They must also hold a valid U.S. passport and maintain a competitive GPA.|
|About||These grants supplement Pell Grants and other federal financial aid opportunities. Open to learners from recognized minority populations, these grants help low-income undergraduates finance their education and achieve their professional goals. Applicants must file a FAFSA to determine eligibility. From there, recipients must re-file each academic year to remain eligible.|
|About||These grants support women in higher education who are pursuing study abroad programs in South Africa, Latin America, Canada, and the U.S. Each candidate must be at least 25 years old and currently enrolled in an accredited institution. Application materials include a government-issued ID and two reference letters. Prospective recipients must also submit documents that discuss their background and financial need.|
Frequently Asked Questions
The number of college-bound minorities in the United States has shown marked growth in recent years. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that since 1976, Native American enrollment has more than doubled, while Latino/a and Asian American/Pacific Islander enrollment increased sixfold. African American enrollment rates rose by 4% in the same period. However, overall enrollment for white and Asian Americans still outpaces enrollment for Black, Native, or Latina/o Americans.
There are a variety of sources of funding for minority students. Individual schools and programs often offer tuition discounts, while nonprofits and government agencies extend scholarships tailored to specific minorities. Filling out the FAFSA is a good way to get started researching scholarship opportunities.
According to a recent Washington Post report, 72% of all undergraduate students receive financial aid. The report also observed a recent decrease in the number of degree-seekers who rely on student loans to finance their education.
Some organizations award minority scholarships for specific population groups, while others award them based on merit or area of study. Amounts vary by organization, with some offering only a few hundred dollars and others covering full tuition and expenses. Some scholarships are even renewable for the entirety of a recipient's degree.
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