Four years of college can easily cost $40,000 at a state school and $100,000 at a private institution, shutting many people out of the dream of a degree. This is a barrier to many students, including African Americans who are underrepresented at many colleges across the country.

Many organizations, colleges, associations and nonprofits offer scholarships and grants geared specifically for black students to help close this educational gap. Some cover the cost of a full college degree while others provide stipends to supplement expenses associated with higher learning. Some programs blend scholarships with internships and even fast tracks to jobs right after graduation. While requirements and eligibility vary depending on the type of scholarship or grant, the range of options opens up an even wider range of educational possibilities. Below, you will find information to help you get started on finding scholarships and understanding the application process.

Scholarships, Grants & Resources for Black Students

Scholarship Eligibility Award Deadline Where to Apply
George Washington Carver Scholarship Fund Geared for students who attend historically black colleges that major in business, math, science or technology. Typically up to $10,000 Spring View
Presidential Diversity Scholarships Open to first year and transfer students at Saint Lawrence University who show a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity. $32,000 or more Feb. 1 View
Claver Scholarship Open to African-American, Hispanic and Asian students entering Loyola University Maryland who show superior academic ability and achievement. Have to be a freshmen and have achieved a consistent A to A+ average while pursuing the most demanding curriculum offered at the school. Up to $26,000 Varies View
The Agnes Jones Jackson Scholarship Open to NAACP member under the age of 25 who is currently enrolled or accepted into an accredited college or university. Must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher and demonstrate financial need. $2,000 End of March View
Department of Defense SMART Scholarship Open to undergraduate and graduate students pursing a degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Recipient is guaranteed internship and job placement. Up to $38,000 Dec. 1 View
APPLE HBCU Scholars Program Open to students pursuing a degree in business, communications, computer science, technology, public relations or engineering. Applicants have to be in their second-to-last year of study and have a GPA of at least 3.30. Up to $25,000 Sept. View
David J. Stern Sports Scholarship Program Open to students enrolled in a historically black college or university who has a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants have to be pursuing a degree with an interest in sports. Up to $30,000 Dec. View
The Walmart Foundation First-Generation Scholarship Open to high school graduates who have a GPA of 2.5 or more and will be attending a historically black college or university. Applicant must be a first generation student. $62,000 Varies View
The 100 Black Men Scholarship Open to high school seniors and undergraduates enrolled in college who have a GPA of 2.5 or better. $1,000-$3,000 Feb. View
The Ralph Johnson Bunche Distinguished Graduate Award Open to incoming, full-time students attending Rutgers, who have a background of substantial educational or cultural disadvantage. $15,000 plus tuition remission. Varies View
Hallie Q. Brown Scholarship Open to active members of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club who graduated from high school with a C average or better. Applicants must need financial assistance and recommend by an active Club’s woman and endorsed by the member’s club and the club’s region. Varies March 31 View
The Tom Joyner Foundation Full Ride Scholarship5 Open to current high school seniors who have a GPA of 3.5 or better and a minimum SAT score of 2100 or ACT score of 30. Must demonstrate leadership skills. Full tuition Jan. 15 View
Foot Locker Foundation UNCF Scholarship Open to all undergraduates and those recently graduated from high school. Up to $5,000 Nov. View
Scholarship Eligibility Award Deadline Where to Apply
George Washington Carver Scholarship Fund Geared toward students who attend historically black colleges that major in business, math, science or technology. Typically up to $10,000 Spring View
NABA National Scholarship Open to undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled full-time in an accredited degree program focused in accounting, finance or business. $1,500-$10,000 Jan. 31 View
National Black MBA Association Scholarship Open to African American undergraduate students who are active members of the National Black MBA Association and have a GPA of 3.0 or better. Must demonstrate academic excellence and exceptional leadership potential. Up to $5,000 July View
ABA Diversity Scholarship Open to under-represented groups that are pursuing a degree related to transportation, travel or tourism. Must have a 3.0 GPA and completed at least their first year in college. $2,500 April View
William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fellowship For Minority Students Based on academic excellence and need is open to undergraduate and graduate students of color. The Hearst Fellow serves as an intern with the Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation (PSI) in Washington, DC. Compensation on hourly basis Nov. 20, March 11, July 17 View
Scholarship Eligibility Award Deadline Where to Apply
National Society of Black Engineers Scholarships The society offers a variety of scholarships ranging from $500 to $10,500. Applicants must be an active, paid member of NSBE. $500-$10,500 Fall View
Box Engineering Diversity Scholarship Open to female and minority students who are pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering and math. Applicants must be a current college sophomore or junior and be able to travel to Box headquarters in Los Altos, CA for the finalist weekend. $4,000-$20,000 Oct. 23 View
National Action Council For Minorities in Engineering STEM Scholarship Open to African Americans, American Indian or Latino high school graduating seniors who participated in an Academy of Engineering or pre-college or high school program focused on math, science and engineering. Must have a minimum GPA of 3.0, SAT score of 1650 and a math score of 550 or an ACT score of 24. $2,500 March View
Blacks at Microsoft Scholarship Open to outstanding high-school seniors who are interested in pursuing careers in technology. Must plan on attending a four-year college, have a GPA of 3.3 or better and require financial assistance to attend college. $5,000 March 1 View
Gates Millennium Scholars Open to minorities who have a GPA of 3.3 or higher and has demonstrated leadership abilities. Applicants must meet Federal Pell Grant criteria. Varies Jan. 13 View
The P.O. Pistilli Scholarship Open to minority high school seniors who have a 3.0 GPA or better and have demonstrated high achievements in math and science. Must have a strong desire to pursue a career in electrical engineering, computer engineering or computer science. $4,000 Spring View
United Parcel Service Scholarship Open to undergraduate students enrolled in an industrial engineering program. $4,000 Nov. 15 View
The Hubertus W.V. Willems Scholarship for Male Students Aimed at National Association for the Advancement of Colored People members, applicants must be a male majoring in engineering, chemistry, physics or mathematical sciences. Must have a GPA of 2.5 or better and demonstrate financial need. A 3.0 GPA is needed for graduate students. $3,000 $3,000 March 31 View
Scholarship Eligibility Award Deadline Where to Apply
The ComEd STEM Scholarship Open to candidates enrolled in one of the STEM fields at any accredited four-year institution. Up to $6,840 October View
Entertainment Software Association Foundation Scholarship Open to women and minority students pursuing degrees in computer and video game arts. Must be enrolled in a full-time undergraduate four-year program. A GPA of 2.75 or better is required. $2,000 May 29 View
Dell Corporate Scholars Program Open to minority students enrolled in a full-time accredited degree program. Area of focus must be engineering, accounting, financing, marketing, business, computers or technology. Must have a GPA of 3.0 or better. Up to $5,000 End of Oct. View
Microsoft Scholarship Program Open to underrepresented groups to pursue STEM fields of study. A larger majority of the scholarships go to female and minority students. Varies Jan. 31 View
Gates Millennium Scholars Open to minorities who have a GPA of 3.3 or higher and has demonstrated leadership abilities. Applicants must meet Federal Pell Grant criteria. Varies Jan. 13 View
The Generation Google Scholarship Open to high school seniors and enrolled college students who are pursuing a career in computer science, engineering or another technical fields. Have to be a minority and demonstrate a strong academic record. Up to $10,000 Dec. 1 View
Xerox Minority Scholarship Open to minority students who are pursuing a degree in chemistry, information management, computer science, physics or engineering. Must have a GPA of 3.0 or better and be enrolled in a full-time four year accredited program. $1,000-$10,000 Sept. 30 View
Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology Available for any African American U.S. citizen who is enrolled in an accredited undergraduate institution and earning a degree in a technical field. Must have strong academic achievement. Up to $2,000 June 15 View
Scholarship Eligibility Award Deadline Where to Apply
Minority Nurse Magazine Scholarship Have to be a minority in the nursing profession who is enrolled in the third or fourth year of an accredited BSN program. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA or better. $1,000-$3,000 May View
Kaiser Permanente Scholarship Open to Northern California nursing students who are in their junior or senior year in school. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 and demonstrate financial need. $2,000-$10,000 Jan. 13 View
The Johnson & Johnson/AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholarship Open to graduate nursing students from minority backgrounds who agree to teach in a school of nursing after graduation. May View
Justine E. Granner Memorial Scholarship Open to any ethnic minority student who is pursuing a degree in nursing at a school in Iowa. Must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. $1,000 March View
The Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson/Association of Black Cardiologists Scholarship Must be a first or second year minority student pursuing a medical degree and express an interest in cardiology. $10,000 March 4 View
Cathy L. Brock Memorial Scholarship Open to graduate students pursuing studies in health administration. Applications must be pursuing a degree in health services administration and finance. $1,000 Feb. 28 View
American Medical Association Minority Scholars Award Available to minority medical school students who are committed to removing healthcare disparities. Must demonstrate outstanding academic achievements, leadership skills and community service. $10,000 March 4 View
Scholarship Eligibility Award Deadline Where to Apply
Minority Teacher Education Scholarship Applicants must be a resident of Florida, be a minority and newly admitted into a teacher education program at any of Florida Fund for Minority Teacher’s participating universities and colleges. Applicants have to be a junior who earned 60 credit hours or an associates degrees. $4,000 July 1, Nov. 1 View
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Open to students who are pursuing teaching degrees and who agrees to work as a teacher for four years upon graduation in a high-needs area. Applicants have to maintain a GPA of 3.25 or better. $4,000 Varies View
Edwyna Wheadon Postgraduate Training Scholarship Fund Open to current educators who want to pursue a graduate level degree $500-$1,000 Jan. 31 View
Prospective Educator Scholarships Open to high school seniors who plan on majoring in education who are a good standing member of Educators Rising or is the child or grandchild of a Kappan in good standing. Varies View
The Tomorrow’s Teacher Scholarship Open to Kansas residents who wish to pursue a career in teaching and want to attend Kansas State University. Applicants must have a vision, common sense, basic understanding of business and a willingness to serve the community. Must have a GPA of 3.5 or better. $2,500 March 1 View

The Need for Scholarships: By the Numbers

50%

The percentage of Black students who graduated from college with more than $25,000 in student loan debt in 2014.

34%

The percentage of white students who graduated with similar levels of debt.

48%

the proportion of black college graduates in 2014 who are first generation graduates. That’s down from 77% in the 1970’s.

Source: Gallup Poll

Heritage with a Future: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)

Colleges specifically for African Americans were started in the nineteenth century to offer black students access to higher education in an era that largely blocked them from enrolling at existing schools. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defined a historically black college or university (HBCU) as any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964 and whose main mission is the education of black Americans. Now, more than 100 HBCUs in the U.S. are building on their mission, evolving to offer programs uniquely suited to the challenges and hopes of today’s African American students.,

College students of any race choose schools that offer what they want to study. Cost is a close second on the scale of decision factors. With those priorities in mind, there are compelling reasons to consider attending a historically black college or university. These schools offer a unique setting and cultural context for academic topics, social life and community service. For instance, professors and advisors at HBCUs often have had life experiences that make them empathetic to black students. HBCUs usually offer a richer array of African-American-oriented social groups, venues, events, programs, and community service and internship opportunities. And because of their unique status in American culture, HBCUs actually can be a better financial bet, as they can tap resources earmarked for black students and programs.

Alumni of HBCUs gain additional benefits as they enter the work world with rich and wide graduate networks. Every school has its alumni association, but HBCUs often offer multiple groups to keep graduates connected for a lifetime.

Scholarships, Grants and Resources Offered by Historically Black Schools and Universities (HBCUs)

Scholarship Eligibility Award Deadline Where to Apply
International Education of Students Abroad Historically Black Colleges and Universities Scholarship Open to students who are attending a HBCU school and are a member or associate member of the IES Abroad consortium. Most be attending an IES Abroad fall, spring academic year or calendar year program. $2,000 Varies View
George Washington Carver Scholarship Fund Geared toward students who attend historically black colleges that major in business, math, science or technology. Typically up to $10,000 Spring View
Thurgood Marshall College Fund Department of Defense SMART Scholarship Open to undergraduate and graduate students pursing a degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Recipient is guaranteed internship and job placement. Up to $38,000 Dec. 1 View
Thurgood Marshall College Fund David J. Stern Sports Scholarship Program Open to students who are enrolled in a historically black college or university who has a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants have to be pursuing a degree with an interest in sports. Up to $30,000 Dec. View
Thurgood Marshall College Fund Apple HBCU Scholars Program Open to students attending a HBCU school who is in the final year of study. Thirty students are selected as Apple scholars and get hands on experience at Apple. Must have a GPA of 3.30 or better. Up to $25,000 Nov. 30 View
The Tom Joyner Foundation Denny Launch Scholarship Available for students attending HBCUs who demonstrates efforts to combat hunger. $2,500 Dec. View
Thurgood Marshall College Fund Altria Scholarship Program Open to junior or senior students enrolled in a TMCF member school. Must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Applicants must major in account, business, computers, IT, finance, engineering or human resources. $3,100 Nov. View
Thurgood Marshall College Fund /The Walmart Foundation First-Generation Scholarship Open to graduating high school seniors who are planning on attending a HBCU school. Must have a GPA of 2.5 or better and be the first generation going to college. $6,200 View
Presidential Diversity Scholarships Open to first year and transfer students at Saint Lawrence University who show a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity. $32,000 or more Feb. 1 View
Thurgood Marshall College Fund Hershey Scholarship Open to undergraduate students who are attending a HBCU school. Must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must be pursuing a STEM degree, food science or finance and sales. Must be recommended by the school’s faculty or staff $6,200 Nov. View

Organizing Your Scholarship Options and Setting Your Priorities

The process of applying for scholarships, grants and programs can be daunting. The good news is there are many resources available to help. The bad news is that you have to sort out which ones are best for you, focusing on those that support your goals and setting aside those that are irrelevant.

Start by making a list of the scholarships, grants and programs that you qualify for, in terms of your own needs and your family’s resources.

Grab a calendar and mark the deadlines for each scholarship and grant. This will help you tackle first the opportunities that offer both the most money and that have the earliest deadlines.

It’s also a good idea to get all of the necessary documentation in order ahead of filling out the application. That means you are going to want to get your letters of recommendations, transcripts and cover letter in advance.

Writing a strong essay is crucial – and time-consuming. Consider drafting a couple of template essays that address common requests (for instance, one might focus on your personal growth while another might focus on your community service). Customize the appropriate template essay as needed for each application.

Finally, keep track of each application as you send it out, either via certified mail or online submission.

How a Scholarship Coach Got Her Own Scholarships

Rhea Rhea Watson

Rhea Watson, chief scholarship coach at Scholarship Solutions of Las Vegas, Nevada, turned her own student experience into a business. As a freshmen she was awarded one of the largest financial packages that her college, Morris Brown College, a historically black college and university in Atlanta, had ever offered. By the time she completed her education her scholarship awards surpassed $300,000. Watson says that her high grade point average (GPA) gave her a big edge: She recommends that students shoot for an A average and above average SAT and ACT scores.

“Being socially minded and committed is a great way to stand out and get noticed,” But Watson brought more to Morris Brown than great grades and top scores. Watson coupled that with participation in volunteer activities and community outreach, two things donors are looking for in their scholarship and grant recipients. she says, noting that students should try to apply for at least one scholarship per week. Craft a compelling essay by being honest about your journey, seeking to let the awards committee understand how you are growing as a person. “Convey the truth, honesty and purity.  Also, this is not the time to be shy.  If you have accomplished something great, talk about it.  If you have experienced a series of hardships talk about it.  If you have a disability describe it and your challenges with it,” she says.

How a Black Tech Innovator Snagged Awards for his Education

Martin Jeffrey Martin

Jeffrey Martin currently attends The Iron Yard coding school in Atlanta. He won the $4,000 O.C3 Scholarship to use toward the school’s tuition.

Martín, who is taking the Front-End Engineering course at the Atlanta campus of The Iron Yard, says that his unique background set him apart from his peers when applying for the scholarship. He started graduate work at The Wharton School, a top business management school, but then pivoted to take a position with Teach For America. Meanwhile, Martin founded honorCode, a start-up focused on increasing the access to coding knowledge in primary and secondary schools in the city. “Hopefully, they knew that their funds would be going to an amazing cause and also have a higher return on investment in the future,” says Martín of the support offered by The Iron Yard. “The partial scholarship that I received from them really relieved some of the financial burden to be in the program.”

When applying for the scholarship, Martín didn’t have one essay to tackle: he had three. He approached the essays with the mission of conveying why he was a great choice. “I honestly believe that my purpose in this world is to help open doors for those who aren’t given access to open them alone. Knowing that this is my purpose, this is what I conveyed in my essays. I am very thankful that they believed me,” he says.

So what advice does Martín have for other students trying to win scholarship money? He says to be genuine, take care of the community and be your best advocate. “It is my honest belief that people want to help other people. Only you know where you are trying to go.If you are being honest with yourself and your aspirations, when you talk and meet with other people, they will be more than willing to make an introduction to help you achieve your goals,” says Martín. 

If you are being honest with yourself and your aspirations, when you talk and meet with other people, they will be more than willing to make an introduction to help you achieve your goals

Minority Scholarships: Questions and Answers

Deshundra Walker

Deshundra Walker, a manager of student support programs at Thurgood Marshall College Fund, offers some tips to help minority students succeed at their scholarship applications.

How can college-bound maximize the amount of scholarships they receive?

Applicants can maximize the amount of scholarships they can receive by applying to as many scholarships in which they are eligible. A college education is an attainable goal and there are many avenues for funding that are available. They should avoid not applying because they think to themselves, “everyone is applying or I will never win.” Apply for those scholarships that match your criteria and it may increase the odds of their selection. Don’t sell yourself short. Apply!

If a requirement of the scholarship is to be African American, are there ways to stand out in how you answer the questions on the scholarship or grant application?

There are minority scholarships available. Applicants should seek out these scholarships and others to increase their chances of selection. They can stand out by being creative and completing the application in its entirety. Be sure to toot your own horn, but be honest – not too modest though.

What about the essay? What should applicants try to get across and are there ways to craft the essay that will get them noticed more?

In writing the essay, the applicant should make sure to carefully read and follow the instructions and take the essay seriously. It’s the one aspect in which they can sell themselves, to allow the reviewer to get to know them better and to present their best self. The applicant wants to get across their knowledge of the subject in which they are writing and to convince the provider that they are the candidate they are looking for. A strong essay may rescue the application from the reject pile. Ensure that the question is addressed, explained clearly and given solid support. Read, proofread and most definitely, spell check!! And have someone (a trusted teacher, coach or mentor) to critique as well.

How can applicants create a winning scholarship strategy?

An applicant can create a winning scholarship strategy by being organized. Keep records from ninth to twelth grade, tracking the organizations involved in, as well as extracurricular activities, awards and honors received, achievements, community service, internships, leadership positions, jobs and academic information. Practice writing essays. Research the organization you are applying too to learn the audience you will submit your application too.

What are the judges looking for in a black student applicant?

Judges look for academic excellence, demonstrated leadership, creativity, story told in a compelling way, success in high school, community service, extracurricular activities, good test scores. Reviewers judge on quality, originality and the merits of the application presented. Supporting diversity at the collegiate level is essential to ensuring a quality education and meeting the nation’s growing workforce demands.

What are some mistakes to avoid when searching and applying for scholarships?

Some mistakes applicants can avoid when searching and applying for scholarships are to make sure to adhere to deadline dates. Don’t procrastinate. Also, you should not have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship or pay someone to help you find scholarships for you. Scholarships help you financially and if you have to pay to apply, most likely, it is a scam. You should not provide any financial information, including your social security number on any application. The Federal Trade Commission has good information on scholarship scams. Applicants can locate information on scholarships on their own. Use legitimate websites such as tmcf.org, collegeboard.com, fastweb.com, and scholarships.com. You can visit your local library to see if they offer books that provide a list of scholarships. Other good sources would be the high school guidance counselors, foundations, federal agencies, parent’s employers, civic groups, community organizations and your chosen university.

What can students do to get a leg up on the competition and get the process going?

Start the process early. You can shine by getting things done early. Be persistent and stay positive. Search often. Make sure to have multiple copies of transcripts, reference letters, resumes, and other documentation. Double-check your applications to ensure that all requested information is supplied and that all supporting documents are included.