Scholarships and Financial Aid Opportunities for Black College Students

ByNathan Paulus
Edited byLukas Velunta

Updated: June 13, 2024

ByNathan Paulus
Edited byLukas Velunta

Updated: June 13, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

College costs can be a significant barrier to higher education. According to CollegeBoard, the average annual cost of higher education for the 2023 to 2024 academic year is $28,840 for in-state students at public colleges, $46,730 for out-of-state students and $60,420 for private colleges. These high costs are particularly challenging for Black students, who are underrepresented at many colleges and have the highest average student loan debt of $53,430.

Various organizations, colleges, associations and nonprofits offer scholarships and grants to help Black students pay for college. These aids can help close the educational gap by covering tuition or providing stipends for expenses. Some programs also include internships and job pathways after graduation.

Scholarships for Black and African American Students

Various scholarships are tailored specifically for Black undergraduate students. These scholarships span merit-based, need-based and field-of-study eligibility. When applying, always thoroughly review the eligibility criteria and application procedures. Late or incomplete submissions can result in disqualification, regardless of your qualifications.

Scholarship Name
Award Amount
Eligibility Criteria

$15,000 merit-based scholarship and 12-week internship

  • Students pursuing a degree in business, communications, computer science, technology, public relations or engineering
  • Second-to-last year of study
  • GPA of at least 3.30

$10,000 annually for up to three years ($30,000 total)

  • Students at historically Black colleges or universities
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Pursuing a degree with an interest in sports

Varies

  • Underrepresented or disadvantaged students
  • Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in specific fields such as architecture, engineering, environmental design, ground transportation, mathematics, pre-medicine, psychology, sciences or Spanish
  • GPA of 3.5 or higher
  • Must graduate from a US high school (citizenship not required)

$1,000

  • Active members of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs
  • High school GPA of C or better
  • Must need financial assistance
  • Recommended by an active club member and endorsed by the club and region

$1,000 to $5,000

  • Open to 100 Black men mentees, Collegiate 100® or affiliates
  • Graduating high school seniors or college undergraduates
  • Enrolled full-time in an accredited institution

Heritage with a Future: Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Colleges specifically for Black students were founded in the 19th 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 Black students.

Why Attend an HBCU?

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 an HBCU. These schools offer a unique setting and cultural context for academic topics, social life and community service.

Professors and advisors at HBCUs often have had life experiences that make them empathetic to Black students. HBCUs usually offer a richer array of Black-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 because 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 HBCUs

Scholarships are available specifically for students attending HBCUs. The following resources can be a starting point — some organizations offer various types of scholarships. Check on them regularly to find the right scholarship opportunity because eligibility for these scholarships can vary.

Scholarship Name
Award Amount
Eligibility
  • One-year Legacy Scholarships: $1,000 to $30,000
  • Millennium Scholarships: $20,000 ($5,000 annually for up to 4 years)
  • Graduate from a high school in the Washington, DC area or be a member of Alfred Street Baptist Church
  • U.S. citizenship
  • Admitted to a four-year institution
  • Commitment to community service
  • GPA: 2.5 or higher
  • Demonstrate financial need

Over $350,000 in scholarships annually

  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Graduating high school senior
  • Major in business, physical sciences, technology, engineering, or STEM fields
  • Underrepresented groups (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans)

$25,000 in scholarships

  • Current undergraduate students at any HBCU
  • Having an acceptance letter to an HBCU
  • Georgia residents

Varies based on the scholarship

  • Varies depending on the scholarship program
  • Requirements available on their website

Over $100 million in scholarships annually

  • Varies depending on the scholarship program
  • Opportunities available on their website

Tips for Successful Scholarship Applications

Successful applications often depend on compelling essays and meticulous attention to detail. Boost your scholarship application success with these tips.

1
Start Early

Begin your application process as early as possible. Early preparation allows ample time to gather materials, write essays and meet deadlines. For need-based aid, submit financial aid forms like the FAFSA promptly because these funds are often distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

2
Understand the Criteria

Each scholarship has specific eligibility criteria. Thoroughly review these requirements before applying to avoid wasting time on scholarships you don't qualify for.

3
Gather Documentation

Prepare necessary documents such as letters of recommendation, transcripts and cover letters well in advance. Having these ready will streamline the application process and prevent last-minute scrambles.

4
Stay Organized

List scholarships, grants and programs you qualify for based on your needs and resources. Use a calendar to mark deadlines and prioritize applications with the earliest deadlines and highest rewards. Staying organized helps you manage multiple applications efficiently.

5
Write Strong Essays

Highlight your unique story, aspirations and commitment. Authenticity and showcasing your unique experiences resonate with reviewers and can set your application apart. Demonstrate your dedication through consistent involvement in extracurricular activities, leadership roles or community service.

6
Tailor Your Application

Customize your essay and other application materials to align with the scholarship's objectives or themes. Demonstrating a clear connection between your goals and the scholarship's mission can make your application stand out.

7
Proofread

Carefully check your application for grammar and punctuation errors. Have a mentor, teacher or peer review it to catch mistakes you might have missed. A polished application shows professionalism and attention to detail.

8
Apply Widely

Look beyond high-profile awards to smaller, less competitive scholarships. Applying to a broad range of scholarships increases your chances of securing financial aid.

9
Track Your Applications

Track each application you send out by certified mail or online submission. Record deadlines, submission dates and any required follow-up actions.

Balancing Your Budget for More Savings in College

If you're looking for additional ways to raise funds, it may be time to review your budget and spending habits. You can take cost-saving measures to save hundreds of dollars a year, including reducing your monthly auto, home and credit card payments.

    grocery icon

    Plan Your Meals

    Eating out can quickly add up. To save money, plan your meals, cook at home and buy groceries in bulk. You can also look for student discounts at local grocery stores.

    building icon

    Use Campus Resources

    Use free or low-cost campus resources like the library, gym and student events. Entertainment and fitness can get expensive.

    stackOfBooks icon

    Buy Used or Digital Textbooks

    Textbooks can be a significant expense. You can save money by buying used or digital versions of your required texts. Check if your library offers the textbooks you need.

    rideshare icon

    Utilize Public Transportation

    If you live off-campus, use public transportation instead of driving. Many colleges offer discounted transit passes for students.

    thermostat icon

    Monitor Utility Usage

    If you live off-campus, be mindful of your utility usage. Simple actions like turning off the AC when not in use and unplugging electronics can lower your bills.

    studentCreditCard icon

    Assess Your Credit Card Spending

    Credit cards can help with unexpected or large expenses, but limits can quickly get maxed out. Learn to manage credit card spending effectively, lower monthly payments and explore whether a student credit card, prepaid card or gas card can save you money.

    carInsurance icon

    Review Your Car Insurance for Discounts

    Students often pay more than necessary for car insurance. Compare different auto insurance quotes, apply student and good driver discounts and explore savings by adjusting your premiums.

    healthInsurance icon

    Find Affordable Health Insurance Coverage

    Health insurance premiums can be expensive, but adequate coverage can save thousands in a health emergency. To find suitable coverage, explore options through your school, your parents' plan or a private insurance company.

Learning from Successful Black Scholarship Recipients

Hearing from people who have successfully navigated the scholarship application process can provide valuable insights and inspiration. We talked with two inspiring scholarship recipients who shared their tips and experiences on standing out and securing funding for their education.

How a Scholarship Coach Got Her Scholarships

"Being socially minded and committed is a great way to stand out and get noticed."

Watson brought more to Morris Brown than just great grades and top scores. She coupled those crucial accomplishments with participation in volunteer activities and community outreach, two things donors look for in their scholarship and grant recipients.

Watson suggests that students try to apply for at least one weekly scholarship. 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

"If you are 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."

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 a position with Teach For America. Meanwhile, Martin founded honorCode, a start-up focused on increasing 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 relieved some of the financial burden of being in the program."

When applying for the scholarship, Martín didn't have one essay to tackle; he had three. He approached the essays to convey why he was a great choice. "I honestly believe that my purpose in this world is to help open doors for those without access to open them alone. Knowing that this is my purpose, I conveyed this in my essays. I am very thankful that they believed me," he says.

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 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.

Minority Scholarships: Questions and Answers

To help college-bound Black students navigate the scholarship process, we spoke with Deshundra Walker, who provided valuable insights and practical advice on maximizing scholarship opportunities, standing out in applications, crafting compelling essays and creating a winning strategy.

How can college-bound Black students maximize the number of scholarships they receive?

Deshundra Walker
Deshundra Walker:

Applicants can maximize the scholarships they receive by applying to as many scholarships as they are eligible. A college education is an attainable goal, and there are many avenues for funding. Students should avoid applying because they think to themselves, "Everyone is applying, or I will never win." Applying for those scholarships that match your criteria may increase the odds of your selection. Don't sell yourself short. Apply!

If the scholarship requires Black students to apply, are there ways to stand out in your answers to the scholarship or grant application questions?

Deshundra Walker
Deshundra Walker:

Minority scholarships are 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 to get them noticed more?

Deshundra Walker
Deshundra Walker:

In writing the essay, the applicant should 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. Ask someone (a trusted teacher, coach or mentor) to critique.

How can applicants create a winning scholarship strategy?

Deshundra Walker
Deshundra Walker:

An applicant can create a winning scholarship strategy by being organized. Keep records from ninth to twelfth grade, tracking the organizations involved, 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 to to learn the audience to whom you will submit your application.

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

Deshundra Walker
Deshundra Walker:

Judges look for academic excellence, demonstrated leadership, creativity, a compelling story, success in high school, community service, extracurricular activities and good test scores. Reviewers judge on the quality, originality and 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?

Deshundra Walker
Deshundra Walker:

Some mistakes applicants can avoid when searching for and applying for scholarships include adhering 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. Scholarships help you financially and if you must pay to apply, it is most likely a scam. You should not provide any financial information on any application, including your social security number. 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 include the high school guidance counselors, foundations, federal agencies, parent's employers, civic groups, community organizations and your chosen university.

How can students get a leg up on the competition and get the process going?

Deshundra Walker
Deshundra Walker:

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 all requested information is supplied and all supporting documents are included.

Additional Resources

Numerous other resources exist to assist Black students in financing their education and navigating college, in addition to scholarships.

  • Black Student Fund (BSF): Provides financial assistance and support services to African American students in Washington, D.C., helping them attend independent schools and succeed academically.
  • Federal Work-Study: This program provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial needs, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.
  • Jack and Jill of America Foundation: Supports African American children through educational, cultural, civic and social programs designed to stimulate their growth and development.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): Offers scholarships, educational programs and advocacy to promote equal rights and eliminate racial prejudice in the United States.
  • National Black Graduate Student Association (NBGSA): Dedicated to enhancing the status of African American graduate students by providing support and resources to promote academic excellence, professional development and social networking.
  • National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA): Focuses on increasing educational and economic opportunities for African Americans by providing scholarships, career development and networking opportunities for MBA students and professionals.
  • National Urban League (NUL): Provides economic empowerment, educational opportunities and support to African Americans through various programs and initiatives to close the equality gap.
  • Scholly: An app and website that helps students find and apply for scholarships, providing a streamlined search process to connect students with funding opportunities.
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund: Offers scholarships, leadership development and other exclusive opportunities for HBCU students.
  • UNCF (United Negro College Fund): Provides scholarships and financial support to African American students attending HBCUs and other institutions. UNCF also supports faculty development and capacity building at HBCUs.
  • United States Department of Education: Provides a wide range of resources, including information on federal financial aid, grants and loans, as well as educational programs and initiatives to improve access to education for all students.

About Nathan Paulus


Nathan Paulus headshot

Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.


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