• The term "Asian American" embraces many different ethnicities with diverse socioeconomic needs and academic success rates
  • First-generation and low-income Asian American students face relatively high college dropout rates
  • Scholarships and grants provide much-needed financial aid without adding to low-income students' financial burdens
  • Asian and Pacific Islander Americans should research scholarship and grant opportunities that meet their individual needs

The terms Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans include all ethnicities from the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia. Though "Asian American" often functions as a catch-all, this conceals the numerous cultural and socioeconomic differences of these ethnic groups.

This diverse population requires diverse support. For example, some subsets of the Asian American population require more tuition aid and financial support, while Pacific Islanders have lower average income rates and lower levels of academic achievement.

Below, you can learn more about the need for Asian and Pacific Islander American scholarships. You can also find links to helpful resources for prospective college students.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Asian Pacific American?

The term "Asian Pacific American" describes a large group of distinct ethnicities from the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands. The term applies to individuals of Asian descent living in America and nationalized immigrants in the country.

What percentage of Asian American students go to college?

About 51% of all Asian Americans ages 25 years and older hold at least a bachelor's degree. Indian Americans (72%) and Malaysian Americans (60%) demonstrate the highest percentages of achievement. The report found lower percentages for Bhutanese Americans (9%) and Laotian Americans (16%).

What percentage of Pacific Islander American students go to college?

Only about 14% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders hold a bachelor's degree. Issues such as income inequality, language barriers, and limited financial aid contribute to this low number. Pacific Islander students also typically attend schools in areas with high concentrations of poverty.

What kinds of scholarships can you get as an Asian Pacific American?

As more Asian Americans attend college, the demand for scholarships and grants should grow. Federal and state governments provide scholarship and grant opportunities, while independent organizations offer Asian American scholarships for high-achieving and low-income college students.

Where do you find college scholarships for Asian Pacific Americans?

The federal government helps students determine the level of aid they need. Students can also search official government websites (at the federal, state, and local levels) for scholarships that target Asian American students. Many independent foundations and professional organizations also offer scholarships and grants.

Asian Pacific American Student Challenges

Income Disparities

The term "Asian American" often encompasses a wide variety of ethnicities with disparate needs. While studies demonstrate that Asian American students achieve above-average educational success overall, many Southeast Asian American students and Pacific Islander students struggle academically.

Looking at each group individually reveals the unique challenges facing Southeast Asian Americans. For example, this group faces greater challenges in education due to the lingering effects of displacement, racism, and xenophobia.

Certain Asian ethnic groups also suffer from the growing income inequality among Asian Americans. Although the majority of Asian Americans enjoy a higher standard of living than other groups in the U.S., this is not true of all Asian Americans.

From 1970-2016, the gap in the standard of living between high-income and low-income Asian Americans almost doubled. Additionally, low-income Asian Americans tend toward lower academic achievement than their counterparts.

Unmet Financial Need

Though Asian American enrollment rates remain high overall, a study by the Department of Education found that low-income Asian Americans experience the highest amount of unmet need for college tuition. Unmet need refers to the difference between the overall cost of college and all student resources that need not be repaid.

The average unmet need for low-income students at public, four-year universities was $12,792 for the 2015-2016 academic year. Comparatively, the average unmet need for low-income Asian American students was $16,756.

Enrollment rates are also low for Pacific Islanders. About 49% of the total Asian American population has a bachelor's degree, while only 27% of Pacific Islanders hold that credential. Additionally, around 20% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live in poverty.

Scholarships for Asian American students play a critical role in academic success. Organizations and schools must work harder to meet the needs of low-income Asian American students and offer aid to particularly vulnerable groups, such as Pacific Islanders.

First-Generation College Students

First-generation college students face numerous enrollment and graduation challenges, including a lack of family support and misunderstandings about how the college process works.

A study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that only 48% of first-generation college students earn a degree from their original institution or an institution of similar caliber. About 19% transfer to a lower-level institution to earn a degree, while 33% never earn their degree at all.

By comparison, only 14% of students with degree-holding parents failed to graduate. NCES also noted that first-generation students only comprise 23% of incoming four-year enrollees.

Scholarship Applications

Many scholarship applications ask for supplemental materials to help determine which students receive aid. Below, we outline common application requirements for minority college scholarships.

  • Grades and Transcripts

    Many scholarships make determinations based on academic merit. For example, scholarship organizations often set minimum GPA thresholds. Students may also need to maintain a minimum college GPA to keep receiving their award.

  • Essay

    Personal essays help scholarship committees get to know applicants better. Students should write about personal experiences that show why they are deserving of aid beyond academic merit.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    Some scholarships require recommendations from teachers, coaches, and/or supervisors to learn more about the applicants. Students should ask for letters from people who can speak to their character, work ethic, and other exceptional qualities.

  • College Information

    Scholarships for graduating high school seniors and new college students often request information about a student's college to ensure that the applicant has been accepted to an accredited institution.

  • Other Financial Aid

    While scholarships mostly offer merit-based aid, some organizations also consider need. Receiving other financial aid (including scholarships, loans, or grants) may impact an applicant's eligibility for certain scholarships.

Where to Find Scholarships

Students should begin their search for Asian and Pacific Islander American scholarships by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submitting this form helps determine how much aid and which federal programs students may qualify for.

High school and college counselors can help students find and apply for minority scholarships for college. These counselors can point students towards scholarships for Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans, as well as scholarships related to a student's location, target career, gender, or sexual orientation.

Asian Pacfic American Scholarships

Below, readers can find a list of minority scholarships for college. Asian American students should supplement this noncomprehensive list with their own research to find scholarship opportunities that match their specific circumstances.

General Scholarships

AANAPISI Scholarship

Who is eligible? First-generation Asian and Pacific Islander college students living at or below the poverty level who have a strong commitment to community service can apply. Applicants must enroll full time on campus to qualify.

Award amount: $2,500-$5,000

Deadline: November

View Scholarship
APIA Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? First-generation, low-income Asian and Pacific Islander college students with a minimum 2.7 cumulative GPA and a dedication to community service can apply. Only undergraduate students are eligible.

Award amount: $2,500-$20,000

Deadline: January

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Asian Pacific Fund Scholarship

Who is eligible? First-generation Asian American students with a minimum 2.8 GPA who are enrolled full time at an accredited four-year institution may apply. Applicants must hold California residency and demonstrate financial need.

Award amount: $2,000-$3,000

Deadline: March

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Gates Millennium Scholars Program

Who is eligible? This scholarship program targets applicants who have demonstrable financial need. Applicants are evaluated based on three categories: academic achievement, community service, and leadership potential. This scholarship program primarily funds undergraduates.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

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Korean American Scholarship Foundation Scholarships

Who is eligible? These scholarships primarily target Korean American students who are enrolled full time. If additional funds remain, non-Korean American students may receive an award. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and scholastic achievement.

Award amount: $500-$5,000

Deadline: June

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Taiwanese American Scholarship Fund

Who is eligible? Tawainese American high school seniors or first-year college students with a cumulative, unweighted GPA of at least 3.0 may apply. Applicants must have a household income at or below the federal/state/county low-income level.

Award amount: $5,000

Deadline: April

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Upakar Foundation Scholarships

Who is eligible? Low-income applicants born in — or with one parent born in — the Republic of India who are enrolled at an accredited institution may apply. Applicants need a cumulative, unweighted GPA of at least 3.6.

Award amount: $500-$2,000 per year

Deadline: May

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USPAACC Scholarships

Who is eligible? Asian Pacific American high school seniors with a minimum 3.3 GPA, leadership in extracurriculars, involvement in community service, and financial need may apply.

Award amount: $3,000-$5,000

Deadline: May

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Women's Scholarships

Asian American Women's Alliance Scholarship

Who is eligible? Asian Pacific American students enrolled in high school, college, or graduate school may apply. Applicants must commit to attending the AAWA Career Seminar in San Jose to be eligible (travel expenses are not covered).

Award amount: $500

Deadline: October

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Central California Asian Pacific Women Scholarship

Who is eligible? Asian and Pacific Islander American women from eight specific California counties may apply. The committee considers first-generation applicants with high academic achievement and leadership experience.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: June

View Scholarship

LGBTQ+ Scholarships

Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Sisters (APIQS) Scholarship

Who is eligible? Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who identify as lesbian, bisexual females, or trans (both MTF and FTM) may apply. Applicants must also reside in the Northwest — including Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: January

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Prism Foundation Scholarship

Who is eligible? Students with a proven history of impact within the Asian Pacific Islander American or LGBTQ+ communities may apply. Applicants do need to identify as either to apply.

Award amount: $1,000-$5,000

Deadline: June

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The Tang Scholarship

Who is eligible? Asian Pacific Americans (at least 25%) with a minimum 3.0 GPA who identify as LGBT may apply. Applicants must reside in the Bay Area and show financial need.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: April

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Degree-Specific Scholarships

George A. Strait Minority Scholarship

Who is eligible? Awarded in partnership with the American Association of Law Libraries, this scholarship fund considers minority students attending an accredited law or library school who are seeking a career in law librarianship.

Award amount: Not specified

Deadline: May

View Scholarship
Leon Bradley Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? Offered by the American Association of School Personnel Administrators, minority college students seeking a degree in teaching or school leadership may apply. Students must submit their application during their final year of teacher preparations, including student teaching.

Award amount: $3,500

Deadline: May

View Scholarship
Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship

Who is eligible? Minority students pursuing a healthcare management graduate degree, such as a master of public health, master of healthcare administration, or master of business in healthcare administration, may apply. Students should apply during their final year of study.

Award amount: $5,000

Deadline: April

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Against The Grain Artistic Scholarships

Who is eligible? Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (at least 25%) pursuing a degree in the visual or performing arts may apply. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and show leadership abilities.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: May

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ALA Spectrum Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? Minority students enrolled in an American Library Association-accredited graduate program for library and information studies may apply. Students must take at least two classes each semester to remain eligible.

Award amount: $5,000

Deadline: March

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Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association Scholarship

Who is eligible? Applicants must hold membership with AAPINA and be pursuing an undergraduate or graduate nursing degree. Students should also have a minimum 3.5 GPA.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: June

View Scholarship
Asian American Journalists Association Scholarships

Who is eligible? This scholarship fund targets Asian American students pursuing studies and careers in journalism. High school, undergraduate, and graduate students may apply for different awards. Requirements vary based on the scholarship in question.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

View Scholarship
Banatao Family Filipino American Education Fund

Who is eligible? Residents in certain California counties who have a minimum 3.0 GPA and are enrolled in engineering, math, computer science, or physical/environmental science programs may apply. Applicants must attend an accredited four-year institution.

Award amount: $5,000

Deadline: Varies

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Hsiao Memorial Social Sciences Scholarship

Who is eligible? Graduate students with a minimum 3.0 GPA pursuing a degree in the social sciences (economics preferred, but not required) may apply. Applicants must also demonstrate financial need.

Award amount: $1,000

Deadline: May

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Matt Fong Asian Americans in Public Finance Scholarship

Who is eligible? Undergraduate students enrolled at a California institution who are majoring in accounting, political science, public policy, or business administration may apply. Applicants should also have a minimum 3.0 GPA and hold at least 50% Asian American heritage.

Award amount: $2,500

Deadline: April

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Microsoft Scholarship Program

Who is eligible? Undergraduate students enrolled at a four-year institution pursuing a degree in a STEM field who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA may apply. The scholarship program prefers minority and/or underrepresented applicants.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

View Scholarship
The Asian American Architects/Engineers Association Scholarship

Who is eligible? AAa/e members pursuing a degree in certain architecture, engineering, construction, or related fields may apply. Applicants must demonstrate involvement or service in the Asian American community.

Award amount: $5,000

Deadline: May

View Scholarship

Grants

Scholarships and grants offer aid money that students do not need to repay. Unlike scholarships, organizations typically award grants based on need rather than merit. Grant applicants must meet certain financial thresholds for consideration, and most grants do not attach GPA stipulations to their requirements. Below, we highlight a few common grant types.

Federal Pell Grants

Awarded by the federal government, Pell Grants typically provide need-based aid to undergraduate students based on the cost of attendance, expected family contribution, and enrollment status.

State Grants

State governments award aid to undergraduate and graduate students who reside within that state. States consider a student's expected level of contribution and the cost of attendance.

Private Grants

Many private organizations also offer need-based aid. These organizations might provide funds across the country or limit their giving to particular locations, populations, or areas of study.

Grants for Asian Pacific American Students

The list below includes some grants for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. Students should also conduct their own research to find grants that suit their personal financial needs.

American Institute of CPAs Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students

Who is eligible? Accounting Ph.D. candidates in an accredited program with a completed master's degree and three years of experience may apply. Applicants cannot work full time or teach more than one class per semester.

Award amount: $12,000

Deadline: May

View Grant
Asian American Journalists Association Grants

Who is eligible? These grants target Asian and Pacific Islander American students enrolled in a journalism program or seeking a degree in journalism. High school, undergraduate, and graduate students may apply for different grants.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

View Grant
Ford Foundation Fellowship Programs

Who is eligible? Students pursuing a doctor of philosophy or doctor of science may apply. The committee prefers applicants with outstanding academic achievement and a commitment to teaching or research at the university level.

Award amount: $27,000

Deadline: January

View Grant
P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

Who is eligible? New Americans (immigrants, refugees, and their children) under the age of 30 years who are pursuing a full-time graduate degree may apply. Most online or hybrid programs do not qualify for this fellowship.

Award amount: Up to $25,000 per year

Deadline: October

View Grant
The Korean Ancestry Grant

Who is eligible? Asian American undergraduate students with at least one Asian grandparent and a minimum 3.5 GPA may apply. The grant committee prefers applicants of Korean descent.

Award amount: Up to $10,000

Deadline: April

View Grant

Additional Resources

First in the Family

This nonprofit supports first-generation college students across the country. The organization offers books, online resources, and planning checklists for prospective students.

I'm First!

This online community for first-generation college students provides prospective students with mentors and helps first-time applicants find specialty programs and support at different institutions.

FirstGen Fellows

This website offers a list of nonprofit and community organizations in almost every state that support first-generation students by providing aid, mentorship, and/or information.

Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholars

APIA is the largest nonprofit provider of Asian and Pacific Islander American scholarships in the country. APIA also matches Asian American college students with college counselors and mentors.

American Council on Education

ACE offers resources such as forums, summits, and advocacy. The organization also features a fellows program and a women's network.

BigFuture

This website helps individuals choose the right college and career path. BigFuture also walks students through the financial aid process and helps them find grants and scholarships.