Scholarships for African American and Black Students
Attending college and completing a degree are important academic goals for any student. Unfortunately, there is a pronounced racial gap in enrollment rates at top colleges and universities around the country. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that African American students only accounted for 14% of total undergraduate enrollment in 2016, while whites accounted for 56%.
Affordability is a concern for all college-bound students, including African Americans. Fortunately, a number of scholarships and financial aid opportunities are earmarked specifically for their demographic. Several organizations offer even more specific aid opportunities, such as scholarships for African American women.
According to a report from the NCES, African American students borrow money more often to complete their bachelor's degree at a public college than white students. Additionally, Demos.org reveals that nearly four in ten black borrowers drop out of college, leaving them both in debt and without a degree.
Obtaining financial aid can also be challenging. According to a study in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, whites are more likely to receive merit-based scholarships, even after accounting for different enrollment rates between the demographics. These statistics underline the importance of African American scholarships. These awards can help offset the cost of a college education, and leave students less dependent on loans. They also offer African Americans a unique opportunity to pursue financial aid without any strings attached, and without any racial biases favoring another demographic, intentionally or otherwise.
A scholarship is a monetary gift for students to use for funding their postsecondary education. Scholarships do not need to be paid back, making them a desirable alternative to student loans. Scholarships may be used to pay for education-related costs including tuition, books, and other course materials. Some scholarships may also be used to cover food, room-and-board, laundry, and day-to-day expenses.
Thousands of different scholarships are available. Merit-based scholarships are typically given to students with high GPAs or an extensive record of community service. Other scholarships may be allotted to certain groups of people, including women or minority students. There are also scholarship options for students who demonstrate financial need. Nonprofits and organizations that support the African American community, some colleges and universities, and even some major employers offer scholarships exclusively for African Americans and minorities.
In order to qualify for most scholarships, students must first complete an application. While the nature of these applications will vary by award, most will include the following general criteria:
External Scholarship Resources
Students who are unfamiliar with scholarship applications should seek advice from educational experts. Here are a few online resources for scholarship applicants to peruse:
How to Apply for a Scholarship
More tips on how to apply for a scholarship from The College Board.
How to Apply for Scholarships
Tips for finding and applying for scholarships.
Top Ten Scholarship Tips
Tips for perfecting the scholarship application process, including advice on people to reach out to.
5 Tips for Winning Scholarships
Tips for finding scholarships and screening available scholarships to find the most worthwhile and effective match for your interests and strengths.
Tips and Tricks
Students have plenty on their plate during their last two years of high school, but they shouldn't neglect applying for scholarships. Below are a few useful tips for students sifting through a variety of scholarship opportunities:
Scholarships for African American Students
Who's Eligible? The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides resources and scholarships for underserved minority high school seniors who plan to attend an accredited four-year institution in the United States.
Award amount: $30,000 for four years
Deadline: February 1
Who's Eligible? This scholarship is awarded to medical rehabilitation students. It is administered by the Courage Center and funded through the David M. Hersey Endowment Fund. Applicants must show interest in the field and complete at least 200 hours of career-related volunteer service to be eligible for this scholarship.
Award amount: Varies
Deadline: April 15
Who's Eligible? This award is intended for freshman African American and minority students at Simpson College.
Award amount: Varies
Deadline: December 1
Who's Eligible? This scholarship supports underrepresented groups, including African Americans, pursuing careers in management and operations in the transportation, travel, and tourism industry.
Award amount: $5,000
Who's Eligible? These scholarships are intended for African Americans and minorities studying in chemistry and chemistry-related fields. Qualified students must demonstrative high academic achievement in science subjects and be planning a career in chemical sciences.
Award amount: $5,000
Who's Eligible? The African American Network is a Duke Energy employee resource group and provides scholarships to college-bound students from North and South Carolina pursuing degrees in engineering, math, science, computer science, accounting, finance, or business administration.
Award amount: $2,000
Deadline: March 6
Who's Eligible? Underrepresented student populations are eligible for this award through the American Meteorological Society. The AMS provides scholarships through donations made by members of the AMS Giving Program. These are two-year scholarships distributed once per year.
Award amount: $6,000 ($3,000 each for freshman and sophomore years)
Deadline: February 12
Who's Eligible? Brown and Caldwell supports diversity in the workplace and provides a minority scholarship program for African American students and other underrepresented student populations in environmental engineering.
Award amount: $5,000
Scholarships for African American Women
Who's Eligible? The NANBPWC awards the National Scholarship to a female African American graduating high school senior with a 3.0 GPA or higher. An essay is required.
Award amount: Varies
Deadline: April 15
STEM Scholarships for African American Students
Who's Eligible? The NSBE offers several private and corporate-sponsored scholarships and awards for black engineering students. Applicants must be active NSBE members and are required to submit transcripts to the main office before the due date.
Award amount: Varies
Who's Eligible? This program provides minority college scholarships to eligible students as a lump sum grant. Students must demonstrate academic excellence and enroll in an engineering program at a partner university.
Who's Eligible? This program was developed specifically to encourage diversity in atmospheric sciences. Black students interested in STEM careers may consider a career in this field and be eligible for an award after completing at least two years of college.
Who's Eligible? This scholarship is funded by The Sachs Foundation and is designed specifically for African American undergraduate students pursuing a career in engineering. Applicants must be attending or have been admitted to the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs College of Engineering and Applied Science Program.
Amount: $6,000 per year
Who's Eligible? Women or minority students pursuing computer and video game art degrees are qualified for this award. High school seniors interested in the field are also eligible.
Scholarships for First Generation African American Students
Who's Eligible? Aspiring black lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area are eligible. Applicants must be a current or incoming law student at an accredited law school in San Francisco.
Amount: $10,000 per year
Who's Eligible? This scholarship is awarded to minority students whose parents did not attend college or obtain a Christian college degree. It provides financial support for minority students, including African American students, as well as leadership development activities and personal mentoring.
Amount: Full tuition (up to eight semesters)
Who's Eligible? This program is open to underrepresented, low-income first generation students interested in attending college and studying one of the following fields: transportation management, math, science, engineering, architecture, environmental design, pre-med, psychology or Spanish language/literature. The scholarship is provided by a family-owned trucking company located in California.
Deadline: March 14
In most cases, grants are awarded to further an organization's research efforts or to support a student that may have a vested interest in the organization itself. Grant recipients are not always limited to students and are not awarded based on need or merit. The U.S. Department of Education offers discretionary grants, formula grants, and student loans or grants, such as the Pell grant. Like scholarships, they do not need to be repaid.
Federal Pell Grants
Pell grants are federal need-based grants designed to support low-income students. These grants are awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.
Grants from State Governments
Individual states may award state grants for local residents. These are typically awarded by institutions, such as the state's Department of Education, state Department of Grants Program, and other non-profit organizations.
Private foundations, community organizations, and individuals may award grants to support students. They are also awarded to those seeking a research grant that would benefit the organization.
Grants for African American Students
Much like scholarships, grants are monetary gifts for students to use for tuition, course fees, and living expenses while enrolled in a college program. Grants are usually need-based, and in some cases the recipient may be required to pay back unused funds upon graduation.
Who's Eligible? As part of its diversity initiative to increase representation of ethnically diverse CPA professors, the American Institute of CPAs provides scholarships and fellowship opportunities for minority doctoral students. Eligible students must have applied to a doctoral program and have at least three years of full-time experience in the field.
Amount: $12,000 awarded annually
Deadline: May 30
Who's Eligible? The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine offers this fellowship to underrepresented students and provides awards for approximately 60 predoctoral students annually. These support recipients for three years while they complete their degree.
Amount: $24,000 per year
Other Ways to Save
Low-income high school students who are applying for the SAT and ACT exam can pursue a fee waiver. Eligibility criteria includes enrollment or eligibility to participate in the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program (FRPL) and meeting certain income eligibility requirements.
Students who already know which school they would automatically go to if they were accepted can apply early so they can get an answer before they start applying (and paying application fees) to other schools.
Through an employer tuition reimbursement program, employees of a participating corporation or organization may take college courses that are paid for by their employer. Employers may pay up to $5,250 in tax-free educational assistance per student per year. While these funds may be awarded to students who are non-degree-seeking, they can only be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment as related to direct education costs.
Hundreds of colleges and universities allow students to submit an application to several colleges at once using a single, centralized application submission platform. Students only need to pay a one-time application fee to participate, which can save them hundreds of dollars on application fees and time spent submitting applications.
Additional Resources for African American and First Generation Students
United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
The country's largest minority education organization awards scholarships and internships for low-income and moderate-income students at more than 1,100 colleges throughout the U.S.
HBCU Network provides resources for students at HBCUs including a comprehensive listing of HBCUs in the United States, events, and career information for graduates or internship seekers.
Black Career Network
Job board for African American graduates or those seeking internship opportunities while in school.
First In the Family
This comprehensive site features planning checklists, links, videos, and books for first-generation students seeking advice.
Students can join this online community to get support and find resources to plan their college career as a first-generation student.
Provides information about community, nonprofit, and other programs across the country that support low income and first-generation students.