Scholarships for African American and Black Students

portrait of Staff Writer
by Staff Writer
Published on August 12, 2021

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, 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:

Grades and Transcripts true Most scholarships (merit- and non-merit-based) require a minimum GPA for consideration; this minimum is usually 2.5 or higher. Additionally, some impose minimum scores on the SAT, ACT, or other college admissions tests.
Essay Many scholarships require applicants to complete an original written testimonial explaining why they deserve the award.
Letters of Recommendation A scholarship application may ask for letters of recommendation from teachers, school counselors, former employers, and other people who have interacted with the student in an educational or professional environment. These letters should not come from friends, relatives, or family acquaintances.
College Information Many scholarships will only award money to applicants who have enrolled or plan to enroll in an accredited postsecondary institution within the following year. Some are only allotted to students who plan to pursue certain fields of study.
Other Financial Aid For needs-based scholarships, applicants may need to prove they are not receiving federal financial aid, additional scholarships, grants, or other forms of monetary support.

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:

Outline Application Priorities - All scholarships have different eligibility criteria and requirements. Some ask for an essay on a particular topic while others require letters of recommendation. It's important for students to adhere to all requirements; submissions that ignore instructions will be discarded. Create a Checklist with Due Dates - Make a checklist of to-do items for each scholarship, recording submission deadlines and specific instructions. Regardless of how many scholarships you are applying for, breaking down the applications into specific tasks can help you keep everything on track. Make Time for the Essay - When a scholarship-granting organization asks for an essay, they want applicants to take their time reviewing the question and articulating an answer. It's important that students conduct the necessary research, and to write, edit, and proofread the essay before submitting it. Follow Instructions to the Letter - This one speaks for itself: applications that do not follow instructions will be discarded, so be sure to provide whatever information and materials the award requests. Make Copies Of All Submissions - Students should make copies of all materials they submit, in the event that the organization loses all or part of your application. Submitting applications early is advisable, in case your submission is returned or gets lost in the mail.

Scholarships for African American Students

The Jackie Robinson Foundation

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

View Scholarship

EMPOWER Scholarship Award

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

View Scholarshi

George Washington Carver Scholarship

Who's Eligible? This award is intended for freshman African American and minority students at Simpson College.

Award amount: Varies

Deadline: December 1

View Scholarship

American Bus Association (ABA) Diversity Scholarship

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

Deadline: Varies

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ACS Scholars Program

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

Deadline: Varies

View Scholarship

African American Network of the Carolinas Scholarship Fund

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

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AMS Minority Scholarships

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

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Brown and Caldwell Minority Scholarship Program

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

Deadline: Varies

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Scholarships for African American Women

The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs Scholarship

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

View Scholarship

STEM Scholarships for African American Students

National Society of Black Engineers

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

Deadline: Varies

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NACME Scholars Block Grant Program

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.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

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Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) Program

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.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

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Morris A. Esmiol, Jr. Scholarship in Engineering in UCS

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

Deadline: Varies

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ESA Foundation Computer & Video Game Scholarship Program

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.

Amount: $3,000

Deadline: Varies

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Scholarships for First Generation African American Students

Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship Program

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

Deadline: Varies

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Colorado Christian University World Changers Scholarship

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)

Deadline: Varies

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Fontana Transport Inc. Scholars Program

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.

Amount: Varies

Deadline: March 14

View Scholarship


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 Grants

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.

AICPA Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students

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

View Grant

Ford Foundation Fellowship Programs

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

Deadline: Varies

View Grant

Other Ways to Save

Fee Waivers for Entrance Exams

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.

Apply for Early Admission

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.

Employer Tuition Reimbursement

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.

Use A Common App

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

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.

FirstGen Fellows

Provides information about community, nonprofit, and other programs across the country that support low income and first-generation students.

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