Zina Kumok Image Written By: Zina Kumok | Edited By: Kevin Ladd | Updated: July 20, 2024

Minority Scholarships

According to the National Center for Education Statistics and other sources, 13% of college students are Black and 20% are Latino. About 20% are Asian/Pacific Islander and the rest are Caucasian.

  • While the majority of college students are Caucasian, the number of minority students applying to and attending college continues to grow.
  • Minority scholarships are a significant contributor to the increase in numbers of minority students attending college.
  • There are literally billions of dollars in scholarships, grants and other financial aid available to minority students.

While white students continue to make up a large portion of all college students, larger percentages of minority students enrolling each year, the higher education landscape is beginning to change. According to the Education Data Initiative, about 13% of all college students are Black, 20% are Hispanic/Latino and about 20% are Asian/Pacific Islander. Native Americans make up less than 1% of college students currently.

An influx of minority scholarships aimed at helping minority students attend college without incurring massive debt has greatly aided this demographic shift. But navigating the new scholarship landscape can be tricky. Read below to see how minority scholarships work, how to find the best options and how to apply.

What are minority scholarships?

Minority scholarships are awarded to students who are underrepresented either in college as a whole or in specific areas. Minority scholarships often refer to awards given to those from a non-white racial or ethnic group.

However, this does not always hold true. For example, while women make up the majority of college students, they are still considered a minority in fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). For this reason, women may qualify for STEM scholarships, at least in part, due to their gender.

Minority scholarships may be awarded for the following categories:

Some minority scholarships may have a financial need element, but this depends on the scholarship provider. Minority scholarships can be limited to a specific minority group or encompass many different marginalized groups.

Other minority scholarships may have vague requirements, like not mentioning any group by name, while others will only be available for certain groups of students.

Scholarships for minority students may only require a general level of academic success or have detailed academic requirements, like majoring in a certain field or being interested in a particular industry.

Minority scholarships can be limited to a specific minority type or encompass many different marginalized groups. Some of them may be specifically for first-generation, or "first in family" college students who come from families which have never had a member attend or graduate from college.

For example, the Brown MAE Foundation Healthcare Scholarship is given to a healthcare student from one of the following racial groups: Black/African American, Native American/American Indian, Hispanic/Latin American or Asian or Pacific Islander. Applicants also must have a minimum 2.5 GPA and can be an undergraduate or graduate student at any 4-year U.S. college or university.

Continue reading the article below the scholarship list.

25 Minority Scholarships with Approaching Deadlines

How to apply for minority scholarships

The application process for a minority scholarship is no different than the process for any other kind of scholarship. First, know that it’s never too early to start applying for scholarships. Scholarship deadlines vary greatly, and it's better to start sooner rather than later.

Even if you’re a freshman in high school, you might be able to find scholarships that you’re eligible for. If not, you can set them aside for later.

You can start by looking for scholarships at directories, like Scholarships.com, which has a comprehensive list of many types of scholarships divided by categories.

Your high school guidance counselor might also have a list of scholarships, especially those on the local level. They can also provide assistance on applying for scholarships, like how to write a winning essay or who to ask for a recommendation letter.

Once you start finding potential scholarships, organize them by the due date and level of difficulty. For example, you will need to allocate more time to a scholarship that requires two separate essays than an application without any essays.

You may also want to note which scholarships will take more time to complete. For example, you will need to spend longer on a scholarship application that requires two separate essays than an application without any required essays.

Also note which scholarships require a letter of recommendation from a teacher, club sponsor, coach or another adult. You should probably give people at least a few weeks notice when asking for a letter of recommendation.

Make sure to look for both general minority scholarships and unique awards that you’re especially suited for. The general awards are more likely to have a large influx of applicants, making it harder to stand out. It’s a basic rule of thumb - the easier a scholarship is to apply for, the harder it is to win.

If you can find scholarships that only fit a small segment of the population, you’ll be more likely to win. For example, the United Negro College Fund offers scholarships for all kinds of African-American students.

The UNCF General Scholarship is only available for students who are attending one of the 37 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) affiliated with the UNCF. You must have a 2.5 GPA and students from college freshmen to doctoral candidates are eligible.

Frequently asked questions about minority scholarships

Minority scholarships can differ greatly, and there’s so much to understand before applying. Here’s what you should know about minority scholarships:

What are the best minority scholarships?

While many scholarships only provide a few thousand dollars worth of aid, others are far more generous.

The Gates Scholarship is given to a student from one of the following racial backgrounds: African-American, American Indian/Native American, Alaska Native, Asian & Pacific Islander American, and/or Hispanic American.

Only students with demonstrated financial need are eligible. You must be a high school senior, eligible for the Pell Grant and a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or a U.S. national. You also need to have a 3.3 GPA or higher. Only students who plan to enroll in a four-year college full-time can win.

The award will cover any remaining costs of college attendance after all other types of financial aid have been applied. Students must submit the FAFSA to qualify.

Do I need to complete the FAFSA to qualify for a minority scholarship?

Some minority scholarships require that the student demonstrates financial need. They generally do this by having students submit a copy of their parent's most recent tax return or a copy of their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Many schools even require that students complete the FAFSA to qualify for any of their own awards, including merit scholarships. Students who submit the FAFSA are also eligible for federal student loans, federal grants and work-study. State grants also often mandate that students submit the FAFSA.

Even if you’re not required to submit the FAFSA to win a scholarship, it’s always good practice to complete it. You never know what kind of aid you might receive, and you’re almost certainly hurting your chances if you don’t complete the FAFSA.

The FAFSA is not a "one and done" application; it has to be completed every year that you’re in school. If you don’t fill it out, then you’ll lose access to most types of financial aid.

How can I maximize my minority scholarships?

There are many different types of minority scholarships available, and you're not limited to those that only fit one part of your background. For example, if you're part of the LGBTQIA+ community and are African-American, you should apply for scholarships for both LGBQT+ students and African-American students. You may even be able to find scholarships that encompass multiple parts of your identity.

The BIPOC Scholarship is available for students who identify as both Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ. You must be currently attending or planning to attend an accredited school to receive your associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral or professional degree. This $1,500 scholarship is only given for one year.

You should also look for scholarships that match your future career, interests and skills, not just your demographic identity. If you want to be a teacher, look for scholarships for future teachers or those majoring in education.

Is there a typical GPA requirement for minority scholarships?

Like other kinds of scholarships, minority scholarships often have minimum GPA requirements that you must meet to qualify. A general standard or minimum for Grade Point Average would be that you should have a 3.0 GPA or higher to be eligible for most scholarships, but some may have a lower requirement or none at all.

For example, the Anna V. Waters Scholarship is awarded to an African-American high school senior with a GPA of 2.0 - 2.9. This is one of the rare cases where you can actually have a GPA that is too high to qualify.

Applicants must also demonstrate a commitment to their community and must submit a transcript and two letters of recommendation. This scholarship is worth up to $2,000.

Are DACA students eligible for minority scholarships?

For DACA students, qualifying for a college scholarship is going to be more difficult than it is for those with U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. While DACA students who have Social Security Numbers can fill out the FAFSA, they’re not eligible for federal student loans, Pell grants or work-study.

That said, there are some scholarships which are open to DACA students. For example, the GMiS California Health Sciences Scholarship is given to a student from a group that has been historically underrepresented in the health sciences industry. Students who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents or those with DACA status are eligible.

You must have a 3.0 GPA and be working toward an undergraduate degree from an accredited school in the U.S. or Puerto Rico. Those interested in working in one of the following specialties will be given extra consideration: mental health, rehabilitative, geriatric medical specialties or those with disabilities. The winner will receive $1,000.

Are there special minority scholarships for graduate or doctoral students?

While there are significantly more funding opportunities for undergraduate students, graduate and doctoral students may still be eligible for dozens of potential scholarships.

For example, the ACHE Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship is given to a graduate-level student who is studying healthcare management. Each scholarship is worth $5,000, and 15 recipients will be chosen.

Only students who come from a racially or ethnically diverse background can apply. They must also have demonstrated financial need to qualify. Also, students must be U.S. citizens, permanent residents or Canadian citizens.

Are international students eligible for minority scholarships?

When you’re an international student, finding scholarships is a tough process. Most scholarships require that you be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify. However, that doesn’t mean you should quit looking.

The first place you should start is through your home country. Their department of education may have its own list of potential awards.

Also, while many schools don’t offer special scholarships for international students, some will provide tuition waivers. When you attend school as an international student, you often pay higher tuition. A tuition waiver can drop the cost of tuition, so you pay the same rate as an in-state student.

For example, the University of Central Florida offers a Latin American and Caribbean Scholarship that provides a tuition waiver for students who are from Latin America or the Caribbean. Eligible students can save tens of thousands over the course of a four-year education.

Not all majors are eligible for this special program. Also, students must be from one of the eligible countries which includes Mexico, Colombia and more.

When looking for the most affordable school, try to find ones that offer tuition waivers. Those will usually be your best bet.

Can immigrants qualify for minority scholarships?

If you’re an immigrant, you may find many scholarship opportunities that you’re eligible for. You can start by looking at minority scholarships, where you can stand out if you have a compelling story of coming to the U.S.

If you’re an immigrant, you can also search for scholarships for students from that country or region. For example, if you’re from Mexico, you’re eligible for the Dr. Raquel Ontiveros Memorial Scholarship.

To qualify, you must have a 2.5 GPA, be attending a Michigan-based school and be majoring in education or teaching. Both part-time and full-time students are eligible.

What are other scholarships I can look for besides minority scholarships?

If you’re a minority student, don’t forget that you may be eligible for many other types of scholarships.

For example, if your parents did not attend college, then you should look for first-generation college scholarships. These are given to students who are the first person in their immediate family to go to college.

There’s no shortage of scholarships you can apply for. If you’re a talented athlete, look for athletic scholarships. If you were cast in every school musical, look for scholarships geared toward theater students.

Can I win a minority scholarship that renews for multiple years?

Many college scholarships are only available for one year. However, some scholarships can be renewed from year to year.

For example, the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship provides up to $35,000 for four years for minority students. Applicants must be high school seniors who plan to enroll in an accredited four-year school. They must also have demonstrated financial need and be U.S. citizens. The organization usually awards about 60 scholarships each year.

If a scholarship is available for several years, you usually have to maintain a certain GPA to remain eligible. You may also have to take a certain number of credit hours or be on a path to getting your degree on time. Some scholarships are also contingent on you staying in a certain major. If you switch majors or degree programs, then you may no longer be eligible.