Niche College Scholarship
Zina Kumok Image Written By: Zina Kumok | Edited By: Kevin Ladd | Updated: April 16, 2024

Scholarships for Gay or Lesbian Students

Watercolor cut-out with rainbow colors of two hands forming a heart

What Are Scholarships for Gay or Lesbian Students?

Students who fall outside the heteronormative landscape may be eligible for special scholarships designed for those who identify as LGBTQIA+. These scholarships recognize the hardships that these students face, which may include having less financial assistance from their families.

Continue reading the article below the scholarship list.

25 Scholarships for Gay or Lesbian Students with Approaching Deadlines

Recent data shows that about 1 in 4 students identify as part of the LGTBQIA+ community, but unfortunately research shows that LGBTQIA+ students are more likely to have student loans than heterosexual students. Transgender students are also much more likely to have student loans than cis students.

Like other niche scholarships, these awards may or may not have a need-based component.

How to qualify for LGBTQIA+ Scholarships

One of the first steps to qualify for any scholarship is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will review your and your parent’s financial information and conclude whether you’re eligible for need-based aid.

Your parent’s information will not be taken into account if you meet one of the following criteria:

Many schools will only award their own institutional scholarships and grants if you have completed the FAFSA. Based on the FAFSA, you may even qualify for other types of financial aid, such as Pell Grants, work-study and more. Also, completing the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for federal student loans, which have better interest rates and terms than private student loans.

Find specific awards

Like with other types of scholarships, LGBTQIA+ scholarships can range from broad to narrow. There may be some that only require students to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community, whereas others will have very strict requirements. The best way to increase your odds of winning an award is to find one with more unique requirements, effectively reducing the pool of students you are competing with.

For example, the Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community (APIQWTC) Scholarship is given to three students who are part of the Asian or Pacific Islander community, as well as the gay community. If you fit this description and meet the other qualifications, you may have a good shot at getting this scholarship.

When you start looking for scholarships, try to find awards that you are best suited for. Take some time to brainstorm your unique assets and then start looking for scholarships that match your skills and demographics.

For example, if you’re of Irish descent and are also part of the LGBTQIA+ community, try searching Google for “Irish LGBT scholarships.” Yes, there may be fewer of these types of awards. However, you’ll also discover scholarships that you’re a great fit for.

If you can, try brainstorming with another person. They can point out some of your key skills that you may forget about.

Review your application

Every year, countless students lose out on potential scholarships simply by not carefully reading the directions. If you want to win a scholarship, then you should go through the application requirements with a fine-tooth comb. Make sure you are completely eligible. If you’re not clear about the rules or requirements, contact the scholarship coordinator as soon as possible.

Even small details can get you disqualified, like sending an unofficial transcript instead of an official one. If you’re not naturally detail-oriented, ask a parent to help you review the application to ensure you’ve checked all the boxes.

Don’t procrastinate

One of the major reasons that students lose out on scholarships is because they don’t give themselves enough time to prepare. If you begin the application process too late, you may not be able to get the best recommendation letter or write a compelling essay.

Once you find out about a scholarship, figure out what you need to apply and how long it will take to complete the application. If there are any required essays, give yourself a few weeks to outline, draft and revise them. Recommendation letters may also take a few weeks, especially if it’s around finals or midterms when professors are swamped.

If you can submit your application early, you’ll also be better prepared in case you run into any problems, like your transcript not uploading or having the incorrect video format.

Apply for scholarships early on

You can start applying for scholarships at any point during your high school or college career. However, the sooner, the better. You don’t have to know what you want to study or what school you want to attend. Because many students don’t apply for scholarships until they’re seniors in high school, you may have a competitive edge if you start the process early on.

There are even some scholarships available for middle school students. By getting a jump start on the process, you’ll be able to acquire more financial aid than most students. This can help you graduate from college with less debt.

Focus on the essay

The best place to demonstrate your uniqueness is in the scholarship essay. Your grades, high school resume and list of accomplishments all pale in comparison to what you say in your essay.

If you’re struggling with the essay or don’t consider yourself a strong writer, have an English teacher look over a rough draft. Make sure to take any comments seriously and incorporate them into your next version.

Give your teacher or other trusted adult at least a couple of weeks or so to review your essay. The more time they have, the better suggestions they’ll be able to give you. Even if you find out about a scholarship at the last minute, you should still try to have someone review your essay.

Just try not to make a habit of doing things at the last minute. Make sure your teacher understands that you’re cutting it close to the deadline and apologize for asking them to rush.

Choose the best recommendation letters

Many scholarships ask for at least one recommendation letter from a coach, teacher, supervisor or another adult who knows you well. When choosing who to ask for a reference letter, make sure you understand if the application wants a specific person - like a science teacher - or if any adult will work.

No matter who you ask, make sure they know you well enough to write a compelling letter. It’s not about having the most impressive person write the letter - it’s about finding someone who can speak about you and your accomplishments in the most impressive way.

How to find scholarships for LGBTQIA+ students

If you’re already in college, reach out to your school’s financial aid department and ask if they know of any specific scholarships you might qualify for. Your school may also have a diversity department or office that you can check with. There are also college LGBTQIA+ groups that may have scholarships.

These scholarships are often offered by non-profit organizations that support the LGBTQIA+ community in general. For example, the Human Rights Campaign organization even has its own scholarship database where you can find LGBTQIA+ scholarships.

While some scholarships are available to all students, others may have more stringent requirements. For example, the Acorn Equality Fund Scholarship is only available to students from certain Illinois counties who are part of the LGBT community.

FAQs about Scholarships for LGBTQIA+ Students

What other scholarships should LGBTQIA+ students look for?

Students who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community should also consider looking at special scholarships for minority students. For example, if you’re also part of a racial or ethnic minority, you should look at scholarships designed for those groups as well.

Students can also look for scholarships that match their other interests, hobbies, skills or career goals. For example, students who identify as women or non-binary can apply for the Women at Microsoft Scholarship, which gives out up to $20,000 total.

Can I get an LGBTQIA+ scholarship to community college?

One of the costliest mistakes that all students make is assuming that scholarships are only for those working on a bachelor’s degree. However, even community or technical college students can qualify for scholarships. Some scholarships are even specifically set aside just for those in a two-year program.

For example, the Point Foundation offers a $4,800 annual scholarship to community college students who are also part of the LGBTQ community. Some scholarships are given on an annual basis, while others are given for two years total.

Even beauty school students may qualify for special scholarships. For example, the Amika "Friend to Hair" LGBTQIA+ Cosmetology Student Scholarship awards one $15,000 scholarship and two $5,000 scholarships to cosmetology students who are also part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Are there LGBTQIA+ scholarships for specific careers or industries?

Many organizations that offer LGBTQIA+ scholarships open them up to students from all types of majors and degree programs. However, some scholarships are only available if you’re studying a particular field.

For example, the Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship Award is given to an LGBTQ+ student who plans to pursue a journalism career. Sponsored by the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, this award provides $5,000 to aspiring journalists who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Do colleges offer their own LGBTQIA+ scholarships?

While third-party organizations are the biggest source of LGBTQIA+ scholarships, many schools also offer their own awards to these students.

For example, the Bruce Miller and Dean LaVigne Trustee Scholarship is given to an LGBTQIA+ student attending Penn State who has demonstrated financial need.

If you’re applying to college, visit the financial aid department’s website and determine how to apply for any and all possible scholarships. Some awards may require an additional application with more essays or recommendation letters.

Even if a college doesn’t offer their own LGBTQIA+ scholarship, they may have special awards for students who belong to a minority group. You may be eligible for these types of scholarships as well.

Can graduate LGBTQIA+ students qualify for scholarships?

Undergraduate students often think they're the only ones who are eligible for scholarships. However many organizations provide awards for graduate and PhD students.

For example, the Out To Innovate Scholarships for LGBTQ+ STEM Students are awarded to either undergraduate or graduate students who are in the STEM field. To qualify, students must have a minimum 2.75 GPA and at least two years of college under their belt.

Even if you’re in graduate or professional school or getting your PhD, you may still qualify for a scholarship.

Do I have to major in gender studies or a related field to win an LGBTQIA+ scholarship?

Some scholarships will have a specific major or degree requirement. If you are not majoring in or planning to major in a certain field, you may not be eligible for the scholarship. For example, the Hamlin Endowed Memorial Scholarship is only given to students who are studying environmental design, nursing, psychology and education.

Can I win an LGBTQIA+ scholarship if I’m not part of the community?

While it may seem like you must identify as LGBTQIA+ to win one of these scholarships, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, you only have to be an ally to the community to qualify. An ally is someone who supports the community, even if they are heterosexual.

For example, the Hampton Roads Pride Scholarship is available to both allies as well as those who are directly part of the community.

Can I qualify for an LGBTQIA+ scholarship if I’m not “out” to my family?

Most of the LGBTQIA+ scholarships on this list do not have any kind of mandate that you must have come out to your family. You may even be able to use that experience in your essay.

If you are not comfortable coming out to your family, be aware that some scholarships may announce their winners on their website.