If you are struggling to pay your tuition and other college costs, you are not alone. Scholarships open doors for students from low-income families, by providing financial aid for those who need it most.
Scholarships are typically merit-based awards, which are distributed based on student achievement and performance. Popular scholarships are tied to athletics and academics, but others take into account charitable contributions and civil activism.
A range of qualifications are applied to scholarship candidacy, in combinations that might require eligible applicants to stand-out in more ways than one.
Most scholarships, especially renewable awards, impose GPA requirements that students must maintain to remain eligible. Financial need is sometimes considered by scholarship administrators, but it is usually secondary to performance.
Why Scholarships Are Vital for Low-Income Students
Higher education has never been more important, but it’s also never been more expensive. For students from low-income families, this is a catch-22 of massive proportions.
If college were accessible and affordable, they’d have a better chance to break the cycle of generational poverty; instead, the struggle to pay for higher education can leave students in dire financial straits.
Scholarship America, we believe in putting students first. That means addressing issues of affordability and access at a policy level. It also means using private-sector scholarships to fill the affordability gap for low-income students. Here’s how, and why, that effort is so crucial.
Scholarships for Low-Income Students
The following scholarships recognize that, and reward students who have excelled academically, despite financial hardship. These scholarships are among the most popular and most generous scholarships for academically talented, low-income students.
Equal Opportunity Schools
Equal Opportunity Schools ensures that each student receives the opportunity to be placed in challenging but rewarding classes. The organization works to have high school teachers talk with students one-on-one about educational opportunities and the benefits of AP classes.
Equal Opportunity Schools has doubled and even tripled the number of students taking higher-level courses with partnered schools. When pushed academically, students can discover just what they’re capable of. Students are also inspired to reach towards loftier goals than they might have previously dreamed of.
By working with schools, advisors, teachers, and students, Equal Opportunity Schools is changing the way education looks at low-income students. Google awarded Equal Opportunity Schools with the Global Impact Award, giving the organization $1.8 million in funding.
Thus, they were allowed to triple the number of students they help.
Horatio Alger Association Scholarship
The purpose of this scholarship is to assist high school students who have faced and overcome great challenges in their lives. Applicants must demonstrate determination, integrity, and critical financial need.
Applicants receive a one-time award that ranges between $7,000 – $25,000. Applications are due in October.
The mission of MDRC is all about “developing and testing solutions to the wide range of challenges that confront low-income individuals, families, and children”. The scope of the organization does extend beyond students.
Their Aid Like a Paycheck program—in partnership with TICAS—focuses on effectively utilizing the student’s financial aid during college.
By distributing the aid money on a fixed, bi-weekly basis, the program helps the student achieve a healthy balance of time and dedication between school and a job.
Such a balance eases stress and allows the student to put the proper amount of focus on studying and homework. That improves both their grades and graduation rates.
Dell Scholars Program
This scholarship is for college-bound high school students who have participated in a college readiness program. Applicants must demonstrate financial need. This scholarship is a one-time award of $20,000. Applications are due in January.
The Education Trust
EdTrust seeks educational justice for all students, especially low-income students and students of color. EdTrust works with educators, students, parents, policymakers, and civic leaders to transform and better the school system.
They promise equality-driven, data-centered, and student-focused services, By analyzing local, state, and national data, EdTrust takes a hard look at opportunity gaps and also works diligently to close them.
This passionate organization works at the state and federal level to ensure equity in education. They help shape and re-shape policy by constantly monitoring the latest trends, offering solid data, and also looking for problems and their solutions.
QuestBridge National College Match Scholarships
This scholarship is for graduating seniors from households earning less than $65,000 a year and have experienced long-term economic hardship. Non-US citizens, undocumented, and international students are welcome to apply. This scholarship is a one-time award of $200,000. Applications are due in September.
National College Access Network (NCAN)
NCAN utilizes four strategies to assist states, schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropists to provide better education access to low-income and underrepresented students. Their strategy of capacity building seeks to ensure that those who help students are well-trained and well-informed.
By utilizing benchmarking, NCAN standardizes data that will help monitor, compare, and also improve progress. Collective impact encourages groups that help support postsecondary completion rates.
Lastly, their policy strategy fights to properly represent low-income and other disadvantaged students. NCAN focuses on issues like rising tuition costs, confusing applications for colleges and financial aid, and lacking resources that all work against qualified students from pursuing higher education.
NCAN also takes its mission to the national level where they advocate for equality, diversity, and positive change in education.
Gordon A. Rich Memorial Scholarship
Students whose parent/guardian work in the financial services industry are eligible for this award. Applicants must be college-bound high school students who rank in the top 20% of their class. Students must hold a minimum 3.5 GPA and demonstrate financial need.
The award amount for this scholarship is $12,500 per year. Applications are due in February.
College-bound high school seniors pursuing higher education at an accredited four-year college or university in the US. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.5 GPA and demonstrate financial need. The award amount for this scholarship ranges from $2,500 – $4,000 per year. Applications are due in February.
This New York-based organization matches students from low-income communities to mentors. They want to empower students to graduate high school, attend and graduate college, and achieve their goals.
Students work with their mentor one-on-one, both in-person and online, to develop a strong relationship, encourage college interest, and also navigate the application process. Mentor-mentee matches connect for three to four years.
Mentors even connect with their mentees into their first year at college, with the option of sticking with the program till college graduation.
iMentor not only helps students strive toward finding the best college for them, but also bolstering life-long skills such as critical thinking, self-advocacy, and curiosity. Though primarily working with New York public schools, iMentor has also helped students nationwide achieve success.
OneGoal, as its name suggests, has a singular mission—to make college graduation possible for all students. This teacher-led organization aims to identify low-income, under-performing students and aid them towards graduation and higher education. OneGoal hires, trains, and supports dedicated teachers who wish to help students reach their full potential.
OneGoal works with students to increase college options, breakdown enrollment processes, and establish academic, social, and financial foundations. The University of Chicago evaluated OneGoal. They found that the organization increased college enrollment and persistence by 10 to 20 percentage points in students in their program.
This organization is dedicated to college success for low-income students by offering them support and coaching. Coaches guide students in preparing for college by meeting with them in after-school sessions.
The junior curriculum serves to introduce students to college life through campus tours and summer programs. The senior curriculum helps students apply for colleges, financial aid, and scholarships and also oversees their transition to higher-level education.
Coaches guide the students through the college process, ensuring that they are prepared, educated, and eager for college. Coaches even stay in contact with their students all the way through college graduation, providing support and also encouragement throughout their education.
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program
College-bound high school seniors who test in the top 15% (1200+ SATs or 26+ ACT) are eligible for this scholarship. Applicants must have a 3.5 GPA and demonstrate financial need.
College Scholars receive college planning support, ongoing advising, and the opportunity to network with the larger JKCF Scholarship community. Scholarship recipients will receive $40,000 per year. Applications are due in November.
Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition
This scholarship is for high school seniors who plan to enroll full-time at an accredited US college or university. Scholarships will be awarded based on leadership, scholarship, and financial aid.
The award amount for this scholarship ranges between $1,000 – $12,500 each year. Applications are due in November.
Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Award
Minority high school seniors who plan to attend a four-year institution are eligible for this scholarship. Applicants must have achieved a minimum 1000 SAT score combined on the math and critical reading sections or an ACT composite score of 21.
Scholarship recipients are awarded $7,500 per year. Applications are due in February.
Ron Brown Scholar Program
African American high school seniors who excel academically and make significant contributions to society are eligible for this scholarship. Applicants must demonstrate financial need. Scholarship recipients receive $10,000 every year. Applications are due in November.
Greenhouse Scholars Program Scholarship
This scholarship is for college-bound high school seniors who come from a household with an annual income of less than $70,000. Applicants must demonstrate a strong interest in their community, persevere through difficult circumstances, hold a minimum 3.5 GPA and demonstrate financial need.
The overall award amount is $20,000 doled out in annual installments of $5,000 over the recipient’s four years at college. Applications are due in January.
Aziz Jamaluddin Scholarship
This scholarship is for Muslim American students pursuing a degree in Journalism and Political Science. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and hold at least a 3.5 GPA. This scholarship is a one-time award of $4,000. Applications are due in March.
CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program
This scholarship involves working at the CIA in Washington, D.C. during summer breaks and after college. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and receive at score of at least 1500 on the SAT or 21 on the ACT. This is a one-time award of $18,000. Applications are due in July.
Mas Family Scholarships
This scholarship is for students of Cuban descendant. Applicants must have a 3.5 GPA, display leadership qualities, potential to contribute to the advancement of a free society, and financial need. This scholarship is worth $8,000 per year. Applications are due in January.
Walmart Associate Scholarship
This scholarship is for Walmart associates who have been employed part- or full-time with any division for at least six months prior to the application due date. Students must demonstrate financial need.
Scholarship recipients are awarded $1,500- $3,000 per year. Applications are due in June.
1. Who’s eligible for scholarships?
You are! There are scholarships out there for everyone. Any program of study, any discipline, whatever your background or grades — there are awards for you. Most awards will need a full application, but some will be labelled “automatic consideration,” so if you qualify, when you accept your offer of admission, you’ll get the award.
2. Do I need to meet all the requirements to be eligible?
Requirements for awards depend on the type of students scholarship admins are seeking. You should read the expectations carefully so you understand the award. Certain criteria will be hard-and-fast. If an award is for a person of Aboriginal ancestry, and that’s not you, you’re out of luck.
3. What do I need for scholarships with automatic consideration?
The conditions vary by school. When you apply for admission, you’ll be added to the list for any automatic consideration awards that you qualify for. You can reach out to the school’s financial aid or student awards department to get up-to-date information if you need it.
4. Are scholarships with automatic consideration given in my acceptance letter from a school?
Yes, you’ll be notified in your acceptance letter which automatic scholarships you qualify for. If there are any changes to your eligibility, or additional scholarships, you may be notified again later.
5. Can I apply for scholarships before being accepted to a school?
Generally not, unless the award says otherwise. Most of the time, you must have applied and been accepted before you can pursue awards. If you’re looking at an award with automatic consideration, then you needn’t apply at all — you’ll receive the award when you accept your offer of admission.
Some organizations dedicate themselves to promoting low-income students to accessing and pursuing the education they deserve. By reviewing school policies, working with students to create plans these organizations work hard to ensure that those with low-income backgrounds won’t be looked over or treated unfairly when it comes to education.
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