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The 6 best scholarships for Black college students

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Scholarships are “free money” that students can use to pay for school and other college-related expenses, and they’re one of the best ways to avoid student loans. While scholarships are an important part of the puzzle for anyone who is trying to pay for college, they’re particularly important for Black college students, who on average end up with more student loan debt than their white peers.

Fortunately, many organizations have scholarships for Black students that are designed to help alleviate student debt. While these scholarships may not cover the full cost of college tuition and fees, they can help ease the burden and supplement other types of aid like grants and federal student loans.

Where to find college scholarships for Black students

There’s no one best place to find college scholarships, although scholarship search engines are a good place to start. Many scholarships are offered across the country, but plenty are awarded to students at the state, local and institutional level. Here are some national resources to check out as you begin your search:

Nationally offered scholarships have some of the most competitive awards. While these may offer the most money, remember that hundreds and sometimes thousands of other students are vying for the same aid opportunities.

Take some time to explore less-popular scholarships by looking into charitable organizations, minority advocacy groups, corporations and even the college you’ll be attending to find scholarships geared toward Black students.

You can also try exploring scholarships for Black students broken down by category. For instance, you might be able to find scholarships just for business majors, STEM students, journalism students, women and others. This narrow search may yield fewer results, but you could end up winning more money.

6 best scholarships for Black college students

Here are some of the most popular scholarships for Black students. Some are one-time awards, which means they extend funding for only one year. Others will pay for multiple years or allow winners to reapply. Check the qualifications before you spend time filling out an application, and if the deadline has already passed, mark your calendar for next year.

1. Ron Brown Scholar Program

The Ron Brown Scholar Program awards four-year scholarships to Black high school seniors who are interested in public service, community engagement, business entrepreneurship and global citizenship — but all majors are accepted. Applicants must write two 500-word essays and be able to demonstrate financial need. Additionally, two letters of recommendation are required, one of which must come from a high school counselor, teacher or principal.

Amount: $10,000 per year for four years
Deadline: Jan. 9, 2023
Apply here: https://www.ronbrown.org/section/apply/program-description

2. EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholarship Program

Students attending an accredited minority-serving institution can apply for the EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholarship Program. This scholarship is available to juniors majoring in STEM fields. In addition to college funding, scholars will complete two paid summer internships and will have the chance to present at an Education and Science Symposium. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.2 and be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national.

Amount: Up to $45,000
Deadline: Applications open on Sept. 1, 2022
Apply here: https://www.noaa.gov/office-education/epp-msi/undergraduate-scholarship

3. The Gates Scholarship

The Gates Scholarship Program awards 300 scholarships every year to students of color. You must be a high school senior in academic good standing and be eligible for the Pell Grant to qualify. Students must also identify as African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander American and/or Hispanic American. The ideal candidate has demonstrated leadership skills and “exceptional” personal success skills.

Amount: Full cost of attendance not covered by financial aid
Deadline: Applications typically open in July
Apply here: https://www.thegatesscholarship.org/scholarship

4. NSCA Foundation Minority Scholarship

The National Strength and Conditioning Association Foundation (NSCAF) offers a college scholarship worth $2,000 for minority students who are pursuing a career in the field of strength and conditioning. Applicants must be accepted into an accredited institution working toward an undergraduate or graduate degree in this field, and they need three separate letters of recommendation to apply. Students must also be a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association at the time of application.

Amount: $2,000
Deadline: Oct. 15, 2022
Apply here: https://www.nsca.com/about-us/nsca-foundation/scholarships/

5. Actuarial Diversity Scholarship

The Actuarial Diversity Scholarship is aimed at full-time undergraduate students who are pursuing a career in actuarial science. The scholarship is available for African American, Hispanic, Native North American and Pacific Islander students who have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Entering college freshmen must also have a minimum ACT math score of 28 or SAT math score of 620 to apply.

Amount: $1,000 to $4,000
Deadline: June 1, 2022
Apply here: https://theactuarialfoundation.submittable.com/submit/174427/actuarial-diversity-scholarship

6. Anna V. Waters Scholarship

The Anna V. Waters Scholarship was established for African American students who demonstrate a “commitment to community” and have the potential to do well in college or at a technical or vocational school. Applicants must have a GPA of 2.0 to 2.9 to be considered, and they must submit two letters of recommendation.

Amount: $500 to $2,000
Deadline: April 19, 2022
Apply here: https://www.avwsf.org/

Next steps

It’s one thing to browse college scholarships. It’s another to apply and manage your applications. Here’s what to do during your scholarship search:

  1. Keep track of applications and awards. Manage your awards in a spreadsheet or document that details the award, deadline, amount, requirements and application status. You may also want to note how you’ll get the funds, since some awards give money straight to students and others pay the school directly.
  2. See if you have enough money to pay for school. Track your estimated cost of attendance, including tuition and fees, room and board, transportation, food and other necessities. If there’s a chance that you don’t have enough money to cover all your needs, look into emergency student loans through your college or consider applying for a private student loan.
  3. Reapply for the FAFSA and complete applications for the upcoming year. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requires an updated application every year. To avoid falling behind and ending up with more student loans than you need, set calendar reminders for your FAFSA and any renewable college scholarships.

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Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
Edited by
Student loans editor