Historically, access to higher education has not always been equal. Many groups, including African American and Black students, have been left out of educational opportunities.
Because of this, many colleges and scholarships aim to support African American students as they pay for college. These scholarships include specific scholarships for African American women, full ride scholarships, and scholarships generally for students from minority backgrounds.
How to win scholarships for Black students
As with any scholarship opportunity, scholarships for Black students are highly competitive, and in order to achieve success, you’ll need to craft an application that stands out from the crowd. One great way to write a strong application is to spend some time reflecting before you start your essays.
Because these applications are offered specifically to Black students, they will often ask questions relating to your heritage and its importance in your life. Before answering these questions, try to reflect on what your Black background means to you, and talk to family members or friends to get some ideas for your application. You can jot down some informal notes about your findings, and come back to this document as you fill out your applications.
How to write a great essay
Once you have an idea of what you want to say in your essays, it’s time to make sure you say it in the most compelling way possible. Try to be succinct, charismatic, and insightful in your responses. Oftentimes, getting someone to proofread your essays can help you gain some perspective.
We have a host of resources to help you fine-tune your applications, including guides on writing 250 word or 500 word essays, writing about yourself, and answering some of the most common scholarship essay prompts. You can also check out our guides for starting and ending your essays, as well as a guide on how to write a winning scholarship essay.
Tips for African American students applying for scholarships
- Consider Historically Black Colleges and Universities (also known as HBCUs) in your colleges search! HBCUs include top schools like Howard, Spelman, and Morehouse have historically served African American students and have many merit scholarships for black women and men.
- In addition to merit scholarships, you should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA) to qualify for need-based financial aid.
- Check out our scholarship search tool to stay up-to-date on current scholarship opportunities custom-matched to your demographics, interests, and major.
- Make sure to put a lot of work into your scholarship essays. This includes working on writing about yourself, and learning to write for word limits. Some common word limits for scholarship essays are 250 and 500 words.
- Talk to the guidance counselor at your high school to see if there are any local scholarships you can apply for.
Prestigious scholarships for Black and African American students
These scholarships are some of our top picks, as they come with high awards, can be used at any accredited college, and are very prestigious to receive.
Black high school seniors can apply to this program to earn $35,000 over their four years of college. They also receive invitations and funding to attend annual leadership conferences in New York to help support them through their college journey and beyond. In order to qualify, you’ll have to be a member of a minority group, demonstrate financial need, and demonstrate civic engagement through volunteer work, leadership roles, or other similar achievements.
Black high school seniors who show interest in business and public service and who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds can qualify for this scholarship. The program offers up to $40,000 over a student’s four years of college. Community service, academic achievement, and financial need are all weighed heavily in this scholarship.
Students who are of African descent and who are planning to major in engineering, computer science, computer information system, or business programs such as finance and business administration, are eligible. Students apply in their senior year of high school. The scholarship can provide up to $20,000 over four years of college. You’ll need to submit letters of recommendation for this one, so if you are planning to apply, make sure to request them earlier rather than later.
What you should know about HBCUs
HBCUs have historically been extremely important in the education of Black students. For many years, they were the only universities that admitted Black students. Fortunately, this is no longer true. However, they continue to provide unique benefits for Black students across the country. Here is a list of some of the highest-rated HBCUs:
|Spelman College||Atlanta, GA||2,120||$29,972||43.4%|
|Howard University||Washington, DC||6,526||$28,440||36.1%|
|Xavier University of Louisiana||New Orleans, LA||2,530||$25,947||60%|
|Tuskegee University||Tuskegee, AL||2,394||$22,679||51.7%|
|Hampton University||Hampton, VA||3,714||$29,287||36%|
|Morehouse College||Atlanta, GA||2,238||$28,847||99.8%|
There are many scholarship opportunities specifically for Black students attending an HBCU. These include the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame General Scholarship. We also have a full list of HBCU scholarships to check out.
Don’t forget financial aid
While scholarships are a great way to pay for your education, it’s important not to forget financial aid as you move through the application process. Be sure to fill out the FAFSA to discover your eligibility for federal funding such as the Pell Grant, Stafford Loans, and state grants, as well as institutional aid. If your school requires the CSS Profile, make sure to fill that out too. And be sure to check in with your local community to see if there are any grants available for students.
Resources for Black students
If you have a good idea of the type of work you want to get into, it’s a good idea to seek out some Black professional organizations in your field. These organizations often offer their own scholarships, and they also host events that unite professionals in the field. From these events, you may gain additional guidance on your career trajectory, or even land a job or internship.
Professional organizations can vary widely in scope and focus. Some may be regional organizations, whereas others will be national. For example, the National Association of Black Accountants boasts of over 200,000 members nationwide, and could be a great resource for Black students interested in accounting.
And they are far from the only ones – whether you plan to be a physicist, cardiologist, a psychologist, or a host of other professions, there is an organization out there for you! Even students who are not set on a career path may benefit from joining or investigating these organizations. The firsthand experience with professionals in the field can help you decide whether it is a good fit for you or not.
Black Student Unions
Most colleges around the country have Black Student Unions, which unify Black students on campus. If you are considering attending a school, you may find it beneficial to reach out to their Black Student Union. They may be able to steer you in the direction of school-specific scholarships and other resources. They can also offer insight about the experience of being a Black student on that school’s campus.
Additional organizations to check out
- Black Career Network – a great resource for landing a job after graduation or an internship while you’re still in school
- United Negro College Fund (UNCF) – an organization that offers a wide array of dependable and lucrative scholarships for Black and African American students
- HBCU Network – a catch-all hub of resources for students attending an HBCU or considering attending one
- I’m First – if you are a first-generation college student, this is a great hub of resources to answer questions you may not even know you had. This can make your application process and your first semesters in school much easier and more successful
Frequently asked questions about scholarships for Black students
Are there scholarships specifically for Black women?
Do I qualify for scholarships for Black students if I am multiracial?
What are the advantages of HBCUs?
Explore these additional scholarship categories
- Top scholarships at HBCUs
- Top scholarships for women
- Easy scholarships to apply for
- Top scholarships for minority students
- Most prestigious scholarships
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