It may be hard to believe but there is such an abundance of scholarship money available for African Americans and too few applicants, that money is actually being returned, unused, to the donors. It’s a fact: not enough African Americans are applying for these scholarships. That means that if you’re an African American student and would like to ease the financial burden of paying for college, then there is free money on the table, you just need to do your research and send your applications. Don’t let financial need get in the way of your dreams of a higher education.

Paying for the rising costs of a college tuition is a challenge that students of all backgrounds face. However, African Americans are underrepresented in colleges due to social and economic disadvantages and many organizations have taken the responsibility of providing scholarships in order to level the playing field.

Popular Scholarships for African Americans

scholarships for black students
  • The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is one of the most influential organizations dedicated to funding black men and women, ensuring that they are able to continue their post-secondary education should they not have the financial resources to do so on their own. Their famous slogan is “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” and have a history of outstanding alumni such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson. With the UNCF’s help, over 60,000 students attend college, many of them the first ever to do so in their family. They have a wide array of scholarship programs each with their own criteria and requirements. To apply online, please visit the UNCF application page.
  • The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, selects 1,000 talented minority students each year and grants them a good-through-graduation, yes, a full-ride, scholarship that they can use at any college or university of their choice. Selected scholars not only receive this financial gift but are also mentored throughout their college career. Applicants should also have at least a 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Submit your GMS application online.
  • The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is a highly competitive merit and needs-based scholarship for students attending one of the 47 TMCF member-schools, which are public Historically Black Colleges and Universities. You must have a financial need to qualify, a 3.0 out of 4.0 GPA, as well as recommendation letter from a staff member of your current school. The average award is $3,100.00 per student per semester. Read more about the TMCF scholarship programs.
  • The Jackie Robinson Foundation is another big player when it comes to college scholarships for black students. Founded by the baseball legend’s wife after his passing, the JFR’s mission is to provide financial aid to minority students as well as mentor and guide these students throughout the process of higher education. Grants of up to $7,500 per year are granted and can be used to attend any accredited college or university. Read more about the JRF programs.
  • The Ron Brown Scholar Program is an initiative that strikes to seek out African American high school seniors with the potential to make significant contributions to society, should they receive the support necessary to reach their potential. If you are an African American high school senior that has an excellent academic record, is involved in your community, but also demonstrate financial need, you should apply for this prestigious national scholarship. Every year, 10 students from across the country are selected to receive $10,000 per year for a maximum of four years. This scholarship can be used at any accredited college or university towards the major of their choice. You must apply during your senior year before graduation. The application deadline is January 9th and then these applications are screened in February. If you are selected as a finalist, you will be invited to attend a weekend selection progress in Washington, D.C. at the expense of the program. Visit the for more details and the application kit.

Scholarships for African American Women

  • The Julianne Malveaux Scholarship is a program geared specifically to African American women, for students enrolled in fields related to journalism and economics. This scholarship’s founder, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, is an active author therefore when submitting the 1000 word essay with your application, make sure to be as eloquent and thought-provoking as possible. Find the application for this women’s-only scholarship at The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (NANBPWC) website.
  • The Ethel Lee Hoover Ellis Scholarship is another scholarship offered by the The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs that is for black women. This scholarship is for residents of the Southeast United States, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Students must be pursuing a degree related to business. To learn more, visit the NANBPWC’s scholarship applications page.

 Further Research

  • Black College Dollars is a free scholarship search engine geared towards African Americans which has over 300 scholarships in their database. They are searchable by GPA requirements and academic or career interest. Search the Black College Dollars scholarship database.

There are many options for African Americans but remember that you may qualify for different types of scholarships or grants based on completely criteria other than your racial background. If you haven’t, the first step in getting financial aid for school is to apply for the Pell Grant as there may be federal funding available to you. It is always a good idea to research with your’ school financial aid office to inquire about other options that may be available to you.