How to get a diversity scholarship

Your heritage or ethnicity could mean free cash for college.

How to get a diversity scholarship Yeah, yeah, yeah—you know that outstanding academic and extracurricular credentials can get you private scholarships.

But did you know you could also get scholarships just for taking pride in your ethnicity and getting involved in your community?

What they are
Diversity or ethnicity-based scholarships offer money for school to candidates who are either of certain ethnicities or interested in certain cultures.

“We look for academic potential and financial need, but also an interest in the student’s heritage,” says Serena Cantoni, director of education programs at the National Italian American Foundation, which awards a variety of scholarships.

Show that interest through involvement in a cultural club, in helping out your community, or even in knowing your native language, Cantoni says.

“What we look for is leadership, community support and participation, and a show of pride,” says Jesus Mena, director of communications at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Most ethnicity-based organizations offer scholarships in hopes that recipients will be successful during and after college, and return the favor by supporting their ethnic groups and communities later in life.

How to get them
The awarders of diversity scholarships are “looking for students who are capable of getting into college and doing well, and also students who have demonstrated leadership qualities,” says Dorothy Hamilton, national director of marketing at Scholarship America, a nonprofit organization that helps distribute private scholarships.

In fact, most diversity scholarships come with a high GPA requirement and look for academic excellence and proof of hard work in high school.

Ethnicity-based scholarships exist for virtually all ethnic groups, and much of the money goes to students who need it most, Mena says.

And for students who historically haven’t had the chance or the funds to attend college, diversity scholarships can make a big difference.

Where to find them
There’s certainly no shortage of ethnicity-based scholarships. Consider the following leads when starting your diversity scholarship search.
  • The United Negro College Fund (uncf.org) offers a variety of scholarships and grants to minority students and has helped more than 28,000 students since its establishment in 1985. Its scholarships range from tuition to travel expenses and pretty much everything in between.
  • The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (hsf.net) gave away 4,600 scholarships last year alone, and has been in existence for 31 years. It offers grants both to high school students entering college and to continuing college and graduate students.
  • Scholarships at the National Italian American Foundation (niaf.org) go to students who are either of Italian heritage or are interested in studying Italian language and culture in college.
  • Several local branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp.org) award minority scholarships. Eligibility requirements range by chapter, so check with your local NAACP branch for details.
  • Other organizations that give diversity scholarships include the Korean American Scholarship Foundation (kasf.org), the Japanese American Citizens’ League (jacl.org), and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (cbcfinc.org)
  • Scholarship America has a list of resources for students on its Web site (scholarshipamerica.org), including information about diversity scholarships.
  • A variety of trade associations—from state Bar associations to engineering groups—also offer diversity scholarships to minority students who are interested in a particular profession or course of study. Check with national, state and local associations in your major for scholarships.
  • Researching online scholarship sites is still your best bet. Also check with your financial aid office—some colleges even have their own diversity grants.


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