In the United States, access to quality higher education remains unequal. Black students are enrolling and graduating from college at a higher rate than ever before, but still at a significantly lower rate than other racial groups. These disparities are in large part due to the inability of many Black students to pay for their education, leading many to drop out before graduation or default on loans later in life.
In order to help reduce the educational gap, a number of businesses, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropic groups offer scholarships for Black students and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Here are 10 of the best scholarships for Black students:
Furniture and home decor company Mackenzie-Childs has created a unique scholarship for Black high school seniors, undergraduates, and graduate students studying design and the applied arts. The company is offering four scholarships worth $5,000 to winning students.
To apply, interested students must write a minimum 750-word essay on where they find inspiration for their art and creativity, and how they see that shaping their future.
Application Deadline: October 15, 2020
Award: $5,000 (4 awards)
- Must identify as Black American
- Must be a current high school senior, undergraduate, or graduate student enrolled in a U.S. college or university at the time of application
- Must reside in the 50 states of the United States and the District of Columbia
- Must be at least 18 years of age
UNCF, a philanthropic organization that provides scholarships for Black students and supports HBCUs, promotes several scholarships every year targeted to Black students. The UNCF General Application is not one specific scholarship, but a program set up to establish an applicant pool of eligible applicants for unpublished scholarships offered exclusively through UNCF.
To qualify for these unpublished scholarships, students must be enrolled at one of 37 UNCF Member Institutions.
To apply, interested students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and complete the online application.
Application Deadline: March 31
- Must be enrolled at a UNCF Member Institution
- Must complete the FAFSA
- Must have a demonstrated financial need as verified by the financial aid office
- Must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale
- Must complete the online application
Note: If you need help completing your FAFSA, check this FAFSA guide.
IES Abroad, a non-profit study abroad organization, offers a scholarship worth a total of $2,000 to students attending an HBCU who are studying abroad through an IES Abroad program. The award provides $1,500 in credit counted against the IES Abroad program fee as well as $500 in airfare reimbursement.
To apply, interested students will need to fill out a general application for IES scholarships that can be used to apply for over $6 million in scholarships. In order to complete the application, they will need to write a personal statement of no more than 500 words and provide up-to-date financial aid documentation. Depending on their application responses, they may be asked to provide additional materials.
Application Deadline: Varies by program
- Must attend an HBCU that is a member or associate member of the IES Abroad consortium and that transfers at least 75% of home school aid to IES Abroad
- Must have applied to and attend an IES Abroad fall, spring, academic year, or calendar year program
- If awarded one of these scholarships, at the conclusion of the IES Abroad program, must agree to submit a one-page statement about experience abroad
- Must be studying abroad on standard programs only (students on customized and faculty-led programs are not eligible)
The Jackie Robinson Foundation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to narrowing the racial achievement gap in higher education, runs a four-year scholarship program that provides minority students with financial assistance, mentorship, and career guidance throughout their college experience. The JRF Scholars grant offers up to $30,000 in financial aid over four years. Scholars also have access to internships and employment opportunities with corporate JRF sponsors and institutional partners.
To apply, interested students must complete the online application, which includes four essay questions, and provide a professional headshot, a letter of recommendation, SAT or ACT scores.
Application Deadline: February 1
Award: Maximum of $30,000 over four years
- Must be a graduating high school senior
- Must plan to attend an accredited college and approved four-year institution within the United States
- Must show leadership potential
- Must demonstrate a dedication to community service
- Must present evidence of financial need
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must have a minimum SAT score of 1,000 combined on the math and critical reading sections or a composite ACT score of 21
- Must not possess a degree from a 2- or 4-year college when applying for the scholarship
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a nonprofit organization supporting students at HBCUs, offers three types of scholarship designed to help both high-achieving and financially-needy students.
The Completion Scholarship is a unique scholarship that provides funding for students with urgent financial needs, prioritizing graduating seniors at risk of not obtaining their degree due to outstanding fees.
The Access Scholarship is awarded to all classifications of students and can be used to cover tuition, fees, and on-campus room and board.
The Programmatic Scholarship similarly covers tuition, fees, and on-campus room and board. The winners of the Programmatic Scholarship are also given access to leadership and professional development resources and support services.
While TMCF scholarships are open to students of all races, over 80 percent of award recipients are African American.
To apply, interested students will need to fill out the online application, write a minimum 500-word essay, complete the FAFSA, and provide a copy of their most recent transcript, a letter of recommendation, and a resume.
Application Deadline: Varies
Award: Varies (average $3,100 per student per semester)
Eligibility: Varies by award
The NANBPWC, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the interests of Black women in business, offers a national scholarship available to graduating African American women in their final year of high school.
To apply, interested students must write a minimum of 300 words on how the work of two trailblazers of African descent have benefited them personally.
Application Deadline: April 15
- Must be an African American graduating senior
- Must have cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale by February 1 in the year of graduation
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must complete the scholarship application form online
- Must submit a typed essay of no less than 300 words on the topic: “Explain the benefits you have gained through the contributions of two (2) trailblazers of African descent (past or contemporary) and how it has benefited you as a person.”
The Ron Brown Scholarship, dedicated to the memory of pioneering U.S. politician Ronald H. Brown, offers scholarships worth $40,000, awarded in increments of $10,000 over four years, to high-achieving and financially-needy African American students who demonstrate an interest in public service, community engagement, business entrepreneurship, and global citizenship. Students must be graduating high school seniors at the time of application and may study any academic of their choice at an accredited four-year college or university in the United States.
To apply, interested students must submit an extensive application that includes multiple essays, an official transcript, two letters of recommendation, and information about academic and financial status.
- Early Application Deadline: November 1
- Final Deadline: January 9
Award: $40,000 ($10,000 per year)
- Must be Black/African American
- Must excel academically
- Must exhibit exceptional leadership potential
- Must participate in community service activities
- Must demonstrate financial need
- Must be a US citizen or hold a permanent resident visa card
- Must be a current high school senior at the time of application
The Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology is an endowment fund that provides scholarships to African American undergraduate students enrolled in scientific or technical fields of study at HBCUs. Students are recommended for consideration through faculty members and deans at partner colleges and selected based on academic achievement, a personal statement describing career goals and accomplishments, recommendations, and financial need. Approximately 15-20 students are awarded scholarships per year, and over $500,000 in scholarships have been granted since the program was founded in 1983.
To apply, interested students at participating institutions will need to contact the science and engineering department at their school. The Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology does not distribute scholarship applications directly.
Application Deadline: June 15
Award: Maximum of $3,000 per year (awards are renewed annually for a maximum of 4 years based on the student’s academic standing at their institution)
- Must be an African American undergraduate student majoring (or intending to major) in a technical field of study (i.e., engineering, math, science, etc.)
- Must be enrolled (or intending to enroll) at one of 20 partner HBCUs
- Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
The NAACP, one of the oldest and most prominent civil rights organizations in the United States, operates three scholarship programs, which are each awarded on a yearly basis. Requirements for each scholarship vary, but all three either require or strongly prefer applicants to be NAACP members.
The Agnes Jones Jackson Scholarship is a general scholarship granted to NAACP members who demonstrate financial need. To apply, interested students must fill out an online application.
The Hubertus W.V. Willems Scholarship is awarded to male students majoring in engineering, chemistry, physics, or the mathematical sciences. To apply, interested students must fill out an online application.
The James Weldon Johnson Scholarship of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity is awarded to seven NAACP members, selected based on two essays: a 500-750 word essay on the life and legacy of James Weldon Johnson, and a 500-750 word analysis of James Weldon Johnson’s poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” In total, 47-87 students are awarded scholarships every year. To apply, interested students must fill out an online application.
Application Deadline: Likely due in July 2021 (based on 2020 deadline)
Award: Varies by award
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must be under 25 years of age by the application deadline
- Must be enrolled in or accepted by an accredited college or university in the United States
- Must demonstrate financial need based on the federal poverty guidelines
- For undergraduate students, must be a full-time student and possess a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale
- For graduate students, must be a full or part-time student and possess a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
The Jack and Jill of America Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting African American children and to nurturing future Black leaders, operates a national scholarship program that provides funding for high school seniors who will enroll full-time at an accredited four-year college or university. The award may be applied to tuition, living expenses, books, and required fees.
To apply, interested students must complete the online application, submit a one-page essay describing their career interests, upload a copy of their most recent academic transcript, and upload a completed and signed Community Service verification form (available through the application).
Application Deadline: Likely due in June 2021 (based on 2020 deadline)
Award: $1,500 to $2,500
- Must be an African American high school senior
- Must show demonstrated financial need
- Must seek a degree from an accredited four-year college or university
- Must have a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
- Must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States
- Must not be dependents of members of Jack and Jill of America
For more scholarships, check TUN’s scholarship engine.
Sam Benezra is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in History from the Honors Tutorial College. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York. Sam enjoys writing on a variety of subjects, including science, music, politics, film. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, playing guitar, and writing songs.