How to Find Scholarships for Asian American Students

 September 24, 2020
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When it comes to financing a college education, getting scholarships and grants can be a real help because — unlike loans — you don’t need to pay them back. There are college and grad school scholarships out there for all kinds of situations and communities, including scholarships for students who identify with Asian or Asian American as their ethnic background.

So how can you find scholarships for Asian and Asian American students? Read on to find out.

How to find scholarships for Asian American students

Before taking out federal or private student loans, you should look to max out the amount of scholarship and grant money you can get. There are many scholarships and grants specifically created to make college more affordable and accessible for Asian and Asian American students. But how can you find the scholarship that might be the best fit for you? After all, the category of “Asian American scholarships” is very broad.

While you might just decide to Google search for “Asian scholarships” or “Asian American scholarships” and see what you come up with (and that can certainly work), there are also key areas and categories on which you can focus when on the hunt.

Let’s break them down in the list below. (Click on the link to go to the related section.)

  • Asian, Asian American and minority-group focused organizations/foundations: There are many organizations specifically geared toward students of Asian heritage, including the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation (USPAACC) and the Asian Pacific Fund, that offer scholarships. There are also organizations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that may not be focused only on Asians but will offer scholarships for students of color, including Asian Americans.
  • Location: You may be able to secure a scholarship for Asian American students who live in a specific state.
  • Area of study: Are you interested in engineering? Library science? Medicine? Tech? You may be able to get a scholarship specifically for Asian American students in your particular field of interest.
  • Specific ethnicity: There are, of course, many different kinds of Asian backgrounds. Whether you identify as Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, Indian or a Pacific Islander, there may be a scholarship specifically geared toward your heritage.
  • Multiple identity-group categories, such as sexual orientation: There are many scholarships out there that apply to students who identify with multiple groups. This includes scholarships available for people in the LGBTQ community, and some of those awards are specifically for students who also identify as Asian or Asian American.

Finding college scholarships that are applicable to your background can reveal opportunities for which you’re uniquely qualified. Here’s more about specific scholarships available in the key categories noted. Keep in mind that there may be overlap of the above categories for any specific award (for example, an award may be both professionally and location based). The aim here is to offer a general guide for narrowing down your scholarship focus, but these are just some of the many scholarships that may be available to you.

1. Scholarships from Asian-focused organizations and foundations

Organizations and foundations that support Asian Americans are a good source to find scholarships.

  • The Asian & Pacific Islander American (APIA) Scholarship Fund has offerings ranging from a one-time $2,500 scholarship to a multiyear $20,000 award. Preference is given to students from low-income households and those who are the first in their families to go to college. Ethnicities that have been underrepresented on college campuses are given special consideration. Find out more via their website.
  • The Asian Pacific Fund administers 10 scholarship programs including the Asian Pacific Fund Scholarship, the Banatao Family Filipino American Education Fund and the Seguritan: Frederick and Demi Seguritan Scholarship. Award amounts range from $1,000 all the way up to $20,000, and eligibility varies for each (some are open to any ethnicity). Find out more on their website.
  • The U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce offers 15 to 20 awards each year, worth $3,000 to $5,000, to high school seniors of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. Since 1989, the USPAACC has awarded over two million dollars in scholarships. Both financial need and academic achievement are considered. Find out more about how to apply on the website.
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offers a highly selective annual scholarship to 300 students of color from low-income households who demonstrate promise and leadership. Award recipients will receive funding for the full cost of attendance at their school, other than what is already covered by financial aid. The scholarship will also provide general support services to award recipients. In order to be eligible, students must identify with at least one of the following ethnicities: African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander American and/or Hispanic American. You can find out more on their website.

2. Asian scholarships aimed at students in specific regions

Some scholarships are offered to students in Asian communities in specific geographic areas. Look for opportunities in your state, county, city and school district.

  • The Association of Asian Indian Women in Ohio (AAIWO) Scholarship, offered through the Cleveland Foundation, is an annual need-based award of $1,000 focused on Indian Americans in the state. The award is open to women of Indian descent and high school seniors (both male and female) of Indian descent. While the award is largely based on need, applicants must at least maintain a 2.0 GPA. You can read more about the scholarship here.
  • The Chi Am Circle High School Scholarship is a competitive program that offers $1,000 to $5,000 to high school seniors of Asian descent who live in California’s Santa Clara county, or be the child or grandchild of an active Chi Am member. Recipients are selected based on factors including academic achievement, community service and financial need. The application is available every year in January. For more information, visit the website.
  • Some local chapters of the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) offer scholarships. NAAAP Philadelphia offers a $1,000 scholarship to local Asian or Asian American students each year, for example, and NAAAP Boston has scholarships of $2,500 to $5,000.
  • The San Diego Chinese Women’s Association offers annual scholarships of $1,000 for a two-year community college or vocational program, or $1,500 for a four-year university. You can apply if you’re a high school senior – male or female – of Chinese heritage living in San Diego County. For more information, you check out their website.

3. Scholarships based on area of study

You could find scholarships to match on your major or career aspirations. Here are some scholarships for Asian students related to areas of study:

  • The Asian American Architects/Engineers Association (AAa/e) offers an annual scholarship for full-time students pursuing a career in the architecture, engineering and construction industry and who have been of service to the Asian-Pacific Islander community. You must also be a student member of AAa/e, which is focused on the Asian American communities in Southern California. For more information, visit them online.
  • Every year, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Scholarship awards a $1,000 scholarship. Asian or Pacific Islander graduate students in library or information science are eligible to apply. For more information, you go to the website.
  • The Matt Fong Asian Americans in Public Finance Scholarship is one of the awards offered by the Asian Pacific Fund mentioned above. It is a $2,500 award specifically for incoming sophomores, juniors or seniors at a four-year California college studying accounting, political science, public policy, business administration or related fields. You must have at least 50% Asian heritage. You can find out more at their website.
  • The AICPA Scholarship for Minority Students is offered to ethnic minorities including African Americans, Hispanic or Latino Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders who are interested in pursuing a career in accounting. Recipients may receive up to $5,000 per academic year and must be used for expenses directly relating to an accounting education.

4. Asian scholarships by specific ethnicity/nationality

Your specific nationality and Asian heritage could help you qualify for certain scholarships.

  • The Dingwall Foundation offers Korean Ancestry Grants of up to $10,000 to students with Asian ancestry and strong academic records. While the website notes that any students of Asian descent, with at least one Asian grandparent, may apply, they note a “strong preference for applicants with Korean heritage.” Also for Korean students, the Korean American Scholarship Foundation (KASF) offers scholarships for students of Korean nationality who demonstrate financial need. If extra funds are available, non-Korean students may be able to apply, particularly if they had a grandparent who fought in the Korean War.
  • The Taiwanese American Scholarship Fund (TASF) is open to high school seniors or first-year college students. Applicants must be Taiwanese or Taiwanese American. You can read more about the scholarship at the fund’s site.
  • The Upakar Indian-American Scholarship Foundation awards up to $8,000 over four years ($2,000 per year) to recipients at four-year schools, and $1,000 over two years to students at community colleges. Scholarships can be renewed annually, based on academic performance. High school seniors who are part of the Indian American community can apply.

5. Scholarships for Asian LGBTQ students

Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer or engage in activism within these communities have scholarship opportunities. Some are targeted specifically to Asian American students, although you can, of course, apply to many such scholarships that are open to all LGBTQ students.

  • The Prism Foundation (formerly known as the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance) offers scholarships worth $1,000 to $5,000 to students who are interested in activism in the Asian and LGBTQ communities.
  • The Tang Scholarship offers awards of up to $60,000 to students in one of the nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Asian students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can apply. You can read more about that scholarship on the award’s information page.
  • The Pride Foundation has a Asian and Pacific Islaners Queer Sisters (APIQS) scholarship for Asian and Pacific Islander lesbians, bisexual females and trans students. You can read more about Pride scholarships at the Pride Foundation site.

Expand your search for scholarships

These are just some of the many scholarships and grants available to Asian and Asian American students. Among other categories, you also might be able to get a scholarship based on being a first-generation Asian American student, your sports ability, musical talent or the school you plan to attend.

For example, the Colby College Ralph J. Bunche Scholarship recognizes students of color, including Asian American students, who plan to attend Colby College in Waterville, Maine. The award offers up to $3,000 in opportunity grants.

The opportunities available are numerous for students who are willing to put in the work to hunt and apply for scholarships and grants. Also, don’t forget about the federal grants that are open to all U.S. college students.

You may even be able to get a scholarship for demonstrating an unusual talent, such as duck-calling. Check out our list of 10 scholarship tools that can help you find money for college with all types of awards for all types of students.

Rebecca Stropoli contributed to this report

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