First-generation college student scholarships are critical in helping families afford higher education. Also known as first-in-family scholarships, these awards are offered by local governments, schools and private entities, such as foundations and corporations. They’re meant for students whose parents, and perhaps siblings, haven’t attended or graduated from a college or university program.
Below are some example first-generation college student scholarships, plus tips on how to find and win additional financial aid opportunities.
- 10 first-generation college student scholarships
- 4 tips to win first-generation college student scholarships
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a critical step in the college financial assistance process: It’s the gateway to federal grants, work-study programs and loans. But you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t also apply for state, private and school-based first-generation college student scholarships.
Find many of these opportunities using free online scholarship search tools. To get you started, here are some scholarship programs that could be a fit for you:
1. Connecticut Trial Firm’s Education Accessibility Scholarship
2. EducationDynamics Minority First Generation Scholarship
3. Red Thread Foundation for Women scholarships
4. University Studies Abroad Consortium Access Scholarships
5. Wal-Mart Foundation First-Generation Scholarship
6. Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship
7. Texas A&M University’s Regents’ Scholars Program
8. University of Colorado-Boulder’s First Generation Scholars Program
9. University of California-Berkeley’s George A. Miller Scholars Program
10. Rhode Island College’s Miranda Scholarship
National first-generation college student scholarships
Eligibility: Write a 750-word essay about America’s public education system; have a GPA of at least 3.0
Deadline: Dec. 31, 2021
Eligibility: Be among “minority applicants who are the first in their families to go to college”
Deadline: Closed for 2021
Eligibility: “Women of an international background, including foreign students, immigrants or first-generation Americans” who are entering their first year at a U.S. college or university
Deadline: Closed for 2021
Eligibility: Neither of your parents graduated from a four-year college or university (or meet other “underrepresented” criteria); have a GPA of at least 2.5; plan to study abroad
Eligibility: Plan to enroll at a public Historically Black College or University or Predominantly Black Institution; have a grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.5
Award: Up to $6,200 (for 2020-2021)
Deadline: Closed for 2021
School-specific first-generation college student scholarships
Eligibility: Plan to enroll at one of a handful of eligible Thurgood Marshall College Fund member schools; have a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0
Deadline: Closed for 2021
Eligibility: Be an on-campus, full-time student and complete the FAFSA
Award: As much as $6,000 per year for up to four years
Deadline: Jan. 1
Eligibility: Undergraduates whose parents or legal guardians don’t have a bachelor’s degree
Award: Between $4,000 and $8,000 per year depending on your in-state or out-of-state residency status
Deadline: March 25, 2022
Eligibility: Community college transfers who are “low-income, first-generation students”
Award: A stipend of up to $5,000 for fall and spring semesters, and $2,000 for summer terms for transfer students from community college
Deadline: Closed for 2021
Eligibility: “First-generation and underrepresented students in the performing arts”
Award: $3,000 to $5,000 per year for two years
Deadline: Closed for 2021
Though the first-generation college student scholarships listed above could prove valuable to your family, it’s crucial to search far and wide for related opportunities, and not just those specifically for first-in-family students. That’s among our tips for how to apply for — and win — financial aid for your school:
By going after the bigger awards first (which can come with a more extensive application process), you’ll put yourself through the ringer — but that effort will pay off.
E.J. Carrion knows this personally: Now the founder of college mentoring service Student Success Agency, he won the full-ride Gates Millennium Scholars Scholarship, allowing him to graduate debt-free from the University of Oklahoma in 2011.
“Start by applying for lengthy ones because you can use that information as the process continues,” he told Student Loan Hero in 2017. “For the Gates scholarship, I was required to submit eight essays, but once [I] completed [them], I used them for other applications as well.”
According to Carrion, many students wait until they’re accepted into college to begin looking for scholarships; this can put you at a disadvantage. Instead, start as early as possible.
“My mother and I were looking at those scholarships before I [was] even [eligible to] apply,” he said. “This gave us more preparation time and strategic direction because we knew what they were looking for, and I had time in high school to make those things happen.”
If you’re a high school junior, for example, explore scholarship opportunities for high school seniors. You can get a handle on common requirements and use the time you have to meet them. You might work on your grades, take on a student leadership role or join a school sports team to make yourself a more well-rounded applicant.
Understanding that applying for college scholarships is a numbers game, Carrion took his strategy one step further. He applied to more than 30 organizations that required a scholarship essay, resume or letters of recommendation. He hadn’t graduated in the top 20 percent of his high school class, and he needed to stand out in another way.
Carrion chose the 30-plus scholarships because each had had a mission related to diversity, leadership involvement or community service — not coincidentally, these were his three biggest strengths.
“I tell students the key is to find scholarships that align with your strengths beyond GPA,” he said. “However, if you have excellent grades and do well on standardized tests, clearly those types of scholarships should be your priority.”
As you search for scholarships for first-generation college students, read about the organizations that offer them. If you can identify with the type of student that the organization is aiming to award, you could be a good fit.
Here are three examples of first-generation college student scholarships that are clear about their intended audience:
- The Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship Fund: For Maryland high school students planning to pursue a career in the medical field
- Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship Program: For underrepresented minority students looking to study law in and near San Francisco
- The Hispanic Scholarship Consortium: For Texas residents (not necessarily U.S. citizens) of Hispanic or Latino heritage
As you can see, scholarship opportunities for first-generation students can be very specific. Seek out those that are right up your alley — that way you’ll increase your chances of winning them.
If you’re a first-in-family student, you likely don’t have very many resources at your disposal — you might not even have a family member or close friend who’s graduated from college. But don’t discount the possibility that they can still help you during the college financial aid process.
“The biggest thing a student can do is open a consistent dialogue with a caring adult about their college plans,” Carrion said. “My mother was that person for me. She kept me accountable and followed up with me daily to make sure I was on track with deadlines and paperwork.”
Whether or not you can find a family member or mentor who has the time to help you navigate this process, there are more ways to find support. Including Carrion’s agency, here are some resources for first-in-family students:
- Beyond 12
- College Greenlight
- Strive for College
- Student Success Agency
- The Center for First-Generation Student Success
- The First Generation Foundation
- The First Generation Civil Rights Fellowship
Carrion had the great fortune of having all his college expenses — tuition, room and board and books — paid for by the time he reached campus. But not all first-generation students have it so good.
It’s likely you’ll show up for class wondering how to finance the rest of your education. Well before you decide if private student loans are your best option, look to your state and your school for support.
Florida’s Department of Education, for example, offers its residents the First Generation Matching Grant Program. You can find your home state’s related scholarship and grant programs by using the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ handy map.
Simply calling up or walking into your (prospective) campus financial aid office might also yield some school-based aid.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2022!
|1.19% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate|
|1.62% – 11.73%*,2||Undergraduate|
|0.94% – 11.44%3||Undergraduate|
|1.64% – 11.45%4||Undergraduate|
|1.89% – 11.92%5||Undergraduate|
|0.00% – 23.00%8||Undergraduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 4/19/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.19% APR to 10.14% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada.
4 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs
Rates are effective as of 05/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates.
1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions, please visit AscentFunding.com/Cashback. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 3.47% to 11.16% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.89% to 11.92% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60to 11.06% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 2.59% to 11.82% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.48% to 11.16% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.69% to 11.92% APR (with autopay). For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 05/04/2022. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Loans originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 3.48% – 11.64% (3.48% – 10.78% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.89% – 11.64% (4.89% – 11.34% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 10.39% (4.49% – 9.68% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.43% – 9.19% (4.44% – 8.89% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.80%-8.23% (4.80%-8.24% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).
ERL Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of May 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 0.29%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.
Funding U Disclosures
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.
8 Important Disclosures for Edly.
1. Loan Example:
About this example
The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.
2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.