Did you know? First-generation college students are less likely to apply for scholarships than others. Many aren’t aware of them or don’t know how to demonstrate financial need. They also don’t have the benefit of learning from older generations or asking them for advice.
Needless to say, these students face unique challenges in their journey toward higher education. They may not know where to begin when applying for financial aid. Luckily, some scholarships can help them afford a quality education.
Who Is a First-Generation College Student?
Being a first-generation college student means that you are the first in your family to go to college. This can be an incredibly exciting experience, but also nerve-wracking. There may be pressure from your parents to excel in school. Yet, you’ll likely have no one to easily turn to for advice or help.
Typically, first-generation college students:
- Come from low-income families
- Are minorities
- Struggle to gain admission into a university
What Are First-Generation Scholarship Opportunities?
First-generation scholarships are exactly what they sound like. They are for students who are the first in their families to go to college. These awards ease some of the financial burdens that come with college and make higher education more accessible.
Scholarships provide a leg-up so young people can get an education without stressing about finances. Meanwhile, their parents don’t have to worry about falling into massive debt. With scholarships, underprivileged students get the chance to thrive in college.
Programs may come from educational institutions and national and international organizations. Here are ten first-generation scholarship opportunities:
- Arnold White Memorial Scholarship
- Balkhi Foundation Higher Education Scholarship
- California Hispanic Education Endowment Fund
- Central California Asian Pacific Women Scholarship
- Dorrance Scholarship
- EmPOWERED to Serve Scholars Program
- Next Young Leaders Program
- Pathway to Success Scholarship
- Stantec Equity & Diversity Scholarship
- Women with Promise Scholarship
Each of these is unique and you may not qualify for all of them. Besides preferring first-generation college students, they have unique criteria:
- Ethnic background
- Financial need
- Studying a certain field
- Pursuing a certain career
Every scholarship has a different application deadline and award amount. During your search, make note of these details to ensure you don’t miss a deadline.
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Why First-Generation Students Should Get Scholarships
Securing scholarships is an incredible way to pay your way through college. These grants, prizes, and awards are free money that you don’t have to pay back down the line. So, you can focus on putting your best foot forward in school. If there’s extra time, you can pick up a part-time job to gain work experience and save up for the future. Having no stress about paying off debt and racking up interest after graduation is a huge relief!
Were you thinking about taking out loans to pay for school? Look into applying for scholarship opportunities first. You’ll be surprised at how much they can reduce the amount you need to borrow.
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Where to Find First-Generation College Student Scholarships
There are countless avenues you can take to find first-generation scholarship programs:
- Start by perusing Scholarships.com, the biggest database of over four million scholarships, grants, and other financial aid types. Filter your search by major, state, and first-in-college. Other popular scholarship websites include FastWeb, Cappex, and Unigo.
- Look through colleges, universities, and scholarship databases online.
- Check out your state or region’s higher education commission website. They often list available scholarships for students pursuing a certain degree at a specific school.
- Your local community organizations may also have scholarships available. Visit churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples and see how they can help you find resources like grants.
- Colleges and universities have financial aid offices. Take advantage of them by inquiring about suitable opportunities. Let your advisor know you’re a first-generation student looking for scholarship programs. You never know what could be out there if you don’t ask!
How to Apply for First-Generation Scholarships
The first step to applying for a scholarship is doing your research. You can find a wealth of information online about the organizations providing financial aid to first-generation students. You’ll even stumble upon advice on how to apply for them.
New to the scholarship scene? Finding great awards isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. Keep these pointers in mind to score worthwhile first-generation scholarships:
- Apply for as many as possible—don’t limit yourself to one or two.
- Make sure that you meet the requirements of each scholarship you apply for.
- Focus on the scholarships that match your interests and career goals.
- Avoid applying for difficult ones at first. Ease your way in by applying for the ones with fewer requirements. This way, you won’t feel overwhelmed from the start. With practice under your belt, you’ll feel confident applying for more competitive awards.
- Don’t procrastinate. Many scholarships will ask students to submit transcripts. Things happen, and having a generous time buffer can prevent things from going wrong. For example, if your transcript gets lost in the mail somehow, you have enough time to send another one before the deadline.
- If assigned, put extra time and thought into personal essays. Craft something meaningful that reflects who you are, and ask a friend to read it and give feedback. A fresh set of eyes can help you polish the piece before you submit it.
Finally, don’t be afraid to contact a college counselor if you need help applying for scholarships. They can walk you through step-by-step, which makes the task much less daunting.
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Make College Education More Affordable with Scholarships
First-generation college students often have limited resources to support their education. If this sounds like you, don’t get discouraged.
Scholarships can take a huge weight off your shoulders by covering expenses like tuition, books, and room and board. But these opportunities won’t come knocking at your door without effort. So if you’re ready to reduce debt, take the plunge and apply for those scholarships!
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