When you are the first person in your family to go to college, you are taking a big step. You’re travelling down unfamiliar paths and onto a bigger and brighter future. But that road can be difficult to navigate on your own. And studies show that with aid from outside sources, first generation college students are much more likely to earn their bachelor’s degree.
Luckily, there are many universities and organizations willing to lend a helping hand to motivated students in need. They offer a variety of scholarships and grants designed to help first generation college students from all walks of life. These funds are designed to help you get started on your journey.
One of the best places to look for scholarships and grants for first generation college students is right in the state you live in. Unlike national scholarship and grant programs, the applicant pool is smaller. And because the program administrators are in your area, you’re more likely to build long, lasting relationships that will help you throughout your college career and after you graduate. You may even find yourself employed with the very organization that gave you a scholarship!
Read on to find the best state-based scholarships for first generation college students. But don’t stop here. There are 50 states and lots of small organizations and universities willing to help first generation students in your position. And if you call around to the college you wish to attend, your religious institution or local business leaders in your area you may find that they are willing to create a grant or scholarship for first generation college students that wasn’t there before!
The First Generation Matching Grant Program (FGMG) was started by the State of Florida to provide financial help to first generation college students. The grant is need based and ear marked for undergraduate students.
Unlike a traditional grant, the FGMG does not provide primary funds. Instead, it matches money gathered from private sources. For example, any money donated by your parents or grandparents, small scholarships from private institutions or money earned from a part time job will be matched, dollar for dollar, by FGMG. Public sources of funds like financial aid from your college or university or Federal student loans will not be matched
All Applications for FGMG must be made through the financial aid office of the Florida school you are currently enrolled in. The agents at the financial aid office will help you to determine your eligibility for the program, complete your FAFSA within the deadline and submit your application. If awarded the grant, the amount of the award will be decided by your educational institution based on your need and the amount of other grants, loans and scholarships.
The J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship Foundation is an organization founded by a wealthy Alabama family. The family donated a large sum of money to give disadvantaged children in the state of Alabama. The Smith Scholarship Foundation gives financial help to disadvantaged children from all different types of backgrounds. However, priority is given to first generation students: students who have one or two parents who have not received a baccalaureate degree.
The Smith Scholarship Foundation is primarily a need based scholarship. The trustees of the foundation understand that sometimes the grades of disadvantaged students are limited by their extensive home duties. Around 1,000 students apply annually. The amount awarded to each student depends largely on their need and ability. Partial and full tuition coverage is available for qualified applicants.
The J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship Foundation accepts applications from October 1st to January 15th each year. Applications are made online via the Smith Scholarship Foundation’s website.. You must provide your complete high school transcript. A copy of your ACT score is required. SAT scores are welcomed as well but they are not mandatory. Students must also provide three personal recommendations from teachers, counselors, volunteer program supervisors, professionals in their community or family members. Finally you must include an essay describing your community and volunteer activities and your plans for your future.
The First Family Scholarship is a competitive scholarship offered to students attending Catawba College in North Carolina. The First Family Scholarship is so competitive that applicants must literally compete for this prestigious award. Two competitions are held each year in November and March. Entrance to these competitions is merit based and by invitation only to students who are accepted to Catawba College. Students who win the competition will likely have their entire tuition covered or receive coverage for the amount that is not covered by other loans, grants or scholarships that the student is already receiving.
The Catawba College First Family Scholarship is available by invitation only. If you are one of the students who are lucky enough to be accepted, the application is far from over. Before you even begin the competition, you must submit a recommendation from your teachers or administrators from your former high school. Next, you are required to write an essay. The essay is only 300 words long, but the subject is a surprise. In addition to the essay, you must submit a list of your extra-curricular activities. Once all of that information is submitted, students are then invited to compete for one of two available awards.
The Dorrance Scholarship was created in 1999 to help first generation college students in Arizona state achieve their dream of graduating from college. Funds for the Dorrance Scholarship come from the Arizona Community Foundation. In total, the Dorrance Scholarship awards around $65,000 to students each year.
The scholarship is ear marked exclusively for Arizona high school seniors who will soon be first generation college students. The scholarship is only available to those students who intend to attend a public Arizona college or university: Arizona State University-Tempe, Northern Arizona University-Flagstaff or University of Arizona-Tuscson.
The Dorrance Scholarship is awarded based on need and achievement. Applicants are expected to demonstrate their involvement in or leadership roles with volunteer work in their community. Accepted applicants can receive up to $10,000 per year awarded per semester. Up to 25 scholarships are awarded each year.
Awardees of the Dorrance Scholarship are required to maintain above a 3.0 average and take a minimum of 12 credits or units per semester. In addition to grades, applicants must also keep up participation in Dorrance Scholarship program events, meetings and summer experience programs. They must also participate in a minimum of 10 hours of community service activities per semester. Students who remain active with the Dorrance Scholarship program and submit a year-end report may renew their award. The award is renewable on a semester basis for up to eight semesters.
To apply for the Dorrance Scholarship, fill out an online application here. The application deadline is February 12th of each year. You must also submit a sealed letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor by March 1st.
Many scholarships and grants for first generation college students are ear marked for minority students. These scholarships are often designed to meet the specific challenges that minority students face on their journey towards a college education. Minority students often find that they develop long-term, unique relationships with the organizations that provide these types of scholarships.
To find more scholarships and grants for minority first generation college students, solicit the organizations in your area that work with Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans or other minority groups. Many of these organizations allocate funds to help first generation minority college students obtain their education even if they are not well publicized. A little sleuthing on your parts may uncover little-known scholarship funds with small applicant pools.
The Sallie Mae First in My Family Scholarship is designed to provide financial aid to first generation Hispanic students. The scholarship is funded by a joint effort from the Sallie Mae Fund and the Hispanic College Fund. By targeting specifically Hispanic students, the Sallie Mae First in My Family Scholarship feels that it is identifying and addressing a group that, statistically, is more disadvantaged in the area of education than other minority groups in the United States of America. To help deserving students in this demographic succeed academically, the Sallie Mae First in My Family Scholarship provides between $500 and $5,000 in scholarship money to qualified applicants with a high high school GPA who intend to pursue a 4-year degree in a college or university.
To apply for the Sallie Mae First in My Family Scholarship, you must submit your application through the Sallie Mae Fund.
Large corporations are always looking for ways to give back to the community. One way that they spread the wealth is to give scholarships and grants to first generation college students. They know that these funds will be put to good use giving students opportunities that they might not have had without their help.
Check out our list of the most popular and rewarding corporate scholarships and grants for first generation college students. But don’t stop here. Many corporations offer need-based and merit-based scholarships for first generation college students. For the best results, solicit companies in your area. Corporations are much more likely to provide funds for students in the communities that they are a part of.
The Mercedes Benz Drive Your Future Scholarship is a scholarship fund provided by the Mercedes-Benz USA Scholarship Program. While the car giant doesn’t give brand new Benzes to recipients, they do provide money for school. The funds are reserved for students who are the first members in their family to go to college. By providing this money, Mercedes Benz wants to help young high school students entering college or vocational school to drive their future.
Each year, thousands of students apply. Out of the applicants, Mercedes Benz chooses students who demonstrate financial need, involvement in their community and extra-curricular activities and the motivation to tackle and complete a course of study at an accredited college, vocational school or university.
Dozens of applicants are chosen each year. Each applicant receives a lump sum of $2500 to be used toward tuition. The scholarship award amount may be renewed each year. Those recipients are encouraged to return the favor by giving back to their respective communities while in school or once they graduate. And you don’t have to worry about leaving your future in the hands of a bunch of automotive executives. The Mercedes Benz Drive Your Future Scholarship is funded by Mercedes Benz but it is administered by Scholarship Management Services, a department of Scholarship America.
Applications to the Mercedes Benz Drive Your Future Scholarship must be mailed to Scholarship America’s corporate headquarters. The application must include your official high school transcript. The deadline for application is February 23rd of each year. To acknowledge receipt of your application, Scholarship America will send you an acknowledgement card within three weeks.
The Coca Cola First Generation Scholarship is a fund fueled by one of the largest corporations in the world. The First Generation Scholarship is reserved for students who are the first members of their families to go to college. But unlike other first generation scholarships, the Coca Cola First Generation Scholarship is available to graduate and undergraduate applicants. The award decision is based on need and academic record. About 400 awards are given each year and each recipient is given up to $5,000 to go towards tuition.
To apply, contact the financial aid office at your school to find out if they are one of the many schools with a relationship with the Coca Cola First Generations Scholarship. In addition to your application you must also demonstrate financial need and a commitment to community service.
The Buick Achievers Scholarship is a highly competitive scholarship award given by Buick each year. The scholarship is reserved for first generation college students who have an interest in the automotive industry or in a related field like business, finance, accounting, math, technology, science or engineering. Although the scholarship is open to all first generation students, priority is given to those pursuing careers in the above fields, especially those who are studying engineering.
In addition to field of interest, the Buick Acheivers Scholarship board also looks for students who can demonstrate their financial need for a scholarship. Competitive applicants will be able to demonstrate leadership roles in volunteer work and community service.
In total, the Buick Achievers Scholarship Is awarded to 1100 students eacy year. One hundred of the most qualified students will receive $25,000 per year. The scholarship is renewable for up to four years of full-time school. For students pursuing an engineering degree on a 5-year track will receive a 5th year of funding. The other thousand accepted applicants will receive $2,000 per year.
To apply, fill out the Buick Achievers Scholarship form online.
Certain schools are more invested in giving opportunities to first generation students than others. To investigate these opportunities, contact the financial aid office in the college or colleges of your choice. Even if the school itself does not offer a specific scholarship or grant package for first generation students, you may find that putting “first generation” on your application may be a boon to your application. Many universities look favorably on students who are attempting to change their future by obtaining a university degree.
The University of Colorado reserves its First Generation Grant for students who are the first in their families to go to college. Although applications are open to students from all backgrounds, they are largely reserved for minority students. The administrators of the University of Colorado see minority first generation students in their communities as the most in need of scholarship funds in their communities. Students found to be eligible will receive between $100 and $1,000 per semester. The funds are renewable each semester if you take at least 6.0 credits per year and maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average.
To be eligible for the First Generation Grant a student must have parents who have not gone to college, university, corporate training, technical school or vocational school after high school.
You must demonstrate financial need via a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
You must be accepted to and enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at the University of Colorado.
Students who enroll in the University of Colorado are automatically considered for the First Generation Grant if they are eligible and submit a FAFSA form. If you are eligible, you will be notified by the University of Colorado’s admissions office.
The Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts & Sciences offers a number of first-generation scholarships to accepted students. All in all, the available funds total over $40,000 available each semester. The awards open up at the beginning of each spring and fall semester.
The eligibility requirements for each of the Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts & Sciences First-Generation Scholarships vary according to the specific award that students are applying for. Certain scholarships are awarded based on major. Others are awarded based on financial need, ethnicity, academic achievement, community involvement and other accomplishments.
The most basic criteria follows:
The Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts & Sciences First-Generation Scholarship is available online. Students only have to submit one application to the financial aid office to simultaneously apply for all available awards. The deadline to apply is February 17th of each year.
The First Generation Inner-City Scholarship is offered to students from the Culinary Institute of America. The scholarship is awarded to first generation students based on their demonstration of their leadership achievement and capability and their financial need. Each year, the Culinary Institute of America chooses eight applicants -- two are chosen during each enrollment season -- and awards them full tuition coverage. The award is renewable each year.
Students who apply to the Culinary Institute of America are automatically considered for the award if they fill out their application in full. Recipients of the award will be informed by the financial aid office at the Culinary Institute of America.
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business offers the Reynolds Scholarship to accepted students who can demonstrate their financial need. The award was created by Mrs. Lesa Reynolds -- a 1989 graduate in Business Administration from Indiana University -- and her husband Matthew. They created the scholarship to take the financial burden off of students who are lower on the socio-economic ladder.
Although all Kelley School of Business students are eligible, priority is given to first generation college students. And although those first generation college students may come from anywhere, preference is given to female students who are residents or former residents of the state of Indiana. The monetary award given to each student depends on the financial needs and academic achievements of the student.
Students who apply and are accepted to the Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business may apply for the Reynolds Scholarship online. Simply fill out the online form.
The Benjamin and Patricia Allen Scholarship is a scholarship established by Dr. Benjamin and Patricia Allen because of their close relationship with Iowa State University and its College of Business: Dr. Allen was Dean of the Iowa State University College of Business and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Today, the scholarship is funded by the Allens family, University faculty, University staff, local business leaders and the Dean’s Advisory council.
The Benjamin and Patricia Allen Scholarship is open to all qualified students who demonstrate financial need. However, priority is given to first generation students. Once the scholarship is awarded, it may be renewed from year to year for up to three years.
Enrolled students must contact the financial aid officer to receive, complete and submit an application.
Many scholarships and grants for first generation college students are based on a combination of need and merit. But some scholarships and grants are more competitive than others. These competitive scholarships and grants are where high-achieving first generation college students can set themselves apart and compete with a smaller applicant pool.
Many of these scholarships and grants are ear marked for first generation college students who graduated or will graduate near the top of their class. In addition to good grades, many scholarships and grants also require applicants to exhibit leadership skills and volunteer work in their community. If your academic and volunteer records are something you’re proud of, check out these competitive scholarships and grants for first generation college students.
The P. Doug Laughlin Family Scholarship is an achievement based award given to first generation students who graduate in the top half of their high school class. The scholarship is governed by the College Parents of America Scholarship Program. The scholarship is named after Doug Laughlin, the founder of the College Parents of America. Each year, recipients of the award receive $1,000 for the year. The award may be renewed each year.
The application for the P. Doug Laughlin Family Scholarship may be accessed and submitted online.
Not everyone fits into a niche and that’s OK. There are plenty of scholarships and grants available for first generation college students from all walks of life. In exchange for small applicant pools, many of these scholarships and grants offer large awards.
The best place to ferret out general scholarships and grants for first generation college students is via foundations and universities. A quick internet search or search of local organizations will point you in the right direction. Or, save yourself the search engine work and check out this list of some of the best and largest scholarships and grants available to first generation college students.
The McKelvey Foundation is dedicated to helping first generation college students get their college degree with minimal financial burden. The McKelvey Foundation was established by Andy McKelvey. Andy McKelvey was an entrepreneur who built his fortune from the ground up. He started by selling eggs by the dozen for a profit. A few years later, he turned his initial investment into a booming business that would become Monster.com.
In 2000, Andy McKelvey decided to use some of his fortune to give other young people the opportunity to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Since the scholarship fund was established in 2000, the McKelvey Foundation has provided scholarships to hundreds of deserving young people. Today, over 600 students benefit from funds provided by the McKelvey Foundation.
Each year, the McKelvey Foundation awards 125 scholarships to qualified applicants. The awards are given to high school seniors who are dedicated to their school work and involved in volunteer activities. Each award gives up to $12,000 to high school seniors who will be first generation college students. They may attend any college they wish, but the college must be located in their home state.
To apply, fill out the McKelvey Foundation’s online application.
The Center for Student Opportunity (CSO) Opportunity Scholarship is a scholarship designed to help first generation college students.
The CSO Opportunity Scholarship is open to all first generation students who are attending one of the CSO’s College Partner schools. Minority students and students with low incomes are especially encouraged to apply. Successful applicants are chosen based on need and merit. There are no minimum academic standards for students to meet. Each chosen awardee receives $2,000 for that school year. The award is renewable each year for up to four years.
Chosen students have the opportunity to become student bloggers on the Center for Student Opportunity’s blog. Through periodic posts, they can share their college journey with readers. They are also encouraged to field questions from younger students and give them tips, support and advice on how to succeed in college.
Online applications are available here. The application deadline is May of each year. In addition to a filled out application, you must also submit a letter of recommendation from your teacher, counselor, guidance counselor or mentor.
The TELACU Scholarship Program is run by the TELACU Education foundation. Each year they award many scholarships to first generation college students in California, Texas, Illinois and New York. There are two general types of scholarships available. Continuing Scholarships are earmarked for first generation college students entering their first semester of college. Continuing Scholarships may be renewed each year for up to four years. For students already enrolled in college or university, there are One-Year Scholarships. These scholarships are available each year but students must reapply each year.
Applicants’ relationship with TELACU does not end after they are awarded a scholarship. TELACU recipients work with the College Advisement and Leadership Program (CALP) to ensure their academic success while they are in college or university and after they graduate. Students participate in skill-building seminars, individual counseling and mentoring and leadership development programs.
Once TELACU recipients graduate, they have access to a variety of internship programs. They also have access to relationships with mentors working in corporate environments in their field. These relationships and internships are designed to help TELACU recipients not just graduate but thrive in their chosen field.
Mentoring and internship programs include:
To apply for the TELACU Scholarship Program, download an application and mail it to the address listed on the application. The application is due March 17th of each year.