First-Gen: Financial Aid Overview
There are scholarships and grants available that are geared specifically toward first-generation college students, which may be provided by specific schools, private companies, or nonprofit organizations. For more information on scholarship websites and how to start your scholarship search, click here and here for the scholarship page.
💸Steps to Finding and Getting Scholarships and Grants
1. Get Organized
- Before applying for scholarships, you need to research and identify potential options. Some organizations offer scholarships year-round, but deadlines often occur during the first half of the year. Generally, you should start researching up to a year before the semester for which you want scholarship funding.
2. Develop a List of Targeted Scholarships
- You should narrow the list of awards you can realistically pursue since there are hundreds of scholarships for minority students. Applying for as many awards as possible usually does not make the best strategy. Instead, you should create a targeted list of scholarships catering to their personal background and academic interests.
- Think local too! Many of these scholarships are overlooked but are amazing opportunities!
3. Prepare Scholarship Application Packets
- Many applications have similar general requirements. For example, most require academic transcripts, which you can request from your current college or high school. Others call for proof of community engagement, such as volunteer experience. Give yourself plenty of time to gather application materials.
4. Submit Your Application
- Have another person review essays, personal statements, and other writing requirements to help catch typos and other mistakes.
- Deadlines and varying submission requirements can be really overwhelming. Double-check a scholarship’s deadlines and requirements to ensure you include everything and submit the application on time. Better early than missing it!
5. What to Do After Receiving a Scholarship
- Take some time to relax after applying to scholarships, but remember that scholarships may require additional obligations. You may need to officially accept the scholarship by a set deadline in order to claim the funding. Do not forget this important official step!!
📝Financial Aid Resources for Minority Students
💡Tips for Saving Money in College
1. Go to Community College First
You can save money in college by fulfilling prerequisite credits or degrees at community colleges before transferring to four-year schools.
2. Buy Used or Digital Textbooks
3. Use Public Transportation
Given the high costs of gas prices, you can often save money by using buses, trolleys, subway, and/or train systems to get to school. Finding housing close to campus can also reduce commuting expenses.
4. Limit Eating Out and Choose Your Meal Plan Wisely
Most schools offer several meal plans in different price ranges. You can save money by choosing a lower-cost meal plan and eating some meals at home. Also, shop at affordable grocery stores and cook your own food, it makes a big difference!
5. Take Advantage of Campus Amenities
Many colleges offer free services, such as health clinic care, counseling, career planning, and campus recreation. You can save money by using these free, on-campus services instead of paying for similar services at off-campus locations.
6. Live at Home or Find a Roommate
Living at home often costs less than paying for on-campus housing. Also, if you live on or near campus, you may save money by finding roommates to split rent costs with.
7. Get a Part-Time Job or Side Hustle
Balancing a full-time job with full-time study may prove too challenging. Try working part-time jobs or opening side businesses to cover living expenses while in school.
8. Use Your Student Discount
Some entertainment venues and businesses offer student discounts. Taking advantage of these discounts can help you save money.
9. Find Free and Cheap Entertainment
Many schools provide cheap or free entertainment for students. You can also explore inexpensive off-campus entertainment and activity options, such as hiking, community theater, and club sports.
10. Don't Fail Class
Most schools charge a per-credit tuition rate, which means that you must pay to retake any failed classes. Sign up for a manageable course load and seek help from professors and on-campus tutoring services when needed.
For a full table of tons of grants and scholarships, check out this guide!
Enrollees who need loans to help finance their college education should consider borrowing from the federal government rather than private loan companies. Federal subsidized and unsubsidized loan programs typically offer lower interest rates than private loans. Additionally, federal loan programs usually allow students to defer payment under certain conditions. [Learn more about the best fit loan for you!
Federally funded work-study programs allow college students to earn additional money without the income affecting their federal aid eligibility. Most work-study programs are on-campus jobs, but some nonprofits and community organizations participate in federal work-study programs. Guide to work-study for college students!
🤔Advice from a Financial Aid Program Officer
From Dr. Nicki Washington
What are the biggest mistakes minority students make when it comes to financial aid and scholarships?
- "The biggest mistake minority students make is not exhausting the financial aid search. Most will perform a basic search during their senior year, without giving it the effort it requires to be successful. Once they arrive at the university, they don’t take advantage of the resources available to current undergraduates that aren’t available to prospective students. This includes department-specific opportunities, which may include working with faculty.
Are there unknown resources or underutilized funding sources for minority students?
- "Some majors have more funding available because there are fewer minorities in these areas. These will typically be science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related disciplines. Students should ask department chairs and faculty about opportunities, even as incoming accepted students. There may be book scholarships or other awards available (which is why it’s important to also have a resume prepared).
- Students should always look into institutional and departmental scholarships, as these funds often go unused. As an example, I had a research grant to fund five undergraduates for two years (junior and senior years) to conduct research with me. It included a $10K scholarship plus an $8k stipend (paid directly to them). I couldn’t get students to apply for this opportunity. Many students don’t want to take the time to complete the application, which often includes completing a personal statement. This goes for high-school students as well."
What advice do you have for prospective minority students starting the financial aid process?
- I strongly urge students to create three generic essays during the college admissions process. These serve as blueprints to edit for any future applications. Because all admissions and scholarship applications have this requirement, it’s good to have three well-written essays (that were edited by English teachers and a few others) to be able to tweak, as appropriate. I note this in my books.
- Every state has a higher education web page with resources for college-bound or current students who are residents of the state. This should always be searched. Every sorority/fraternity has scholarship opportunities available as well that do not require a parent to be affiliated with the organization. Check each local chapter’s website. In addition, credit unions and different companies have scholarships related to their discipline.
- Tech students can find scholarships from Google, Microsoft, and AnitaB.org, for example. Students interested in law can find scholarship opportunities through the National Bar Association, and the same goes for accounting, journalism, and other majors. Professional societies are great avenues. Lastly, most local alumni chapters provide some scholarships. Check the local chapter in your area to find out this information as well."
📝Budget Resources for College Students
NameDescriptionURLFederal Student AidThis website connects students to federal financial aid such as grants and loans. It also offers various tips for creating and maintaining an appropriate budget.https://studentaid.gov/resources/prepare-for-college/students/budgeting/budgeting-tipsDebt.orgThis organization provides online information relevant to debt and financial decisions. Prospective students may benefit from this site's information on financial aid and debt management.https://www.debt.org/students/InChargeThis company offers credit counseling, debt consolidation and management programs, debt relief solutions, and financial literacy resources. It also offers a free budgeting lesson.https://www.incharge.org/financial-literacy/resources-for-teachers/college/YNABThis resource helps debtors manage their money and get ahead financially. The app emphasizes planning and intentional spending.https://www.youneedabudget.com/
Look for colleges that have need-blind admissions, but be aware that not all need-blind policies are created equal. Need-blind admissions don’t consider financial need in their decisions; they won't necessarily offer loan-free financial aid. Some colleges guarantee all students full loan-free financial aid. Check with the specific colleges on your list to get a detailed picture of the financial aid they might offer you.
TIP: Always apply for scholarships and grants first since these funds do not require repayment!