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First Generation College Student Scholarships

One scholarship search tip that I repeat to students on the regular these days is how important it is to segment your scholarship search based on the building blocks that make up who you are. By “building blocks”, I mean…what are the various things that make you, YOU? 

In case you’re having trouble picturing what I mean, here are a few examples (PS – I suggest you write yours out in list format too, it helps!) … 

  • I am a soon-to-be STEM student 
  • I am a high school senior
  • I am from the state of Texas
  • I am passionate about reading 
  • I love doing crossword puzzles 
  • I enjoy helping others/my community in my free time 
  • I love competing through sports 
  • I am a first generation college student

If you’re the first in your family to attend college, that last bullet, “I am a first generation college student”, certainly applies to you, and it is most certainly part of who you are that you can leverage in your search for scholarships. 

In this post, we will highlight everything related to scholarships for first generation students, ranging from defining the term first generation to going over some awesome first generation college student scholarships.

So, keep reading for more information and scholarships for first generation students!

What does ‘first generation college student’ mean?

A ‘first generation scholar’ is any student who is the first in their family to attend a higher education institution, such as a college or university.

Despite the simplicity of this initial definition, the term ‘first generation’ can also be quite nuanced and even slightly confusing. So, let’s break it down…

A first-generation student comes from a family in which their biological parents did not attend (or complete their education at) a four-year college or university.

Who qualifies for first generation scholarships?

The answer to the question of who qualifies for first generation scholarships varies among scholarship providers and higher education institutions. Some providers may indicate that a student is only considered first-generation if their parents did not even partially complete a four-year degree. Other entities are more lenient, and say that as long as neither parent completed the four-year degree, the student is considered first-generation. 

One common agreement among the majority of entities providing scholarships is that, even if you have older siblings who have completed or are currently pursuing four-year college degrees, you are still considered first-generation if your parents have not completed degrees of their own. 

Ultimately, when it comes to applying for scholarships for first generation students, you want to make sure you definitely qualify before putting in the work. 

So, if you aren’t sure if you fall into the category of being a first-generation student based on the above points alone, my advice to you is to reach out to your school counselor (if you’re in high school), your college or university (if you’re a current student), or to the specific scholarship provider in question to get some clarity before moving forward with the application.

Who offers scholarships for first generation students?

There are thousands upon thousands of scholarship providers out there. Some of the ones that specifically offer scholarships for first generation students are Adobe, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and Study.com. 

Keep reading for our list of 17 great scholarships for first generation students (all of these scholarships are either created specifically for first-generation students, give preference to first gen applicants, or encourage first gen students to apply).

The list: first generation college student scholarships!

  • Too Cool to Pay for School Scholarship
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: Quarterly (December 31, March 31, June 30, September 30)
  • Eligibility: Our no-essay scholarship is open to high school, college, and graduate students of all years. Undocumented students and international students in the US are also eligible, and, like all of our scholarships, first generation students are encouraged to apply!
  • Krishnan Shah Family Scholarship
  • Amount: up to $40,000 over four years
  • Deadline: January 7
  • Eligibility: Open to graduating high school seniors residing in the greater Silicon Valley Region (includes Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, San Francisco County, Alameda County, and Santa Cruz County), and current community college students who graduated from a high school within the five listed counties. Must have demonstrated financial need.
  • APIA Scholarship
  • Amount: up to $20,000
  • Deadline: January 26
  • Eligibility: Open to AAPI high school seniors and current undergraduate students with at least a 2.7 GPA. Must have demonstrated financial need and show proof of filing the FAFSA.
  • Hamilton Award for High School Juniors
  • Amount: $1,000 + a laptop for school
  • Deadline: January 27
  • Eligibility: Open to college-bound high school juniors with financial need living in the US (residency isn’t necessary). Must be heading to a US-based institution and commit to participating in Hamilton’s five year empowerment program.
  • Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship Fund
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: February 25
  • Eligibility: Open to Maryland residents (high school juniors, seniors, and current college students) who are planning to enter medical-related fields.
  • Red Thread Foundation for Women Scholarship
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: February 26
  • Eligibility: Open to women of international backgrounds, including foreign students, immigrants, or first-generation Americans, who are first-year entrants to a U.S. college or university program.
  • McConnell Foundation Scholars Program
  • Amount: up to $30,000
  • Deadline: March 5
  • Eligibility: Open to students who meet the following requirements (more details on the application page):
  • -High school senior 
  • -Reside in the foundation’s service area
  • -Planning on attending one of the foundation’s partner schools (any public university in the US. Some private schools also qualify)
  • -Have a FAFSA EFC of $5,711 or less
  • Adobe Design Circle Scholarships
  • Amount: up to $25,000 per year
  • Deadline: March 11
  • Eligibility: Open to students (high school seniors) who want to enter product design or experience design-related careers (e.g. digital, web, UX/UI, industrial design, or similar). International students may apply!
  • Fontana Transport Scholarship
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Deadline: March 14
  • Eligibility: Open to high school seniors with financial need who are planning to obtain a four-year degree in the US. Minimum 3.5 GPA. You do not need to be a US citizen to apply. Accepted concentrations include Science, Engineering, Math, and more. See application page for the full list of accepted concentrations/areas of study.
  • CESDA Diversity Scholarships
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: April 5
  • Eligibility: Open to Colorado high school seniors planning on attending Colorado institutions who are either first-gen, part of a minority, or fulfill both areas. Minimum 2.5 GPA.
  • Study.com Scholarship for First-Generation Students
  • Amount: $500
  • Deadline: May 1
  • Eligibility: Open to graduating high school seniors and current college students who are or will be first-generation. Must be a US citizen or permanent resident.
  • Alex Austin’s Overcoming Adversity Scholarship
  • Amount: $500 – $1,000
  • Deadline: September 1
  • Details: Open to all high school and college students in the US, including DACA recipients. Students who identify as part of a minority or who are/will be first-generation college students are encouraged to apply.
  • Sportsmanship and Compassion Scholarship Award
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: September 30
  • Eligibility: Open to high school seniors in the US. Minimum 3.25 GPA.
  • Around the Corner from College Scholarship
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: December 31, June 30
  • Eligibility: Open to high school students of all years based in the US. Undocumented students may apply. No essay or minimum GPA required!
  • Education Accessibility Scholarship
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: December 31
  • Eligibility: Open to students with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Simon Scholars Program
  • Amount: $16,000
  • Deadline: N/A
  • Eligibility: Open to high achieving (minimum 3.5 GPA), low-income high school sophomores with demonstrated leadership who aspire to attend a four-year college/university. Must be attending a partner high school (see application page for more info).
  • Cynthia H. Kuo Scholarship
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Deadline: Varies
  • Eligibility: Open to Chinese students (high school seniors and current college students) who are studying in the Bay Area and are actively involved in the Christian faith and/or youth group.
  • New York Times College Scholarship Program
  • Amount: $15,000 per year
  • Deadline: N/A
  • Eligibility: Open to high school seniors in New York City who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement in the face of adversity. Must have significant financial need. 

Other resources for first generation students

So, we’ve covered over a dozen great scholarship opportunities for first generation students.

In addition to financial support, there are also some great organizations and platforms that have additional support and resources for first-gen students. Click on the links to check out what each has to offer!

The Center for First-Generation Student Success

America Needs You: a mentorship program for first-generation, low income college students

I’m First: a community sharing stories of and supporting first generation college students

First-gen students – you got this!

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