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5 scholarships for first-generation college students

Published May 13, 2024| minute read
Dhara Singh

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    First-generation college students — those whose parents did not complete a bachelor's degree or some kind of higher education — may face challenges on their road to receiving an advanced degree, including figuring out how to pay for college.

    To put the challenge into perspective, two-thirds of first-generation college students owe at least $25,000 or more in student loan debt, according to the Pew Research Center.

    “Their world is different from that of their peers who go on spring break, have gone to summer camp, and have a second home they vacation in, or a parent’s credit card to use for emergencies,” said Adrienne Tymiak, Co-Executive Director of the College Success Network in a conversation with Harvard Business Review about first-generation students.

    Finding avenues to ease the financial burden of paying for college, including pursuing scholarships, may be particularly important if you’re a first-generation college student.

    In this article, we’ll discuss how to find scholarships specifically for first-generation students and detail some scholarships that are available.

    Are there scholarships for first-generation students?

    There are a range of scholarships available to first-generation students that colleges and universities, nonprofits, and other organizations offer.

    Keep in mind that there’s no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply for, so it’s often advisable to apply for as many as you’re eligible for and have time to apply for. You may also want to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), which many scholarships require for eligibility and will also determine your eligibility for federal financial aid, such as federal grants and student loans.

    As you apply for scholarships, you’ll want to check the eligibility requirements carefully, keep track of deadlines, and have any required materials, such as letters of recommendation, on hand.

    College scholarships for first-generation students

    1. Brooksville Education Foundation First Generation Fund

    Award amount: Varies

    The Brooksville Education Foundation, a nonprofit established in Maine, aims to help students who are the first in their families to pursue higher education. The scholarship is restricted to Maine residents up to age 26. The scholarship prioritizes those seeking undergraduate degrees but welcomes applicants enrolled in certification and graduate degree programs, too.

    2. The National Flute Association First Generation in College Scholarship

    Award amount: $2,000

    The National Flute Association provides one award each year to a flutist who’s been accepted into a U.S.-based accredited college, university, or conservatory who’s a first-generation college student. Applicants must be interested in pursuing a music degree. The scholarship can only be used towards tuition or education fees.

    3. Google's The Generation Google Scholarship

    Award amount: $10,000

    Google offers a scholarship each year to first-generation aspiring students pursuing degrees in computer science, engineering, or a closely related technical field. The scholarship encourages students traditionally excluded from the technology industry to apply. The application is open to students with a strong academic record who can show proof of financial need, among other eligibility requirements.

    4. Denver Scholarship Foundation Scholarship

    Award amount: $3,600 per academic year at a four-year college or university; $1,700 per year at a community or technical college

    The Denver Scholarship Foundation is a nonprofit that helps Colorado students who may have faced barriers to post-secondary education attend college. The Denver Scholarship Foundation partners with 31 Colorado colleges to provide financial aid to students, including first-generation college students.

    5. California State University at Northridge Alumni Association First Generation Scholarships

    Award amount: $2,000

    California State University at Northridge offers first-generation students related to California State University at Northridge alums an opportunity to apply for scholarships provided by their alumni association. Candidates can be either undergraduate or graduate students and must have a 3.0 GPA, among other eligibility requirements.

    Final thoughts

    College can be an exciting new chapter in your life story. As a first-generation student, you’ll be creating a new chapter for not only yourself but your family. As exciting as that is, college may feel like a considerable expense, so make sure to be aware of all of the avenues you have available to you to help pay for college. If you need help understanding the financial aid options available, consider contacting your guidance counselor or college financial aid offices.