Graduate Scholarships for African-American College Students

Paying for college is already a huge financial burden, but add graduate school to the student loan tab and the payback can feel insurmountable. Especially for African American and students of color who statistically face a higher student loan burden than their white peers. This guide outlines a number of scholarship opportunities that can help make paying for graduate school a little more manageable.

Given the significant costs of higher education, most undergraduate and graduate students have student loans to pay off after graduation. Unfortunately, this educational debt burden tends to be higher for African-American students.

Sociology of Education notes that from 1996 to 2016, the number of African-American students enrolled as graduate students rose from 6% to 14%. They were also more likely than white students to take out loans for graduate school. However, according to educational experts, African-Americans who earn a graduate or professional degree see a bigger payoff from earning those degrees than do white students.

This data demonstrates how important it is for African-American graduate students to find ways to pay for their education, especially with scholarships that don’t need to be paid back. This guide provides information and resources about graduate scholarships for African-American students to help them increase their chances of receiving a scholarship award.

Available Graduate Scholarships for African-American College Students

One of the biggest hurdles to graduate school is the financial cost. While online classes can significantly reduce the cost of graduate degrees by avoiding commuting and similar expenses, tuition rates and other fees can still be prohibitive. Luckily, there are many financial aid opportunities to help pay for graduate school.

A scholarship is one of the best forms of financial aid since it does not need to be paid back. To get one, a student must complete an application that then goes to a committee for selection and approval. What makes a student worthy of a scholarship typically revolves around having financial need, possessing a certain characteristic, and/or excelling in academics.

To give you an idea of what’s available, we’ve identified some scholarships open to African- American graduate students below.

General Scholarships

  • The Legacy Lab Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Applicants must attend an accredited graduate or undergraduate institution, demonstrate leadership qualities, and desire to bring about social change. The unique application process consists largely of providing a video clip of five minutes or less answering certain questions.

  • HBCU NREI Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: This is for students attending a historically black college or university as undergraduate or graduate students. Applicants must be studying a social justice field like civil rights, education, or criminal justice. They must also demonstrate prior experience with activism, community service, or promoting social justice.

  • ABA Foundation Diversity Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: This award aims to improve the level of diversity in the travel and tourism industry. Awards are based on a student’s area of study as it relates to tourism or travel. Applicants must show how they are diverse through race, nationality, socioeconomic status, and other factors.

  • AICPA Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students

    Scholarship Amount: $12,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Applicants must be members of a racial minority and accepted to or attending an accredited Ph.D. program. They must also intend to apply for CPA licensure, have at least three years of accounting experience or a master’s degree, attend school full-time, and be legal U.S. residents (i.e., green card holders or citizens).

  • American Library Association (ALA) Spectrum Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: This scholarship is open to full-time or part-time students attending an ALA-accredited graduate program in library or information studies. Applicants must identify as a racial or ethnic minority, including Black/African American.

  • Ally Financial Law Scholars Program

    Scholarship Amount: $20,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: An applicant must identify as Black or African-American, be entering law school as a first-year student, and be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The scholarship is awarded based on applicants’ leadership, community service, and interest in entering the legal profession.

  • ASA Minority Fellowship Program

    Scholarship Amount: $18,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Offered by the American Sociological Association, the Minority Fellow Program is open to underrepresented students who are lawful U.S. residents and enrolled in a Ph.D. program in sociology. In addition to the racial or ethnic background of the applicant, award criteria include research experience, academic achievement, writing ability, and financial need.

  • CIEF Scholarships in Architecture

    Scholarship Amount: $4,000/year

    Basic eligibility requirements: Applicants must be minority students accepted into a bachelor’s or master’s architecture program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. The scholarship serves to increase the representation of minorities within the architecture profession.

  • ELC Protecting Black Voices Graduate Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000/year

    Basic eligibility requirements: Applicants must pursue a graduate degree in political science, history, communications, journalism, media, policy, or related fields. Awards are based on a student’s experience with community service and civic responsibility as well as on their academic achievement and financial need.

  • Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholar Program

    Scholarship Amount: $30,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Sidney B. Williams Jr. Scholars are underrepresented racial or ethnic minorities. Applicants must be applying to or accepted in an ABA-accredited law school. They must also plan to pursue a career in patent law.

  • The Generation Google Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Open to students enrolled or accepted to an accredited post-secondary institution who have plans to study computer science, computer engineering, or a comparable field. It’s awarded based on financial need, academic record, and history of improving the representation of minorities in computer technology and related fields. Applicants do not need to be underrepresented minorities, but these students are encouraged to apply.

  • Editorial Freelancers Association Ruth Mullen Memorial Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: An applicant must be a graduate or undergraduate student attending a historically black college or university and working toward a degree that supports a career in publishing, communications, or other industry that could lead to membership in the Editorial Freelancers Association. Applicants need at least a 3.0 GPA and to demonstrate financial need.

  • STEM Scholarships

  • Advanced Energy STEM Diversity Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $20,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Advanced Energy created this scholarship to increase the representation of gender, ethnic, and racial groups within the company and energy industry. This scholarship is open to all undergraduate and master’s level students enrolled at an eligible school, but preference is given to those in minority groups.

  • Brown and Caldwell Minority Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: This scholarship is for minority students pursuing careers in the environmental field. Other eligibility requirements include enrollment in an accredited graduate or undergraduate engineering or environmental sciences program and at least a 3.0 GPA.

  • AWWA David Caldwell Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Offered in partnership with Brown and Caldwell, this scholarship is for graduate students enrolled in an engineering program related to the drinking water field. Applicants must be female or a member of a minority group and show a propensity for leadership and an interest in research or consulting on drinking water issues.

  • NCESA Diversity in Structural Engineering Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $3,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: The National Council of Structural Engineers Associations promotes structural engineering professionals from underrepresented groups, including Black/African-Americans. The scholarship is awarded to an undergraduate or graduate student showing genuine interest in structural engineering or who is currently enrolled in a structural engineering program.

  • Stantec Equity & Diversity Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $1,500 to $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Each year, Stantec allocates $200,000 to use as financial aid to help students who are part of Black, Indigenous, or people of color groups. To apply, students must show financial need. The award amount depends on the number of scholarship awards and the extent of the financial struggle of applicants.

  • Intel Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Offered through a partnership with NCF and Intel, this scholarship is open to African-American applicants who are U.S. citizens and pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees from an accredited institution. Applicants must be pursuing degrees in eligible science or engineering fields and desire to work for Intel as an intern or full-time employee.

  • Medical & Healthcare Scholarships

  • ACHE Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: This scholarship is for ethnically or racially diverse students who show financial need and are enrolled in a full-time healthcare management master’s level program. Preference is given to applicants who are Student Associate members of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

  • Corris Boyd Scholars Program

    Scholarship Amount: $40,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Applicants must be accepted into an AUPHA Full Member master’s degree program as full-time students and identify as members of an ethnic or racial minority group, including African-Americans. Award criteria also include financial need, professional aspirations, and academic achievement.

  • CBCF Louis Stokes Health Scholars Program

    Scholarship Amount: $8,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Applicants must be pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree at an accredited post-secondary institution in fields leading to careers as primary healthcare professionals. They must also be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, have at least a 3.0 GPA, demonstrate leadership and community involvement, and identify as African-American or Black.

  • NMF Scholarship Program

    Scholarship Amount: Varies

    Basic eligibility requirements: The National Medical Fellowships organization offers a variety of scholarships for students studying healthcare. General requirements include enrollment in an accredited healthcare program at the graduate level, being a member of a racial or ethnic group that’s underrepresented in medicine, leadership ability, and an interest in serving a medically underserved community.

  • Business & Finance Scholarships

  • National Black MBA Association Graduate Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: up to $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Before someone can receive this scholarship, they must become a financially active member of the National Black MBA Association, be enrolled in an accredited graduate business degree program, and have at least a 3.0 GPA. Selection criteria also include academic achievement, leadership potential, and community involvement.

  • ELC Otsuka Graduate Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000/year

    Basic eligibility requirements: This scholarship is available to incoming or current Black graduate students studying in a STEM or business-related field. Preference is given to students studying business, psychology, human resources, computer science, engineering, information technology, mathematics, finance, data/analytics, or marketing. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA.

  • Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: This scholarship is open to minority studies who show academic excellence and are enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program preparing them for careers in local or state government. This scholarship is open to full-time and part-time students.

  • Women Specific Scholarships

  • Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy Memorial Scholarship Award

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: This scholarship is available to female African-American students enrolled in an accredited U.S. medical school. Applicants must also show they are descendants of enslaved Americans.

  • The Esther Ngan-ling Chow and Mareyjoyce Green Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $18,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Applicants must be working on a dissertation that deals with issues women of color face. Applicants must also identify as women or non-binary persons of color from an ethnic or racial group with a history of being discriminated against in the U.S. Financial need is also considered.

  • Dream in Color Grant

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: This grant is awarded to individuals identifying as women of color and living in the U.S. They must also show financial need and be undergraduate students studying creative art. Graduate students are eligible, but they apply as someone working on a creative art project that celebrates inclusion and diversity.

  • Helene M. Overly Memorial Graduate Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Awarded by the WTS Foundation, this scholarship is open to any female graduate student in any field related to transportation. Minority students are encouraged to apply. Awards are primarily based on academic achievement and demonstrated interest in the transportation industry.

  • Brown & Caldwell Women in Leadership Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Female students enrolled in a full-time graduate program may apply. Applicants must be studying in a field such as environmental science or an engineering field related to the environment. Preferential treatment is given to students who excel academically and show leadership qualities.

  • Jacobs Holly A. Cornell Scholarship

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: In conjunction with the American Water Works Association, this scholarship is for applicants identifying as female or who are a minority pursuing a graduate degree in the area of water supply and treatment.

  • Minority Corporate Counsel Association LMJ Scholarship Program

    Scholarship Amount: $10,000

    Basic eligibility requirements: Applicants must be accepted to an ABA-accredited law school as a full-time students and be female or diverse. Applicants must also show a commitment to improving diversity and inclusion and a desire to work in corporate law.

  • How To Stand Out on Your Application

    Most scholarships are competitive, and many seem to prioritize a higher-than-perfect GPA or an overwhelming amount of community service. Though descriptions present the ideal expectations, scholarship committees generally look for unique students they think will best advance or promote the goals of the scholarship. They are also looking for a complete application. Many otherwise top-notch applications never get seriously considered because they’re missing a simple requirement. Balance this with a healthy amount of extracurricular activity, a good word from a quality source who knows you well, and solid writing, and you’re sure to stand out on any scholarship application.

    1. Beef up your extracurriculars

    Extracurricular activities help prove your true interest in an area of study or profession. They can also help compensate for a less-than-stellar GPA by demonstrating that you are a well-rounded student with skills and experiences that go beyond your academic performance. If you do have a perfect GPA, your extracurriculars show you can do more than study or do well on tests; they show you can also make a difference with your peers and in your community.

    2. Letters of recommendation

    Having someone vouch for your abilities and qualities goes a long way to enhancing a scholarship application. Because anyone reading your letters of recommendation knows they will say positive things about you, be sure to find a recommender who can write about specific examples of how you demonstrate one or more traits being sought after by the scholarship committee.

    3. Wow with your essay

    This is the one part of your application where you have 100% control. Even if you’re given a topic, you control how you present it, discuss it, and explain why you deserve the scholarship. Start writing your essay early, following the proven stages of quality writing, and have another person provide feedback and editing.

    4. Be first in line – well before the deadline

    It sounds obvious, but submitting application materials by the deadline is a frequently overlooked aspect of the scholarship application process. It’s common for otherwise promising applicants to lose out on a scholarship because they missed the submission deadline. Avoid this by starting on the application as soon as you can and turning it in as soon as possible, even well before the deadline.

    5. Look for local and regional scholarships

    The less competition for an award, the better your chances. Local or regional scholarships that are only advertised or open to students in a certain area, such as a state or county, likely have less competition than do scholarships casting a wider net. Depending on where you live, you might have just a handful of fellow applicants to compete against to earn a coveted scholarship award.

    Additional Scholarship Resources for African-American Students

    The above resources are just a sampling of the scholarships available to Black and African-American students. There are hundreds of additional scholarships available, and many of these are administered or funded by various nonprofit and civil, civil rights, and social advocacy organizations. These entities understand the importance of improving education to help end discrimination in the U.S. The following is a list of some of these organizations, along with a brief overview of what they do in addition to helping students pay for their education.

  • UNCF

    Historically known as the United Negro College Fund, Inc., the UNCF’s primary mission is to raise money to help improve the opportunity for minorities to gain an education. Much of the UNCF’s funding supports scholarships and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

  • TMCF

    The Thurgood Marshall College Fund offers more than just scholarships. This organization represents the interests of HBCUs as well as PBIs (predominantly black institutions) and works to advance the interests of those in the Black college community through the use of scholarships, research, and partnership programs.

  • NUL

    Founded more than 100 years ago, the National Urban League is a civil rights organization that works with localities to advance the economic, social, and educational standing of individuals living in historically underserved communities. The NUL’s efforts include vocational training, improving housing availability, and promoting higher education.

  • HBCU

    Before Congress could pass a series of civil rights laws making racial segregation illegal, many Blacks and African-Americans struggled to continue their education past high school. Many colleges and universities were founded to meet this unmet educational need, and these institutions are known today as historically Black colleges and universities.

  • Jackie Robinson Foundation

    This organization focuses on helping minority students earn college degrees. Besides offering a host of scholarships, the Jackie Robinson Foundation also operates the JRF Impact Program and the Jackie Robison Museum to emphasize important social issues and provide resources to students to make the most of their college learning.

  • NAACP

    Possibly the most well-known civil rights organization, the NAACP’s broad mission is to end racial discrimination. Activities include political advocacy, taking legal action, fostering future leaders, and promoting educational initiatives.

  • Shawn Carter Foundation

    The Shawn Carter Foundation, founded by Gloria and Shawn Carter (aka JAY-Z), is a charitable organization that helps socioeconomically challenged groups to improve themselves through education. Much of this organization’s work helps students pay for school, but also works on professional development, student support, and community programs.

  • US Black Chambers, Inc.

    The US Black Chambers, Inc. represents the interests of Black and African-American businesses in America. In addition to advocacy, its activity includes professional training, newsletters, and conferences. The US Black Chambers also helps businesses understand the various coronavirus economic aid programs available.

  • Black Career Network

    The Black Career Network is part of a family of job and professional recruiting websites, including those focusing on helping women, Asian Americans, Hispanics, veterans, and LGBTQ professionals. Besides helping companies and individuals create employment opportunities, the Black Career Network also hosts networking and career events for various Black and African-American professionals.

  • First in the Family

    This organization recognizes the significance of young adults becoming the first in their families to enroll in college and earn degrees and offers various resources to help them do so. Resources include help applying to college, balancing academic and personal needs, and adjusting to the culture shock of college life.