For many of Asian American descent, higher education is a cultural expectation. As a result, more than half of Asians ages 25 and older (54%) hold a bachelor’s degree or higher — a relatively high amount when compared to 33% of of the U.S. population in the same age range.
Yet for those underserved ethnic groups — such as Southeast Asian Americans, refugees from Burma/Myanmar and Bhutan, and Pacific Islanders — the lack of adequate information and support to navigate the college financial aid creates barriers. So, while AAPI students are strongly interested in higher education, money plays a big role in which schools they choose.
According to a study from the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, finances limited 70% of study participants as they selected a school. That’s where scholarships, grants, and other professional resources can help. Check out the following list, which details awards ranging from $500 to $90,000 specifically for AAPI students.
Available Scholarships for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Scholarships can play a crucial part in your graduate education. Other school-related expenses, including activity fees, books, or living expenses, can make enrollment cost-prohibitive even in a funded program. Many graduate scholarships are specific to a particular area of study, institution, or geographic region.
Obtaining funding can drastically improve student access to higher learning, and many scholarships are in place to empower Asian American and Pacific Islander students in their education. Keep reading to learn about 25 scholarships that AAPI students can target when furthering their studies.
Advancing Social Justice for Asians Scholarship
Amount: Up to $500
Eligibility: This scholarship addresses anti-Asian sentiment and attacks on the Asian community both following the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout hundreds of years of discrimination. The committee awards the scholarship to a graduate student interested in advancing social justice for Asians. Those pursuing the following careers are encouraged to apply:
- Community organization
- Social justice activism
Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship
Eligibility: Students with at least 25% Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry. They must be an incoming full-time associate, bachelor, or master’s degree student who demonstrates exemplary leadership through community service and extracurricular activities. You must be pursuing a degree in visual/performing arts, such as:
- Graphic design
- Mass communications
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students
Award: Up to $5,000
Eligibility: Minority students majoring in accounting. Students must use the award for qualifying expenses related to obtaining an accounting education.
American Sociological Association (ASA) Minority Fellowship Program
Amount: Up to $90,000
Eligibility: Minority students who have completed at least one year of a PhD program in sociology. Past recipients have taken active leadership in the ASA, become faculty members, and earned awards for their scholarship, teaching, and research. Areas of interest include:
- Social psychology
- Gender and sexuality
- Medicine and health
- Inequalities and stratification
- Race and ethnicity
American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation Graduate Scholarship for Minority Students
Eligibility: Full-time students enrolled in a graduate program in communication sciences and disorders. Available to undergraduate seniors and current graduate students in master’s and doctoral (research or clinical) programs. Up to 15 scholarships are funded.
Anna Chennault Scholarship
Eligibility: Asian American graduate student who is pursuing journalism as a career. The recipient also will receive travel, lodging, and registration to the Asian American Journalists Association annual convention and an assigned mentor. Applicants are judged on academic and journalistic achievement, commitment to the field of journalism, and sensitivity to AAPI issues. As part of the application, students produce a piece of journalism that provides context on a current geopolitical topic based on a provided prompt.
Asian American Architects/Engineers (AAa/e) Association
Amount: Up to $5,000
Eligibility: A full-time student member of the AAa/e working toward a degree or interested in one of the following professions:
- Architecture, landscape architecture, planning and urban design
- Civil engineering, structural engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering
- Environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, transportation engineering
- Construction or construction management
- Interior design
Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) Scholarship
Amount: One-time awards of $2,500 to multi-year awards of $20,000
Eligibility: Underserved APIA students who:
- Live at or below the poverty level
- Are first in their families to go to college
- Represent the geographic and ethnic diversity of the APIA community (especially ethnicities underrepresented on college campuses)
- Strong dedication to community service, leadership, and academic achievement
Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C., Medical School Diversity Scholarship
Eligibility: This scholarship is funded by Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C., a personal injury firm in Michigan, as a part of their commitment to promoting diverse backgrounds and experiences in medicine. Applicants must:
- Be a member of an ethnic, racial, or other minority
- Demonstrate a clear commitment to issues of diversity in their community
- Maintain 3.0 GPA and have completed at least one semester of medical school
Corris Boyd Scholarship Program
Eligibility: Students of color entering a graduate program in health care management. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and have been accepted in a participating master’s degree program to start in the upcoming fall semester.
Endowment for South Asian Students of Indian Descent Scholarship
Eligibility: A South Asian student of Indian descent enrolled full time in their second, third, or fourth year at an accredited Pennsylvania medical school. Applicants must be Pennsylvania or New Jersey residents.
Government Finance Officers Association Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship
Eligibility: Undergraduate or graduate minority student of public administration, governmental accounting, finance, political science, economics, or business administration (concentration on government or nonprofit management). Award also includes annual conference registration plus transportation and hotel.
Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
Eligibility: Students in all courses of study who are enrolled in associate, bachelor, or master’s degree programs and have at least 25% Asian and/or Pacific Islander ethnicity. Applicants must have demonstrated outstanding leadership, vision, and passion as shown through a video application. Finalists and winners must sign releases to have their videos featured on the Against the Grain homepage.
Hsiao Memorial Social Sciences Scholarship
Eligibility: A graduate student who meets the following criteria:
- Pursuing a degree in social sciences, preferably economics
- Engaged in research/study that relates to those in social/economic need, especially Asian/Asian American communities
- Asian heritage preferred for applicants, though not required
- Demonstrated financial need
- Some similarities to professor Liang-Lin Hsiao’s lived experience. He struggled to earn his degree as a young graduate student in China during a period of financial uncertainty while enacting a commitment to give back to individuals in need
Jacobs Holly A. Cornell Scholarship
Eligibility: Female and/or minority students accepted to or currently enrolled in a graduate program pursuing advanced academic training in water supply and treatment.
Josephine Forman Scholarship
- Citizen or permanent resident of the United States
- American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern/North African, or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander descent
- Currently enrolled in a graduate program or a multi-course program in archival administration or have applied to such a program for the next academic year
- Completed no more than half of the credit requirements toward their graduate degree at the time of the award (i.e., June 1)
- Enrolled in a graduate program and beginning school no later than Sept. 1 or the fall semester/quarter immediately following the award
- Full-time or part-time student
The LAGRANT Foundation Graduate & Ph.D. Scholarships
- U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or DACA recipient
- Member of one of the following ethnic groups: African American/Black, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American/Alaska Native
- Full-time student at a four-year, accredited institution within the U.S. carrying a total of nine units or more per semester/quarter
- Minimum of 3.2 GPA; an exception can be made depending on the situation
- Major in a field of study that has an emphasis on advertising, marketing, or public relations
- A minimum of two academic semesters or one year left to complete their master’s degree
- Available to participate in the scholarship activities each spring
Korean American Scholarship Fund
Amount: Up to $5,000
Eligibility: Korean American students (including international students from Korea) apply to a regional scholarship based on their school’s location. Scholarships cover:
- High school students, based on special talents (winners of competitions)
- Undergraduate education
- Graduate school
- Professional school (law, medicine, etc.)
- In some regions, descendants of American veterans of the Korean War, if funds are available
The scholarship committee evaluates financial need, scholastic achievement, and community service/extracurricular activities.
Legal Opportunity Scholarship
Eligibility: Sponsored by the American Bar Association, this fund supports racial and ethnic minority students enrolled in law school in the upcoming fall semester. Scholarships will be awarded to 10 to 20 students and are paid out over three years.
Live Like Lyly Memorial Scholarship
Eligibility: Asian American students (must be of at least 25% Asian and/or Pacific Islander ethnicity) pursuing a degree (associate, bachelor’s, or master’s) in fashion and/or graphic design. This scholarship is in memory of Lyly Koenig Mendez, a TV and film producer, graphic designer, and fashion designer who was a passionate member of her community.
Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans
Amount: $90,000 over two years
Eligibility: Graduate students who are new Americans, immigrants, and children of immigrants who have demonstrated the potential to have a substantial impact on U.S. society, culture, or their respective academic fields. More than 700 individuals have earned this fellowship since 1998, and the organization boasts a robust alumni network of past and present recipients.
Porter Physiology Development Fellowship
Amount: Up to $56,600 ($28,300 annually, renewable for an additional year if committee rates trainee progress favorably)
Eligibility: Graduate students from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds working toward a PhD in physiology. You and your advisor/primary investigator must be American Physiological Society members in good standing at the time of your application.
Prism Foundation Scholarship
Amount: $1,000 to $5,000
Eligibility: Undergraduate and graduate students of various ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, and racial and ethnic backgrounds who are making a positive impact on the Asian & Pacific Islander and LGBTQ+ communities in various fields of study including:
Soo Joo Park Scholarship for Asian American Women
Eligibility: Open to Asian American women ages 16 or older from immigrant backgrounds pursuing any field of study or educational level. This fund seeks to uplift and support the voices of Asian American women, the challenges they’ve faced, and how they’ve made a difference in their lives and their community.
Toigo MBA Fellowship
Amount: Up to $10,000
Eligibility: U.S. minority graduate students planning to attend a full-time MBA program. Specific responsibilities and requirements of fellows include:
- Summer internship between first and second year of MBA program
- Full-time employment and a two-year commitment to the financial services industry after graduation
How to Make Your Scholarship Application Stand Out
After you’ve identified scholarships that could be a good fit for you, the next step is to make your application stand out. Selection committees could be reviewing hundreds of applications. Your application is your chance to speak directly to the people making the decisions. Consider these elements and how they might enrich your application and help you set yourself apart from the crowd.
Extracurriculars Show the You Beyond the Test Scores
Scholarships have eligibility requirements, but your application is the time to help the committee get to know you off the page. Without obscuring your passion for the focus of the scholarship, spend some of your application discussing your extracurriculars and other interests.
How do those aspects of your life affect your pursuit of higher learning or your career and life goals? What helps you unwind? How does pursuing your education also help you give back to the community or the people who have supported you? Most of all, are you a person who is passionately pursuing your interests, academically or otherwise? Make the most of this opportunity to breathe some life into your application and help the scholarship committee get to know you as a person.
Target Eligibility Requirements Means Less Competition
The more specific the scholarship eligibility criteria, the fewer people who will qualify. Look for and apply to scholarships with eligibility requirements that describe your circumstances specifically. For example, a scholarship for psychology students is good. A scholarship for AAPI psychology students who live within 200 miles of Philadelphia is even better. You may have to dig a little deeper to find it, but you’ll have a higher chance of earning that award.
Recommendation Letters Can Make You Stand Out
While you can shine through your essay and application, excellent letters of recommendation make your application further stand out. Approach people who know you well and who you think will write a compelling letter on your behalf. Consider their role in your community or school, especially those in leadership positions. If you are connected (or could become connected) to a former recipient of the scholarship, that person would be indispensable in addressing your qualities, traits, or accomplishments and how they align with the values of the scholarship.
Elevate Your Essay
Invest considerable time in writing your essay. Try to break through the monotone of applications by finding your voice and making sure it comes through to the reader. Address the essay topic thoroughly and get a proofreader to give your essay a second or third look after you’ve completed your edits and revisions. That said, be careful that you don’t lose your unique voice in the editing process. Scholarship review committees are looking for a fresh perspective that pulls them into your essay, not an essay that feels sterile and coached.
Search for and Apply Early for Scholarships
Be first in line by applying long before the deadline. Begin curating your list of prospective scholarships a year before starting your studies. Start the applications six to nine months before you are due to enroll or use the scholarship. This will give you plenty of time to consider your options, narrow down your list of scholarships to apply for, maximize your output, and produce thoughtful, deliberate applications. By not waiting until the last minute to submit your application, you’ll demonstrate to the selection committee that you take your studies seriously. Being first in line communicates that you manage your time well and that you’re always prepared.
Find Local Scholarships
A great way to increase your chances of being selected for a scholarship is by applying to scholarships with a smaller pool of applicants. Some scholarships are specific to an individual university and/or major, others are for students with a particular religious background, and others are for those working at a particular company. Local and regional scholarships can be a great way to narrow the field and increase your odds of success.
Some Scholarships Support Your Interests or Identity
Many scholarships are geared toward the specific qualities of an applicant. Look for scholarships related to your interests, hobbies, cultural or religious background, work or volunteer experience, school or college, group of schools in a particular region, or career goals.
Religious organizations, professional societies, nonprofit groups, or recreational centers look to empower individuals who share their mission and goals. Some of these organizations may have endowed scholarships in memory of a beloved member of their group. Typically these scholarships seek to identify people who fit the spirit of the honoree’s legacy. Not only is earning one of these scholarships beneficial to you financially, but it can also be a source of positive community relationships in the future as you learn more about the scholarship’s namesake and fulfill the intention of the scholarship.
Apply for as Many Scholarship Opportunities as You Can
This is a numbers game. Ultimately, you want to cast a wide net while optimizing your chances of earning funds. Complete as many applications as you can manage while being realistic about how many essays you’ll be able to compose. Consider the “cost” of your time against the value of the scholarship. If you only have time to write one more essay, choose the scholarship that you have the best odds of getting and that has the highest payout.
It’s Always Polite to Write the Thank You Note
Scholarship selection committees have received many thank you notes. However, you don’t want to be the one who doesn’t write a thank you letter after receiving an award. Express your gratitude and share your intentions for how you plan to use the scholarship for your education. While you may think notes are outdated, they are typically very meaningful to the recipient. Writing a thoughtful and heartfelt thank you note is the academic version of sticking the dismount; it will affirm the committee’s decision that they selected a worthwhile applicant.
Additional Resources for Asian American and Pacific Islander Students
Financing your education is a daunting process. However, many professional organizations exist to support Asian American and Pacific Islander learners, both before and after they complete their studies. Many of these groups fund scholarships of their own or are a great gathering place to learn more about where you can look for funding.
In addition to combing through these resources, make sure you discuss your options with faculty members or mentors at your school. They tend to be members of various professional organizations and may be able to point you in the direction of scholarships you haven’t discovered. Outside of your school, identify a handful of people in your field whose jobs you hope to have one day and network with them to learn more about their experiences.
Asian American Advertising Federation (AAAF)
Comprised of Asian American advertising media personalities, advertisers, and strategic partners, AAAF works to advance Asian American advertising and marketing and further professionalism within the industry while raising public awareness of the Asian American community.
Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA)
This professional organization for Asian American journalists is dedicated to advocating for AAPI individuals on the front lines of media for more robust representation and more inclusion. AAJA offers numerous scholarships to students at various educational levels to continue their pursuit in media or communication studies, along with resources for professional development and mentoring.
Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI)
This program provides grants to AANAPISIs and tasks these schools with improving and expanding their capacity.
Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce
This group aims to facilitate business relationships among and between U.S. and Asian-based companies to empower the economic advancement of Asian Pacific Americans. The Chamber of Commerce identifies current topics in the field and seeks leaders to address them from different perspectives.
Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA)
Consider joining the APAMSA to connect with other current medical and premed students committed to addressing the particular needs of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. The APAMSA boasts more than 120 active chapters, and members log over 10,000 hours of community service annually.
Asian Pacific Fund
Focused on the Bay Area, this organization provides numerous grants, services, and training to support AAPI communities. While the organization is geographically focused, its resources are applicable anywhere and they offer engaging training opportunities.
Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum
The forum seeks to influence policy, empower communities, and create more vital programs and organizations to promote the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. This organization works on municipal, state, and national levels to provide policy and political analysis that will improve research, data, and communications strategies.
Islamic Scholarship Fund
The Islamic Scholarship Fund seeks to empower the American Muslim community and future leaders in policy, law, media, and film to reduce or eliminate barriers such as race, religion, and culture. The organization provides numerous scholarships and funding sources, and its scholars are agents of change in public opinion and policy.
Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)
Founded to address the legacy of discrimination against people of Japanese ancestry in the U.S., the JACL is one of the oldest Asian-American organizations in the U.S. The group seeks to secure and maintain civil rights for Japanese Americans and others affected by injustice and bigotry and to cultivate educational and social values informed by the heritage and legacy of the Japanese American community.
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)
NAPABA seeks to positively represent and influence Asian American and Pacific Islander attorneys and legal professionals in every facet of the legal field. The group is the largest membership organization for Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students.
Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers
This organization seeks to prepare scientists and engineers of Asian heritage for the global business community. The group also focuses on encouraging scientists and engineers of Asian heritage to give back to their communities, promote and celebrate diversity on campuses and in the workplace, and support peers in the industry.
South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA)
SAJA works both to train South Asian journalists in the U.S. and Canada and those who cover South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. By uplifting the standards of journalism, SAJA is dedicated to upgrading the coverage of South Asia. An entirely volunteer-run organization, SAJA has an impressive reach and scholarship impact.
U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC )
This nonprofit organization focuses on representing Asian American professionals and their interests in business, sciences, the arts, sports, education, entertainment, community, and public service. The group focuses on connecting members to Fortune 1000 corporations, government, and nonprofit opportunities. Beyond representation through membership, the USPAACC hosts educational, informational, and networking events to advance Asian American businesses.
The William Orr Dingwall Foundation
Established by professor William Orr Dingwall to support students in pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees across disciplines, this foundation oversees a prestigious fellowship in linguistics and a scholarship for Korean American students.