20 Scholarships for First-Generation Students

Being the first to do anything can be intimidating. But being a first-generation college student, meaning they are the first in their family to attend college, can face many challenges during their first year at college. These students need support and help along the way to earn their college degrees and make their families proud.

Luckily, high school and college student scholarships have been created to address the needs of these students. Below is a shortlist of our picks for the best scholarships for first-generation college students.

About First Generation Scholarship 

Forty-two percent of the students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree for the 2015-2016 academic school year were first-generation students. Even though these students are overcoming some of the barriers they face pursuing a college degree, they can still use support to cover costs associated with higher education, like tuition or books, meal plans, or rooming fees. 

That’s where scholarships come in! Plenty of scholarships are open to first-generation applicants to help these students attend college and achieve their academic goals.

What are First Generation Scholarships?

First-generation scholarships are financial awards that are only open to applicants who are first-generation students, meaning the first in their family to attend college or university. These first-generation college students may pursue an undergraduate degree in a major of their choice. A first-generation scholarship can help with the costs that financial aid may not cover, including textbooks, meal plans, tuition, and more.

What Qualifies as a First Generation Scholarship?

It is usually very easy to tell when a scholarship is meant specifically for first-generation students. All scholarships have specific requirements that applicants have to meet to be considered for the award. This can usually be found in the scholarship description or the essay entry prompt if there is a writing component. 

Many popular scholarship websites have sections labeled by type of scholarship so that you can find the scholarships you are likely to qualify for more easily.   

Types of First Generation Scholarships Available

Many different types of scholarships are open to only first-generation college students or all students for applications. Here is a short list of the types of scholarships available. 


Merit scholarships are financial awards not based on financial need but on a student’s demonstrable ability. For example, a merit scholarship for engineering students may require that applicants present an engineering-related project that they have done. 


Businesses, organizations, or clubs fund these to cover school costs. These can be local, regional, or national-level scholarships, depending on the size of the group awarding the scholarship. 


These scholarships are based solely on your proven academic ability. These can be decided on the applicant’s grade-point average (GPA), standardized test scores (ACT, SAT, AP exams, etc.), or other academic scores.


Major-based scholarships are financial awards only available to students who have declared a particular major. These scholarships can be as broad as only art majors or foreign language majors, or they can be as specific as only open to Greek history majors. 

How to Find First Generation Scholarships to Apply for?

Looking for scholarships can be a complicated and lengthy process, especially if you don’t know where to start. But, there are a lot of resources available to help students find scholarships that they qualify for.

The internet is the best place to start if you need help looking for scholarships. There are many websites dedicated to collecting and showcasing scholarships to students in need. These websites are helpful because you can filter out scholarships you know you won’t qualify for. 

Your advisor, counselor, professors, or other students within your major or undergraduate degree program are also great resources for finding scholarships. 

Some First Generation College Student Scholarships to Apply For

For any college student, there are a variety of scholarships to choose from. A popular way to keep up to date with what is offered throughout your college years is by paying attention to emails. College students can receive scholarship opportunities through their emails or via professors or advisors. College student scholarships can benefit any student, but below are some of the best first-generation college student scholarships for graduating high school seniors and first-year college students.

1st Generation People Of Color Patrick Copney Memorial Music/Arts Scholarship

In honor of Patrick Copney’s deep love for music and art, this memorial scholarship seeks to provide two students with $1000 each. Students in New York are eligible to apply if they are first-generation college students earning a music or arts degree and are African-American high school or undergraduate students from low-income backgrounds.

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline: September 1, 2022
  • Winner Announced: September 30, 2022

Sharyn First-Generation in Business Scholarship

This essay scholarship seeks to provide $500 to a second-year undergraduate college student who is a first-generation student and is pursuing business.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: August 2, 2022
  • Winner Announced: August 31, 2022

Chang Heaton Scholarship for Music Excellence

The Chang Heaton Scholarship for Music Excellence aims to support first-generation Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers in music and theater by awarding five students $505 each.

  • Amount: $505
  • Application Deadline: June 25, 2022
  • Winner Announced: July 25, 2022

Carlos F. Garcia Muentes Scholarship

To contribute to a better future for immigrant students across the country, the Carlos F. Garcia Muentes Scholarship will support immigrant students that have a passion for learning and want to create a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities with $500.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: August 9, 2022
  • Winner Announced: September 9, 2022

Catrina Celestine Aquilino Memorial Scholarship

To honor the memory of Catrina Celestine Aquilino, this memorial scholarship seeks to provide $500 to a first-generation student in college or graduate school interested in law and/or healthcare.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: October 12, 2022
  • Winner Announced: November 11, 2022

Cyrilla Olapeju Sanni Scholarship Fund

This scholarship seeks to provide support to two African students who are struggling financially so they can fund their education by awarding them each $500.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: September 12, 2022
  • Winner Announced: October 12, 2022

Hasanovic American Dream Scholarship

In support of immigrants who come to the US looking for a better life for their families, the Hasanovic American Dream Scholarship seeks to award $500 to a first or second-generation immigrant student in any field of study. 

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 1, 2022
  • Winner Announced: July 31, 2022

Leon M. Braswell III Book Scholarship

In honor of Leon M. Braswell III’s dedication to his students and reading, this scholarship seeks to award $3,432 to a high school senior from a historically underrepresented minority group who will be a first-generation college student.

  • Amount: $3,432
  • Application Deadline: July 20, 2022
  • Winner Announced: August 20, 2022

Carlynn’s No-Essay Coming to America Scholarship

This $1,000 no-essay scholarship is open to any international graduating high school senior, undergraduate, or graduate student attending school in the US, including those who aren’t citizens and those who are naturalized in the US with citizenship.

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline: November 1, 2022
  • Winner Announced: November 30, 2022

Cardel Love Scholarship

The Cardel Love Scholarship seeks to honor Cardel’s life and legacy by supporting first-generation BIPOC students from New York so they can pursue higher education.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: September 9, 2022
  • Winner Announced: October 9, 2022

Earl Pascua Filipino-American Heritage Scholarship

This $1,500 scholarship was created to ​​help encourage and support Filipino-Americans to continue pursuing citizenship and excellence through a postgraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) program.

  • Amount: $1,500
  • Application Deadline: December 1, 2022
  • Winner Announced: December 31, 2022

Diversity in Law Scholarship

To help address representation in law firms, the Diversity in Law Scholarship seeks to award $1,000 to first-generation college or university law students passionate about using their careers to help others.

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline: August 1, 2022
  • Winner Announced: September 1, 2022

Minority/Women in STEM Scholarship

Navigating the college application process can be difficult, especially if you are figuring it out on your own for the first time. The Minority/Women in STEM Scholarship seeks to provide $1,085 to five BIPOC and/or female students or undergraduates who are low-income, first-generation college students interested in STEM. 

  • Amount: $1,085
  • Application Deadline: July 2, 2022
  • Winner Announced: July 31, 2022

Pablo M. Ortiz Scholarship Fund

As our society becomes more reliant on technology, we need people to work in careers that create and maintain the technology we use daily. This $1,000 scholarship seeks to honor Pablo M. Ortiz’s legacy by supporting underrepresented college students interested in software engineering or computer science.

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline: June 20, 2022
  • Winner Announced: July 20, 2022

Coding for Minorities Scholarship

To support the endeavors of minorities who code across the country, the Coding for Minorities Scholarship will be awarding $500 to one determined minority student pursuing a college degree and a career in coding or computer science.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 1, 2022
  • Winner Announced: August 1, 2022

Small Seed Big Flower Scholarship

The Small Seed Big Flower Scholarship, sponsored by Bold.org, aims to support first-generation BIPOC undergraduate students by providing $1,015 to a student who needs financial aid.

  • Amount: $1,015
  • Application Deadline: November 15, 2022
  • Winner Announced: December 15, 2022

Filipino-American Scholarship

Boosting the representation of Filipinos in academia and the workforce, this scholarship seeks to provide $1,500 to a Filipino-American first-generation college student interested in community service. 

  • Amount: $1,500
  • Application Deadline:  January 16, 2023
  • Winner Announced: February 16, 2023

UW Madison Diverse Perspectives Scholarship

To encourage diversity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the UW Madison Diverse Perspectives Scholarship will support BIPOC students in need of financial aid by giving one of these students $1,000.

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline:  August 1, 2022
  • Winner Announced: August 31, 2022

ESOF Academic Scholarship

This scholarship seeks to support two minority students with $500 who need monetary support to pursue higher education at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline:  June 19, 2022
  • Winner Announced: July 19, 2022

HRCap Next-Gen Leadership Scholarship

The HRCap scholarship seeks to empower the next generation of multicultural students and leaders who embody critical values such as integrity, diversity, and professionalism by splitting $5000 between 5 students.

  • Amount: $5000
  • Application Deadline:  August 1, 2022
  • Winner Announced: August 31, 2022

Tips for Winning First Generation Scholarships

First-Generation Scholarships

So now you know where to look for scholarships, but how do you make sure that you get chosen? Well, there is no way to guarantee that you’ll win all the scholarships that you apply for, but you can increase your chances with these tips.

Start Looking Early

Students who begin looking when they’re high school seniors have more time to apply for and win scholarships.

Be Aware of What the Scholarship Requires

For scholarships that require an essay, make sure that your essay answers all parts of the prompt. Look for ramblings or extra information that doesn’t pertain to the subject of the prompt.

Also, make sure that your writing is clear and engaging. Having an essay that is boring and hard to read is an easy way to lose the sponsor’s attention when they try to read your response. 

Look for Smaller Award Amounts, Too

Another way to increase your chances of winning is to go for scholarships with smaller award amounts. Many students go for the big dollar amounts in hopes of “winning big” and getting the most money possible. But, a lot of students will apply for these same scholarships for this reason. Making the pool of students that you’re competing against smaller gives you a better chance of winning. 

Frequently Asked Questions About First Generation Scholarships

Still, have some questions about first-generation scholarships? Here are some additional questions that you might have.

Are First Generation scholarships legit?

Most First Generation College Student Scholarships are legit. Of course, you may run into some scholarships that are shady or otherwise too good to be true. Make sure you are careful during your scholarship search, especially online, and never give out any sensitive information. 

How can I improve my chances of winning First Generation scholarships?

More often than not, scholarships open to only first-generation college students will want to know a little about how your first-generation student experiences affect you. Writing about those experiences in a thought-provoking way and moving could increase your chances of winning. 

How many First Generation scholarships can you get?

There is no limit to how many first-generation scholarships you can get. However, scholarships sponsored by a specific school usually require you to attend that school if you accept the award. That is something to be cautious of if the scholarship comes from a college or university program you do not want to attend.

Are First Generation scholarships taxable income?

If you spend the money on school, your scholarship awards will not be considered taxable income. 

What’s the best way to apply for First Generation scholarships?

Applying online is likely one of the easiest ways to apply for scholarships. You can find and filter the scholarships you apply for as well as keep track of these scholarships after you apply. Other students who are applying at the same time can also share links to scholarships they think you would have a good chance of winning.

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