14 Best Scholarships for Immigrant Students in 2024

Immigrants from every country of the world have played a huge role in the U.S. economy since the beginning. Regardless of where they come from, many are entrepreneurs. Immigrants have founded and grown some of our most successful businesses that employ hundreds of thousands of Americans.

In addition to their contributions to our vibrant and diverse culture, their work ethic and a strong commitment to family and assisting others help strengthen the communities they live in and provide a leg up for other immigrants working to achieve the American dream. 

That diversity also enriches the colleges and universities where immigrants pursue the knowledge and skills needed to help those ambitions and dreams come to life.

The unique perspectives and experiences they bring with them to campus enrich and expand how other students see the world and how they learn to approach the many challenges they will help solve after graduation. Whether they are just graduating from high school or returning to school for advanced training and reskilling to help advance their careers and contribute to their employers’ success, immigrants are among the most motivated students wherever they study. 

Even with the many contributions that millions of immigrants continue to make to our society, many recent immigrants find it hard to access the educational opportunities that can provide a foundation for success. Their families often don’t have the financial resources and understanding of the financial aid process that can help these students enroll in and succeed in college.

And, unfortunately, many recent immigrants face discrimination from other Americans, even though the vast majority of us come from families who once faced the same challenges of assimilating into a new culture and finding success.

Helping to address those challenges is the primary purpose behind scholarships aimed specifically at immigrants. They help to open the door to opportunities and, often, are the key to showing people that those doors are even there.

Immigrant students make up a large portion of community college students and undergraduate students on four-year campuses. These students should be given an opportunity to attend an accredited college or graduate school with the reassurance that they can use scholarships to lessen any financial burden that an undergraduate program or graduate program may cause.

Another reason these scholarships are so important to immigrant students is that they are not loans. They are given to qualifying students looking for an undergraduate degree to help them finish college and graduate without adding piles of debt that can make it very hard to start a successful career after college and to save up for starting a family, getting a reliable car and a nice place to live and all the other things that make up the reality of the American dream.

Top Scholarships for Immigrants to Apply For

scholarship for immigrants

This is a list of some of the top scholarships for immigrant students to apply for. This list also includes many different types of awards, including ones based on academics, student interests, and personal outlooks on life, like sustainable living.

Science Matters Scholarship

This scholarship is meant to support students who are interested in science and fascinated by scientific discoveries. Any student may apply for this award. To apply, students need to share which scientific discovery is their favorite and why.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: September 14, 2022

Art Matters Scholarship

This scholarship aims to support creative students who are passionate about art. Any student may apply for this award. To enter, students will need to share about their favorite piece of art and why they’re drawn to it.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 14, 2022

Optimist Scholarship

This award seeks to encourage students to live their lives with optimism, hope, and joy. Any student dedicated to staying optimistic throughout all of life’s trials may apply for this scholarship. To apply, students will need to share how they have stayed optimistic during difficult times, and what they have learned by doing so.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 14, 2022

Financial Literacy Scholarship

This scholarship aims to support students who are passionate about taking charge of their personal finances. Any student may apply for this scholarship. To apply, students will need to tell about a personal finance lesson that has benefited them. 

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 14, 2022

Climate Changemakers Scholarship

This scholarship seeks to support students who are passionate about advocating for and protecting the environment for future generations. Any student who acts to protect the environment may apply for this exclusive scholarship. To apply, students need to share what they do to benefit the environment in their daily life.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 13, 2022

Mentor Scholarship

This award seeks to support students who act as mentors and role models to others. Any student who is a mentor to someone else may apply for this scholarship. To apply, students need to share how they hope to positively impact the lives of those they mentor.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 13, 2022

Community Activist Scholarship

This award aims to support students who strive to positively benefit their community and the lives of those around them. Any student who is passionate about helping their community may apply for this award. To apply, students will need to share what they do in their local community to bring about positive change. 

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 13, 2022

Learning and Changing Scholarship

This award aims to encourage students to have open minds and continue to learn and grow. Any student who is dedicated to learning and changing may apply for this scholarship. To apply, students should share something they have learned that changed their opinion on something important in their life. 

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 13, 2022

Great Books Scholarship

This award exists to encourage students to continue reading, learning, and applying their acquired knowledge to their daily lives. All students from any field of study may apply for this scholarship. They can apply by telling about their favorite book and why they love it so much.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: June 30, 2022

Caring for Seniors Scholarship

This award aims to support students who are passionate about caring for seniors and improving their lives. Any student who is involved in caring for seniors may apply for this scholarship. To apply, students need to share one thing they do to make the lives of the elderly people in their community better.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: June 30, 2022

WiseGeek Recent Immigrants Scholarship

America is home to many immigrants who fuel our nation’s growth and development.

In 2018, more than 63% of foreign-born adults were employed compared to about 60% of native adults, among them brilliant thinkers, inventors, innovators, and incredibly hard-working individuals.

Despite this, immigrants are often targeted or stigmatized, creating a divide between those born abroad and those born in the country. To remove societal barriers and provide immigrants with equal means to succeed, there must be continuous discussion and distinct opportunities for immigrants all over the country.

WiseGeek Recent Immigrants Scholarship will support a recent immigrant who has big aspirations for their future in the United States.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: April 16, 2022

AMPLIFY Immigrant Students Scholarship

The AMPLIFY Immigrant Students Scholarship was created to help first-generation immigrant students pay for higher education. The application includes a short, 500-word essay that provides a compelling picture of your unique background and experiences and helps the sponsors understand what you plan to do with your education. This $500 award can help you pay for books, fees, and other expenses during the school year. Unlike many other scholarships, the AMPLIFY Scholarship Series have rolling application dates and are awarded every month throughout the year.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: November 1, 2021

Mahlagha Jaberi Mental Health Awareness for Immigrants Scholarship

The Mahlagha Jaberi Mental Health Awareness for Immigrants Scholarship was created to help an immigrant student who has dealt with mental health challenges with mental health. People immigrate to the United States to find economic opportunity, escape from political turmoil, and for many other reasons. About 4.4 million immigrants live in the U.S., and many of them are building better lives, raising hard-working kids, and starting businesses every day. But the process isn’t easy. There are language and cultural barriers, especially for recent immigrants. And, sadly, many immigrants face other barriers, including mistrust and discrimination. 

Combined with the stresses that come with finding the right school, figuring out how to pay for it, and keeping up with studies, those challenges can take a heavy toll on immigrant students’ mental and emotional health. Any first- or second-generation immigrants are eligible to apply for this $1000 scholarship, which is awarded in July each year. The next application deadline is June 1, 2022.

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Application Deadline: June 1, 2021

Mirajur Rahman Self Expression Scholarship

Mirajur Rahman was born in Bangladesh. His family moved to the United States when he was 7 to find greater opportunities. Mirajur’s experiences as an immigrant pushed him to work hard for an education and to help others struggling with some of the challenges he experienced. The scholarship he created is awarded to those who have overcome obstacles, are first-generation college students, and plan to pursue higher education. 

As an artist, Mirajur is especially dedicated to supporting the creative expressions of high school artists. The winner of this $500 award is chosen each year, with a June 19 application deadline. You’ll need to submit a link to your artistic work as part of the application, which can include illustrations, photos, short videos, sculptures, music, or another example of your creativity and talent.

  • Amount: $500
  • Application Deadline: July 19, 2021

How to Qualify for Scholarships for Immigrants

Some scholarships for immigrants are targeted to students whose families come from specific countries or regions. The good news is that there are scholarship recipients from almost every group of recent immigrants. That is a good place to start looking.

Many of these financial assistance awards are based on your family’s financial situation. The organizations supporting scholarships for immigrants understand that for many students, it is hard or impossible for your family to help pay very much towards the cost of going to college. 

In addition to any family background requirement, some scholarships for immigrants require that applicants have a minimum grade point average or score on standardized tests like the SAT. If you need help improving your grades, check with your high school guidance counselors and look on the web for companies that provide tutoring and test preparation services. There are even scholarships available to help pay for some of those!

Also, many scholarships for immigrants are only available for students whose families have lived in the United States for ten years or less. Some require proof of immigration status, such as citizenship or permanent residence status, but many scholarship awards are available for high school seniors who don’t have those documents.

And a lot of scholarships don’t require any sort of essay, making it easy to apply for as many scholarships as you qualify for.

In addition to scholarships that are only for immigrants, look for other scholarships where you might be a good fit. For example, women who are interested in science and tech can apply for a Women in Stem Scholarship. If you dream about starting your own business, check out scholarships aimed at entrepreneurs. Do you think you can give back to your community as a lawyer? There are scholarships for almost anything you’d like to study. They are offered to young people still in high school, college students, and older immigrants who want to go to college. Most can be used for community college or vocational school as well as traditional 4-year colleges.

If a scholarship you are applying for requires an essay, you should tell your family’s story and write about why you want to get a college degree. Think about how other people have helped your family come to America and start a new life here. Then you’ll be able to talk about how you want to use your education for more than just your personal success. Explain how you plan to help other people who are facing similar challenges to reach their goals.

In addition to providing money, the organizations that fund those scholarships also provide other kinds of support for immigrant students to help them find financial help that doesn’t have to be paid back. That’s important because many of those students can’t get federal student aid through the FAFSA program, and they may not qualify for in-state tuition rates, depending on which state they live in. 

How to Apply for Scholarships for Immigrants

All scholarship applications will ask for the basics, so put together all of that information upfront. You’ll usually need to share your GPA, any standardized test scores like the PSAT, SAT, or ACT, and your high school or college transcript.

You should apply for more than one scholarship, including easy, no-essay scholarships and at least one that requires a personal essay. Once you’ve written a solid essay, you should be able to use it for multiple applications with just a few changes to fit it to the specific focus of each program and any requirements spelled out in the application instructions.

You don’t need to already be enrolled in college to apply for most scholarships, most are open to graduating high school seniors and some are open to juniors. And of course, you should continue applying for scholarships each year while you are attending college, too, and if you go on to become a graduate student. That includes applying for a scholarship you’ve already won, scholarships you applied for but didn’t get, and any additional scholarships you find.

There are thousands of scholarships available for immigrants who want to get a college degree. Keep looking and keep thinking about what general and special categories you fit into, beyond being an immigrant or child of immigrants.

Where to Look for Scholarships

The college application process can be stressful for many high school graduates, and adding a scholarship search on top of that can add more stress, but searching for scholarships is worth it. Any amount of scholarship money that students earn is money they don’t have to take out in loans. Finding out what scholarships are out there and which ones you qualify for takes work. If you are still in high school, the first place to start is with your college counselor. They have a lot of information about all kinds of financial aid and can help you find places that have even more information.

You can also visit or call the financial aid office at different colleges, including local community colleges and vocational schools. They will be happy to talk to you about how you can find money for your education, including scholarships and grants that won’t have to be repaid, unlike federal or private student loans. That’s important, because student debt can make it hard to get started in your chosen career after college.

To find scholarships that don’t require an essay or other extra work as part of their application, visit online services like WiseGeek.com and Bold.org. You’ll find scholarships just for immigrants and many others aimed at people with interests and ambitions similar to yours. You’ll be able to create a list of scholarships, how much each scholarship offers, and find out what requirements each one has and when applications have to be submitted.

Types of Scholarship Sponsors

Most immigrant communities have local social groups and religious organizations that want to help students pay for college and encourage community service. Check-in with your immigrant community organizations and, even if they don’t offer scholarships themselves, they will be able to help you find other places where you can apply for help. Many groups have set up large, national organizations.

If you are interested in studying a particular topic or hope to work in a specific industry or a specific career, look for local, state, and national professional associations that are focused on those areas, too. Talk to family friends about what they do and if the companies they work for have money available for scholarships.

There are also many types of scholarships that students may receive. Of course there are many academic scholarships available for all students planning to attend college, but students can also consider applying for top scholarships based on their interests, like music, sports, or computer science. Students can also apply for scholarships specific to personal interests they may have, like volunteering, sustainable living, or other types of community involvement.

Scholarship Application Strategy

With a large number of available scholarships for immigrant students and how busy your life already is, you need to figure out a strategy for finding and applying for these awards. First, get online and do some research into where scholarships for immigrants are offered. 

Look for targeted scholarships from special interest groups that work to support recent immigrants and search for any scholarships available to people with the same national, ethnic and regional background as your family. Those can be Hispanic students, including DACA students, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, and even undocumented students.

Remember, besides awards designed specifically for immigrants, you may qualify for other scholarships based on academic record, athletic or musical talent, unique skills and interests, and your activities outside of school, including any volunteering or community service you perform. Try not to count out small award scholarships, and instead apply for as many that apply to you and your interests. There may not be many scholarships that will cover tuition costs for four years, but students can find as many small scholarships as they can to cover as many costs as possible.

Once you have identified as many scholarships as you have time to apply for, check out the deadlines and make a calendar from earliest to latest. You need to hit those deadlines to have any chance of winning the scholarship money available. But don’t wait until the last minute. Our research shows that early applications have a better chance. Remember, all scholarship programs only have so much money to give out to deserving students, and once it’s gone, they won’t have more until they open up applications for the next round, usually 12 months later.

Commonly Asked Questions About Scholarships for Immigrant Students 

Can you get a scholarship if you’re an immigrant?

Yes. While some recent immigrants face barriers to obtaining federal aid, private scholarships are available for immigrants who have attained naturalized citizenship, permanent resident immigrants, temporary residents, and even undocumented individuals.

Are most immigrant students first-generation immigrants?

Many immigrant students are first-generation immigrant students because some immigrant students have one or both parents who were born outside of the United States.

Can you get a scholarship for being a first-generation immigrant?

There are many scholarships available to students from immigrant families who are the first in their generation to attend college. Most require that at least one parent immigrated to the United States, and some require that they arrived in the U.S. within a set amount of time before you start college, usually 10 years.

What is a first generation American?

The United States Census Bureau considers second generation as people born in the United States with at least one first generation (immigrant) parent. So this would mean that first generation Americans refer to those that are born in another country who attained American citizenship or permanent resident status. First generation American students refers to those who are foreign born, according to census.gov. Second generation americans are the children of parents that are first generation.

Can immigrants go to school for free?

Not every student will qualify for a full-ride scholarship that covers all the expenses of a college education, but most immigrants who graduate from high school or earn a GED qualify to pay in-state tuition at a public college, technical college, or university. That includes undocumented immigrants in many states.

Do immigrant students have legal permanent residency?

Legal permanent residents are also known as green card holders. They’re non-citizens who are lawfully authorized to live permanently within the United States. If they’d like to, students can complete the application process to one day become lawful permanent residents, or U.S. citizens.

Can I get a scholarship for being an immigrant?

Yes, most immigrants can qualify for scholarships that will help them pay for at least part of their college costs without racking up large amounts of student loan debt.

Can immigrant students apply for a graduate program?

Yes, immigrant students can apply for a graduate program, and upon completion, they will earn a graduate degree. 

Can immigrant students apply to any college?

There is no federal or state law that prohibits the admission of immigrant students to U.S. colleges, whether they’re public accredited university or private, so immigrant students may apply to any accredited public university. Immigrant students can also apply to programs that will allow them to earn an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or graduate degree.

When should I start applying for scholarships?

Getting your applications in on time is the most important requirement for winning a scholarship. Do your research on Bold.org or other online services to find out when each scholarship program begins accepting applications and when the final deadline is. Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to apply. That will hurt your chances even if you are otherwise a perfect fit for the scholarship you apply for.

What types of scholarships are available for immigrant students?

Immigrant students of all ages who want to attend college have many scholarships available to them. Research awards programs that have been created specifically for immigrants but don’t stop there. You can apply for and accept multiple scholarships to help you keep student loan debt as low as possible. There are programs aimed at women; people of color; members of the LGTBQ community; students with disabilities; and aspiring artists, scientists, engineers, nurses, and other professionals. 

What to consider when applying for scholarships?

First, you don’t want to waste your time applying for scholarships that you really don’t qualify for, so research the requirements carefully. If you are applying for multiple scholarships, talk to your college financial aid office or advisor about whether you might lose some other forms of financial aid, like grants or school-provided funds, if you accept too much outside financial support.

How do I make my application stand out?

When you apply for some of the many no-essay scholarships that are available, the sponsors are going to be looking at the basic information about you. They’ll check that you fit the criteria, that you come from an immigrant family, for example. They will also look at how you compare to other applicants in terms of your grades, test scores, and, maybe, extracurricular activities and special talents. The best thing you can do for those is to make sure you apply as early as possible. For applications that ask for a personal essay, think about why your story matters to the sponsors. What is their mission? Why did they create this award? What do they hope the money will allow winners to learn and eventually give back to their communities. When you write your personal story, make it personal and very real, but make sure you talk about how you see yourself contributing to their mission.

How can I increase my chances of getting scholarships?

Part of successfully applying for scholarships is a numbers game. The more applications you send out, the more chances you have to be chosen. But there are things that will hurt your chances and that you have to avoid to be successful. Don’t send your application at the last minute. Scholarship organizations are dealing with hundreds or thousands of applications. By the time the deadline is near, they may have already seen so many that yours just won’t stand out. Don’t be sloppy. Double-check the requirements and include every bit of information they ask for or explain why it is missing and promise you will send it as soon as you can. Then triple-check every line of the application for spelling, grammar, and complete sentences. Sponsors want to know that you will be organized and dedicated enough to make full use of the opportunity they are sharing with you.

Is an immigrant student the same as an international student?

An international student is one who visits another country to complete courses for a short period of time or they take courses online virtually. Immigrant students leave their home countries with some educational background and they complete their education in another country. While international students and immigrant students may have similar educational backgrounds, they differ in that international students are labeled as “non-immigrant” visitors.

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