Scholarships for First-Generation College Students

Scholarships for First-Generation Students

Illin Denis /

If you’re a first-generation college student, you probably already know. Just in case you’re not sure, though, a first-generation student is the first in their family to attend college. Your parents (or legal guardians) cannot have bachelor’s degrees for you to qualify as a first-generation college student, but if you have a sibling who has completed or started college, you still qualify (since both you and your sibling are part of the same generation). States and scholarship foundations may have more restrictive definitions (e.g., not considering you to be a first-generation student if your sibling has earned a bachelor’s degree). When you’re applying for scholarships, make sure you check the fine print.

For all first-generation college students:

Fontana Transport Inc. Scholars Program

Award Amount: Up to $5,000
Minimum GPA Required: 3.5
Letter of Recommendation: Optional, but suggested

Fontana Transport Inc. is a family-owned trucking company located in California. To give back and help students achieve the American Dream, the company offers a scholarship to first-generation high school seniors (with or without U.S. citizenship) who are planning to attend a four-year college after graduation. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and plan to study one of the following fields to be eligible for this award: transportation, math, science, engineering, architecture, environmental design, pre-med, psychology, or Spanish. The application deadline for this year’s award has passed, but check the provider’s website frequently for information on next year’s application.

For first-generation students interested in studying abroad:

Fund for Education Abroad Scholarships

Award Amount: Up to $10,000
Letter of Recommendation: Yes
Essay: Yes

Students need only submit a single application to be eligible for numerous scholarships to aid with the cost of participating in a study abroad program. While not limited to first-generation college students, these scholarships do give preference to students who are underrepresented, including first-generation students. Further qualifications include: being enrolled in an undergraduate institution, planning to participate in a study abroad program that lasts no fewer than four weeks, and ensuring that all credit earned on said study abroad program will be transferable to a student’s home institution. The application will open in July for students who are interested in studying abroad during the spring semester of 2020.

IFSA-Butler First-Generation College Student Scholarship

Award Amount: Up to $2,500
Essay: Yes

This scholarship is intended to boost the number of first-generation students who study abroad, and provides financial aid for airfare, travel documents (visas and passports), and housing to students who participate in an IFSA-Butler study abroad program. Programs are located in 19 countries around the world, and students can study any number of topics. Credits are generally transferable back to a student’s home institution. Students are required to submit a 500-word essay, their résumé, and a completed financial footprint form to apply. Applications are due March 1 for students planning to study abroad in the summer, in the fall, or full a full academic year, and October 1 for students planning to study abroad in the spring.

For first-generation students in specific locations:

Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship Fund

Award Amount: $1,000
Essay: Yes

This scholarship is open to junior and senior high school students who live in Maryland and will be the first in their family to attend an accredited institution of higher education in Maryland. Students must be planning to study medicine and enter a medicine-related field following college. Students aren’t limited to becoming doctors; nursing, therapy, laboratory science, and pharmacy are all acceptable fields of study. The deadline to apply has already passed this year, but be on the lookout for more information about next year’s application on the provider’s website.

Patty and Melvin Alperin First-Generation Scholarship Fund

Award Amount: $1,000
Application Deadline: April 26, 2019

This scholarship is open to first-generation high school seniors who live in Rhode Island and plan to attend an accredited two- or four-year institution following graduation. Students must be able to demonstrate financial need. This award is renewable each year.

Talent Incentive Program Grants

Award Amount: Up to $1,800

Students who are residents of Wisconsin and plan to attend an institution of higher education in Wisconsin are eligible for the Talent Incentive Program. Students must be attending college for the first time (having been enrolled in a postsecondary institution for fewer than two semesters). Additionally, students must meet two different sets of criteria. First, students must demonstrate financial need. Second, students must prove that they are nontraditional or disadvantaged students; being a first-generation college student fulfills this criteria. Students must also submit an application, complete the FAFSA, and prove that they’ve been accepted to a college. Awards are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

The TELACU Education Foundation College Success Program

Award Amount: Up to $5,000
Minimum GPA Required: 2.5
Letter of Recommendation: Yes
Essay: Yes

This program is open to low-income, first-generation students in specific locations:

  • California: Permanent residents of underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Orange, or San Bernardino County
  • Texas: Permanent residents of Austin, Edinburg, Laredo, Rio Grande City, or San Antonio
  • Illinois: Permanent residents of the Chicago metropolitan area
  • New York: Permanent residents of the state

Decisions are based on a student’s demonstrated community involvement, academics, financial need, and leadership experience. Students chosen for the program not only receive a financial award, but also college and career advising and the ability to participate in professional development workshops. Program participants can renew their scholarship for up to four years provided they maintain full-time enrollment, achieve a minimum GPA of 2.75, and meet volunteer and participation requirements.

VAMOS Scholarships

Minimum GPA Required: Varies
Letter of Recommendation: Yes
Essay: Yes

Students who live in one of three counties in southern Texas (Cameron, Hidalgo, or Starr) may be eligible for one of three VAMOS scholarships. Students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have resided in one of the listed counties for at least five years. A complete application includes a student’s high school transcript and résumé, a copy of the FAFSA, a copy of the student’s most recent tax return, two letters of recommendation, and a 600-word essay. To receive an award, students must demonstrate extreme financial need as shown by being Pell Grant-eligible.

Good luck!

About Megan Clendenon

Megan C. is obsessed with Cincinnati-style chili, Louisville basketball, and Scandinavian crime fiction. She has lived in six different states and held 12 different jobs since beginning her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in 2008. The wanderlust abated somewhat in recent years, as Megan settled in Texas from 2013 to 2016 to finish a master’s degree in geosciences, write a thesis on the future horrors that stem from climate change, and get married. During her free time, you will find Megan sitting on the couch, cheering for her Louisville Cardinals, planning future adventures abroad, and snuggling with her dog, Tiger. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C.

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