When adjusted for inflation, tuition and fees at colleges and universities nationwide have risen 40–55% in the last two decades. While higher education can be life-changing for low-income students, it’s also moving further beyond their reach. Fortunately, scholarships for low-income students can help resolve this issue and begin to close the opportunity gap.
If you know where to look, there are opportunities everywhere for both students from low-income households looking for college tuition assistance and adults who want to help a student succeed. Here are six scholarship applications that can help students get much-needed access to a solid college education.
Six College Scholarships for Low-Income Students to Take Advantage Of
Finding and applying for scholarships for low-income students takes work, as you must research and compile eligibility and application requirements for each one. This list does some of the heavy lifting for you by collecting critical information for six of the best scholarship opportunities for those needing extra financial help to pursue higher education.
1. The Gates Scholarship
The Gates Scholarship is designed to help minority students from low-income households afford college. It’s a last-dollar scholarship focused on students with outstanding academic records and exceptional leadership skills.
- Highest Possible Award: Full cost of attendance not covered by other aid
- Deadline to Apply: September 15th
- Eligibility Requirements: These are scholarships for low-income students. You must be a Pell-eligible U.S. citizen with a minimum 3.3 weighted GPA. You must also be a high school senior planning to enroll in a four-year degree program. All recipients must be Hispanic American, African-American, Pacific Islander American, American Indian/Alaska Native, or Asian.
To apply, you must submit transcripts, a Student Aid Report, a CSS Profile, a headshot photo, a resume, letters of recommendation, several essays, and documentation of your leadership activities.
2. Hagan Scholarship Foundation
This need- and merit-based scholarship aims to help students from low-income backgrounds graduate college without debt.
- Highest Possible Award: up to $7,500 per semester for eight semesters
- Deadline to Apply: December 1st
- Eligibility Requirements: You must be a U.S. citizen at a traditional public high school with a 3.5 GPA and an adjusted gross household income not exceeding $85,000. Students must also be employed for 240 hours before their first year in college to contribute to the cost of their education.
To apply, students must submit a personal essay, a four-year plan, and a FAFSA Student Aid Report.
3. Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship Program
The Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship Program provides last-dollar funding to students with demonstrated financial need who wish to attend a four-year university. The scholarship aims to help students graduate with as little debt as possible.
- Highest Possible Award: Up to $55,000, depending on other aid received
- Deadline to Apply: November 16th
- Eligibility Requirements: You must be a high school senior with an unweighted GPA of at least 3.5 and intend to enroll in a four-year university. Your family’s annual gross income must not exceed $95,000
If you want to receive this scholarship, applications must include two academic and one counselor recommendation, a full school report or profile from the school registrar or counselor, and unofficial transcripts. Official transcripts and proof of family income will be requested for semifinalists.
4. Dell Scholars
The Dell Scholars Program is another of the scholarships for low-income students, helping them to shoulder the financial burden of going to college. The scholarship program provides both monetary and non-monetary support to 500 students across the country each year.
- Highest Possible Award: $20,000 in flexible funds
- Deadline to Apply: December 1st
- Eligibility Requirements: You must be a Pell-eligible high school senior with a minimum 2.4 GPA, demonstrated financial need, and plans to enroll at a four-year college or university. You must also participate in a college readiness program during your junior and senior years.
Scholarship applications must be filled out online. If selected as a semifinalist, you will be asked to submit your FAFSA Student Aid Report, a high school transcript, and an online recommendation from a teacher, counselor, or administrator.
5. Horatio Alger National Scholarships
Each year, the Horatio Alger Foundation awards 105 scholarships to students with critical financial need who have overcome unusually great obstacles in their lives. Winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. during their senior year of high school to attend the National Scholars Conference.
- Highest Possible Award: $25,000
- Deadline to Apply: March 15th
- Eligibility Requirements: You must be a U.S. citizen and a high school junior with at least a 2.0 GPA who is involved in co-curricular or community service activities and displays integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity. You must also demonstrate critical financial need with a household income of $55,000 or less and a commitment to pursuing a four-year degree.
Students must complete their scholarship applications online and provide proof of citizenship, financial information, and a support form from someone over the age of 21 confirming the challenges and hardships that the student has faced.
6. QuestBridge College Match Scholarship
QuestBridge is a nonprofit organization awarding full scholarships and admission to prestigious partner schools to students demonstrating both financial need and academic excellence.
- Highest Possible Award: up to $200,000
- Deadline to Apply: March 23rd
- Eligibility Requirements: You must be a high school senior in the top 10% of your graduating class with SAT scores above 1260 or an ACT composite score above 27. You must be planning to enroll in college and have a demonstrated need with a household income below $65,000 for a family of four.
QuestBridge scholarship applications require two teacher recommendations, two essays, two short answers, a school profile, a report from your high school counselor, and a high school transcript.
Other Significant College Scholarships for Low-Income Students
In addition to the above scholarship applications, students from low-income households should also check out the following generous programs and funds:
- Ron Brown Scholarship: $40,000
- Davis Putter Scholarship: $15,000
- Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars: $35,000
- Elks National Foundation’s Most Valuable Student Competition: $12,500
- The Dream.US National Scholarship for Undocumented Students: $33,000
These scholarships for low-income students can pay a significant portion of a winner’s tuition and fees, which increases low-income students’ access to quality higher education.
Tips for Winning More College Scholarships for Low-Income Students
Though applying for scholarships for low-income students can be daunting, these six tips will help you avoid common mistakes and increase your chances of landing an award:
- Complete your Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) so that scholarships can verify your household income and know how much federal aid you qualify for
- Start gathering documentation and asking for letters of recommendation early so that your teachers and guidance counselors are not overwhelmed
- Read the eligibility requirements carefully so you don’t waste time and energy applying for scholarships for which you do not meet the selection criteria
- Apply to multiple scholarships knowing that you won’t win every one out there
- Create scholarship deadline reminders, as exceptions for missing them are rare
- Get help with proofreading and editing your essay to ensure it’s polished
While scholarship applications take a lot of hard work and dedication, the effort will be well worth it in the end.
The Key to Success With Scholarship Applications Is to Keep Trying and Applying
Many students compete for scholarships for low-income students each academic year. Consequently, you won’t win every single scholarship you apply for. However, you need to keep filling out scholarship applications.
With a little tenacity and persistence, you’ll greatly increase your chances of success in winning a scholarship. And that success will in turn help unlock the doors of opportunity for you to pursue the education of your dreams.