Top 5 First-Generation College Student Scholarships

If you're the first person in your family to go to college, you are likely up for scholarships based on this.

If you're one of the first in your family to attend college in the United States, navigating the college admission process can be challenging -- but there's help available.

When you're exploring ways to pay for school, it's always a good idea to maximize the amount of free money you get -- which means looking for scholarships and grants. The good news is, there are plenty of scholarships for first generation college student candidates. 

If you're not sure where to start, check out these top five scholarships for first generation students to see if any of them would be a good fit for you. 


1. Imagine Dragons Origin Scholarship

The Grammy-winning band, Imagine Dragons,  is offering four scholarships to help refugees, immigrants, or first generation American students. 

Amount

Each immigrant awarded a scholarship will receive $2,500.

Eligibility

You must be an immigrant, refugee, or first generation American to be eligible. You will need to complete an essay responding to the following prompt: "Please tell us about your cultural experience as a refugee, immigrant, or first-generation American, and how the challenges you've faced have shaped your dreams and vision for the future." The essay should be between 200 and 1,000 words.

How to apply

You can apply online at bold.org. The application deadline is September 15, 2021.  

2. Farash Foundation First in Family Scholarship

The Farash Foundation can help students attend school debt-free if they attend a participating school in the New York area. 

Amount

The scholarship supplements each school's financial aid award for recipients, providing all the necessary funding to pay for tuition; room and board; books and mandatory fees so students can graduate without debt. 

Eligibility

Students must attend an eligible school in Monroe or Ontario County in New York. This includes but isn't limited to Finger Lakes Community College, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Brockport, and the University of Rochester. You must also be willing to make a community service commitment with a non-profit organization while in college.

How to apply

You can find out application details at the Farash Foundation website. Scholarships are awarded annually with deadlines set each year. 

3. Frederik Meijer First Generation Honors College Student Scholarship

This scholarship is open to students attending Grand Valley State University. 

Amount

The scholarship covers the full amount of tuition for first-year students. It is renewable for as long as eight semesters for students who remain in good standing. 

Eligibility

You must be the first person in your immediate family to earn a college degree in order to be eligible. You must also be accepted into honors by mid-February. 

How to apply

You must compete in the school's Scholarship Competition. You can find information about it on the website of Grand Valley State University. There is no additional application required that is specific to this scholarship. 

4. The Heart of the Game Scholarship

This scholarship is available for first-generation high school seniors from the class of 2021. 

Amount

One winner will receive $2,500.

Eligibility

Female students who are the first in their families to attend college may be eligible for the scholarship. 

How to apply

To apply, students should watch The Heart of the Game film and write an essay detailing how they are pursuing "heart" in their own personal lives. You can submit your application at Bold.org

5. First Generation Matching Grant Program 

This money is available to students attending a Florida state university or a Florida public community college. 

Amount

Financial awards vary and are determined by the academic institution the student is attending.

Eligibility

Students must be Florida residents and either U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens. They cannot be in default under any scholarship programs, and cannot have earned a bachelor's degree or have a parent who earned a degree. 

How to apply

Eligible students are automatically considered for the scholarship after completing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). More details can be found here.


Where to find other 
first generation scholarships

Online

There are many online websites dedicated to helping students find scholarships for first generation college students as well as other types of free money for school. 

You can search these to find all different kinds of financing that might be available based on your first-in-your-family status or based on other factors such as your academic performance or chosen field of interest.

Online websites where you can look for scholarships include, but aren't limited to:

Your school's financial aid office

Your school has accepted your application and is probably excited about having you attend their program. They want to help you pay for it and have many resources available where you can look for scholarships and grants. 

Not only do many schools have databases you can search, but your financial aid office can also point you to different academic departments at your college or university that may offer you financial help. 

State Departments of Education

Each state has a Department of Education where they provide information about scholarships and grants for local students. You may find some scholarships for first generation students, as well as other more general grants and scholarships for people who demonstrate financial need or who have certain academic achievements.


What to do when 
first generation college student scholarships aren't enough

Despite your best efforts to find first generation scholarships, you may still end up without enough money to pay for school. If that's the case, federal and private student loans are both available. 

Federal student loans have annual and lifetime limits, so they may not be sufficient by themselves. But you should consider them first because they offer unique borrower protections -- including more flexibility in payoff plans and multiple ways to get some of your loan balance forgiven. 

Private loans can fill the gap that's left by federal loans, scholarships and grants. There are many private lenders and loan rates are relatively affordable right now, especially for qualified borrowers. Juno can help you to find the best private loans at the most favorable possible terms by grouping you with other borrowers and negotiating with lenders on your behalf. 

Join Juno today to find out more about your options for affordable private student loans to help fund your degree. 


Christy Rakoczy Bieber
Written By
Christy Rakoczy Bieber

Christy Rakoczy Bieber is a full-time personal finance and legal writer. She is a graduate of UCLA School of Law and the University of Rochester. Christy was previously a college teacher with experience writing textbooks and serving as a subject matter expert.

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