Applying for Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are available from many different organizations, including UNCF and through the federal government. Unlike loans, which you will eventually need to pay back, scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid - and unlike work-study programs, they do not require you to hold an on-campus job while in school.

Each scholarship or grant program has its own eligibility criteria and application requirements, so it’s important to do your research.


There are two types of scholarship and grants:

  • Need-based financial aid
  • Merit scholarships

Need-based financial aid is awarded strictly based upon your financial need. An essential step in the application process for need-based aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Merit scholarships are typically awarded to students based on their academic, athletic or artistic ability. Merit scholarships are also awarded to students who are connected with a particular group or organization such as a church or civic group.
Because many merit scholarships also require applicants to complete FAFSA, we recommend you begin your application process by completing the important first step of filing a FAFSA.


UNCF manages various scholarship programs and awards more than $100 million a year in scholarships to more than 10,000 students at more than 1,100 schools across the country, including our prestigious network of 37 member HBCUs. To find and apply for a UNCF scholarship:

  • Go to Scholarships to explore UNCF scholarships available to those who meet the following criteria:
  • Minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale
  • Full-time enrollment in a college or university, presently or prospectively
  • FAFSA application filed
  • Financial need verified by the financial aid director of the college or university you wish to attend

Here are other free resources that offer information about scholarships and grants:

  • Online scholarship search  assistance for Student Aid
  • Your high school, Upward Bound or Talent Search counselor
  • Your library’s reference section
  •  Local foundations, religious or community organizations, businesses and civic groups
  • Organizations related to your field of interest
  • A parent’s employer


  1. Keep your eyes open. Watch for announcements of scholarships on your guidance counselor’s bulletin board, at your church institution, in your library’s college section or in your local newspaper.
  2. Don’t miss deadlines. Stay organized and create timelines for yourself, just as you do when applying to colleges and universities.
  3. Know your audience. Describe yourself in terms of the interest of the sponsoring organization. Show how your goals match theirs.
  4. Tell your story. Most applications require an essay. Keep it real and personal. Share an important experience from your life that will help the reader understand what makes you, you. Tips for writing a strong personal essay.
  5. Clean up your online profiles. Many colleges and universities conduct online searches of the students they are considering. Make sure your Facebook, Twitter and other public social media profiles show your best self.
  6. Proofread your work. Give yourself time to review everything before you submit. Enlist help from parents, teachers, coaches and other trusted adults who can serve as another pair of eyes to make sure your work is strong and error-free.
  7. Make and keep copies. After you’ve spent so much time putting together a great application, you wouldn’t want to have to re-create it if it gets lost in the mail. Be sure to make a copy of everything you submit.