Top 17 First Generation College Student Scholarships

Dreamers who are the first in their immediate family to attend college can benefit greatly from first-generation college student scholarships. According to the NCES, roughly one-third of incoming freshmen in the United States are first-generation college students. Receiving a college acceptance letter is a significant achievement, but navigating uncharted academic territory can be difficult. Parents and siblings who have attended college cannot help first-generation students navigate the admissions, financial aid, and registration processes. 

That may explain why they have a four-fold higher dropout rate than second-generation students. Nearly 90 percent of low-income, first-generation college students do not graduate. With the help of these 20 fantastic first-generation student scholarships, you can change these grim statistics and make your degree quest a success.

Top 17 First Generation College Student Scholarships

About First Generation College Student Scholarships

Scholarships for students who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university are known as first-generation scholarships. Some first-generation scholarships are funded privately, while others are funded by the general public. All of them are intended to help a family who has never had access to higher education before. Many low-income families and those who have experienced years of social persecution have no members with a college education.

This means that the children in these families have no one to help them navigate the process of obtaining student aid, particularly financial aid. Fortunately, many programs exist to help with this task. I’ve included the programs you’ll need to complete the task in this article. But first, let me define the term “college student.” The typical definitions of a first-generation college student are listed below. Keep in mind that these definitions vary by school and scholarship:

  • Neither parent has a bachelor’s degree or higher education.
  • Neither parent has an Associate’s degree or a higher level of education.
  • Neither parent nor sibling has ever attended or enrolled in college.

Top First Generation College Student Scholarships

1. Arnold White Memorial Scholarships

The Lincoln Community Foundation (LCF) awards three Arnold White Memorial Scholarships worth up to $1,500 each year to financially needy Nebraska high school seniors from Lyons, Fairbury, and Lincoln. First-generation college students with a low expected family contribution are given priority (EFC). An official transcript, a Student Aid Report, and two letters of recommendation must accompany the three-page application. The deadline for submissions is March 15th.

Arnold White Memorial Scholarships

215 Centennial Mall Suite 100

Lincoln, NE 68508

(402) 474-2345

michellep@lcf.org

2. Carol A. Hurley Memorial Scholarship

The Carol A. Hurley Memorial Scholarship, worth $1,000, is one of two annual awards given out by the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC). Interested Vermonters who will be the first in their families to attend college and are graduating from high schools in Randolph, Rochester, Whitcomb, Windsor, or Woodstock can apply. For renewal, recipients must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher while enrolled full-time at Title IV-eligible institutions. Deadline: March 3rd

Carol A. Hurley Memorial Scholarship

10 East Allen Street

Winooski, VT 05404

(888) 253-4819

info@vsac.org

3. CESDA Diversity Scholarships

The Colorado Educational Services and Developmental Association (CESDA) awards six $1,000 Diversity Scholarships to Colorado residents who identify as members of racial minorities, are first-generation college students, or have undocumented DACA status. Eligible Colorado high school seniors must be accepted to two- or four-year colleges, register for 6+ credits, have a 2.8 or higher overall GPA, actively volunteer for community service, and demonstrate significant financial need. Deadline: July 1st

CESDA Diversity Scholarships

P.O. Box 40214

Denver, CO 80204

(303) 492-8243

amy.molina@colorado.edu

4. Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship

The Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship, which was established in 2005 to honor the Baltimore native whose life was tragically cut short by stomach cancer, awards $1,000 each year. It’s for first-generation college students who want to pursue medical-related careers at accredited Maryland colleges. Clinical laboratory science, nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dietetics, bioengineering, and public health are all acceptable majors. A 500-word typed personal goals essay is required for all applications. Deadline: February 25th

Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship

5516 Maudes Way

White Marsh, MD 21162

applications@cemsfund.com

5. Dorrance Scholarship Programs

The Dorrance Scholarship Programs, established in 1999 to support first-generation college students financially, are administered by the Arizona Community Foundation. To attend Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, or the University of Arizona, recipients can receive up to $12,000 per year. Eligibility requirements include having a minimum 3.0 GPA in high school, scoring at least 1040 on the SAT or 22 on the ACT, volunteering as a leader, and participating in the Summer Bridge. Deadline: February 8th

Dorrance Scholarship Programs

740 South Mill Avenue Suite 220

Tempe, AZ 85281

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(480) 405-2410

dorrancescholarship@azfoundation.org

6. Farash Foundation First in Family Scholarships

The Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation has committed $3.5 million to provide full tuition coverage for first-generation college students, allowing them to graduate debt-free. Since 2012, the program has aided children from Monroe and Ontario counties in New York whose parents did not complete a college education. Tuition, textbooks, and room and board are all covered at partnering schools like Nazareth College, SUNY Brockport, and the University of Rochester.

Farash Foundation First in Family Scholarships

255 East Avenue

Rochester, NY 14604

(585) 218-9855

info@farashfoundation.org

7. Florida First Generation Matching Grant

The First Generation Matching Grant (FGMG) is funded by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) to meet the unmet needs of students whose parents do not have a baccalaureate degree. Freshmen must be U.S. citizens or eligible nationals, have graduated from a Florida high school, be accepted into one of the “Sunshine State’s” 11 public community colleges, enroll in at least 6 credits per semester, and not be in debt. The deadline is May 15th.

Florida First Generation Matching Grant

325 West Gaines Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399

(888) 827-2004

osfa@fldoe.org

8. Fontana Transport Inc. Scholarship

Fontana Transport Inc., dedicated to “paving the road to college,” established a $5,000 scholarship to help first-generation students overcome financial barriers to further their education. Applicants must be full-time undergraduate students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in transportation, math, science, engineering, architecture, environmental design, psychology, or Spanish at accredited American universities. Although citizenship in the United States is not required, recipients must have a weighted GPA of 3.5 or higher. The deadline for submissions is March 15th.

Fontana Transport Inc. Scholarship

6599 Jacaranda Avenue

Fontana, CA 92336

(909) 357-4307

scholarships@fontanatransport.net

9. Frederick and Demi Seguritan Scholarship

The Frederick and Demi Seguritan Scholarship is one of 13 Asian Pacific Fund programs that awards $5,000 each year for a total of $20,000 in scholarships. Incoming full-time freshmen at accredited colleges who are first-generation Asian immigrants, excelling with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, demonstrating outstanding citizenship, and pursuing their interests in the business are eligible for funding. San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, and Solano counties in California are among those accepting applications. Deadline: February 24th

Frederick and Demi Seguritan Scholarship

465 California Street Suite 809

San Francisco, CA 94104

(415) 395-9985

scholarship@asianpacificfund.org

10. I’m First! Scholarship Program

I’m First! is hosted by Strive for College. Annually, ten graduating high school seniors who are first-generation college students at CSO-partnering institutions will receive four-year, $4,000 scholarships. Northern Arizona University, Pepperdine University, Stetson University, Brandeis University, and Fordham University are among the 140 partners. Rather than GPA, students are chosen based on their financial need, leadership experience, perseverance, community service, and blog writing skills. Deadline: May 23rd

I’m First! Scholarship Program

556 Valley Way

Milpitas, CA 95035

(949) 329-8291

info@striveforcollege.org

11. J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship

The J. was founded in 2004 with a $10 million endowment by the CEO of Avondale Mills. Every year, the Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship receives nearly 1,000 applications from low-income, first-generation college students from across Alabama. For graduating high school seniors who have faced personal challenges but excelled with a minimum “C+” average and ACT score of 17, the Foundation provides up to full tuition and room and board at select in-state institutions. Deadline: February 5th

J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship

400 Caldwell Trace

Birmingham, AL 35242

(205) 202-4076

ahrian@jcraigsmithfoundation.org

12. Layton Family Foundation Scholarship

The Layton Family Foundation Scholarship, established in Wayne Layton’s memory by the Community Foundation of Shelby County, awards $1,000 to first-generation college students from western Ohio, including Sidney, Botkins, Kettlersville, and Fort Loramie, and Lockington. Eligible high school seniors must plan to attend accredited two- or four-year colleges full-time, have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, and write a 500-word personal essay. The deadline for submissions is March 15th.

Layton Family Foundation Scholarship

100 S. Main Avenue Suite 202

Sidney, OH 45365

(937) 497-7800

info@commfoun.com

13. Meslow First Generation Scholarships

The Meslow First Generation Scholarships are awarded by the Minnesota Private College Council to freshmen and sophomores from low- and modest-income families whose parents did not receive a college education. Candidates must be US citizens, accepted into private institutions in the “North Star State,” have a minimum 2.5 GPA, a history of community involvement, and a family income of less than $50,000 to be considered. It isn’t necessary to submit an application. 

Meslow First Generation Scholarships

445 Minnesota Street Suite 500

St. Paul, MN 55101

(651) 228-9061

colleges@mnprivatecolleges.org

14. Norman and Pat Hayes Scholarship

The Middletown Community Foundation (MCF), which includes the Norman and Pat Hayes Scholarship, has distributed over $33 million in Ohio scholarship funds since 1976. The program, which is named after a Lemon-Monroe High School teacher and his wife, assists Monroe County graduating seniors who will be the first in their immediate family to attend college. Chosen students must have a minimum 2.5 GPA in grades 9-12 and enroll full-time at a four-year accredited college. Deadline: February 15th

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Norman and Pat Hayes Scholarship

200 N. Main Street Suite 300

Middletown, OH 45042

(513) 424-7369

scholarships@mcfoundation.org

15. Patty and Melvin Alperin First Generation Scholarship

In honor of Patty and Melvin Alperin, the Rhode Island Foundation administers one of New England’s first-generation college scholarships. The renewable fund, awards $1,000 to financially needy high school seniors in Rhode Island who have been accepted into accredited two- or four-year US institutions but whose parents have never attended college. Every Spring, online applications with an official transcript, FAFSA form, and reference letter are accepted. The deadline for submissions is April 28th.

Patty and Melvin Alperin First Generation Scholarship

One Union Station

Providence, RI 02903

(401) 274-4564

info@rifoundation.org

16. Peter George Douvas Memorial Scholarship

The $500 Peter George Douvas Memorial Scholarship, administered by the Wyoming Department of Education each May, could help first-generation college students from immigrant families. Casper College, Eastern Wyoming College, Sheridan College, and the University of Wyoming are among the eight in-state institutions eligible for funding. Students must enroll full-time, apply for federal financial aid, maintain good academic standing, and show motivation to succeed in order to qualify. Deadline: May 10th

Peter George Douvas Memorial Scholarship

2300 Capitol Avenue

Cheyenne, WY 82002

(307) 777-3469

laurie.hernandez@wyo.gov

17. TELACU College Success Program

The College Success Program, which has been funded by The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU) since 1983, provides first-generation college students in California, Texas, Illinois, and New York with financial aid and one-on-one mentoring. Being from a low-income family, attending a full-time accredited U.S. college, maintaining a minimum “B-” average, and attending all mandatory Sessions are all requirements for eligibility. STEM and business majors are given priority.

TELACU College Success Program

5400 E. Olympic Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90022

(323) 721-1655

collegesuccess@TELACU.com

Other First Generation College Student Scholarships

1. UNCF/Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarships

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) teamed up with Coca-Cola to award 50 $5,000 First Generation Scholarships to students attending Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, or the Interdenominational Theological Center. Applicants must have an unmet financial need, be the first in their immediate family to attend college full-time, have a minimum 3.0 GPA without probation, and be working toward their first bachelor’s degree. Deadline: September 9th

UNCF/Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarships

1805 Seventh Street NW

Washington, DC 20001

(202) 810-0258

david.ray@uncf.org

2. Walmart Foundation First Generation Scholarship

The Walmart Foundation First Generation Scholarship, worth $3,100 per semester or $6,200 total, is awarded by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) to minority college freshmen whose parents did not complete an undergraduate degree. Selected recipients will attend one of the 47 public HBCUs in the United States, demonstrate leadership ability, have unmet financial needs on the FAFSA, have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5, and be recommended by a high school counselor. Deadline: June 1st

Walmart Foundation First Generation Scholarship

901 F Street NW Suite 300

Washington, DC 20004

(202) 507-4851

tarlton.wade@tmcf.org

3. William D. and Ruth D. Roy Scholarship

Over 500 possible scholarships for first-generation students are listed in the Oregon Student Assistance Corporation’s (OSAC) catalog, including the William D. Ruth D. Roy Scholarship, among others. Graduating from high school, residing in Oregon, enrolling at least half-time at Portland State University or Oregon State University, maintaining a 2.7 GPA or higher, and being the first in their family to pursue a degree are all requirements for receiving this $1,000 award. Engineering and technology majors are given priority. Deadline: March 1st

William D. and Ruth D. Roy Scholarship

1500 Valley River Drive Suite 100

Eugene, OR 97401

(541) 687-7422

awardinfo@osac.state.or.us

4. Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship

Cynthia E. Morgan, who died in October 2004, had this scholarship established in her honor in 2005. It was created in order to assist select college students in financing their post-secondary education. This scholarship was also established to promote and instill Cindy’s belief that education and learning are extremely important. This scholarship is designed to assist a student in defraying some of the rising costs of a college education. Furthermore, this scholarship will only be given to a “first-generation” college student. 

John, Cindy’s son, was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. Many first-generation college students are not prepared for the rigors of a college education in the same way that children from families where previous generations have completed them. The purpose of this scholarship is to alleviate some of the stress and costs associated with college expenses.

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5. Odyssey Scholarships

Students from low-income families or those who are the first in their families to attend college benefit from the Odyssey Scholarship Program, which provides enhanced academic, social, and career support. Odyssey Scholars are chosen based on financial need and family circumstances, and they will be eligible for additional funding for study abroad and other expenses like health insurance. To be considered for this need-based university-funded scholarship, students must apply for need-based financial aid; Odyssey Scholars typically have family incomes under $90,000.

6. HEEF Architecture and Engineering Scholarships

HEEF scholarships are awarded based on a combination of low-income family background, academic achievement, extracurricular activities, community volunteer work, church service, and work experience. Seniors with a minimum 3.0 GPA who have been accepted into an accredited four- or five-year architecture or engineering program are eligible to apply.

7. Gates Millennium Scholars Program

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMS) is the nation’s largest private scholarship program, based on financial need. Also works to remove financial barriers for African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. Furthermore, Hispanic American students should pursue higher education, particularly in fields such as computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, and the sciences, where they are underrepresented.

GMS selects 1,000 students each year to receive a four-year scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice, as well as academic and professional support throughout their collegiate career.

8. Dell Scholars Program

The Dell Scholars Program provides students with $20,000 over six years to put toward their college education, as well as technology, mentoring, and a network of previous Dell Scholars to help them succeed in college. Students must have completed at least two years of high school and demonstrated financial need in a Michael & Susan Dell Foundation approved college access or college readiness program. Prize money: $20,000

9. United Negro College Fund

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) works to help under-represented, low-income students attend and graduate from college by providing scholarships, active support of HBCUs, and community-wide promotion of higher education opportunities for African Americans. Through more than 400 scholarships, internships, fellowships, and grants, UNCF has awarded over 10,000 scholarships to African American students.

10. Hispanic Scholarship Fund

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) works to increase access to higher education for Hispanic Americans. HSF provides financial aid to Hispanic American high school students and community college graduates who intend to enroll in a full-time undergraduate degree program at an accredited U.S. college or university.

Conclusion

Because first-generation students have never visited a college campus, extra resources are required to ensure their success. This is especially true in terms of finances, given that the majority of Gen-1 undergraduates come from families with incomes below the federal poverty line. According to the College Board, the average annual college tuition in-state is $9,410 for public four-year institutions and $32,410 for private four-year institutions. Fortunately, financial aid can significantly reduce the cost of your degree. File the FAFSA form to receive federal Pell Grant and state grant funding in addition to applying for these scholarships for first-generation college students.

Frequently Asked Questions

If my siblings went to college, am I first generation?

According to some organizations, first-generation students are those whose parents and siblings do not have a four-year degree. Others may argue that you are only first-generation if neither of your parents has a college diploma (including two-year degrees). Students whose parents have not completed four years of college are the most common definition. Check out this post if you want to learn more about why being a first-generation college student is important.

If a parent started college but did not finish, am I considered the first generation?

Yes, one of the most important aspects of being first-generation is that your parents did not finish college. You are first-generation if your parents took a few classes or semesters but did not complete their education.

Do you have any scholarship application advice for first-generation college students?

We certainly do! This guide will also assist you in finding and applying for other fantastic scholarships. Students in their first year of college can apply for need-based financial aid through the FAFSA and, in some cases, the CSS Profile. This can help students get Pell Grants, federal student loans, state financial aid, and work-study opportunities.

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