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10 Grants for First Generation College Students

In pursuit of a higher education, first-generation college students often face unique challenges, from navigating the complexities of universities’ admission processes, to managing the financial burden of tuition and living expenses. However, while these obstacles are discouraging, there are many grant opportunities specifically tailored to support your educational journey. Applying to, and gaining a scholarship grant, will help alleviate some of the financial strain that accompanies the pursuit of a college degree. In this article, we list grants available to first-generation college students that can help you on your path towards academic success.


The First Generation Matching Grant Program (FGMG) is a need-based grant program offered at Florida schools to degree-seeking, resident, undergraduate students who demonstrate substantial financial need, and are enrolled in eligible participating postsecondary institutions. To be eligible, you must have a parent (or parents) who has not earned a baccalaureate or higher degree. 


This grant is also only applicable if your university is a participating institution, and if so, they will determine the application procedures, deadlines, student eligibility and award amount. You will need to demonstrate financial need by completing the FAFSA in time to be processed by the deadline specified by your chosen institution. 


Grant Amount: $200 to $3,000 per academic year. 

Application Deadlines: Deadlines depend on which Florida university you attend and apply for a FGMGP grant through. 


Federal Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have yet to have earned a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree. You may not receive Federal Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time. Similar to other grants on this list, the Federal Pell Grant requires that you submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form prior to applying. Your university will use the information on the FAFSA form to determine your eligibility for a Pell Grant as well as how much you will be eligible to receive. 


It is also recommended that you know the cost of attendance at your university in order to apply for how much aid you need- Once you know the cost of attendance, you can better plan how to cover your educational expenses. Grant amounts can change annually. The grant amount you receive will depend on your family’s expected contribution, the cost of attendance (determined by your school for your specific program), your status as a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less. 


Grant Amount: Grant amounts vary depending on your tuition, your family’s financial input, and your attendance. 

Application Deadlines: June 30rd, 2024. 


GEAR UP is a national effort to encourage more young people to have high expectations, stay in school, study hard and go to college. GEAR UP provides up to six or seven year grants to states and partnerships that provide services at high-poverty, middle and high schools. GEAR UP grants serve multiple students every year. From no later than the seventh grade, these students are financially supported through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students through state and partnership grants. 


State grants are competitive six-year matching grants that include both an early intervention component, (designed to increase college attendance and success as well as raise the expectations of low-income students) and a scholarship component. While Partnership grants are competitive six-year matching grants that must support an early intervention component and may support a scholarship component designed to increase college attendance and success and raise the expectations of low-income students.


Grant Amount: The maximum funding an applicant can request per year for a State GEAR UP grant is $5 million. (Per GEAR UP’s FAQ page).

Application Deadlines: July 31st, 2023. 


Upward Bound provides fundamental support and opportunities for participants to succeed in their precollege performance and, ultimately, in their pursuit of a higher education. Upward Bound serves: high school students from low-income families; and high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree. The goal of Upward Bound is to increase the quantity of students from underrepresented backgrounds that will graduate from a secondary education.


Something unique to Upward Bound’s approach to supplying grants is their projects. Upward Bound’s projects provide academic instruction in mathematics, laboratory sciences, composition, literature, and foreign languages. Through tutoring, counseling, mentoring, cultural enrichment, work-study programs, all sorts of education or counseling services are offered to grantees, designed to improve the financial and economic literacy of students. There are also programs and activities in place that are specially designed for students who are limited English proficient, students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education, students with disabilities, students who are homeless children and youths, students who are in foster care or are aging out of foster care system or other disconnected students. 


Grant Amount: The maximum award amount is $287,537.

Application Deadlines: June 3rd, 2024. 


Every year the BECU Foundation Scholarship, run by the College Success Foundation, recognizes and honors students who have devoted their time helping others while still pursuing a post-secondary education. The BECU Foundation actively looks for student candidates who embody a “people helping people” philosophy. Whether it be through volunteering or other active and meaningful contributions of their time and effort, the BECU foundation recognizes students who give back to their community. 


This renewable scholarship can be awarded for up to two years and sixty-four students will be selected to receive 2-year awards worth $2,500 per year, and up to $5,000. As a chosen candidate, you may use your grant to attend a 2-year or a 4-year college or university.


Grant Amount: $2,500-$5,000.

Application Deadlines: January 31st, 2024. 


TheDream.US describes their National Scholarship as the “Pell Grant for highly motivated undocumented students”. This grant is available to any students who are eligible to receive in-state tuition in their home state, (though this is not applicable if you are attending a private institution). 


Applications are open to undocumented immigrant students with or without DACA or TPS who came to the United States before the age of 16 and before Nov. 1, 2018. The National Scholarship Award will work to cover both your tuition and fees at one of TheDream.US’s Partner Colleges for a bachelor’s degree. This grant will follow you through the completion of a bachelor’s degree and is renewable each year, however, recipients must meet the continuing eligibility criteria and renew the award each summer.


Grant Amount: Up to $30,000. 

Application Deadlines: January 31, 2024. 


The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s scholarship programs are designed to encourage and support outstanding students who are hard workers and are in need of financial support. Their scholarships uniquely provide both financial assistance and academic support to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. In addition to the monetary award, as a recipient, you will join a thriving network of nearly 3,200 Cooke Scholars. 


This program is available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who are seeking to attend the nation’s best four-year colleges. Cooke College Scholars will receive college planning support, ongoing advising, and the opportunity to network with the larger Cooke Scholar community in addition to scholarship funding. 


Grant Amount: As much as $55,000 a year.  

Application Deadlines: May 9th, 2024. 


The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation supports more than 1,400 exceptional college students each year, with annual scholarships of $3.55 million awarded through 3 nationally recognized programs. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to students in their final year of high school who are in need of some extra financial support. 


The foundation recognizes students for their capacity to lead and serve in their communities. If you feel as though you have made a commitment to making a significant impact on your school and community, this would be a great option to check out. 150 Coca-Cola Scholars are selected each year to receive this $20,000 scholarship.


Grant Amount: $20,000. 

Application Deadlines: October 2nd, 2023 (for the 2024 scholarship). 


The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was established in 1999 to provide outstanding students from minority groups with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate college education in any discipline area of interest. Those who qualify to be Gates Millennium Scholars may request funding for a graduate degree program in one of the following discipline areas: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science. 


There are 1,000 new Gates Millennium Scholars chosen every year. And GMS offers Gates Millennium Scholars with Academic Empowerment (ACE) services, which are mentoring services for both academic and personal development. ACE is designed to encourage academic excellence and also provides an online resource center for you to learn more information about internships, fellowships and scholarships. 


Grant Amount: The average grant amount is $12,785.

Application Deadlines: September 15th, 2024. 


The Sallie Mae Scholarship programs were created to further promote diversity in higher education for under-resourced and underrepresented students and those from historically underserved communities. For high school seniors, there is the Bridging the Dream scholarship that is designed to support and aid under-resourced and underrepresented students from historically underserved communities attend their dream universities. 


The Bridging the Dream Scholarship Program will award scholarships of $10,000 to 75 students over the next three years. On their homepage, you can read and hear more about past recipients of this scholarship to see how they used their grant. 


Grant Amount: $10,000.

Application Deadlines: March 27th, 2023. 



Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you find yourself taking on academically rigorous opportunities often and wanting to push yourself, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Mandy Brenner is a current junior at Harvard University. She is concentrating in History and Literature and loves to read and write in her free time.


Image Source: BECU Foundation


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