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Landing the Ron Brown Scholarship - 10 Great Tips to Help You Out

The Ron Brown Scholarship offers a scholarship for African American high school seniors who have demonstrated excellence in combining academic pursuits with a commitment to community service, business entrepreneurship, and global citizenship. In this guide, we'll explore the Ron Brown Scholarship Program, detailing its structure, submission guidelines, and offer key insights into a successful application.

What is the Ron Brown Scholarship?

The Ron Brown Scholarship Program (RBSP) is a testament to the legacy of Ronald H. Brown, empowering intellectually gifted African American students with a passion for community service. Established in 1996, RBSP awards 45-50 four-year scholarships, providing recipients with $40,000 ($10,000 per year) to pursue their academic goals at any accredited four-year college or university in the United States. In past years over 4,000 students applied making the scholarship highly competitive.

Is it prestigious? 

Yes! The scholarship, since 1996, has seen about 634 scholars - this means that out of the hundreds of applications that it receives each year, only 23-24 students get shortlisted! 

The acceptance rate of the scholarship is thus somewhere around 12 - 15% - which is pretty competitive!

The scholarship offers a hefty amount, and comes with a rigorous application process, which is by no means easy to ace! 

Submission Guidelines and Structure

To become a Ron Brown Scholar, applicants must be Black/African American, U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and current high school seniors. The application process involves submitting an essay that reflects personal experiences and aspirations. Additionally, candidates should excel academically, demonstrate exceptional leadership potential, actively engage in community service activities, and articulate their financial need.

With over 634 designated scholars since its inception, the diverse achievements of these individuals span various fields. 

Important Dates and Deadlines

A crucial aspect of a successful application is adhering to the specified timeline:

  • September – December 1st: Initiate and complete the RBSP scholarship application at

  • December 1st: The final deadline for submitting the application.

  • December – February: Applications undergo a thorough review by the Program staff.

  • Mid-February: Semi-finalists are notified.

  • Late February / Early March: Finalists are notified and invited to participate in a weekend selection process in Washington, D.C.

  • By April 15th: Notification of scholarship winners concludes the competitive selection process.


The Ron Brown Scholarship is exclusively open to current high school seniors, and the scholarship covers tuition at any accredited U.S. college or university.

  • Must be Black/African American.

  • Must excel academically.

  • Must exhibit exceptional leadership potential.

  • Must participate in community service activities.

  • Demonstrate financial need.

  • Be a US citizen or hold a permanent resident visa card.

  • Be a current high school senior at the time of your application.  NOTE: Current college students are not eligible to apply.

10 Tips for a Successful Application:

Securing the Ron Brown Scholarship necessitates a strategic approach. Here are ten tips tailored for high school students:

1. Showcase an Entrepreneurial Spirit

While emphasizing community service, also highlight instances where you've demonstrated entrepreneurial thinking. Discuss projects or initiatives where you took an innovative approach, showcasing your ability to think creatively and strategically.

2. Align with Ron Brown’s Mission

Clearly articulate how your goals align with Ronald H. Brown's mission of uplifting people of all races, cultures, and ethnicities, especially disadvantaged youth. Connect your aspirations to the scholarship's core values, emphasizing your dedication to making a positive impact on marginalized communities.

3. Emphasize Long-Term Impact

Go beyond immediate contributions and discuss the long-term impact you envision making. Share your vision for how the scholarship will empower you to effect lasting change, both locally and globally, in alignment with the scholarship's objectives.

4. Showcase a Diversity of Interests

Highlight not only your commitment to public service but also your diverse interests and talents. Demonstrate how your multifaceted skills and passions contribute to a holistic and well-rounded individual, embodying the scholarship's commitment to excellence in various disciplines.

5. Connect Extracurricular Activities to Pillars

When discussing extracurricular activities, explicitly connect each one to the scholarship's four pillars: public service, community engagement, business entrepreneurship, and global citizenship. Showcase how each activity reflects these core values and contributes to your overall profile.

6. Leverage Letters of Recommendation

Select recommenders who can provide a comprehensive view of your character, achievements, and potential. Brief them on the scholarship's criteria and your specific goals, enabling them to tailor their recommendations to align with the scholarship's values. At least one of these should be written by your high school counselor, teacher or principal. The second letter may be submitted by someone who knows you well and can attest to your character, leadership ability, commitment to community service, and/or academic achievement. 

7. Address Your Unique Challenges

If you've overcome significant challenges, share these experiences in a way that highlights your resilience and determination. Demonstrate how facing adversity has shaped your character and strengthened your commitment to community service and academic excellence.

8. Utilize Additional Materials Wisely

If permitted, submit supplementary materials that provide a deeper understanding of your achievements and contributions. This could include a portfolio, additional letters of recommendation, or a video presentation that complements your written application.

9. Reflect on Your Own Ron Brown Scholar Attributes

Consider the attributes that Ron Brown Scholars typically embody—leadership, resilience, academic excellence, and a commitment to service. Reflect on how you exemplify these qualities in your life and weave them into your narrative and responses. 

10. Tailor Your Essays to the Specific Pillars of the Ron Brown Scholarship

Consider dedicating sections of your essay to each one to a specific pillar. This approach allows you to contribute deeper reflection into each area and ensure that you have given the selection committee evidence on public service, community engagement, business entrepreneurship, and global citizenship. Focusing on each pillar will ensure that the committee has been provided a more nuanced understanding of your commitment to public service, community engagement, business entrepreneurship, and global citizenship.

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program—a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, over 4,000 students applied 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.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

Image Source: Ron Brown Scholarship logo



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