College Scholarship: Gates Millennium Scholars Program
The Gates Millennium Scholars Program was an incredible initiative that allowed 20,000 students to pursue college without any worries about funding the cost of education. Read on to find out what it took to get this scholarship and to learn about a new opportunity also hosted by the Gates Foundation!
Gates Millennium Scholars Program Overview
From 1999 to 2016, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored the Gates Millennium Scholars Program in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). This program set a goal of supporting 20,000 students to achieve their academic and professional goals, even providing funding for student in their graduate education if they chose to pursue a degree in computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, or the sciences.
Gates Millennium Scholars received varying award levels based on their “unmet need.” In general, students from low-income families may receive generous need-based aid from government sources and from the institutions they plan to attend, but even these awards don’t cover the full cost of college. Unlike students from middle- and high-income families, they can’t rely on their families to pay the remaining costs of education and often end up taking out loans and, on average, end up having higher student debt upon graduation.
The Gates Millennium Scholars thus filled the common void that students with financial need experience from government and institutional aid. In order for students to be eligible to apply, they needed to be:
- A U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Belong to a racial or ethnic minority, especially African American, American Indian, Alaska native, Asian, Pacific Islander, or Hispanic
- A senior in high school
- A minimum 3.3 GPA
The last application cycle opened on August 1, 2015 and closed on January 13, 2016. Students were notified in March of 2016 if they had been selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar.
Once selected as a Scholar, students could reapply each year they were in college, as long as they remained in good standing at their institution. They also gained access to leadership development trainings exclusive to Scholars.
Although this scholarship is no longer available, the Gates Scholarship is a very similar style of scholarship hosted exclusively by the Gates Foundation, including the basic eligibility criteria and the ability for students to reapply once they’ve been selected. The Gates Scholarship has a two-phase process to select 300 outstanding high school seniors each year. Applications for Phase 1 open in July and close in September.
Tips on Applying for Scholarships
As you can see, even though one scholarship is no longer available, a new and similar scholarship has become available that students can apply for. When applying for scholarships, don’t be tempted to immediately discredit a scholarship that no longer exists. If you click around on its website, you may find opportunities that currently exist hosted by the same organization, like the scholarships listed above.
Do your research. As we’ve touched on, researching available scholarships can lead you to discover more scholarships. But don’t just find scholarships and note their deadlines. Many websites profile past recipients and their accomplishments, or provide insight into their selection process. The more you know about the types of students that receive that scholarship, the better you can narrow your search or tailor your scholarship application.
Tell your story. Many private scholarships want to know who you are and why you deserve the scholarship over other applicants. One of the best ways to show who you are through the extracurriculars and accomplishments that you choose to highlight and through any essay responses. Connect the dots between your life experiences and what you plan on studying in college or what you’d like to do with your life, and you’ve got the foundation for a memorable application.
Ask for help. Some students think that if an application is supposed to be their original effort, then it means that no one can help them. But you should get someone you trust to review your application or help you brainstorm ideas for writing the best essay you can. They can remind you of accomplishments you’ve forgotten, strengths you take for granted, or point out where your application isn’t clear. Some of the best places to look for help are to find adults that you trust at your school or in your community.
Wrapping It Up
Many private scholarships have a combination of merit-based requirements (GPA minimums for example) and specific applicant demographics (need-based, restrictions based on gender, race, or religion). If you find a scholarship that’s closed that you would have been eligible for, be on the lookout for similar ones held by the same organization.
For more information about scholarships, check out these posts below:
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