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McDonald’s HACER Scholarship: Everything You Need to Know

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The number of Hispanic students enrolled in college in the U.S. is on the rise—from 2000-2017, the number of Hispanic students who attended college more than doubled, jumping from 1.4 million to 3.27 million enrolled students. Much like the number of Hispanic students entering college, the expense of higher education is also growing. The McDonald’s HACER (Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources) Scholarship assists Hispanic students facing the increasing cost of college, and encourages them to pursue higher education. 


Hispanic college students face unique challenges compared to their peers. According to the American Council on Education, about 70% of Hispanic undergraduates come from the bottom 50%, based on family income. Nearly half of Hispanic students are the first person in their family to go to college, and only about half of those students qualified for Pell Grants—money only given to those with significant financial need. For Hispanic Students struggling to pay for college, a six-digit award such as the $100,000 McDonald’s HACER Scholarship can significantly reduce the financial pressure of funding a college degree. 


What is the McDonald’s HACER Scholarship?


The McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship was founded to help provide more opportunities for educational attainment within the Hispanic community. In 2019, a total of $500,000 was awarded to 30 outstanding Hispanic high school seniors to help finance their tuition. From 2009-2018, more than $4.5 million has been awarded in HACER scholarships. According to HACER judge and McDonald’s Owner Operator Santiago Negre, “We are committed to helping young people reach their full potential and alleviating the stress of higher education costs.”


With a maximum award of up to $100,000 over four years, it goes without saying that competition for a McDonald’s HACER Scholarship is intense. Winners are judged on a variety of criteria, including academic achievement, community involvement, financial need, as well as other factors such as an applicant’s personal qualities. 


Who is Eligible for the McDonald’s HACER Scholarship?


To qualify for a McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship, you’re required to have at least one parent of Hispanic heritage. Other requirements to qualify for a McDonald’s HACER Scholarship are: 


  • Demographics: high school senior, legal U.S. resident, under 21 years old
  • Academics: minimum 3.0 GPA, and eligible to attend a two- or four-year college or university with a full-time course of study, with plans to attend an accredited institution in the academic year after your selection 
  • Finances: disclosure of other scholarships you’ve applied for and demonstrated financial need


How to Apply for the McDonald’s HACER Scholarship


Students can apply for a McDonald’s HACER Scholarship on its webpage when the application period for 2020-2021 opens in the fall. Semi-finalists are generally contacted in mid-February and winners are selected in May and June. To apply for a McDonald’s HACER Scholarship, some additional information is required. Along with your application, students must submit their: 


  • Transcript
  • Personal statement
  • Letter of recommendation 
  • List of community service projects
  • FAFSA or 1040s

Tips for Applying to the McDonald’s HACER Scholarship


There is no one thing you can do that will make you a shoo-in for an award such as the McDonald’s HACER Scholarship. However, there are a handful of steps you can take to make yourself stand out from the competition and improve your odds at winning an award. 


GPA: A quick scan of last year’s 30 HACER Scholarship winners shows them attending prestigious universities such as Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, and NYU. While it takes more than a wow-worthy GPA to earn a HACER Scholarship, a strong GPA may at least help get your foot in the door. A good rule of thumb: the stronger your GPA, the better your odds are of winning a scholarship. 


Personal Statement: Judges want to award scholarships to the people they believe will make the most of the money and their education. This is your opportunity to tell judges about yourself and the challenges you’ve faced, plus how you’ve overcome them. This is also the space to show you’re serious about your education, your future, and your community, along with demonstrating how a McDonald’s HACER Scholarship will affect your life. McDonald’s offers some excellent tips on their YouTube page for writing a winning college essay that are also easily applied to your personal statement.


A Letter of Recommendation: Your letter of recommendation should come from someone who you have a personal and positive relationship with that can speak to your academic achievement, character, and community involvement. Teachers, coaches, counselors, and employers are all excellent choices. In order to get an original and impactful letter, make sure to give whoever you ask plenty of time to write it; a minimum of one month is common courtesy.


Community Service: When applying for scholarships, it is important to know your audience and what they value. McDonald’s HACER Scholarships are supported by the McDonald’s Corporation and McDonald’s Hispanic owner/operators with the intent of alleviating the education gap between Hispanic students and those from other demographics. Any community service you’ve performed in this vein is worth highlighting. Similarly, any charity work you’ve done with the Ronald McDonald House Charities is sure to attract the attention of judges. 


Personal Interview: Recipients of a McDonald’s HACER Scholarship are judged on their personal qualities; at some point in the application process, award winners will need to do a personal interview—either in person or on the phone. Here is an opportunity to let your personality shine and show them the person beyond the grades and essay. There’s a lot of great advice about how to ace an interview—for example, this slideshare from the College Board—but a few simple tips are to be authentic, show off what makes you unique, and highlight the good that will come from choosing you over the competition. 


Other Considerations: The McDonald’s Financial Study Guide has some great suggestions for all students applying for scholarships. A few favorites are:


  • Apply for a variety of scholarships: The more scholarships you apply to, the better your odds become of winning an award. Just make sure you meet the scholarship requirements, and apply to a mix of extremely competitive national awards and smaller local awards.
  • Make a plan: Create a list of the scholarships you’re going to apply for, and schedule time to complete and submit applications. 
  • Get organized: Know the requirements and the deadlines of all the scholarships you’re applying for and when you can expect to hear from them.


As mentioned, scholarships are an excellent way to offset the expense of college, and one of the best ways to win an award is to apply for lots of them—a couple of similar scholarships you should look into are the Taco Bell Live Más Scholarship and the Horatio Alger Scholarship. Searching for even more scholarships to apply to? Check out our blog 16 Best Scholarships for High School Seniors.  


CollegeVine can’t tell you your odds of winning a McDonald’s HACER Scholarship, but we can help you figure out your chances of acceptance at over 500 colleges. Using our data-driven chancing engine, students can discover their chance of admission at their dream school and learn how to improve their odds. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to get started today.

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.