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10 Generous Scholarships for Low-Income Students

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What’s Covered:


College provides students from low-income families an excellent opportunity to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Consequently, schools have seen a rise in the number of students from financially disadvantaged families on their campuses. Unfortunately for these students, the amount of federal financial aid has not kept pace with the rising cost of college. 


One of the ways students can make up the difference between the financial aid available and the cost of college is with scholarships‚ÄĒin particular, scholarships for low-income students.¬†¬†


Where Can Low-Income Students Get the Most Scholarship Money?


Merit aid rewards students for academic or extracurricular achievements, rather than financial need. This presents an awesome opportunity to earn money for college! Outside organizations are often where students focus their scholarship energy, but colleges have substantially more funds available, and students should target them. 


Tips for winning merit aid from colleges include: 


  • Apply to schools where your profile is especially strong or you possess a quality or skill the school is seeking.
  • Don‚Äôt make college decisions based on sticker price‚ÄĒexpensive private schools are often the schools that most generously award merit aid. CollegeVine found that the top 50 colleges awarding merit aid were all private.¬†
  • Apply early! Whether it‚Äôs for a school scholarship or one from an outside organization, the earlier a student starts, the less likely they are to miss a deadline and the more scholarships they can apply for.


Another great strategy for students looking to reduce the cost of college is to apply to schools that offer free tuition for lower-income students. Numerous colleges will meet 100% of a student‚Äôs demonstrated financial need, and some will do so without the use of student loans. There are even colleges that do not charge tuition for students from families below certain income levels‚ÄĒincluding prestigious institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.¬†


10 Scholarships for Low-Income Students


1. Horatio Alger National Scholarship


The renowned author Horatio Alger Jr. made a name for himself by writing books about young boys who overcome poverty through hard work and determination; a motif modeled after his own life experience. Today, the Horatio Alger Scholarships is one of the largest need-based college scholarship programs in the country‚ÄĒthey award 106 $25,000 national scholarships annually, honoring the spirit of Alger‚Äôs life.


Amount: $25,000


Deadline: October 25, 2021 



  • High school senior on track to graduate with plans to attend college
  • Commitment to pursue a bachelor‚Äôs degree at an accredited non-profit public or private institution in the United States‚ÄĒstudents can start their studies at a two-year institution and then transfer to a four-year institution
  • Demonstrate a critical financial need‚ÄĒ$55,00 or lower adjusted gross family income.
  • Involved in co-curricular and community service activities
  • Display integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity
  • 2.0 GPA or higher
  • U.S. citizen


Application Requirements:

  • Support form from someone over 21 years old who is familiar with the challenges the applicant has faced
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Financial information to confirm the applicant‚Äôs critical financial need


2. JuJu Foundation Scholarship


‚ÄúGiving back is bigger than football. It‚Äôs always been a part of my heart.‚ÄĚ These words spoken by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster have translated into action. Smith-Shuster‚Äôs foundation helps students facing economic hardships achieve their educational aspirations with four $5,000 scholarships.¬†


Amount: $5,000


Deadline: Jun 30, 2021


Eligibility: Open to U.S. high school students and undergraduates facing challenges paying for their education.  


Application Requirements: An essay demonstrating the applicant’s need, ambition, intent, and purpose. 


3. Gates Scholarship


The Gates Scholarship is a highly selective award aimed at outstanding minority high school students from low-income households. This generous scholarship program funds all college expenses not covered by financial aid and the expected family contribution for 300 students annually.


Amount: 100% of costs not covered by financial aid and family contribution


Deadline: N/A



  • High school senior
  • African-American, Asian & Pacific Islander American, Hispanic American, and/or American Indian/Alaska Native (proof of tribal enrollment required)
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Pell Grant eligible¬†
  • Minimum 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale
  • Planning to enroll full time in a four-year degree program at an accredited, not-for-profit, private, or public college or university


Application Requirements:

  • In the top 10% of their graduating class
  • Demonstrated leadership through participation in activities like community service and extracurricular activities
  • Possesses characteristics such as emotional maturity, motivation, and perseverance


4. Hagan Scholarship


The intention of the Hagan Scholarship is to allow recipients to obtain a four-year college education and graduate debt-free. In addition to scholarship money, this program includes workshop participation, investment account management services, and study-abroad that enables recipients to gain valuable life skills generally not covered in a college curriculum.


Amount: $48,000  


Deadline: December 1, 2021 




Application Requirements: Must provide the FAFSA SAR showing the EFC.  


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5. Ron Brown Scholarship


The Ron Brown Scholarship honors its namesake by providing financial support for community-minded, academically gifted, and financially challenged African Americans. This highly selective scholarship is awarded to high school seniors with an interest in the four pillars of Ronald Brown’s mission to uplift people of all races, cultures, and ethnicities: public service, community engagement, business entrepreneurship, and global citizenship.


Amount: $40,000


Deadline: N/A



  • Black/African American
  • Exceptional academics
  • Excellent leadership
  • Participate in community service
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • High school senior


Application Requirements:

  • Transcript¬†
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Two 500-word essays


6. QuestBridge College Match Scholarship


One of the most generous scholarships for low-income students is the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship. QuestBridge partners with some of the most prestigious colleges in the country for this award which covers the full cost of college, including tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and travel. The scholarship does not require parental contribution or student loans, however, it may entail student contributions via work-study, a summer job, or student savings.


Amount: Over $200,000


Deadline: September 28, 2021



  • U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and non-U.S. citizens attending high school in the U.S. (not all college partners will consider non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents)
  • Primarily As in challenging classes such as AP, IB, or honors¬†
  • ACT composite scores above 28
  • Rank in the top 5-10% of the graduating class¬†
  • Demonstration of strong writing ability, intellectual spark, and determination through essays and recommendation letters
  • Finalists typically are from households earning less than $65,000 a year for a family of four


Application Requirements:

  • Two essays¬†
  • Two letters of recommendation¬†
  • A Secondary School Report from a high school counselor¬†
  • High school transcript¬†
  • SAT and/or ACT scores
  • School Profile (optional, but recommended)¬†


7. The Greenhouse Scholars Program


A child born in the bottom quintile of income distribution has a  >50% chance of raising their socioeconomic standing with a college education. The creation of the Greenhouse Scholars Program was prompted by such statistics. This program works to identify the next generation of leaders who will change the trajectory of their families and communities, along with a broader global goal.


Amount: Up to $5,000 and ‚Äėflex funding‚Äô grants of up to $2,000 per award


Deadline: N/A



  • High school senior planning on attending an accredited four-year academic institution
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident and a legal resident of Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, or North Carolina
  • 3.5 GPA or higher
  • Demonstrated financial need with a maximum annual household income of $70,000
  • Excellent leadership, the ability to persevere when challenged, and a commitment to the community


8. Davis-Putter Scholarship


Davis-Putter Scholarships are need-based awards given to students who are actively involved in the movements for social and economic justice. The maximum award is $15,000, but scholarship value is determined by the financial need of the applicant and the number of funds available. 


Amount: Up to $15,000


Deadline: March 31, 2022



  • Students who are able to do academic work at the college or university level or are enrolled in a trade or technical program
  • Active participation in struggles for civil rights, economic justice, international solidarity, or other progressive issues
  • Strong preference is given to those who plan to stay in the U.S. to work on such issues after completing their degrees


Application Requirements:

  • 1,000-word personal statement detailing applicant‚Äôs aims and activities
  • Two letters of recommendation¬†
  • Student Aid Report (SAR) and/or Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA)¬†
  • Statement of applicant‚Äôs financial need detailing living expenses for 12 months¬†


9. Dell Scholars


The Dell Scholars Program provides a support system for the challenges facing students pursuing a college degree. In addition to monetary support, Dell Scholars also receive: 


  • A laptop with a four-year warranty¬†
  • $500 worth of Chegg credits annually for textbook purchases or rentals
  • Access to the Scholars Resource Networks that connects students and their families with resources for managing stress, debt, child care, and life circumstances
  • Teletherapy sessions connecting students to professional counselors


Dell Scholars are highly motivated and driven-to-succeed students from low-income families. Ideal candidates possess a special ‚ÄúGPA,‚ÄĚ one representing their Grit, Potential, and Ambition.


Amount: $20,000


Deadline: N/A



  • Eligible for a Pell Grant in the first year of college
  • Participate in a program-approved college readiness program in grades 11 and 12
  • On track to graduate from an accredited high school and planning to enroll full time at an accredited higher education institution in the pursuit of a bachelor‚Äôs degree
  • Minimum 2.4 GPA
  • Demonstrated financial need¬†¬†


10. WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship


The WC & EJ Thornton Foundation believes everyone deserves the opportunity for high-quality education‚ÄĒregardless of financial situation‚ÄĒand that education has to break the cycle of poverty. The foundation awards $1,000 scholarships to five low-income students with exemplary academic records in need of financial assistance to pursue their dreams of higher education.


Amount: $1,000


Deadline: July 1, 2021


Eligibility: Low-income high school seniors, undergraduates, and those going back to college 


Application Requirements: 450- to 750-word essay answering the prompt: What do you think is your greatest achievement to date? What did that experience teach you about yourself? What do you hope to achieve in the future?  


11. CollegeVine Scholarships


Entering to win a CollegeVine Scholarship is easy! Simply join our free admissions platform and earn karma, the free CollegeVine ‚Äúcurrency.‚ÄĚ Karma is earned by reviewing essays through our Peer Review tool and answering questions in our Community Forums. Karma is used to enter our scholarship drawing (if you don‚Äôt win, that karma will be returned, where you can ‚Äúspend‚ÄĚ it on essay reviews and expert advice). Awards are paid directly to students to help them cover any educational costs. Learn more about the CollegeVine scholarships.


Amount: Up to $500


Deadline: Weekly


Eligibility: High school student and US resident


Application Requirements: Create a free CollegeVine account 


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.