Are you part of an underrepresented minority in your chosen school, major, and/or field of study? Have you considered applying for college grants for minority students? You really should take a look at the opportunities available to you from these governmental and private programs.

The United States government and numerous private organizations and corporations have long since realized that a lack of diversity in higher education is a detriment to everyone. They also understand that this lack is not the fault of minority students. Rather, the biggest contributor to the underrepresentation of minority students in colleges around our country is financial need.

Many minority students grow up in low-income households and must work to help support their families starting very early on, even before they graduate high school. With no extra income, they often give up on the idea of going to college or university entirely because they believe they have no way of paying for tuition, books, supplies, and room and board.

Some students will look into student loans for financial assistance, but they’ll be discouraged by the major debt they’ll incur and that they’ll have to start paying back just a few months after they graduate. However, this is not the only option available. If you represent a minority group – e.g., African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, etc. – you could be eligible for grants for minority students to assist you in funding your college education.

Funding Opportunities That You Won’t Have to Pay Back

So, what are grants for minority students? And how do they differ from scholarships or loans? Basically, student loans consist of college funding assistance made up of borrowed money that you’ll have to pay back with interest. On the other hand, both scholarships and grants are available to eligible students and won’t ever have to be paid back. They are, quite obviously, the preferable choice of the two types of funding opportunities.

So what’s the difference between a scholarship and a grant? Scholarships are awarded based on merits, achievements, skills, and/or leadership, and they are always awarded in a competitive format. Grants, on the other hand, are awarded based at least partially on financial need. In some cases they are awarded based on a formula, which determines how much financial assistance a student needs, and in other cases, they are decided in a competitive format, as well.

Non-Competitive Minority Grants for College

Let’s first discuss non-competitive grant applications. To get any kind of financial assistance for your college career, you’re going to need to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). In this form, you’ll provide the US Department of Education and the school(s) you’re applying to information about income and taxes within the last year for yourself and/or your parents (if you are a dependent student). With your economic and demographic information, both the government and your school will be able to determine how much and what kind of assistance you are eligible for.

Your FAFSA will determine whether or not you qualify to receive non-competitive, formula-based grants, such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) or the Pell grant. If you can show that you have sufficient financial need, you will be automatically enrolled in these grants, and part or all of your tuition will be taken care of for you.

These are not specifically grants for minorities, but they are grants for people in financial need. Also, your FAFSA can give your school’s financial aid office the information it needs to help you find grants for minorities or other funding opportunities that can help you reach your goal and graduate from college or university without crippling debt.

Competitive Government Grants

Other grants available through the federal government are termed “discretionary grants” and are awarded on a competitive basis. To be in the running for one of these grants, you’ll need to do a little bit more than just fill out your FAFSA. You can find a list of currently open discretionary grants here, and you can find more government grants at Grants.gov.

Like scholarships, the discretionary grants for minority students you find will require you to put in more effort than simply stating your need. Many of them will require you to write an essay or personal statement, include a recommendation letter, and/or show in some other way how and why you should be chosen to receive funding.

A lot of students balk at the idea of writing essays and/or believe that they won’t be able to prove that they’re the best choice for a scholarship or grant. Thus, they miss out on a lot of college funding opportunities and grants for minority students by avoiding the scholarship and grant applications that require essays. With the right approach, however, you can write a great grant application essay. Look at it as one of the ways you can increase your chances for getting more funding for your education.

Increase Your Chances With a Great Essay

Instead of thinking of essays as chores that you have to do, think if them as great opportunities to show your personality and how you shine. Perhaps your financial need isn’t quite as great as the next applicant or your test scores aren’t quite as high; you can show a lot with an essay and/or recommendation letter(s) that can’t be seen in financial documents or test scores.

So, if you really want to win the grants, think about your essays as your story. What drives you? Why do you want to enter your field of study? How do you see the future when more students like you have the opportunity for a higher education? How have your struggles helped to shape you as a student and as a leader in the years to come?

See how personal and powerful your message can be? The other side of really personalizing your applications for grants for minority students will be your recommendation letter. You can’t, of course, write these yourself, but you can ask a trusted mentor or teacher to do it. Just be sure to give them enough time to write a letter that will best reflects you.

Search and Apply for Scholarships on ScholarshipChart.com

ScholarshipChart.com helps students and parents search and apply for scholarships, grants, awards and other financial aid options to help pay for college. Whether you are a high school senior starting college or a single mom going back to school, you can find money for college through ScholarshipChart.com.