To simplify the scholarship hunt, we’ve compiled a list of nine top scholarships for LGBTQ students and allies. Check out the awards listed below, and don’t forget to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is required if you want to be eligible for state and college-based scholarships, as well as federal grants, work-study programs and student loans.
For students who want to develop leadership skills:
Point Foundation each year awards about 20 to 30 new scholarships to students who are “out” as members of the LGBTQ community. The average yearly award is $10,000, and it’s renewable for up to four years, says Alex Karas, Point Foundation internship and scholar relations manager. But being a Point Foundation Scholar isn’t just about the money — the organization provides recipients with mentorship, leadership training and professional connections.
For students involved in their communities:
Known as PFLAG, this nonprofit gives national awards and local scholarships to LGBTQ high school graduating seniors or allies each year. The organization favors students who have already done service work to make their communities more inclusive. The national awards range from $1,000 to $5,000.
For students involved in LGBTQ activism:
The League Foundation gives out seven awards each year to graduating high school seniors who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. The application requires two personal essays, two letters of recommendation and a list of your community involvement; you’ll get “extra credit” if you’re involved in an LGBTQ-related extracurricular activity or project.
For students from rural or underserved areas:
The Gamma Mu Foundation awards scholarships to gay men under age 35 and one award each year to a member of the broader LGBT community. The organization preferences students from rural and underserved areas, those who have overcome discrimination, students who have shown leadership within the LGBT community, and students who are strong academically. The scholarships typically range from $1,000 to $2,500.
For students pursuing STEM degrees:
Known as NOGLSTP, this organization awards two $5,000 scholarships each year to LGBTQ students or active allies who are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering or math. One award each year goes to an undergraduate student who has already completed at least two years of college and one to a graduate or professional student. The application requires an essay and three reference letters.
For strong writers interested in studying queer theory:
This organization awards $1,000 each year to up to three high school seniors selected as winners of the organization’s essay contest. To qualify, you must be interested in studying queer theory or something related, such as queer legal or social issues. If you’re selected, you’ll have access to mentoring, advising and tutoring through the Queer Foundation, and you’re expected to give back by mentoring others or doing community service.
For students pursuing journalism:
This organization gives up to $5,000 each year to an LGBT undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a journalism career. You have to demonstrate your journalism skills in your application by submitting five work samples, such as news articles; audio or video projects; or photographs published in a school or local newspaper. You also have to produce and submit a news story or multimedia package based on one of the suggested LGBT topics provided in the application instructions.
For students in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington:
The Pride Foundation awards more than 50 scholarships to LGBTQ students and allies in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The average scholarship was $3,250 in 2015, but past recipients have gotten as much as $10,000. Filling out one application will put you in the running for all of the scholarships; the application requires essays and a letter of recommendation.
For students in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey:
This New York-based nonprofit awards three $10,000 scholarships each year to graduating LGBTQ high school seniors in New York, Connecticut or New Jersey. The organization looks for students who have been actively involved in their communities — past winners include a student who started a Gay-Straight Alliance school chapter and a student who launched an anti-bullying campaign. The application requires two letters of recommendation and two essays, as well as an interview if you’re selected as a finalist.
More ways to pay
Scholarships, which don’t need to be paid back, are an ideal way to pay for college. But it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fund the entire cost of tuition through scholarships alone. To be eligible for federal grants, work-study programs and student loans, and some additional scholarships, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.
Once you’ve maxed out all initial payment options, including federal loans, consider private loans to cover additional costs. Private loans tend to carry higher interest rates than federal loans. They also have fewer protections and forgiveness options. Shop around and compare private student loans before choosing a lender.
This article was updated June 22, 2016. It was originally published June 15, 2012.