5 (More) Scholarships for Underrepresented Students 

by Megan Lee

In an effort to promote diversity amongst study abroad program participants, many foundations, universities, and programs within higher education are offering scholarships specific to minority students. Awesome! While some of the scholarships are for general applicants, others will have more specific eligibility requirements, including financial need, merit, or talent-based qualifications (ready to bust out your best baton or clogging moves?).

Don’t let the price tag keep you from pursuing your dreams of studying abroad. Read on to learn about five scholarships specifically aimed to support underrepresented students, and more importantly about the communities of educators behind them that are dedicated to helping you study abroad!

Two people writing at a desk
Now that you have a shortlist of options, start applying ASAP!

1. For recipients of the Pell Grant.

Any and all undergraduate students who are currently receiving the federally funded Pell Grant at a two-year or four-year college or university are eligible to apply for up to $5000 from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship foundation. These scholarship funds can be used to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide, and is awarded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. The average award is $4,000 and given to over 2,300 students each year.

2. For students at minority-serving institutions.

Minority Serving Institutions are institutions of higher education that serve minority populations. If you attend a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) or a university where more than ¼ of the student group is comprised of a minority race (African-American, American-Indian, Asian, or Hispanic), then you will be specially eligible for CIEE’s Bailey Minority Serving Institution Grant. This scholarship is only applicable to CIEE programs, and the value is up to $2,000, depending on the student.

3. For those folks who identify as LGBTIQ.

This award, lovingly dubbed the Rainbow Scholarship, is awarded to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersexed community (LGBTQI) students who are admitted to “high-quality, rigorous education abroad programs.” This scholarship is made possible by the Fund for Education Abroad, and is supported by a community of international education professionals who actively urge LGBTQI students to take their studies abroad. Scholarship award varies.

Person taking a photo of mountains at sunset
Dream of going to Iceland? Rome? South America? Don’t let the costs deter you.

4. For children of the differently-abled.

Through the Looking Glass and its National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families offer 10 annual scholarships for high school seniors and college students who have parents with disabilities. Scholarships are applicable towards study abroad programs and are valued at $1,000 each.

5. For undergraduates majoring in STEM fields.

Following a special initiative to encourage more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors to pursue academic experiences overseas, the Boren Scholarship foundation now offers scholarships of up to $8,000 to eight week summer program participants. Boren scholarships are merit-based and applicable for students pursuing language and culture studies in geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.

Study Abroad Scholarship Application Tips

Applying for study abroad scholarships won’t be easy or fun all the time, but it will be totally worth the effort. Master the entire process by keeping these tips in mind:

Be specific. Avoid using a blanket-application essay or generic responses to the long form questions. You will want to individualize your research and response for each and every application that you complete. If you cannot make the time or effort to uniquely respond to its application fields, don’t be surprised if they don’t make the time or effort to award the scholarship to you.

Keep applying. It may take weeks or months (yes, months!) to hear back from the organization awarding your hopeful scholarship. Do not lose motivation simply because no fish are biting your hook. Apply for any and all related or applicable scholarships that pertain to your study abroad program dreams. Cast a wide net to up your chances of at least one working out!

Two young girls leaning on each other
The memories you make with your study abroad friends are priceless.

Maintain a spreadsheet. Create a simple database to take notes of the applications that you submit. Track information such as the name, the website you found it on, a link to the application page, and the date you submitted. If you want to take it a step further, take notes on the award potential and any contact or communication you’ve had with members of that organization.

Chat with your study abroad and academic advisors. As much as we love the internet (and GoAbroad’s Study Abroad Scholarship Directory), sometimes it can be a headache to sort through the thousands of search results. An easy shortcut to insider knowledge on the study abroad scholarship scene are your campus allies: namely, your study abroad and academic advisors. Alert them early on of your intentions to apply for financial aid to lower your costs. Your university may have some extra funds set aside (cha-ching!), or they might be able to point you in a better direction than silly ol’ Google.

In the end, it does not matter what characteristic puts you in the “under-represented- students-bucket.” What matters is our shared, unwavering commitment to seeking intentional and transformative study abroad programs, and finding people who will support you in your academic endeavors.