Best scholarships for LGBTQ+ students in 2023

LGBTQ+ students often face greater challenges than their straight and/or cisgender counterparts when obtaining a postsecondary education. They generally face higher rates of poverty and bullying and are also less likely to have a familial support system, according to the Williams Institute.

“The college search and selection process can be daunting for LGBTQ+ students and their parents,” says Leslie Hall, director of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. “LGBTQ+ students must grapple with myriad anti-LGBTQ+ laws that could prevent them from participating in campus sports and activities. These laws can also prevent some from accessing gender-affirming care.”

If you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, you can apply for targeted scholarships that could help make college more affordable. You might even qualify for some of these awards if just your parents are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Below is a selection of the best scholarships for LGBTQ+ students in a variety of areas along with how to find scholarships and other methods to pay for school.

General LGBTQ+ scholarships

You’ll find many scholarships are available no matter where you live or what field you’re studying. While these awards might also be more competitive as a result, they can be a good way to start off your scholarship search.

Location-specific LGBTQ+ scholarships

As you research scholarships, be sure not to overlook those that might be available specifically in your particular state or region. These scholarships generally have a much smaller pool of potential applicants, which could improve your odds of being selected for an award.

Discipline-specific LGBTQ+ scholarships

There are also several scholarships available to LGBTQ+ students who are pursuing specific majors and careers.

How to apply for LGBTQ+ scholarships

Researching and applying for scholarships might seem tedious. But the more work you put into reducing the cost of your higher education, the less debt you’ll need to worry about after graduation.

If you’re ready to apply for LGBTQ+ scholarships in particular, follow these steps:

1. Find scholarships geared toward LGBTQ+ students

There are a ton of scholarships out there for a wide variety of students, including awards designed specifically for members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as allies. Some common organizations that might offer these sorts of scholarships include:

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Local and national businesses
  • Professional associations in certain fields

A good way to start your research is by searching scholarship databases, such as:

Note that scholarship deadlines vary by organization, so keep an eye out for award opportunities throughout the year.

2. Review scholarship requirements

As you research scholarships, be sure to carefully read through the requirements for each award to ensure you qualify and can provide any requested materials. To help you keep track of the awards you want to pursue, put together a document or spreadsheet that tracks important information, such as:

  • The name of the scholarship and the website
  • When you can apply and when award decisions are made
  • What materials you’ll need to apply (such as essays or letters of recommendation)
  • When you submit your application
  • Contact information for the organization offering the scholarship

3. Gather application materials

As a general rule, have the following prepared to make the application process as smooth as possible:

  • Personal statement: This should be free of typos and grammatical errors and should reflect your leadership skills, community involvement and personal struggles as an LGBTQ+ person. Also be prepared to add information regarding financial hardship.
  • Two letters of recommendation: These should be from non-family members who can attest to your accomplishments. For example, you could ask a teacher, club leader, religious leader or community organizer if they’d be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you.
  • Transcripts: Depending on the scholarship, be prepared to provide a high school transcript as well as transcripts from any colleges or universities you’ve attended.
  • Record of volunteer hours: Most organizations offering scholarships will want to see proof of your volunteerism.
  • Proof of residency: This will be necessary if you’re applying for a location-specific scholarship.

Having each of these can help you apply for multiple scholarships at once with just a little tweaking.

4. Submit your application

Many organizations allow you to submit a scholarship application via an online form or by email. However, some might require you to mail in printed application materials.

Be sure to double-check your application for any errors before submitting it, as mistakes could lead to disqualification.

5. Await a decision and funds disbursement

Organizations will generally let you know when to expect an award decision. If you win a scholarship, don’t be afraid to reach out to the organization to get a timeline on when and how funds will be disbursed.

Scholarship awards are typically sent directly to the educational institution you’ll be attending. Generally, you’ll only be able to use the funds to cover tuition, fees, housing costs and other educational expenses. On occasion, you might find an organization that will send your award directly to you.

Other ways to pay for college

If you’re an LGBTQ+ student, scholarships aren’t the only way to fund your education. Here are some other ways to pay for college:

  • Other types of scholarships: LGBTQ+ scholarships aren’t the only kind of awards you might be eligible for. You can find scholarships for just about anything — for example, awards are available for specific disciplines, single parents, hobbyists and more. Think about what makes you unique, what you plan to major in and what career path you’re hoping to follow. Then, search for scholarships by those categories.
  • Grants: Like scholarships, grants don’t have to be repaid. To apply for federal grants — such as the Pell Grant — you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many states also offer grants to college students.
  • Work-study programs: The Federal Work-Study Program helps students pay for a higher education with part-time work. The key benefit to a work-study program is that the money you make doesn’t affect your eligibility for federal aid. To apply, you’ll need to submit the FAFSA. The financial aid award letter you later receive from your school will detail if you qualify for the work-study program, and you can notify your school if you’d like to pursue it.
  • Federal student loans: If you need to borrow money to pay for school, it’s usually best to start with federal student loans. This is because these types of student loans come with federal protections, such as access to income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs. To apply for federal student loans, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA.
  • Private student loan: After you’ve exhausted your scholarship, grant and federal student loan opportunities, private student loans can help fill any financial gaps left over. Keep in mind that these loans don’t come with the borrower protections that federal loans offer — repayment plans for private loans, for example, are often inflexible. Additionally, you’ll typically need good to excellent credit (or a creditworthy co-signer), verifiable income and a low debt-to-income ratio to qualify.

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