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Identity-Based Scholarship Series: Faith-Based Scholarships

Robyn Stewart

Written by Robyn Stewarton January 18th, 2021

Prior to joining College Coach, I was a financial aid officer at the College of the Holy Cross and an education advisor at two TRIO program locations. I work with the Massachusetts Education Finance Authority (MEFA) to present paying for college workshops to hundreds of families across the state. I'm a graduate of UMass Amherst and have a master in counseling from Northeastern University.
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Scholarships are a way to close the gap between the cost of attendance at a college and a family’s own resources. Among the many scholarships that students can apply for are those that are established to support students based upon the ways they define themselves. There is no comprehensive list of identity-based scholarships; professional associations, companies, non-profit entities, religious organizations, political groups, and colleges and universities are among the many sponsors of scholarships that may be awarded in part based upon a student’s race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or presence of a disability. Bright Horizons College Coach wants to help ensure that students from all backgrounds have access to the resources they need to achieve their educational goals and has therefore launched this monthly scholarship series to help students pinpoint funding opportunities based upon their unique identities. Check out the below resources, along with the other posts in the series, and you may discover funding sources that will make covering that college bill a little (or a lot!) easier. This month, we look at faith-based scholarship resources for students. Scholarships based on the student’s faith are often more local and personal than any other scholarships students are likely to find. In addition, they may be more casual. Many churches, synagogues, and mosques offer scholarships to students who have been actively involved in services and youth groups, even though the scholarships may not be formally named. There may be no application process; instead, they are simply awarded to high school seniors by clergy and lay administrators. Students who are active in their religious organizations should reach out to clergy and lay leadership to learn about scholarship opportunities at the local level, and within state and national religious organizations affiliated with the local house of worship. Similarly, adult religious groups (service groups, sisterhood and brotherhood organizations, religious study groups) may have similar scholarships available. Students should reach out to these organizations to inquire about possible funding opportunities. Note that the below list is not exhaustive, but is intended to provide a starting place for students to launch their scholarship searches.
  • A Continuous Charity provides interest-free loans for higher education. This organization strives to help Muslim students achieve their educational goals. The charity raises funds at the local level and all monies are awarded based on a variety of factors including Islamic faith involvement, merit, and need.
  • allows students to search for scholarships based on their religious affiliation. Students can enter their specific information and religious affiliation and get matched with a list of scholarships options related to their specific faith. Note: this site requires registration to investigate the scholarships it lists. Before registering, please review the site’s privacy policies to ensure they meet your standards for use of your personal data.
  • Hillel International offers scholarships for incoming college freshmen and continuing college students. Students must identify as Jewish and plan to attend or already attend a four-year college or university.
  • Emmett J. Doerr Memorial Scout Award is for students who are practicing Catholics and have participated in the Boy Scouts of America. This award honors student leaders who have exceled in their community, church, scouting, and at school.
  • Prayer Soup is a non-religious charity that examines “the many ways we use the process called prayer to search for meaning.” This organization offers several college scholarships to eligible students of all religious beliefs.
Remember, students are expected to report outside scholarships they receive to their intended college, and receipt of scholarships may impact other parts of a student’s financial aid award. It is best practice to reach out to the Financial Aid Office at your college for clarification of awarding policies. Best of luck, and please see the awarding organization’s website for full scholarship details and program opportunities. Determine the Best Way to Pay for College


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