Searching for Asian American Scholarships?

College Funding is not that Elusive

Asian Americans account for a growing segment of the U.S. population: Currently, the Asian American cohort in the United States is around 5% of the total population.  And individuals of Asian descent go to college in higher numbers than any other ethnic group -  more than 40% report participation in higher education at some level.

For Asian American college students, financial aid resources run the gamut from general government assistance, to specialized grants and scholarships that target candidates of Asian descent.  State and federal programs provide the greatest amounts of aid overall, so for most students, government-backed assistance is a primary resource

Applying for federal student assistance starts with a standardized request called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The form helps campus financial aid administrators compile accurate information about each student’s college funding requirements.  Income, assets and the number of your siblings that are also enrolled in college provide valuable insight into your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – the number used by the Department of Education to designate what you can afford.

Qualified applicants use Pell Grants and Direct Loans to meet college commitments, but additional assistance is often required to tackle the tab.  State-specific resources provide supplemental funding for resident students attending state schools.  Campus financial aid offices and individual state higher education commissions are up to date on current programs; which include grants, scholarships and loans.

Beyond state and federal student assistance, private organizations and corporate entities engage in educational philanthropy that benefits college students – including Asian Americans.  Not only do programs exist specifically for students of Asian heritage, but these types of aid benefit Asian students as well:

Minority advocacy groups, professional associations, individual academic departments and educational foundations each put forth unique financial aid opportunities.  The following examples illustrate some of the student assistance alternatives available to Asian American college students.

Winning Asian-American Student Scholarships

Scholarship eligibility requirements are established by the organizations funding individual awards, but students seeking aid specifically reserved for Asian American higher education should expect to encounter some universally expected attributes. Most scholarships require applicants to be:

  • Of Asian heritage
  • U.S. Citizens or qualified permanent residents
  • Enrolled in accredited colleges and universities within the U.S.
  • In good academic standing

Additionally, some scholarship funds impose requirements related to academic performance and fiscal need.  These commonly include:

  • High academic achievement
  • Demonstrable financial need
  • Involvement in community organizations and activities.

Wherever you apply, make sure the funds you are seeking are earmarked for students like you.  In addition to geographical and vocational requirements, some Asian American financial aid funds specifically target college students from ethnic Asian sub-groups.  Asian-Americans most likely identify with one of the following ethnicities:

  • Asian Indian
  • Bangladeshi
  • Burmese
  • Cambodian
  • Chinese
  • Filipino
  • Guamanian/ChamorroAsian scholarships
  • Hmong
  • Indo Chinese
  • Indonesian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Malaysian
  • Maori
  • Marshallese
  • Micronesian
  • Native Hawaiian
  • Nepalese
  • Okinawan
  • Pakistani
  • Palauan
  • Samoan
  • Tahitian
  • Taiwanese
  • Thai
  • Tongan
  • Vietnamese
  • Yapese

Asian American Organizations: Rich Scholarship Resources

The U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC) Education Foundation aims assistance toward Asian American college students. The USPAACC has been working with corporations and other benefactors to provide financial assistance for Asian American students since 1989. Generous donors include corporate sponsors like McDonald’s, CBC, Pepsi, and FedEx. The Foundation’s scholarships invite diversity and support Asian education through a variety of funding opportunities. Current Pan-Asian scholarships include these options, which may be applied to tuition and expenses at approved educational institution:

  • The Bruce Lee Scholarship
  • Coca-Cola Company Hallmark Scholarship
  • Denny’s Scholarship
  • Enterprise Holdings Hallmark Scholarship
  • PepsiCo Hallmark Scholarships – Two annual awards
  • UPS Scholarships

Founded in 2003, the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) benefits from the educational philanthropy of some of the biggest corporations in America. The APIASF gives generously to Asian American students pursuing higher education at all levels.  APIASF regularly awards a significant portion of its resources to Asian American women, and awards are distributed to residents of as many as 45 different states each year. To date, the Fund has disbursed more than $60 million worth of educational assistance to worthy applicants of Asian and Pacific Island descent.  In addition to general eligibility requirements, each application requires an accompanying cumulative GPA of 2.7, and at least one letter of recommendation.

Asian Pacific Fund is a Community Foundation supporting education among Asian Americans.  A variety of financial aid offerings are funded by private donors, who designate specific eligibility requirements for their awards.  Specific career goals and individual applicant experiences are considered during the evaluation period for some awards.

Asian American Students Find Funding at Colleges and Universities

Campus-specific financial aid addresses affordability issues that still exist for students after mainstream resources have been exhausted.  Administrators draw from whatever programs are available at their schools, to provide adequate funding for qualified students.  Some campus programs are specifically focused on Asian American education, and reserve funding exclusively for applicants of Asian and Pacific Island heritage.  These examples illustrate school-specific financial aid options for minority students:

  • Boston College has an Asian American Scholarship that recognizes Benigno and Corazon Aquino.  The award is for seniors, but applications are initiated during each candidate’s junior year. Winning the scholarships requires applicants to exhibit high levels of academic achievement, as well as strong commitments to Asian American causes – both on and off campus. Awards are valued at $15,000 each for BC seniors, and all finalists recieve $1000 to be applied to textbook expenses.  Students with cumulative GPA standards of at least 3.0 are invited to apply.
  • Freeman Asian Scholarships benefit Asian high-achievers studying at Wesleyan University.
  • University of California- Irvine puts forth the Ching Suei Su scholarship for students who have declared academic majors in areas of Asian Studies.  Asian ethnic heritage is not required to apply, put successful candidates are majoring in Chinese Studies, Asian-American Studies, Korean Literature and Culture and Japanese Language and Literature.

Subject-Specific Scholarships for Asian American Students

  • Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Scholarships have provided more than one-million dollars worth of educational assistance for Asian American student-journalists. The effort aims to increase Asian American representation in the media on a broad scale.  Vietnamese, Cambodian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander students are invited to compete for AAJA resources. Scholarships values range from $1,000 to $5,000 each, and are awarded competitively – based on academic excellence.
  • The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association offers generous scholarships for Asian American law students. Commitment to advancing the Asian Pacific American community is a prerequisite for applying for the organization’s financial aid awards.  Experiences which have shaped your commitment to this community provide valuable insight into your ability to overcome economic and social barriers, and should be shared with program administrators alongside application materials.
  • For students of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage who aspire to careers as librarians, The Asian Pacific American Librarians Association stands as a supplemental college financial aid resource.  The Association provides scholarships valued at $1000 each to qualified applicants.

Offline Resources

Scholarships for Asian American Students , published by Peterson’s Guides, is a comprehensive paperback that lists scholarships, grants, bursaries and forgivable loans for Asian Americans.

College financial aid administrators and high school guidance counselors provide professional oversight that guarantees that your quest for higher education financing is an exhaustive effort.  Current program information is available on-campus; including application requirements for school-specific initiatives that are reserved specifically for Asian American recipients.