Historically, Hispanic students have been at a disadvantage. They are often affected by factors like their parents’ immigration status, racial stereotypes, etc. As a result, some don’t have the resources they need to succeed in school. Others can’t afford to pay for education beyond high school.
Fortunately, more and more Hispanic students are going to college. This is happening in part due to the availability of scholarships. One such scholarship is the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Every year, the HSF Scholarship gives out millions in awards. It also lifts up Hispanic students through educational and career resources.
If you are a Latin American who wants to go to college, you can apply for the HSF Scholarship. Read on to learn about the scholarship, how to apply, how to increase your chances of winning, and more.
What Is the Hispanic Scholarship Fund?
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is a non-profit organization that empowers Latin Americans. Since 1975, it has helped students of Hispanic heritage pursue higher education. It accepts thousands of applications every year from high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. and is the largest organization of its kind.
Over the years, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $588 million in scholarships. This is possible due to dozens of corporate sponsorships. The organization works closely with companies that support higher education like Disney, Johnson & Johnson, and many more. It also provides tons of non-monetary resources to help students succeed.
Let’s take a closer look at what students can win…
What the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Provides
The awards you are eligible for will vary. To understand what you can win, let’s break down the selection process. Every year, thousands of students submit applications. A fair, unbiased committee goes through each one and sorts them into three categories.
The first category is for all submitted applications. The committee takes a look and scores applications based on several factors. These include your grades, extracurriculars, leadership roles, involvement in the community, etc. The committee prioritizes students with well-rounded resumes.
From there, the committee designates applications with higher scores as finalists. Finalists with the highest scores then become Scholars. The committee chooses around 10,000 Scholars every year.
Thanks to sponsorships, the HSF offers tons of rewards to scholars. Students can win amounts ranging from $500 to $5,000, with their level of financial need determining the amount they get.
For instance, students who demonstrate the greatest need will get higher award amounts. Realize that while your financial need determines what award amount you get, it will not affect your overall chances of winning. Also, keep in mind that you can only receive one award amount per year.
You can use the scholarship money for most college-related expenses. These include things like:
- Books and supplies
- Room and board
- Transportation costs
Note that you can only use the award money for the fall semester. If you are taking classes over the summer, you will have to pay for them using another source.
What if you are studying abroad? You may be able to use the award money if you are still enrolled at a U.S. university and receive U.S. college credit towards your degree. Additionally, the study abroad program must occur during the normal academic year. This means Fall/Spring for a semester system or Fall/Winter/Spring for a quarter system.
Scholars also get non-monetary benefits. They get access to exclusive resources that will help them succeed in college and beyond. These include wellness training, job opportunities, career services, and many more.
Note that waitlisted finalists will also get access to these resources. They may also end up receiving award money if the organization receives extra donations. This is possible as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund has many corporate sponsors.
So, if you are waitlisted, don’t get discouraged. Some finalists end up receiving award money. And, even if you don’t, you’ll still get access to tons of useful resources. These resources are often more valuable than any amount you could receive.
How to Know If You’re Eligible for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Wondering if you should apply for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund? To be eligible, you have to meet all of the following criteria:
Be of Hispanic Heritage
First and foremost, you must be at least 25% Hispanic/Latino. This HSF will not take into account how you look. Rather, the organization will want to see that you can track your heritage to at least one Latino country. This includes countries such as:
- El Salvador
Note that this list is not exhaustive. Eligible participants can have their heritage tied to any Latin American country.
To win the HSF, you must be one of the following:
- A U.S. citizen
- A permanent legal resident
- A DACA recipient
- An eligible non-citizen (refer to the U.S. Department of Education’s site to learn what it means to be an eligible non-citizen)
In most cases, you must fall into one of these groups to be eligible. If you don’t fall into one of these groups but think you’re still eligible, contact the HSF.
Complete the FAFSA
Like most scholarships, the HSF requires you to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It won’t allocate your funds unless you complete this form.
This should be incentive enough to fill out the FAFSA. Filling out the FAFSA also has many other perks. It will ensure you’re eligible for other scholarships and unlock additional sources of aid (loans, etc.).
Complete the State Dream Act Application (If Applicable)
If you live in a state that adheres to the Dream Act, you must submit the financial aid application associated with the act. This allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition instead of out-of-state tuition.
Applicants must be one of the following:
- A high school senior
- A community college student
- A student at a four-year college
- A graduate student
Note that the only eligible high school students are high school seniors planning to attend college in the fall. The HSF is not for other grade school students. However, the organization does offer programs for high school, middle school, and elementary school students. Click here to see the latest events.
There is no age cutoff to apply. As long as you meet all of the requirements, you will be eligible. This means you can apply even if you are older than typical college students.
If you are a high school student, you must have a GPA of at least 3.0. Community college students, undergraduate students, and graduate students must have a GPA of at least 2.5.
Test Score Requirements
The application does not list specific test score requirements. However, the committee will prioritize those with higher SAT and ACT scores.
Typically, the HSF application opens on January 1st. Applicants must plan to enroll in college the following fall. For instance, if someone applies on January 1st, 2021, they must plan to attend college in the fall of 2021.
You can only use the award money at a four-year university or graduate school. The school must be accredited and public/non-profit. Note that you must be enrolled full-time.
You cannot use the award money at a community college. However, if you are a community college student, you can apply if you plan to transfer to a four-year university in the fall.
Your Declared Major
Technically, you can declare any major and still be eligible. However, the scholarship favors applicants who declare a STEM major. This is likely because Hispanics are largely underrepresented in the STEM workforce.
Application Steps for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Think you’re a good fit for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund? Here’s how to apply.
Go to the HSF’s website. Click on “Apply” and sign up for an account. Signing up is free and will only take a few minutes. You will need to provide basic information like your name and birthdate. You’ll provide an email address that you’ll use for your login and set up a password.
Once you create your account, go to the “Applicant Dashboard.” If the deadline has passed, there will be information about the next application period. If the application is still open, there will be a link to fill it out.
The application asks various questions to get to know you, your academic performance, and your involvement in school and the community. You’ll also fill out information about your future goals.
The questionnaire is relatively short and should take less than one hour to fill out. Once you submit it, the committee will review it along with thousands of other applications. If you move on to the next round, you’ll have to submit documents including:
While the committee considers several factors, it puts a heavy emphasis on academic performance. So, it will need to see your school transcripts.
If you’re a high school student, contact your school’s office. It might store your transcripts onsite or direct you to a separate facility. College students should go to the registrar’s office. It will provide you with a copy of your official college transcripts. In some cases, you can order them through the registrar’s website.
Get access to your transcripts as early as possible. The committee will ask for them in March (if you are chosen as a finalist).
You need to prove that you are attending a four-year university in the fall. The university must be accredited and public/non-profit.
To prove enrollment, you need an enrollment verification letter. Request this document from your school’s admissions office. The committee accepts enrollment verification letters after award announcements. Recipients usually submit them sometime between September and October.
Financial Aid Award Letter
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund also requires an aid award letter. This letter explains how much financial assistance your school will give you (scholarships, loans, etc.).
The letter will not determine if you win a reward. But, it will influence how much you win.
To get the letter, put in a request with your school’s financial aid office. You will have to submit this letter sometime between June and September.
A Completed FAFSA
As we mentioned earlier, you will need a completed FAFSA to be eligible. You should fill out this form as soon as possible as it can take some time to process.
Once it processes, you’ll get a Student Aid Report (SAR). This is yet another document you need for your application.
If you are chosen as a finalist, you will have to send in your SAR in March. Note that the committee will use both your SAR and award letter from your school to determine your award amount.
The essay prompt will be on the application. It’s different every year but usually asks about your goals, strengths, values, etc. The committee will ask for your essay in March, so you should give yourself plenty of time to work on it.
Letter of Recommendation
You must submit at least one letter of recommendation from an academic professional. It can be from an instructor, advisor, etc. If you want, you may include other letters of recommendation. Additional letters can come from academic and non-academic sources. Submit all recommendations in March.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund Annual Timeline
We’ve mentioned some deadlines above, but here’s a more concise timeline for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund:
Application Opens on January 1st
Every year, the application opens on January 1st. On this date, you’ll be able to log into your account and start working on it.
The questionnaire is short enough to complete in one sitting. But, if you don’t have time or want to review your answers later, you can save your progress.
Application Deadline: February 15th
You’ll have about a month and a half to complete the application as it closes on February 15th. Be sure to click “Submit” before this date. Note that the application deadline is the same every year.
Finalists Announced in March
Up until March, the committee will review and score applications. It will choose the highest-scoring ones as finalists.
Once the committee notifies finalists, they will have to send in their:
- Letters of recommendation
We recommend getting these documents together as early as possible. Your school might take a while to get your transcripts, your SAR can take a while to come in, etc. You’ll also need to give yourself time to work on your essay and your teachers time to write you recommendation letters.
Scholars Announced in May/June
The committee will continue its selection process by reviewing finalists. It will verify all required documents and select the highest-scoring finalists as Scholars.
Scholars are either “funded” or “waitlisted.” Funded students will receive a monetary award and access to educational resources. Waitlisted students will get access to the same resources. They may be eligible for a monetary award if additional funding becomes available.
Submit Your Financial Aid Award Letter from June to September
Students usually submit this letter sometime between June and September. The scholarship will use it to determine your award amount.
Submit Your Enrollment Verification Letter from September to October
Your enrollment verification letter confirms that you’re attending a four-year university in the fall. You can submit it from September to October.
Disbursement of Funds from October to December
Finally, Scholars will receive their funds from October to December. They can use the money to pay for a variety of college-related expenses.
Tips and Strategies To Help You Win the Hispanic Scholarship Fund
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund receives thousands of applications every year. Winning might seem like a long shot.
Here are some things you can do to increase your chances:
Start Your Application ASAP
You know that the application opens on January 1st. Instead of putting it off, start it right away. This will ensure you aren’t rushed. You’ll have plenty of time to fill out all parts and ensure everything is correct.
Have Someone Review Your Application
You should go over your application several times before submitting it. But, it’s always a good idea to get another pair of eyes on it. Ask a parent, teacher, or advisor to review your application. They should double-check that everything is complete and accurate.
Submit Multiple Recommendation Letters
The application only requires one recommendation letter. But, multiple letters can help the committee get a better idea of why you deserve the scholarship. They’ll see your achievements through multiple perspectives (a high school teacher, a coach, etc.).
Be sure to ask the right people to write recommendation letters. They should know you well enough to write highly of you. Avoid choosing family members or close friends.
Keep Your Grades Up
The HSF wants to see applicants that exceed academically. So, if you want to improve your chances, go beyond the GPA requirements. Keep your GPA high by doing well in your courses and taking honors classes.
Improve Your Test Scores
The scholarship does not specify test score requirements. But, good test scores will be a testament to your academic success.
If your ACT/SAT scores aren’t great, consider taking the tests again. Prepare by studying, using prep materials, or getting a tutor.
While the scholarship considers your academic performance, it doesn’t only care about grades and test scores. It wants to see that you are a well-rounded individual.
So, make sure you get involved. Join a sports team, join a club, volunteer, etc. We recommend picking two or three activities and sticking to them. This will prevent you from stretching yourself too thin and prove that you can commit.
Work Hard on Your Essay
Try to make your essay stand out from others. Talk about your unique high school experience, challenges you’ve overcome, etc. Also, make sure it flows logically and is free of grammatical errors.
Be honest throughout the entire application process. The HSF reserves the right to verify all information you submit. Seeing as the scholarship values integrity, it will disqualify you if it catches you in a lie.
The HSF Scholarship is a great opportunity and one you should take advantage of. If you need help or want to learn about other scholarships for Hispanic students, contact MTM today!