Speaking more than one language can be a huge advantage in many parts of your life. Bilingual fluency is attractive to employers; it can help you get around outside the United States; and, if you know where to look, it can also mean scholarship dollars for college. Many bilingual scholarship programs are limited to certain schools or subject areas, but if you are fluent—or becoming fluent—in more than one language, these might just fit the bill.
The easiest bilingual scholarships to find are those for students interested in bilingual teaching. The California Bilingual Education Association offers $2,000 awards to student members who are pursuing a degree in bilingual education. The annual membership fee is just $30, and the scholarship is unique in that there are no language restrictions. You can specialize in any second language and still be eligible.
[Learn about scholarships for international students.]
That's good news for bilingual education students in California—and if you happen to be fluent in any of a host of Asian languages, California State University—Northridge has even better news. Its Preparing Asian Bilingual Teachers Project offers up to $7,000 to bilingual-ed students who are planning on teaching in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino (Tagalog), or Hmong. That program has a rolling deadline, so if you fit the criteria, the scholarship and the school are worth a closer look.
Other schools with dedicated bilingual education programs include Boise State University (see program details) and Texas A&M University (program details), both of which feature a number of dedicated scholarship funds. (Boise State even offers significant funding for students transferring from community colleges—the Grow Your Own Scholarship covers 90 percent of costs.)
[Read more about starting at a community college.]
Of course, you don't need to be going into education to find bilingual scholarships. If you're fluent in Spanish, check out the Carlos M. Castañeda Journalism Fellowship. Awarded in honor of Castañeda, a Cuban-born newspaperman who spent more than three decades as an editor with Spanish-language papers in Puerto Rico and New York, the fellowship provides a one-year scholarship of around $7,000 to a graduate student in journalism who is seeking a career writing in Spanish. You can see the abbreviated English-language website or the more robust Spanish version.
Finally, while Spanish and East Asian languages feature the most scholarship dollars, there are funds out there for just about any second language. If you're focusing on Latin or Greek, check with your school's classics department (and the American Classical League, which offers occasional contests and opportunities). If you happen to speak Parsi, do not miss out on the Houtan Scholarship, which provides $2,500 per semester to graduate students who are fluent in the language and interested in Persian culture. And, last but not least, if you're in college—or post-college—and your work involves the study of endangered languages (anything from Chinook to Aragonese), the Endangered Language Fund provides annual grants for language-related projects.
[Read how schools say classics programs aren't the road to medical degrees.]
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.