For plenty of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, college is much more than just an opportunity for higher education—it's a safe place to express your pride, embrace your identity, and find a community. Since today is National Coming Out Day, we wanted to look at a few scholarships that can help LGBT students pay for higher education.
Established in 2001, the Point Foundation has become a major funder of scholarships for LGBT students across the nation. Point Foundation scholarships are awarded to students at all levels of college, graduate, and postgraduate education, and are designed "to nurture the LGBTQ leaders of the next generation." (Check out their alumni for a good idea of the kind of students they're looking for.)
Award amounts are determined based on need; according to FinAid.org, they range from $5,000 up to $28,000. Applications for 2013 will be available November 1, so don't miss out on this excellent opportunity.
[Learn more about financial need and other key terms.]
The LEAGUE Foundation also provides scholarships to students anywhere in the United States. Graduating high school seniors who identify as LGBT can submit a single application to be considered for the LEAGUE Foundation Scholarships, the Matthew Shepard Memorial Scholarship, and the Laurel Hester Memorial Scholarship, and awards have ranged from $1,500 to $2,500.
Though they're a national advocacy organization with some wide-ranging scholarships, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) also provides plenty of financial aid on a local level through their dozens of state and local chapters. You can check out last year's national winners and bookmark their site for information about the 2013 program.
To learn about local chapters—many of which provide scholarships ranging up to $2,500—check the PFLAG Community website.
Like PFLAG, the Human Rights Campaign has been a tireless advocate for LGBT issues for decades, and it's no surprise that they provide an excellent local and regional scholarship resource. Its LGBT Student Scholarship Database allows you to search for state, local, and college-specific scholarship programs designed for LGBT students. It's not an exhaustive list, but it will provide you with a lot of opportunities you may not find otherwise, especially if you're planning to go to college out of state.
If you happen to live in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, you're eligible for one of the largest local LGBT awards: Live Out Loud, best known for their Homecoming Project mentoring program, also awards five annual Young Trailblazers scholarships, worth $5,000, to graduating high school seniors "who have shown exceptional leadership, courage, and achievement" during their academic careers.
Finally, don't forget to check out scholarships for LGBT students within your personal areas of interest and expertise. In addition to the general awards above, there are LGBT-focused awards for everything from journalism to aviation and sports. Wherever your college career and your interests take you, these scholarships can help you take the first step.
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.