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By now you are aware of scholarship programs available for students who have excelled in class but are limited by financial circumstances, but did you know about the dozens of specialized scholarships targeting the needs of students with Hispanic heritage? An array of options await you and your child, with varying monetary awards and special programs for students with one or more parents of Hispanic origins.

In order to improve the diversity of college graduates, many endowments and other foundations have created special programs in the forms of grants, loans, and other aid to high school students planning to attend college or college students seeking aid to continue where one or both parents of the students are Hispanic. Major funds include the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Hispanic College Fund, Latino College Dollars, while grants offered by State Farm, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, MillerCoors Texas, the Gates Millennium Fund, and the Edward S. Roth Manufacturing Engineering Scholarship also target the needs of minority students.

Many scholarships do not require a specific grade point average (GPA), but serious students should work to achieve at least a 2.5 (and preferably 3.0) GPA by high school graduation. Performance in junior and senior years is weighted more heavily in scholarship approvals; indeed, a student who did poorly (below 2.0) in freshman and sophomore courses but moved to a near 4.0 average for the final two years of high school is in a good position to qualify for many scholarship awards. In addition to grades, scholarship committees often look at performance in the community and on campus such as volunteering with churches, schools, or other civic groups.

Letters of recommendation and essays are required for most scholarship applications. Seek letters of recommendation from educators, employers, and civic leaders that can explain in detail qualities that make you or your child deserving of the award. Essays should follow any rules provided very carefully, as failing to use first person narrative style if that is requested could disqualify an applicant.

Getting enough financial aid to make attending school possible can require a great deal of effort. Apply to as many scholarships for which you are qualified and do not be afraid to read a rejection letter. Whether you get the Hispanic Scholarship Fund or one of the other special programs to help you meet your college expenses, the end result is the same: to achieve a college degree and be a positive force for society.