For our purposes, private scholarships will simply mean those that are not paid for by the government. Many private scholarships mean more because they are merit-based.

The United Negro College Fund is one of these private scholarships. Its motto is, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste”. This organization has been doing everything they can to ensure African-American minds are not wasted.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a beneficiary of the UNCF. As were director Spike Lee and actor Samuel L. Jackson. The UNCF provides over $100 million in private scholarships to African-Americans every year and over 350,000 students have used its funds to earn degrees at historically black colleges and universities.

The National Merit Scholarship has gone to such luminaries as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. The cash award may be only $2,500, but the prestige associated with the award can take you far. 1.5 million student entrants try to be National Merit Scholars every year. Only about the top three to four percent of students will be so honored.

The Coca Cola Scholars program selects 2,200 semifinalists. The semifinalists are required to write an essay, provide transcripts and two letters of recommendation. 250 finalists are invited to Atlanta for personal interviews. They are interviewed by a selection committee of community leaders. Fifty students receive awards of $20,000 for college. Two hundred receive $10,000.

Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! College Scholarship program requires 12th grade applicants to write a letter to a person they know who needs inspiration in life. First place is $10,000.

The Rhodes Scholarship is a search for the best qualities a man can possess. This in itself separates it from other low standard scholarships. In part, the Rhodes Scholarship seeks those who stand for truth, courage, devotion to duty and sympathy for and protection of the weak. They actually look for moral force of character as opposed to ethnicity, gender or income.

The Gates Millennium Scholarship looks for outstanding academics, community service and leadership potential. Bill Gates wants to personally fund the college education of some of the estimated 500,000 students who do don’t go to college every year because they can’t afford it. The academic preparation aspect of this scholarship differentiates it from the rest.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) scholarships are available from a wide variety of private organizations. There has been a need for more STEM graduates for a number of years. It’s gotten to the point where the United States is importing a large number of computer scientists into America from India. American educators still hold out hope that this educational crisis can be solved by the failing America public school system.

The Hispanic College Fund has an impressive record indeed. Hispanics as a group get lower SAT scores, lower grades, and have higher dropout rates than the average college student. Those Hispanic students, however, working with the Hispanic College Fund not only graduate at a higher rate than other Hispanic students—they graduate at a higher rate than all students. This is due in large part to the guidance and academic support they give their students.

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