Native American Scholarships: Beyond 4.0 and Financial Need

Each year we receive about 1,000 applications from college-bound Native American students seeking a scholarship from the American Indian Education Foundation (AIEF), a program of Partnership With Native Americans. In these applications, the “objective” criteria that gets a passing grade is not what you would think.

For instance, one objective factor we do not look for in AIEF scholarship applications is financial need. Nor do we look for the 3.5 to 4.0 GPA. Unlike many scholarship providers, AIEF instead looks at other factors that increase a student’s likelihood of succeeding in college.

In awarding scholarships, AIEF’s intent is to increase opportunities for Native American students to pursue a college degree. This means AIEF must look outside of the normal pool of students for selection.

AIEF gives funding priority to freshmen students who are likely to complete the first year of college. They look for non-traditional students or students with GEDs who are highly motivated to attend college. They give priority to students in nine states known for underserving college-bound Native American students. And rather than a 4.0, AIEF looks for students with a GPA of 2.0 to 3.5, relying instead on application essays to predict a student’s future success.

This unlikely set of criteria widens the opportunity for Native students least likely to receive funding from other scholarship providers. It also yields an unlikely result, in that recipients of AIEF scholarships prove us right in our student selections year after year. Why do I say this? For all Native students receiving scholarships from all providers, the norm for college-year completion is about 21% — the completion rate for AIEF students is 90-95 percent.

Having a closer look at this, I have come to appreciate the genius behind the AIEF process, not to mention our scholarship team’s understanding of the academic, cultural and human factors that drive the students to succeed against all odds. I am proud of our AIEF objective readers, our scholarship committee and most of all our passionate Native American students for following their dreams! I wish to thank all of our students who applied for scholarships this year and wish each one of you the very best with your application.

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