Connecting Native American Students to Competitive Colleges and Universities

grad_capsHere at the Foundation, we know many of the country’s most promising scholars are often overlooked, including Native American students. Fortunately, opportunities for high-achieving Native American students interested in attending a highly selective college or university are available in greater numbers than ever before.

Highly Selective Schools May be the Right Fit for You

But why should a Native American student or any other high-achieving student apply to the nation’s most competitive schools in the first place?

The benefits of attending a prestigious institution include:

  • More resources for students, including financial aid
  • Better graduation rates
  • Greater lifetime earning potential

Even if you’re not sure you qualify, you may be surprised by the resources available to you. So if you have been fairly successful throughout school or have a special talent, explore your options!

Begin Thinking and Talking About the Possibilities

For Native American communities, sending their brightest students to schools like Stanford or Yale is particularly beneficial. College graduates provide good role models for younger students and bring prestige to their tribe. And often they return to their communities and give back by becoming civic leaders, engineers or stewards of protected lands, or prominent artists and writers.

That’s why you should begin the discussion with other Native Americans:

  • Talk with your family, friends, and tribal elders. These people can support you and guide you toward your journey. Even if they haven’t attended college themselves, many of the people around you will be encouraging and helpful.
  • Find other students like you. If you live on a reservation, in a small town, or out in a rural area, it’s easy to think you’re the only one thinking about applying the top colleges and universities in the nation, and that can be discouraging. But perhaps a student from another school or another tribe is following the same journey as you; see if you can find them at academic events or even on social media.
  • Connect with current Native Americans presently in college. Most highly selective schools have Native American studies programs and Cultural Centers for Native Americans and can put you in touch with students from similar backgrounds. They may understand your situation better than anyone else.

Put the Pieces Together

There are a number of great resources for you to help put together a plan for attending a highly selective college or university.  The earlier you begin exploring—even if you’re in middle school—the better the chances you’ll find the resources you need for your path to college.

Here are a few to start with:

  • National Indian Education Association is a great general resource for students. It has a webpage with scholarships for Native Americans, and a list of Native American studies programs at colleges and universities across the country.
  • College Horizons, which is specifically for Native American students, offers programs and workshops on college admissions.
  • The American Indian College Fund provides Native American student scholarships and has other programs to help students succeed. They have a great list of scholarships specifically for Native American students.
  • The Center for Native American Youth, which among other things sponsors the Champions for Change program that exposes Native American youth leaders to leadership development opportunities, and CNAY’s Youth Advisory Board. They also engage in other significant events, like the White House Tribal Nations’ Conference, to share their message of positive change and hope.
  • The federal government. The Department of Education and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are among the federal agencies with online college resources for Native American students.
  • Local or regional financial resources. Some of the best resources may be closer than you think. Individual tribes may have scholarships, and inter-tribal groups of students often exist to promote academic success.  For example, the Choctaw Nation has established its own database for scholarships.
  • The American Indian Graduate Center is an excellent resource for students interested in graduate school.
  • And of course, don’t forget us! Our scholarship competitions are open right now, and stay in touch with us to apply in the future.