The increasing diversity of our society reminds us that all of America's citizens must have access to higher education if our nation is to sustain and advance itself as a global, competitive democracy in the new millennium. The future of our economy and quality of life depend upon the preparation of a diverse cadre of leaders who can help build a stronger society. These potential leaders, especially those drawn from groups that have traditionally and historically been denied access to higher education, require the necessary support and opportunities to earn and complete a college education.
The Gates Millennium Scholars Program
The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was established in 1999 to provide outstanding African American, American Indian/Alaska Native*, Asian Pacific Islander American**, and Hispanic American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate college education in any discipline area of interest. Continuing Gates Millennium Scholars may request funding for a graduate degree program in one of the following discipline areas: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science.
In 1999, a bold vision of what America’s future would look like began to take shape. In that view, America’s leadership would include 20,000 individuals, all people of color, who would make a significant impact on the future direction of the nation. Coming from among the most financially needy students and attending the nation’s best colleges and universities, they would represent the extraordinary promise inherent among all highly academically capable individuals, no matter what their background. Moreover, the planners envisioned that the researched experiences of the students’ matriculation and retention, the fact of these individuals’ extraordinary successes to terminal degrees, and the testimony of their voices, would spark conversation, and perhaps debate, leading to public policies and added philanthropic contributions in support of similarly able and financially challenged young people. That vision of Bill and Melinda Gates was funded by a historic grant of more than 1 billion dollars to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF)—still the largest single gift to any scholarship organization.
One of the most unique aspects of the GMS Program is the partnership and collective efforts of the four partner organizations providing services to the continuing Gates Millennium Scholars. GMS Program staff members at the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars (AIGCS), the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) and UNCF service students from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is truly a national effort.
Students are eligible to be considered for a GMS scholarship if they meet all of the following criteria:
- Are African American, American Indian/Alaska Native*, Asian & Pacific Islander American** or Hispanic American
- Are a citizen, national or legal permanent resident of the United States
- Have attained a cumulative high school GPA of 3.3 on an unweighted 4.0 scale or have earned a GED
- Will enroll for the first time at a U.S. located, accredited*** college or university (with the exception of students concurrently pursuing a high school diploma) in the fall of 2016 as a full-time, degree-seeking, first-year student. First-time college enrollees can also be GED recipients.
- Have demonstrated leadership abilities through participation in community service, extracurricular or other activities
- Meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria
- Have completed and submitted all three required forms: the student's application (Nominee Personal Information Form), an evaluation of the student's academic record (Nominator Form) and an evaluation of the student's community service and leadership activities (Recommender Form) by the deadline
*American Indian/Alaska Native Requirements: American Indian/Alaska Natives must be enrolled in a U.S. Federal or State recognized tribe or be able to document descent from an enrolled tribal member. If selected as a GMS finalist, applicants will be asked to provide proof of tribal enrollment or descent.
**Asian and Pacific Islander American includes persons having origins from Asia and/or Pacific Islands. Asian includes persons having origins in any of the original people of the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent. Pacific Islander includes persons having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or other Pacific Islands. Citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau are eligible to be nominated. This is not an all-inclusive list. Please see the U.S. Census Bureau listing at www.census.gov.
***To be eligible for the GMS scholarship, the student must matriculate at a college or university that is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. The following are accreditation resources: Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education Programs Candidates; American Council of Education published in consultation with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation; Higher Education Directory published by Higher Education Publications, Inc.
Pell Grant Eligibility
If selected as GMS finalists, students must demonstrate eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant Program as part of their financial aid package for the 2016 academic year. Students must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid Programs. Students are urged to file a 2016 FAFSA at their earliest opportunity. The 2016 FAFSA form will be available January 1, 2016 at www.fafsa.gov. Federal Pell Grants typically are awarded to families that demonstrate significant financial need. Eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant is a function of many factors, including dependency status, family income, family size and the number of students in the family.
- To determine if a student is Pell Grant eligible, he/she and the parent(s)/guardian(s) should meet with a high school counselor or the financial aid officer at the college or university he/she plans to attend.
- For more information, visit www.fafsa.gov.
Note: Students should not submit a FAFSA with the GMS application. GMS does not have a school code that a student can use on their FAFSA. If a student is selected as a finalist, GMS will request that he/she send a copy of his/her Student Aid Report (SAR) to the GMS office. We recommend students set a target date of February 15, 2016 to submit the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov.