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Ron Brown was the first African American to serve in the cabinet as the Secretary of Commerce. After his tragic passing, the Ron Brown scholarship fund was created in 1996 to honor his memory, milestone, and a lifelong passion for public service.
The fund doesn’t just award extremely talented African American students with $40,000—it also gives them service opportunities and leadership experience. Students receive $10,000 a year for up to four years while they pursue their degrees.
Only current high school seniors may apply. From the pool of applicants, a group of semi-finalists will be chosen to attend the selection weekend. At the end of this weekend, the finalists will be chosen.
Key Information of Ron Brown Scholar Program
Area of Study
Country of Study
Intended Level of Study
Number of Awards
Ron Brown Scholar Program Timeline
Applications open in August each year.
January 9, 2023
Completed applications and supporting documents must be submitted. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
Applications are reviewed from November to February to select the semifinalists.
Semifinalists are invited to selection weekend, at the end of which the finalists are selected.
To be eligible to apply, applicants must meet the following criteria.
- Eligible Grade: High School Senior
- Maximum Age: Any
- Required GPA: Any
- Geographic Eligibility: United States
- Gender: Any
- Race/Ethnicity: Black
Here’s what you need to submits besides your application.
- Financial Information
- Grade transcript
- Recommendation letters
- Standardized Test Scores
How to ace the Ron Brown Scholar Program
Retake the SAT or ACT
In a fierce competition, low ACT or SAT scores are almost an automatic disqualifier. Even if your scores are acceptable, retaking the tests will allow you to stand out in a contest almost solely based on academics.
Emphasize public service
The application asks you to list your school activities in order of importance. Since this scholarship honors the legacy of a public leader who was deeply invested in helping others, you should prioritize community service activities. Among these activities, list ones in which you had a formal position at the top—it looks more impressive to seasoned judges.
Workshop both your essays
Since the second essay has no prompt, it's tempting to submit an essay you've already written without looking it over. However, you should show the essay to several people and take their feedback into account to achieve your best possible work, even if you've gotten revisions on it already.
Highlight how this scholarship will help you
This scholarship program is specifically for students who come from low-income families. Use your essay to highlight how winning the award will greatly impact your future by allowing you to attend college or university. Outlining a specific plan you have for your future that includes obtaining a postsecondary education will also give you a leg up in the selection process.
How the Ron Brown Scholar Program is Judged
Scholars who display strong leadership skills, who perform well academically, and actively work to improve their communities are ideal Ron Brown Scholars. While there is no minimum ACT or SAT score needed, students with better scores will be preferred as academic performance is a core scholar trait. Financial need is also important. The program is designed to offer extra aid on top of other funding.
Why We Love the Ron Brown Scholar Program
It's not just a scholarship
The Ron Brown Scholars receive continued support throughout their college careers along with mentoring and public service opportunities. You don't just get help paying for college—you get help succeeding in your academic years and beyond.
You only have to write one essay
Although there are two writing prompts, one is designed for you to submit an essay you've already written for your college application. This cuts the application work in half.
It showcases your academics
If you're a strong student, this is your scholarship. Teacher recommendations, SAT or ACT scores, and grades are all required—and these are all several fronts on which you can clearly demonstrate a track record of academic achievement.
5 Facts About Ron Brown Scholars
There are 534 Ron Brown Scholars
That's an average of 45 new scholars per year!
$16.6 million has been awarded
And the program has only been around for 24 years.
Four scholars were Rhodes finalists
The Rhodes program is one of the most competitive fellowship programs in America.
Two scholars were Harvard valedictorians
That's out of a class size of nearly 2,000.
The number of scholars has increased
In 2016, 28 were chosen—but 49 were awarded in 2022.