Irish Americans have a long and rich cultural history here in the USA. The Irish were some of the earliest immigrants to America, many fleeing famine and economic hardship to pursue a better life in the United States. As much as 8% of the American population claims Irish heritage, making them one of the larger European heritage groups in the country.
Being a member of a well-represented heritage group in America means lots of easy access to scholarship and college funding. Irish Americans, like Italian-Americans, have a rich religious history in America as well, meaning lots of church groups and faith-based charities exist to help Irish Americans find funds to get a college education.
In the early years of immigration, Irish Americans faced plenty of hardships and prejudice here in America. Forced into the lowest-paying jobs and looked on with suspicion by non-immigrant American families, Irish Americans have long had to band together to support their community. The same goes for Irish American scholarship offers and college funding.
Is It Hard to Find Scholarships for Irish Americans?
Like many ethnic groups, it is not hard at all to find scholarships and financial aid offers for Irish American prospective college students. Irish American scholarships, grants, and other financial offers come from many different sources. A simple Google search or a call to a local Irish American heritage organization is all it often takes to find scholarship information for Americans of Irish descent.
How to Get Irish American Scholarships
If you are an Irish American student looking to earn funding for college, there are a few things you should focus on. First and foremost, Irish American students should try to earn good grades. Even scholarships aimed specifically at Irish American college students still look for those students that can perform academically. Generally speaking, scholarships based on heritage look for a GPA of 3.0 or above, though obviously the better your GPA the more awards you will qualify for.
Participation in Irish American causes or to help out an Irish American community will also score you big points with scholarship committees granting aid to Irish Americans. That means volunteering in your community, with your local church, or by tutoring members of the Irish American heritage community in your town. Letters of reference spelling out your contributions and your value as a member of the Americans of Irish Descent go a long way to helping you earn financial aid offers and scholarships.
One final note for Americans of Irish descent interested in scholarship funds: you may need to write an essay to apply for certain scholarships. Essays are a common part of the college and scholarship application process, and though not all scholarships focused on Americans with Irish heritage require an essay, it isn’t a bad idea to practice writing about your life as an Irish American and your goals in college. Having an essay on standby is a great way to prepare for applying for Irish American heritage scholarships.
Scholarship Offers for Irish Americans
Here are three scholarships offers for Irish Americans. These are by no means the only offers for Americans of Irish descent who want to go to college, but they’re representative of the types of offers you should look for in your search for Irish heritage college scholarships.
Though Catholic United Financial Aid scholarships are not aimed at Irish Americans specifically, many Irish Americans are Catholic and therefore qualify for this award handed out by Catholic United Financial. Dozens of these awards are given out each year to Catholic students enrolled full-time at a four-year school. Awards for students attending Catholic universities are $500 a year, renewable, while awards for students not attending Catholic universities are $300 a year, renewable.
The US-Ireland Alliance offers twelve annual awards for Irish Americans looking to pursue post-graduate study at an Irish university. Handed out by the Mitchell Scholars Program, named for former US Senator George Mitchell, these awards want to introduce the best and brightest Irish American students to the country of Ireland, where they can share with Irish intellectuals and exchange ideas about Irish-American relations. Students must be between 18 and 30, and the award given depends on the cost of one year of postgraduate study at the institution of higher learning the student chooses in either Ireland or Northern Ireland. Academics, leadership skills, and an essay demonstrating the student’s commitment to public service are the criteria for the awards, which pay full tuition, a living expenses stipend, and a travel stipend to pay for plane travel from America to Ireland. One of the most prestigious Irish American scholarships, the George J. Mitchell Scholarship gives Irish Americans a chance to visit and study in their homeland.
The Irish American Society of Tidewater offers this scholarship for students of Irish descent who live in or near Tidewater, Virginia. This is a perfect example of a scholarship aimed at Irish Americans who live in a specific part of the country. Though you can’t apply for this scholarship if you live outside of Tidewater, Virginia, you can look for local Irish heritage organizations offering similar offers for citizens in your area.
The Thomas Herry Porter Memorial Scholarship is given to a student of Irish heritage who completes an essay on the meaning of his Irish roots, demonstrates academic excellence, and plans to enroll full-time in the next calendar year. The scholarship is worth up to $5,000 and is renewable each year the student maintains a GPA of 3.25 or more. Scholarship applications are judged by a panel who pay special attention to the essay and the student’s volunteer work, with academic performance being the least important of the three criteria.
Irish Americans who are looking for funds for college have many avenues to pursue: local Irish heritage organizations, national Irish heritage groups, scholarship funds for students of Irish heritage, and faith-based contributions through both Catholic and Protestant church groups. Irish Americans have so many options for scholarships, there’s no need to pay full price for college tuition.
by Will Roby