Ron Brown Scholars Program

The Ron Brown Scholars Program is a highly selective and prestigious scholarship opportunity for African American high school seniors. Established in 1996, the program aims to advance higher education and leadership opportunities for talented young black students. Each year, the program awards 4-year scholarships worth $40,000 to 20 incoming freshmen who demonstrate academic excellence, exhibit leadership potential, participate in community service, and show financial need.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the Ron Brown Scholars Program, including eligibility requirements, selection criteria, application timeline, benefits of the scholarship, and tips for putting together a strong application.

Overview of the Ron Brown Scholars Program

Ron Brown Scholars Program

The Ron Brown Scholar Program was named after the late Ron Brown, who served as the United States Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton. After his tragic death in a plane crash in 1996, the Ron Brown Scholar Program was established in his honor by the CAP Charitable Foundation.

The goal of the program is to advance higher education for academically talented African American students with great leadership potential who are committed to public service and community engagement. Scholars are selected not only based on grades and test scores, but also on their ability to overcome challenges and make a difference in their communities.

Since 1996, the program has provided over $32 million in scholarship funding to over 445 talented young black students from across the United States. Many Ron Brown Scholars have gone on to pursue graduate and professional degrees from top universities as well as careers in public policy, medicine, law, education and more.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the Ron Brown Scholars Program, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Must be Black/African American
  • Must be a current high school senior at the time of application
  • Must excel academically with a minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Must demonstrate financial need
  • Must participate in community service and extracurricular activities
  • Must apply and be accepted to a four-year accredited college or university

The scholarship is open to all African American high school seniors regardless of gender, religious affiliation, or geographic location in the U.S. International students are unfortunately not eligible.

Applicants who meet the above eligibility requirements are invited to complete the full Ron Brown Scholars Program application, which we will discuss in more detail later.

Selection Criteria

The Ron Brown Scholars Program is incredibly selective, choosing only 20 scholars out of a pool of over 5,000 applicants annually. Scholars are chosen based on a comprehensive selection index that includes the following criteria:

  • Academic Achievement (35%): Applicants must have a strong academic record, including a rigorous high school curriculum with Honors, AP, IB courses, and a minimum unweighted 3.0 GPA. The higher the GPA and more challenging the course load, the more competitive the applicant.
  • Standardized Test Scores (15%): Applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores. Competitive scores for the SAT are 1300+ and for the ACT are 28+.
  • Community Service (25%): Exceptional commitment to community service and volunteer work is expected. Applicants should demonstrate initiative in starting programs as well as depth of involvement and leadership in activities. Unique service experiences are valued.
  • Leadership and Extracurricular Activities (15%): Competitive applicants will have a history of leadership experiences such as student government, school clubs, sports teams, youth organizations, music/arts groups, etc. Awards and honors in these activities will strengthen the application.
  • Letters of Recommendation (5%): Applicants must submit 2 letters of recommendation from non-family members that speak to the applicant’s character, accomplishments, and potential. Letters from teachers, counselors, community leaders or mentors are recommended.
  • Essays (5%): The application requires 2 essays and 1 short answer response that are an opportunity for applicants to showcase their individuality. Essays should be thoughtful, introspective, and well-written.

In addition to the above criteria, finalists must also demonstrate financial need and complete an interview. The strength of the full application packet including all required components determines selection.

Application Timeline

Here are the key Ron Brown Scholars Program application deadlines for 2023 entry:

  • November 1, 2022: Application opens
  • January 9, 2023: Application deadline
  • February 2023: Semifinalists notified and asked to provide additional documents
  • March/April 2023: Finalists selected and interviews conducted
  • May 2023: Winners notified by phone and email

Students interested in applying must begin preparations early and be aware of all required components and deadlines. Having your materials ready to submit by the January deadline is critical for consideration.

Benefits of the Scholarship

The Ron Brown Scholars Program is one of the most generous and comprehensive college scholarship programs available:

  • Four-year scholarship worth $40,000: $10,000 renewable each year for 4 years of undergraduate study
  • Additional funding opportunities: Chance to apply for supplemental grants and internship stipends
  • Ongoing mentorship and support: Access to advisors, networking and career guidance
  • Exclusive summits and events: All-expenses paid conferences and events with renowned speakers
  • Lifetime alumni network: Join a community of over 445 exceptional Ron Brown Scholars
  • Prestige and recognition: Being named a Ron Brown Scholar is a major honor that can open doors

Beyond the considerable financial support, the lifelong community and opportunities are invaluable. Ron Brown Scholars become part of an elite network of high-achieving African American students and leaders.

Application Requirements

Students interested in the Ron Brown Scholars Program must submit a complete application by the January deadline. Here are the required components:

  • Online application form: General biographical information, activities list, essay questions
  • Academic records: High school transcript showing GPA and coursework
  • Test scores: Official SAT or ACT score reports
  • Letters of recommendation: Two letters speaking to character and abilities
  • FAFSA Student Aid Report: Demonstrating financial need eligibility
  • Written essays: Two essays of up to 500 words each, one short answer
  • Interview: Finalists only will have a phone interview

The online application and more details can be found on the official Ron Brown Scholars Program website. Applicants are encouraged to start working on their materials early and request transcripts, test scores, letters or recommendation and complete the FAFSA in advance of the deadline.

Essay and Short Answer Tips

The Ron Brown Scholars Program application requires the following written components:

  • Essay 1 (Required, 500 words max): Describe a community service project you initiated/led. Explain why you took initiative and how you resolved challenges. What did you learn about leadership through this experience?
  • Essay 2 (Required, 500 words max): Reflect on an experience, achievement or ethical dilemma from your high school years. How did this shape your personal growth?
  • Short Answer (Required, 100 words max): What will you contribute to the Ron Brown Scholar community?

Here are some tips for crafting strong essays:

  • Answer the specific prompt: Don’t recycle essays or write generally about yourself. Tailor your response to the essay question.
  • Show don’t tell: Use anecdotes and examples to illustrate your qualities – don’t just state them. Reflect on your motivations, obstacles overcome, and insights gained.
  • Share your unique perspective: Use your own voice and be genuine. Convey what makes you stand out from other applicants.
  • Proofread extensively: Avoid typos, grammatical errors or repetitive phrasing. Ask teachers, parents and peers to provide feedback.

The short answer on your potential contributions gives you a chance to highlight talents, experiences and passions you would bring to the diverse Ron Brown community.

Interview Tips for Finalists

If selected as a scholarship finalist, you will be invited to do an interview with the selection committee. Here are some tips to prepare:

  • Practice, practice, practice: Set up mock interviews with family or teachers to practice responding confidently and concisely.
  • Review your application: Refresh yourself on the key points and anecdotes from your essays and activities. You may be asked to elaborate.
  • Research Ron Brown Scholars: Understand the core values and mission of the program and how you embody those ideals.
  • Prepare questions to ask: Interviews go both ways. Draft 2-3 thoughtful questions that show your interest.
  • Dress professionally: First impressions count. Dress in formal business attire for the virtual or in-person interview.
  • Make eye contact and smile: During virtual interviews, look into the camera. Give warm, friendly responses.
  • Send thank you notes: Email thank you notes to your interviewers showing your appreciation for their time.

With practice interviews and research on the Ron Brown Scholars, you can demonstrate your fit for the program and stand out as a finalist.

Final Tips for a Successful Application

Here are some final tips for students applying to the prestigious and highly selective Ron Brown Scholars Program:

  • Start your application early! Give yourself ample time to request documents and write strong essays.
  • Strive for excellence in your high school classes. Take the most rigorous courses and earn the best grades possible.
  • Study extensively for standardized tests and aim for 1300+ on SAT or 28+ on ACT. Consider a prep course.
  • Pursue meaningful community service activities that showcase your commitment to helping others.
  • Take on substantive leadership roles in clubs, teams or other extracurriculars.
  • Ask teachers, counselors or mentors who know you well for outstanding letters of recommendation.
  • Put your best effort into the required essays and short answer response. Make them personal and reflective.
  • If invited to interview as a finalist, thoroughly prepare through practice interviews.
  • Follow up promptly if you are selected as a scholar with registration and program participation.

With focused preparation and a compelling application, you can earn this life-changing $40,000 scholarship opportunity. Even as an applicant, you are joining a network of exceptional young leaders across the country. Best of luck with your Ron Brown Scholars Program application!


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the prestigious Ron Brown Scholars Program:

Who is eligible to apply for the Ron Brown scholarship?

The scholarship is open to African American high school seniors who are US citizens or permanent residents, have a 3.0 GPA minimum, demonstrate financial need, participate in service/activities, and plan to enroll in an accredited 4-year college.

What is the scholarship award amount and duration?

Ron Brown Scholars receive $10,000 annually for four years, so $40,000 total towards college. The award is renewable each year.

How competitive is the selection process?

Extremely competitive. There are approximately 5,000 applicants annually for only 20 scholarships awarded, so less than a 0.5% acceptance rate.

What are the selection criteria?

Selection is based on a comprehensive scoring index including: academics (35%), test scores (15%), service (25%), activities (15%), recommendations (5%) and essays (5%). Financial need is also considered.

When is the application deadline?

The online application is due by January 9, 2023 for students planning to start college in Fall 2023. Letters of rec, transcripts, test scores and FAFSA report are also due then.

Are there interviews for finalists?

Yes, finalists are invited to interview with committee members by phone or video call. Preparing through practice interviews is highly recommended.

If selected, are there requirements to continue the scholarship?

To renew the award each year, Scholars must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA, stay enrolled full-time, and participate in program events. Ongoing eligibility requirements help support student success.

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