The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program began in 1999 to provide minority students with financial hardships the opportunity to complete a college degree. Through partnerships with the United Negro College Fund, the Asian Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, the GMS program has helped numerous students meet their educational goals. Read on to learn more.

Know the eligibility requirements to receive a GMS scholarship. Potential recipients must be of African American, Asian American, Native American, Native Alaskan or Hispanic American descent. They must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. They must have achieved a 3.3 grade point average or higher or successfully completed a GED. They must demonstrate leadership in community and extracurricular activities.

Meet other requirements for the GMS program. Students must enroll for the first time at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution in a major of their choice. (Scholars who successfully complete their undergraduate studies may reapply for the GMS program as a graduate student if majoring in computer science, engineering, library science, education, math, public health or science).

Demonstrate financial need to receive a GMS scholarship. There is no one benchmark for financial need; individual post-secondary institutions set this definition. The student must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and determine his Expected Family Contribution (EFC) before the college can calculate his financial need. Students must also meet eligibility requirements for the Federal Pell Grant.

Get nominated for a GMS scholarship. In addition to submitting a Personal Information form, students must have a Nominator initially nominate them for the award and someone who will recommend them to write a personal recommendation for the scholarship. Application materials are generally due December 31 of each year. Check the official GMS website (see resources below) for specifics.