To all ninth grade applicants: Updates on your application and College Cost Estimator have been emailed. If you have not received them or have questions email us: 

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Change Your Future Through Education

Academically motivated 9th grade students of modest means who dream of going to college are the heart of our organization. The majority of our scholars are first-generation college students. All have faced adversity to achieve academic goals.

Unemployment rate is 3X higher for those without a college degree.
By 2020, 65% of all jobs will require higher education.
Those with a bachelor’s degree earn 38% percent more than high school graduates.

Scholar Expectations

To qualify for a Give Back scholarship, candidates must be Pell Grant eligible. The majority of federal Pell Grants are provided to families earning less than $60,000 per year and whose children qualify for a school lunch subsidy program. Throughout high school, our scholars are also required to remain in good academic standing and model good behavior.

Federal Pell Grant

Good Grades

Upstanding Character

Steps to Become a Give Back Scholar

Attend mandatory Information Session

Submit College Costs Estimator form to determine financial aid eligibility

Learn status of Pell Grant eligibility

Submit Give Back application

Attend in-person interview, upon invitation

Scholars selected

Select Your State

We select scholars in ninth grade. If you are a full-time resident in one of the states shown below, please click on your home state for more information.

Additional Resources

Learn more about financial aid and the college process here.

Scholar FAQs

Who is eligible to apply for a scholarship through the Give Back?

Ninth grade students who are Pell-Grant eligible and possess the drive and determination to go to and succeed in college are eligible.

What does Pell Grant eligible mean?

A Pell Grant is a federal grant for undergraduate students with financial need. In general, families who are eligible for free/reduced lunch qualify for Pell Grants for college from the federal government. To read more about Pell Grants, click here.

Which colleges are participating in the Give Back program?

Find a complete list at:

How can I apply?

Applying for the scholarship is a process that includes several steps:
1. Attend an information session in the fall (see calendar)
2. Complete the College Cost Estimator (CCE)
3. Attend one of Give Back’s Turn Back Nights to understand the results of the CCE
4.If it is determined that you are financially qualified for the program, Give Back will provide an online application link.

Can I only apply online?

We prefer you apply online, however printed copies of the application can be obtained by emailing

Who should provide a letter of recommendation?

Teachers, guidance counselors, employers, coaches, neighbors can provide letters of recommendation. These letters should speak to more than your academic performance, but also your character, extracurricular activities, community involvement, etc. Recommendations from family members will not be accepted.

How long does the application process take?

You will begin the process in the fall your 9th grade year and will be notified in early spring if you have been accepted.

Do scholars have to live on campus when they get to college?

One of the goals of the Give Back program is to have students engage fully in college life and concentrate on their studies. By living on campus your college experience can certainly be enhanced. In the instances where our scholarship program covers room and board, Give Back scholars will be expected to stay on campus. ( In the Will County program, Lewis University and University of St. Francis are not covered for room and board.)

What if I have medical issues that prevent me from living on one of the required campuses?

Give Back encourages all students apply for its scholarship if they meet the three key parameters of Pell Grant eligibility, character and grade point average. If for some reason you cannot live on campus, please provide an explanation in your application.

Why does your program begin in the 9th grade?

Give Back wants to prepare you for college by supporting you through high school. To maximize your assets in the college admissions process, we will assign you a trained adult mentor in the 9th grade who will guide and support you, in addition to helping you choose the kinds of courses that admissions officers will expect to see on your transcript.

What does Give Back expect of its scholars?

We expect you to display good character, remain in good academic standing (GPA of 3.0) and to give back at some point with time or treasure.

Can I only attend a partner college?
Students agree to attend any of GSBF partner colleges. GSBF will do its best to accommodate the choice of each student, but it is possible they may not get their first choice. Students are only ensured a scholarship at one of our partner colleges.
Why am I expected to graduate in four years?

We expect you complete your degree in four years. We know students today often take longer and one of the primary reasons for this is that they need to work to pay for college. But if you’re a Give Back scholar, we have removed that obstacle by providing full tuition, room and board for four years for all of our partner colleges*, (with the exception of the University of St. Francis and Lewis University.)

What if it takes me longer than four years to graduate?
The scholarship is for four years. However, you will have the ability to communicate with GSBF should any circumstances arise.
Can I participate in college athletics?

Yes, we encourage your participation in sports, clubs and other activities that the college or university offers. We want Give Back students to enjoy and engage meaningfully and in the full college experience.

What happens if my grades slip?

We ask that you communicate with your mentor and Give Back if you are concerned about your academic performance. Scholars are expected to graduate with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 at the end of each school year. If one particular quarter or semester slips below 3.0, mathematically it may still be possible to recover and graduate with a cumulative GPA of 3.0. Any semester with bad grades will require development of an improvement plan with Give Back staff, family and your mentor.

How will the foundation know what my grades are?

You will be responsible to provide grades to Give Back in a timely fashion at the end of each year. However, if at the semester’s end, you do not achieve academically, you must communicate that with Give Back. The earlier an issue is discovered, the easier it is to overcome.

Do I have to go to one of the foundation’s partner colleges? Can I go to another college ?

As a Give Back scholar we expect you attend one of our partner colleges. That is the only way you will benefit from the scholarship.

What if I have a “family event” or emergency that causes me to temporarily postpone college?

Always be in communication with Give Back staff regarding special circumstances.  We may challenge your plans and push you to stay in school, but that will all be determined and agreed upon following conversation with Give Back.

What type of “programming” will I be expected to attend while in high school?

Give Back offers several activities that will enrich you as a person and they vary. You can expect guest speakers, college preparedness and other activities to help you get ready for life during college.

Does the scholarship money come directly to me or to the school?

It goes to the college or university.

When you say, “graduate debt-free” does that mean I will incur no costs or need to take out any loans?

As a Give Back scholar, your college tuition, room and board will be paid for four years. Anything above and beyond that—books, lab materials, transportation, insurance, etc.—will be your responsibility.

How will I pay for books, lab materials, transportation, insurance, etc.?
Any cost beyond “tuition, room and board” will be your responsibility.
Can I have a job or work study while enrolled in the Give Back program?

We prefer that you refrain from taking a job in order to concentrate on studies. However, we understand having a job will be necessary in some circumstances. At ‘work colleges,’ jobs are scheduled to make sure that students have time to study. In all cases, time-management and good choices are essential to making sure that schoolwork is paramount.

What is the role of a mentor?

A mentor is trained by Give Back to help you navigate the challenges of high school and prepare you for the rigors of college by reviewing the high school curriculum, ensuring you maintain the required 3.0 GPA, and that your character is upheld.

How am I paired with a mentor?

We will work to pair you with a mentor who might have career and educational experiences that are relevant to your own academic interests. We also encourage our mentors to know one another so when it is helpful, mentors can draw on the experiences of one another to benefit the students.

How often am I expected to connect with my mentor?

At least every other week while school is in session. It is the responsibility of Give Back students to respond to their mentors in a timely manner. Phone calls, emails, texts and face-to-face visits are all ways we recommend you keep in communication with each other.

Am I responsible for contacting my mentor or does my mentor contact me?

Mentors initiate the very first contact and they are the primary facilitator of the communication, but you are secondarily responsible for the communication and in the event that no contact is happening at all, you must let Give Back staff know as soon as possible.

What if I do not get along with my mentor?
You or your parents can communicate with the GSBF staff if there is a problem in the relationship with your mentor.
Will it be possible to switch mentors once I am assigned or if I choose to change my career path?

Yes, you’ll just need to communicate your request with the Give Back staff. Keep in mind, not all requests are granted.

How can someone become a Give Back mentor?

Those interested in becoming a mentor for Give Back can apply online at here. A background check and participation in orientation/training is required. For more information about the expectations of mentors, visit the mentor section of this website.

Will Give Back be expanding into other states? If so, when?

Give Back is always looking for opportunities to help more students. Please stay tuned…