HACER scholarships are local and national scholarships awarded to Hispanic students beginning their freshman year of college. The scholarships are offered by McDonald’s through local Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Keep reading to learn if you qualify, how to apply, and see how much you could be awarded.

What is the HACER Scholarship?

HACER stands for Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources and is a scholarship program that’s run both on the National level by McDonald’s itself, and on the local level with the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). All told, McDonald’s has given away over $31 million in college resources to over 17,000 Hispanic students.

Included in those states are the five national scholarships, worth $100,000 each, given out by McDonald’s as well as the numerous scholarships handed out by local RMHCs. For example, the RMHC/HACER scholarship program in the New York Tri-State Area has, to-date, given away approximately $8 million to Hispanic students in the New York Tri-State Area.

Why the HACER Scholarship Program?

The HACER scholarship program aims to help reduce the barriers that currently exist for Hispanic students to gain higher education. Approximately 2.3 million Hispanic students were enrolled in a college or university in 2014. However, that’s just 35% of the population, and 7% lower than the comparable white demographic.

Even more concerning, the Pew Research Center reports that only 15% of Hispanics ages 25 to 29 had a bachelor’s degree in 2014, with many Hispanics citing finance and family support as a reason to not enroll in a four-year degree program.

Fortunately, however, the HACER scholarship offers a way for Hispanic students to navigate the sometimes complex (and always expensive) world of college and university funding, lowering obstacles.

Types of HACER Scholarships

The best way to learn more about specific HACER scholarships available is to visit your local McDonald’s, which will have information about specific and local RMHCs. There are more than three hundred RMHCs currently, and each offers its own scholarships.

There may or may not be local HACER scholarships available but again, check with your local McDonald’s to determine what’s available near you.

In addition to HACER scholarships, McDonald’s offers the RMHC/African American Future Achievers scholarships, open to students who have at least one parent of Black Caribbean or African American heritage as well as the RMHC/Asian Students Increasing Achievement award.

There are also scholarships not based on ethnicity in a program called RMHC Scholars. Not all of these are offered by every chapter, but students should apply for what they are most eligible for.

Who is Eligible for a HACER Scholarship?

To be eligible for a HACER Scholarship, students must have at least one parent of Hispanic heritage. The student will have to submit what McDonald’s calls a “personal statement.” In this personal statement, students should describe their cultural background, community involvement, their goals for their career, and any other pertinent information or circumstances.

Students will need to meet a litany of additional requirements. They must be high school seniors (the right time for students to apply for most scholarships is when they’re in their final year of high school), be under the age of 21, and have a minimum GPA of at least 2.7.

Students must also have plans to and be eligible to attend a university (this can include a two-year or four-year institution, and may also be a technical school), be a legal US resident, and live in a participating RMHC’s geographic area (unless they are applying for a National HACER Scholarship, as explained below).

Finally, students must be able to show financial need (they’ll have to submit a copy of their Student Aid Report), verify enrollment in school, and submit all documentation and applications by the deadline.

Keep in mind that while local chapters may or may not offer certain local scholarships, including regional HACER scholarships, there are as many as four National HACER awards available, no matter which geographic region you live in.

How to Apply for HACER Scholarship Program

Your local RMHC can provide you with scholarship information, but information and help apply for the national HACER program are also on McDonald’s website (here). There, you’ll find additional eligibility information, as well as resources for students, tips on the process, and information in Spanish for parents.

In addition to the application, you’ll also need to provide the following:

  • FAFSA or a 1040
  • Letter of recommendation from a teacher, mentor, or community leader who has worked with
  • Personal statement
  • Transcript
  • Record of community service hours or projects

How Are HACER Scholarships Awarded?

Scholarship winners are chosen based on a combination of their academic achievement, financial need, service in their community, and personal qualities and strengths. The selection team will review the application material and supported documents, and interview the applicant over the phone or in person.

How Much Scholarship Money is Awarded?

Go Slow and Do it Right

Read the instructions carefully and plan. Applications can often be extremely time-consuming, and things like letters of recommendation won’t happen overnight. Give yourself lots of extra time; you don’t want to be disqualified or turned down simply because you missed an important step.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local RMCH contact or contact the national HACER program.

Give it a Shot

Don’t disqualify yourself just because the scholarship amount is large, and don’t skip applying because the scholarship amount is small; both are worth trying for!

The Perfect Letter of Recommendation

A positive, glowing letter of recommendation from somebody with good standing in the community who has a positive, long-standing relationship with you is a vital part of your application process.

The last thing you want is a weak or even negative letter, so it’s important to ask your potential recommender if he or she feels comfortable supplying with a strong recommendation. If there are hesitations, you can thank him or her graciously and explain you feel that it’s better for your application to ask somebody else.

If he or she can recommend you wholeheartedly, be sure to let your recommender know the deadline and what’s expected in the letter. Some letters must be mailed directly to the application office, and some should be printed and placed in a sealed envelope for you to include, unopened, in your application.

Ideally, you should give your recommender at least ten weeks before the application is due.

Highlight Your Community Involvement

If you’re already a senior in high school, you need to make sure you state descriptively and clearly the work you’ve done in your community. Do not lie or embellish, but do be descriptive. For example, don’t just state that you did a food drive for the local food pantry; explain that you made flyers, planned the dates, enlisted classmates, and gathered 100lbs. of food for the pantry.

Demonstrating how you took the initiative, planned, showed leadership, and served people in need helps the scholarship committee understand that you’ll be using your scholarship money and your degree to continue to give back in the community.

Plan to Win

Junior high and the beginning of high school are the best times to begin planning your scholarship award goals. It’s important to focus on your overall grades and academic achievement (remember, you have to meet or maintain high GPAs for many scholarships), but it’s also important to show the HACER selection committee that you are learning leadership.

The trick is quality over quantity; it’s better to do one or two volunteer activities extremely well than signing up for a ton of groups or committees that you barely volunteer with.

Be Personal

The HACER Scholarship form requires a personal statement and as overwhelming as it might seem, this is a great opportunity to let the scholarship team know why you’re a great person to invest in.

We’ve included a few brainstorm questions below, but whatever you do, don’t forget to proofread your paper! You should also have somebody else (multiple people, if possible), check it for spelling and grammatical errors.

Here are some questions to get you started on your personal essay:

  • Why do you want to pursue your chosen degree? How will it shape you and how will it help you contribute to your community?
  • What are your long-term goals and interests how will your academic plans help you develop these goals?
  • What special circumstances or hardships have you experienced that the committee should know about?

HACER scholarships are fantastic opportunities. Best of luck!