Beat the Odds® Scholarship Program

The Children's Defense Fund Beat the Odds® Scholarship program honors young people who are overcoming tremendous adversity, demonstrate academic commitment and give back to their communities. We provide deserving high school sophomores in Los Angeles with the financial, academic and personal support necessary to matriculate and succeed in college and beyond - including a $10,000 scholarship, on-going mentoring, internship referrals, leadership development, and career guidance. Since 1990, over 700 students across the nation have been admitted to the program and awarded scholarships. Alumni of the program have graduated from some of the nation's most competitive colleges and universities and serve in a diverse range of occupations.


Each year the CDF Beat the Odds scholarship program selects five high school sophomores who are overcoming tremendous adversity, demonstrating academic commitment and giving back to their communities. Program participants receive the following support needed to matriculate and succeed in college and beyond:

  • 10,000 scholarship

  • College test preparation

  • Access to workshops focused on financial aid, financial literacy and essay writing

  • College counseling and mentoring

  • Access to college fairs

  • Internship referrals

  • Career, and life skills development

  • Assistance with the college or post-secondary education enrollment process

Additionally, each scholarship recipient will be recognized at the annual CDF Beat the Odds Awards gala in December 2019. Professional, autobiographical films will be produced and shown during the awards ceremony.

Please note all services are offered in the City of Los Angeles and are subject to change.

How to Apply

We are now accepting applications for the 2018 CDF Beat the Odds® Scholarship program. Please review the following information before beginning the application process.

Eligibility Criteria

To apply to the Beat the Odds scholarship program, at minimum, a student must:

  • Demonstrate academic commitment and potential for post-secondary success.
  • Have limited family, community support and/or limited income.
  • Demonstrate commitment to your community through involvement in social justice issues or volunteer work.
  • If selected, must be able to provide a Social Security or Federal Tax Identification number. Undocumented students may apply

Additionally, students must submit a personal statement of no more than 750 typed words that addresses ALL of the following:

  • Major obstacles and challenges in your life and how you have or are addressing them
  • Past and current family, financial, educational, and emotional support systems
  • How you have been able to maintain academic success or show marked improvement in academics despite your hardships
  • Your commitment to serving others, for example, involvement in social justice issues, service clubs at school, community-based service, or taking on major home or work responsibilities.

Selection Criteria

CDF Beat the Odds scholarship applications are reviewed by the program's staff and selection committee that reflects the professional and ethnic diversity of our community. We consider each applicant holistically and within the context of their academic achievement, personal circumstances, available support network, and commitment to service. Successful applicants will demonstrate:

  • Academic Success: as measured by grade point average (GPA), as well as the undertaking of rigorous/advanced courses such as Honors, IB, AP, and community college classes while considering the setbacks and odds against them.
  • Unmet Support: refers to the lack of resources, both human and material, that youth need for successful transition to adulthood, including Family/kinship, financial and community.
  • Overcoming Adversity: refers to facing and overcoming significant obstacles, challenges, and/or setbacks in one's life that would make a successful transition to adulthood more difficult, while remaining focused on goals.
  • Commitment to Others: refers to voluntary activities in one's school, or local community aimed at addressing issues impacting the community, serving and assisting others as well as a regular undertaking of adult duties including: extended or primary care giving for siblings/other relatives; domestic work duties; working outside of the home to contribute financial support for basic needs.

Application Process

The application period for the Beat the Odds Scholarship program opens Friday, January 19, 2018, and ends Friday, February 23, 2018. Final decisions and notifications are made in March/April after our CDF-CA staff and selection committee has had the opportunity to review each application carefully.

Meet Our Past Honorees

Annual Awards Gala

Every winter, we host a special gala to honor the achievements of five of our most outstanding Beat the Odds honorees. The purpose of the event is to recognize and commemorate the strength, resilience, and determination that our honorees have demonstrated both inside and outside of the classroom. We also want to remind celebrities, public officials and change-makers in Los Angeles about the tremendous need in their communities and to inspire them to take action.