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- Overview of Scholarships
- 24 Best Scholarships for High School Seniors
- Tips For Applying For Scholarships
The last two years of high school are filled with classes, activities, and friends. It’s also time for thinking about post-graduation and college. As you are looking at different schools, you need to consider how you are going to pay for your education. It’s important to think realistically about what your school will offer in financial aid and how you will pay for your share of the cost.
Overview of Scholarships
The difference between scholarships and loans is huge. Scholarships are free money and loans must be repaid, with interest. Sometimes, student loans are unavoidable. However, you want to be sure that you minimize the amount of student loan debt that you take on. Seeking and applying for scholarships may be as important as applying for admission to the colleges of your choice.
Start your scholarship search early in your high school career. Create a calendar with deadlines for each scholarship that you will apply for. Add notes for the different requirements for each application, such as an essay, your latest transcript, or financial information. Some scholarships are available for you in your junior year and many deadlines will land in the summer before your senior year.
There are scholarships based on merit and your academic performance. Others are most interested in meeting financial needs. Some organizations are looking to support students who are interested in certain fields of study. Others are open to students from the same community, state, or other geographic region. Check with your high school guidance office as they will have information on opportunities that are unique to your school or community. Your employer may also have a scholarship program. Starbucks, Burger King, and McDonald’s are just a few businesses that support their employees in this way. There’s almost certainly something for every student.
Now, let’s get into some amazing scholarship opportunities.
24 Best Scholarships for High School Seniors
1. Equitable Excellence Scholarship
Amount: Three levels of scholarships: $2,500, $10,000, or $25,000 (plus a $1,000 donation to your high school)
Deadline: Program information is released on September 1 with a mid-December deadline
- High school seniors who demonstrate positive qualities such as courage and determination shown in community volunteer work
- U.S. citizen, legal resident, or a current resident in the U.S., District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico
The Equitable Excellence Scholarship is awarded to driven and determined students of high character, with recipients coming from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Special consideration is given to applicants with achievements that mitigate risk in sectors such as finance, the environment, health, safety, and emergency preparedness.
2. Live Más Scholarship – Taco Bell Foundation
Deadline: mid-January (specific information is released in the fall of the previous year)
- Between the ages of 16 and 26
- On track to apply to a post-high school or post-secondary program (both two- and four-year programs are eligible)
- Have not previously won a Live Más Scholarship
- Submit a two-minute video describing your passion
- How do you currently pursue it?
- What is your vision or dream for your passion?
- How will a college education help you?
The Live Más Scholarship selects winners a little differently than the traditional scholarship award winners. The Taco Bell Foundation is less concerned with academic and athletic excellence and more interested in finding what they call “passioneers”—students who blaze their own paths, pursue their passions, and inspire others. Students who have already been awarded a Live Más Scholarship can apply for a renewal.
Deadline: last day of the months of March, June, September, December
Eligibility: full time high school, college, or graduate students
- Complete and submit a short application form to be entered into a random drawing held quarterly. That’s it!
The Too Cool to Pay for School Scholarship is Access Scholarships’ contribution to help 4 lucky students each year cover school-related expenses. The scholarship can be used to cover any education-related expenses, such as tuition, textbooks, housing, and other fees. This scholarship is super quick and easy to enter (no essay required!), making it a great opportunity to apply for each quarter.
4. GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program
Deadline: 2021 program is closed, but the website allows you to sign up for a notice for 2022.
- Minimum 3.0 GPA (4.0 scale)
- U.S. citizen
- A high school senior
- Planning on enrolling full-time in a bachelor’s degree program at an accredited four-year college or university
Sponsored by General Electric (GE) and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, this scholarship is dedicated to honoring the legacy of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Awarded to skilled and successful students, the scholarship promotes principles important to its namesake: individual liberty, economic opportunity, global democracy, and national pride. The GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program is looking for students with demonstrated leadership, drive, and citizenship.
See our blog post on GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program for more information.
5. VFW Voice of Democracy Scholarship
Amount: $30,000 for the national first-place winner
Deadline: October 31, annually
- 9th to 12th grade students
- Enrolled in a public, private, or parochial school, or home study program in the U.S., its territories, or its possessions
- Local VFW Post will submit the application on behalf of the student
The VFW works to promote patriotism while investing in future generations, particularly “democracy-loving” high schoolers. Dating back to 1947, the Voice of Democracy Competition is an audio-essay program giving students the chance to express their thoughts through a recorded essay about democratic- and patriotic-themed principles. Essays are judged on three criteria: originality, content, and delivery. Applicants can win awards ranging from $1,000 to $30,000, making this an exciting scholarship opportunity.
6. Doodle 4 Google Competition
Amount: $30,000 for the student and $50,000 technology grant for their school
Deadline: March 5, 2021 (Check back in January for the 2022 deadline)
- K-12 student who is a legal resident or citizen of the U.S.
- Enrolled in a U.S.-based school (including homeschool or a school in Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands)
- Unique doodle that includes the letters G-O-O-G-L-E
The Doodle 4 Google Competition gives applicants the opportunity to create one of the doodles that graces Google’s homepage every day. The competition’s themes change yearly (this year’s is how to show kindness) and the only requirement for them is that they must include the letters G-O-O-G-L-E. Applicants are encouraged to express themselves through whatever medium they desire—although if you create a 3D doodle, you’ll need to submit it in a 2D format.
7. Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest
Amount: $10,000 for first place and prizes for runners-up
Deadline: September 27, 2021
Eligibility: High school senior, undergraduate, or graduate student (no citizenship requirements)
- An original essay between 800 and 1,000 words
Applicants for the Atlas Shrugged Essay contest are tasked with writing an essay about one of three provided topics on Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. Judges of the contest are looking for clear, articulate writing; well-organized thoughts; and an exceptional grasp of the philosophy underlying Rand’s book.
8. Create-A-Greeting Card Scholarship
Deadline: March 2, 2022; 11:59 pm Eastern Time
- 14 years of age or older
- High school, college, or university student enrolled in an academic program designed to conclude with a diploma or degree
- Legal resident of one of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico
- International students who have a student visa to attend school in the United States are considered legal residents and are also eligible
- Submit a design for the front of a greeting card
Express your artistic side for a chance to win a $10,000 award from the Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship. Submit a photo, artwork, or computer graphic for use as the front of a greeting card that will wow judges and win votes on the scholarship’s Facebook page.
Scholarships for Academic Merit
Amount: $20,000-$50,000 (intended to be a full scholarship)
Deadline: September 10, 2021
- High school seniors graduating in 2022
- An unweighted minimum 3.7 GPA (on a 4.0 scale)
- U.S. citizen
- Demonstrated excellence in leadership, activities, and community service or civic affairs
- Online application
- Letters of recommendation
- Additional points for students who are interested in pursuing a career in public service
This scholarship is awarded to high school seniors who have demonstrated excellence in numerous pursuits—academics, extracurricular activities, and community service—with a desire to make a positive change in their communities and the world. Left intentionally broad, the scholarship welcomes students with the aspiration to make a positive impact in both the private and public sectors, and through any number of professional careers.
10. Coca-Cola Scholars Program
Deadline: late October (Check back in late summer as deadlines have changed over the past two years)
- High school senior
- U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. permanent resident, asylee, Cuban-Haitian entrant, or Humanitarian Parole as defined by the U.S. Department of Education for Federal Financial Eligibility
- Planning to pursue a post-high school education
- Students need to complete an eligibility quiz
- Must provide information on academic performance, leadership, and service
- No essay required
The Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship is awarded to exceptional students with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to make a difference in the world. Coca-Cola Scholars are high achievers and demonstrate leadership, service, and a commitment for change in their school and community.
11. Davidson Fellows Scholarship
Amount: $50,000, $25,000, or $10,000
Deadline: early March (March 10, 2021), application opens in the fall
- Must be 18 or younger as of the application deadline
- U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Nominations from two individuals who are not family members
- Available to attend the awards ceremony at MIT with a parent or guardian (costs of travel and lodging are paid by the Davidson Foundation)
Davidson Fellows are gifted students who experts believe have the potential to make significant contributions to society. These students have completed a significant and meaningful piece of work in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, or “Outside the Box”. This can include the creative application of existing knowledge, a high-impact new idea, an innovative solution with a broad range of implications, or a remarkable performance, just to name a few examples.
12. National Elks Foundation Most Valuable Student
Amount: ranges from $4,000 to $50,000
Deadline: Nov. 15, 2021
- High school senior
- U.S. citizens
- Plan to be a full-time student pursuing a four-year degree at an accredited U.S. institution of higher learning
- ACT or SAT scores
Applicants work through the ranks of local, district, and state levels to be considered for the MVS. The Foundation selects the top 500 students from these applications for the national semi-finalist competition. The top 20 students from the semi-final competition will participate in a Leadership Weekend with in-person interviews. The top two students (one male and one female) are awarded $50,000 scholarships. Runners-up receive $40,000 and $30,000 scholarships. The remaining 14 students receive $30,000. The additional 480 of the top 500 applicants earn a $4,000 scholarship.
Opportunities for Students with Significant Financial Need
13. Horatio Alger Association – Targeted Scholarships
Amount: depends on the targeted opportunity
Deadline: depends on the opportunity
- High school senior
- Critical financial need (defined as $55,000 or less gross adjusted household income)
- Demonstrates important qualities through overcoming adversity
- U.S. citizen
Horatio Alger scholarships are awarded to promising young students from low-income families. These targeted scholarships are endowed by members of the Horatio Alger Association at several different universities and colleges. Some are also targeted to specific fields of study.
14. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Amount: the amount is determined by the need of the student, but can be as much as $55,000 per year
Deadline: November 18, 2021 (The application is available September 1, 2021)
- High school senior graduating in spring 2022
- Cumulative, unweighted GPA of 3.5
- Demonstrated financial need (the median household income for Scholars is ~$35,000)
- JKCF uses the Common App (Include JKCF as one of your “schools”)
- Common App asks for a recommendation from your school counselor and two teachers
- Several short essays
- Household financial information
The Cooke College Scholarship Program offers scholarships to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need. JKCF Scholars join a nationwide community with ongoing personal and professional support and development opportunities. Recipients can use their scholarship funds to cover tuition, living expenses, books and required fees.
Opportunities for First-Generation Students
15. Colgate-Palmolive Haz la U Educational Grant Program
Deadline: November 14, 2021
- Of Hispanic or Latino descent
- High school senior planning to enroll in college in 2022
- 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
- U.S. citizen, resident, or DACA-eligible
- Current application information can be found at Hispanic Heritage Foundation
This scholarship program is designed for Hispanic students who have maintained academic excellence throughout high school, participated in community service, and demonstrated leadership. Colgate-Palmolive offers this program in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation in support of higher education for Hispanics.
Amount: $20,000 and a laptop
Deadline: December 1, 2021
- Must be enrolled in an approved college-readiness program, like College Possible or Upward Bound
- Minimum 2.4 GPA
- Be on track to graduate from high school in the coming academic year
- Students are typically the first in their family to attend college
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- High school transcript
- A questionnaire asking about students’ personal responsibilities, such as caring for their child, siblings, or other family members
- A 1200 word essay on personal challenges that students have overcome, what they learned, and how they persevere
This program is for students with “grit, potential, and ambition” to strive for a college degree. Dell Scholars are also provided with wrap-around support for academic success, financial matters, and tele-mental health care.
For more info, check out our list of first-gen scholarships.
Opportunities for Students of Color
17. APIA (Asian Pacific Islander) Scholars
Deadline: The application is typically available in early September with a mid-January deadline.
- Be of Asian or Pacific Islander descent
- Be a citizen, national, or permanent resident of the U.S
- Citizens of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau are also eligible
- A letter of recommendation in addition to the online application
- Several of the application questions have answers that should be written in a short essay form of less than 500 words
APIA Scholars works to support underserved APIA students through their scholarships. This scholarship is an excellent opportunity for students of Asian or Pacific Islander descent to receive valuable funds for college.
18. Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars
Amount: Up to $30,000 over four years for minority high school students
Deadline: February 1, 2022 (application is available November 1)
- High school seniors
- Plan on attending a four-year, accredited college or university in the U.S.
- Demonstrated financial need
- Minimum combined score of 1,000 on the math and critical reading sections of the SAT or a minimum 21 composite score on the ACT
- Online application
- Four essay questions
- Current photo
- Letter of recommendation
The Jackie Robinson Foundation goes beyond sponsoring scholarships, to guide minority students through the process of higher education. JRF Scholars have access to many benefits, including networking and mentorship, internship and employment opportunities, an annual conference, and year-round programming.
19. National Society of High School Scholars STEM Scholarship
Deadline: October 15, 2021
- High school seniors or recently graduated seniors
- Minimum 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 GPA)
- Planning to pursue a degree in a STEM field
- Personal statement of 500-800 words on your passion for STEM and why you have chosen this field.
- List of STEM activities
- One or two letters of endorsement
The NSHSS STEM Scholarship provides support for students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The goal is to increase diversity in STEM-related professions through college and university education. Check out the other NSHSS scholarship opportunities for high school and post-secondary students.
20. Native American Education Grants – American Indian Education Fund
Amount: Up to $2,000
Deadline: March 1 (deadline for extra credit) or April 1, 2022
- Native American, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian
- All future undergraduate students in a two or four year college, university, vocational, or technical school are encouraged to apply
- Application form
- Community Involvement form
- Current photo
- Copy of Tribal Enrollment Card/Documentation
- There is an essay of no more than four, double-spaced pages typed in 12-point font
The American Indian Education Fund believes that “education is one of the most important cornerstones of self-sufficiency and quality of life.” With that in mind, the AIEF works to end the cycle of poverty by providing scholarships, literacy programs, and school supplies to Native American students.
Opportunities for Student-Athletes
21. Foot Locker Scholar Athletes
Deadline: early January (look for announcements in the fall)
- Minimum GPA of 3.0
- U.S. Citizen or Permanent Legal Resident
- High school senior entering an accredited four-year institution for an undergraduate degree
- Involved in high school sports, intramural sports, or community based sports
- 2 essay responses
- 1 letter of recommendation
Unlike most athletic scholarships, the Foot Locker Scholar Athletes Program is as likely to reward the student who kept team spirit high as it is the student who led the state in scoring. This scholarship honors athletes exhibiting excellence and leadership cultivated on the field and in the locker room to positively change the lives of others.
22. Sara Scholarship
Amount: $2,000 per year; renewable for four years for a total of $8,000
Deadline: Late April (April 30, 2021)
- Female high school seniors
- Demonstrated academic skill
- Minimum 3.3 gpa (unweighted) on a 4.0 scale
- Demonstrated financial need
- Active engagement with the sport of golf as a hobby, as a member of team, working as a caddy, or at a golf course
- Standard application
- Current transcript
- Personal essay
- FAFSA information
- Letter of support
Established in 2012, the Sara Scholarship was founded in memory of Sara Sheehan through the Henry & Sara Sheehan foundation. This scholarship grants awards to high-achieving female high school seniors who demonstrate financial need, excellence of character, a passion for golf, and a plan to pursue a college degree.
23. Sports Matter Scholarship – Lindsey Vonn Foundation and Dick’s Sporting Goods
Amount: $5,000 to $15,000
Deadline: October 31, 2021 or March 31, 2022
- 18 or younger
- Passion and promise in a sport
- Need for financial aid (top selection requirement)
- Letter of recommendation
- Essay about you and your sport (they encourage students to create submissions that will stand out)
- For scholarship requests of more than $5,000, students will include two letters of recommendation and an extra portion of the essay
The Lindsey Vonn Foundation provides scholarships, programs, and mentorship in order to support future generations by helping them pursue their passion, overcome obstacles, and achieve their goals.
24. United States Tennis Association
Deadline: The application portal opens in the fall (check the website for details)
- High school seniors with financial need
- A 3.0 GPA (4.0 scale)
- Involved in community service or volunteering
- Participant in organized youth tennis organizations, including National Junior Tennis and Learning
- Letters of recommendation (one from a tennis coach/mentor and one from a teacher)
- Recent photo
- FAFSA student report
There are several endowed scholarships available through USTA and students are encouraged to apply to all those that you are eligible to receive. These are only a few scholarship opportunities to start your list. Check out The Scholarship Finder offered by the U.S. Department of Labor. There are more than 8,000 entries in their database.
Seeking and applying for scholarships can make your college education more affordable. It’s definitely worth your time to apply to as many as you are eligible to receive.
Tips For Applying For Scholarships
More work = fewer applicants
The more work applying for a scholarship is, the smaller the applicant pool will likely be. Scholarships involving video production, such as the Live Más Scholarship, or a well-thought-out essay, like the Dell Scholars Program, all demand a healthy amount of hard work which keeps the competition at bay.
Apply to a mix of larger and smaller awards
All the above scholarships are relatively well-known, so they will still be incredibly competitive even if they involve a lot of work. Don’t limit yourself to applying for huge national awards—look for local groups who may have smaller awards, but also smaller pools of candidates.
Research past winners
Scholarship committees tend to have an idea of “what they’re looking for.” To present yourself in the best light, research past winners to get a better sense of what scholarship committees want to see. Most scholarship pages will have a section dedicated to past winners, what their application was like, and where they are now. If not, you can always Google the name of the scholarship and “past winners.”
What is the easiest full scholarship to get? ›
- $10,000 “No Essay” Scholarship.
- $2,000 Nitro College Scholarship – No Essay.
- $40,000 BigFuture Scholarships.
- $2,500 Christian Connector Scholarship.
- $5,000 Graduate School Scholarship.
- $2,000 College Repayment Grant.
- Annual Protestant Faith Based College Scholarship.
- “College Here I Come” Essay Scholarship for High School Seniors.
- $2,000 Nitro College Scholarship – No Essay.
- $40,000 BigFuture Scholarships.
- $2,000 “No Essay” College Scholarship.
- $25,000 “Be Bold” No-Essay Scholarship.
- $10,000 CollegeXpress Scholarship.
1. How will this scholarship help you? You should answer this scholarship essay prompt by explaining how the award money will help you in at least one of the following ways: financially, professionally, and/or academically.What is the hardest scholarship to get? ›
- Rhodes Scholarship.
- Fullbright Scholarship.
- Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
- Princeton Scholarship.
- Mitchell Scholarship.
- Churchill Scholarship.
- Marshall Scholarship.
- Jardine Scholarship.
- Scholarships.com. ...
- Fastweb. ...
- College Board. ...
- Going Merry. ...
- ScholarshipOwl. ...
- Bold.org. ...
- Cappex. ...
- Create an accomplishments resume. ...
- Don't miss deadlines. ...
- Complete the scholarship matching profile thoroughly. ...
- Apply to as many scholarships as possible. ...
- Look for scholarship listing books. ...
- Find local scholarships on bulletin boards. ...
- Tap into family connections.