Top Scholarships for High School Students (and how to apply!)
Scholarship Process Overview 💡
Scholarships are helpful in terms of supporting you financially and lessening the amount of money that you'll pay out-of-pocket when you go to college. They can award money to help support your education based on your academic performance, or other additional achievements that you might have. As a general rule, students should start looking and applying for scholarships when they are high school juniors and seniors. Starting the process earlier will get you thinking about who you’re going to ask for letters of recommendation, time to start crafting scholarship essays, and time to fill our the scholarship applications.
National Scholarships for the United States 🇺🇸
- You can make a free profile account on a number of scholarship search sites like Scholarships.com, CollegeXpress, Cappex, Fastweb, Unigo, and Scholarship America. You can browse the scholarships available on their website, and they will also send you emails periodically with updates on new scholarships available. However, while these scholarships are easier to access and apply for, there is a larger pool, meaning that there is more competition among the applicants.
- "No Essay Scholarships" are like a lottery. These scholarships are cash prizes awarded at random to applicants and have a very low success rate. If you have some extra time and hope, it never hurts to try; just make sure the site is reputable and not a scam for your data. Sites like Bold.org give you entries for expressing interest or taking action for social causes. They also have traditional scholarship applications.
- Large, popular scholarships (high amounts but lots of competition) include the Bryan Cameron Scholarship, Coca Cola Scholarship, Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, Gates Scholarship, Dell Scholarship, and QuestBridge Scholarship.
Local Scholarships 🏘
- The best odds you'll have are applying for local scholarships! These will have the smallest applicant pools and are often accessible through high schools and personal connections. Although they often require some work, remember that the more you put in, the more you get out! You also miss 100% of the shots you never take. 😉
- It’s helpful to start your search by asking those around you. Your college counselor, employers, and even local businesses may offer scholarships for local students which often increases your chances of winning money. This is primarily because the applicant pool is much smaller in comparison to national scholarships!
- Your counseling office is often in charge of creating lists of scholarships. They will not only have scholarships for the local area, but also the school itself. School-specific scholarships give you the best chances. These, in fact, often cannot be found on Google and shows the importance of asking your guidance counselor for scholarships.
- Because of this, you can also search for scholarship sources at neighboring schools.
- The next place to consider is the university’s financial aid or admission office you want to attend. Oftentimes, universities offer merit-based or endowed scholarships from their foundations or alumni families. Check out Financial Aid: Everything you Need to Know for more information.
- Read "Priority Scholarship Deadlines" to find deadlines for scholarships at top schools.
- Applying early action to schools helps increase your chances of scholarships. Not only do universities offer scholarships (see above bullet point), but alumni clubs also do. Search up "[college] alumni club + [your location] + scholarships" to see if there are any available for you. This narrows the applicant pool to admitted students at this specific school in your specific location.
- Ask your family members if their employer offers scholarships. Many companies have scholarships for the children of employees.
- Lastly, do a Google search. Search for scholarships in your geographic area—city, county, state, region. Think about your identity and involvements; look for scholarships from clubs such as Key Club and DECA and other qualities such as religion or nationality.
With both national and local scholarships, make sure to check the requirements and deadlines for each scholarship! Some look at financial needs, teacher recommenders, degree type, school attending, and more.
Keeping a Scholarship Template 🗂
- Use Notion or Google Sheets to list the deadlines for each scholarship. Be sure to add the prompts and requirements. Sometimes, the scholarship requires a letter of recommendation, which you should ask for at least 3-4 weeks in advance.
- Feel free to add any of the scholarships from the "List of National Scholarships" into your tracker.
- Make sure to organize your scholarships by relevance! Look at the deadlines for each scholarship and how difficult it is to submit an application (Are there a lot of materials to submit? Do you have enough time to submit it?) considering the potential award total. If you don't have a lot of time to devote to scholarship searching, it might be better to prioritize applications that offer you more for your effort. Every little bit does help towards paying for college, though. 💸
Writing Scholarship Essays ✏️
- Like college essays, you shouldn't have to write a new essay for each prompt - since many prompts tend to be similar! List the prompts down, and see if you can use any old essays while revising. If you do reuse, make sure any references to the old scholarship is not present. Check out example college essays to get some inspiration and improve your essays.
- Most scholarship essays actually follow the format of college essays, such as "Why X scholarship" and "tell me about yourself and your aspirations"! You'll be a master at writing these types of essays by the end of the college application & scholarship season. 👑
Want to learn more? 💡
- Read "How to Get Scholarships" for more scholarship tips and tricks, essay help, and any possible red flags. 🚩
- Read "Creating a Scholarship List" to learn how to make and use a scholarship tracker. 📁