It's never too early to start saving up money for your college education. Even if you are only in your first or second year of high school, there are plenty of opportunities to start bringing in money that will pay for your tuition, books, fees, and living expenses a couple years down the line.
You may be surprised to learn that there are hundreds of scholarships available to underclassmen.
If you're just starting your hunt, use this list of 39 of the best scholarships for high school freshmen and sophomores to get started.
This list includes a variety of scholarships for freshmen and sophomores. I've broken them down into several different categories:
- Essay Contest Scholarships
- Special Interest Scholarships
- Creative Scholarships
- Hobby- or Activity-based Scholarships
- Location-based Scholarships
- Easy Scholarships
These scholarships are not limited to one college or university, so students who win these awards will be able to take them to a variety of schools.
How to Use This List
Rule 1: Play to Your Strengths
Start out by looking at the different categories below. Are you creative? Consider applying to some of the scholarships that require artwork or a movie for the application. If you're a strong writer, consider applying to scholarships that require essays.
Rule 2: Apply to Many Scholarships
The beauty of starting early is that you have a lot of time! Use it wisely to apply to as many scholarships as possible. We recommend applying to anywhere between 5 and 30 scholarships. Most of the scholarships that you will find on this list and beyond are competitive, meaning many students will be applying for them. You'll increase your chances of winning money for college if you don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Rule 3: Pay Attention to Details
Make sure that you read all the rules carefully before you apply for a scholarship, and be certain that your essays and other application materials address what is being asked. It's a waste of your time to apply to scholarships if you are going to end up being disqualified because you didn't follow the instructions.
Similarly, make sure you stay on top of important deadlines. Don't miss out on a great scholarship because you've missed the due date!
Rule 4: Do Your Own Research
Keep in mind that this list is just a starting point. There are many, many more scholarships available to younger students, and there very well may be some that are more suited to your talents and interests. Don't be afraid to do some Google searches to see if there are any scholarships out there that correspond to one of your unique traits.
Remember, the more obscure a scholarship is, the better your chance of winning it.
The Oklahoma City National Museum hosts an essay contest for students from grades 5 – 12. Topics revolve around ideas related to the Oklahoma bombings in 1995. Students in grades 9 and 10 can submit 500-word essays. Prizes: 1st place: $200, 2nd place: $150, 3rd place: $100.
High school freshmen and sophomores can write an essay on one of several topics related to the book Anthem by Ayn Rand. Prizes: 1st place: $2,000, 2nd place: $500, 3rd place: $200, Finalists: $50, Semifinalists: $30. Deadline is March 29th.
High school students write a 1,000-word essay answering the question, “What does the second amendment meant to you?” Prizes: 1st place: $1,000, 2nd place: $600, 3rd place: $200, 4th place: $100. Deadline is December 31st.
Students in grades 7-12 can enter this essay contest by submitting an essay of up to 350 words on "What Memorial Day Means to Me." The grand national winner will win $5,000. Additionally, first prize for each grade level is $2,500, second prize is $1,500, third prize is $1,000. ranging from $1,000-$5,000 by submitting an essay of no more than 350 words on “The Bill of Rights and Me.” Deadline is December 1st.
Students 13 or older can apply for a chance to win one prize of $10,000. Your application must include a 140-character response to the question: "Surprise! You just got elected president. What’s your first tweet?" The deadline is December 31st.
High school students can submit a 250-word essay on a topic of their choosing for a chance to be entered into a competition to win a $1,000 prize. There are two contests per year. Spring conest deadline is July 31st.
All US high school students can apply to win. They must submit an essay of no more than 1,500 words on the topic “Are international free trade agreements in the best interest of the United States? Why or why not?” First prize is $5,000, second prize is $2,500, and third prize is $1,500.
US students in grades nine to twelve can submit a 700-1,000 word or less essay based on a topic listed on the website. This past year gave unusually large prizes for the centennial celebration of JFK's birth, but normally there are seven prizes ranging from $500 to $5,000. Submissions for the 2018 contest will open on September 1st, 2017.
US Students who are enrolled in grades eight through twelve can apply to win one of 15 awards ranging from $5,00-$5,000. The first place winner receives $5,000. Students must complete the online application and submit an essay of no more than 800 words on the topic cited on the website.
US students under eighteen can submit an essay on the topic of "Chasing Optimism in the Face of Challenges." Club winners advance to the District contest to compete for a $2,500 scholarship. Deadline is in early February.
Any currently enrolled high school US student can apply to receive a prize from $1,000 of $5,000. Applications must consist of a completed application, a copy of the student's most recent report card, and a 500-word, double-spaced essay on "Why College is Important to Me." Deadline is May 1st, 2017.
Special Interest Scholarships
Freshmen and sophomores who volunteer for a non-profit that meets Humanity Rising’s criteria can apply. Awards range from $500 to $2,000.
US Students in grades 9 to 12 can apply to win one of 10 $20,000 scholarships. Students must play an online game that simulates adult life in terms of financial literacy. Students can't register themselves, but teachers can register classes as well as individual students.
Any student between 14 and 22 can submit either a piece of writing (100-600 words), a video, a work of art, or music they have composed on the topic of how to address reckless driving. There are prizes of $5,00-$1,500 available. There are also prizes for Spanish and American Sign Language entries. The deadline is March 24th, 2017.
All US high school students at least 13 years old can enter by creating a unique 60 to 90-second video highlighting safer teen driving. The video must end with the TeenDrive365 Video Challenge Call to Action slide that can be downloaded. There are 9 prizes available from $1,000-$15,000.
Students from kindergarten to 12th grade can apply to this scholarship. Applicants must submit a Google Doodle related to this year's theme as well as a 50-word statement. They have the chance to receive a $30,000 scholarship in addition to other prizes.
Students in grades 7 to 12 with a keen interest in writing or art can apply for the chance to a $500 best-in-grade award. Students in 12th grade can also apply for $10,000 portfolio scholarships.
All current high school students can apply to win one of three prizes of either $1,500- $500. Applications must also be submitted with a 500-word essay about an innovative pet product idea. Deadline is August 1st, 2017.
US students who are at least fourteen years old can apply for this scholarship of $10,000. Applicants must design a greeting card, and submissions can include a photo, artwork, or computer graphic for the front image. Submissions can't be larger than 16” x23”. Deadline for next cycle has not yet been posted.
US students interested in art can apply to win one of eight natinal awards. Applicants must submit an original piece of art with a patriotic theme that was completed during the current school year. The first place winner receives $10,000 and is given a plaque and airfare plus two nights' lodging to attend the VFW Auxiliary National Convention. Their art will also be featured on the cover of the VFW Auxiliary magazine and the Auxiliary website. Deadline is March 31st.
Hobby- or Activity-Based Scholarships
All female students on a bowling team can enter to win one prize of $6,000 by submitting a completed application along with two reference letters and an essay of no more than 500 words. Deadline is December 1st.
All male students on a bowling team can enter to win one prize of $6,000 by submitting a completed application along with two reference letters and an essay of no more than 500 words. Deadline is December 1st.
Any high school student who is an active member of Women in Aviation, International (WAI) can can apply for this $3,000 scholarship. The application must consist of a completed WAI form, two recommendation letters, a 500-word essay, a resume, copies of all aviation licenses and medical records, and the last three pages of the applicant’s pilot logbook, if applicable. Deadline is November 14th.
Freshmen and sophomore students who play a woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument can apply to win a $2,500 scholarship by submitting a completed application form, a recommendation letter, and a CD of them performing a piece chosen from a list of specific works. Deadline is November 15th.
Students in grades 4 to 12 can apply for this essay contest to win one of ten $1,000 prizes. Essays must be 250 words or less and answer the following statement: "A Note To My Parents, I Love My School Music Program Because..." Deadline is December 31st.
All US students can apply for a chance to win a $1,000 prize. Applications must be submitted along with a 140-character message that completes the statement: “Instead of spending time with technology, I'd rather....” The top ten responses will be contacted and invited to write a 500-1,000-word essay on technology addiction. The winner and runner-up will be selected from this ten. Deadline is January 18th, 2018.
Any full-time student aged eight to eighteen can apply to win up to $10,000. Applicants must show outstanding classical music achievement. Eligibility also depends on financial need. Students must submit at least two audio samples of their music along with tax forms, grade transcripts, and other supporting documents. Deadline is March 1st.
US students must be eighteen or younger to apply and have completed a ‘significant piece of work’ in one of the categories listed on the website. There are fifteen awards available with the maximum award being $50,000.
US and international students younger than 28 can apply to win a scholarship of up to $5,000. Students must submit a CD of an original music composition along with legible manuscripts.
US students fifteen or older who are registered and active members of a Boy Scout Troop, Varsity Scout Team, or Venturing Crew can be nominated to win a scholarship of up to $10,000. Applicants must be active in their religious institution and have received the corresponding Boy Scout religious emblem and the Eagle Scout Award. They must also have shown practical citizenship in their church, school, Scouting group and community. The nomination and application forms must be received by the applicant's corresponding department (state) headquarters by March 1st.
US students under the age of twenty can apply to receive a maximum scholarship of $18,000. Students will first need to compete in their local oratorical contest and deliver a prepared speech on a particular topic. Winners will advance to the national competition.
Applicants must be in grades 9 to 12, have an average GPA of 2.0, and live in one of the following California counties: Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa or San Francisco. Students who live in Arizona's Pima County are also eligible. Students who live outside these counties can still enter if they are members of Meriwest Credit Union.
Any student in grades 6-10 who attends a public school in Hillsborough County, Florida, has a 2.5 or higher GPA, and qualifies for free or reduced lunch can apply. Prizes range from $1,000-$10,000.
Applicants must be US students in grades 9 to 12 and attend school in the metro area of New York City (all five boroughs); Washington, D.C.; Atlantic City, New Jersey; or the Delmarva Penninsula (Delaware and Maryland) . Students can win up to $5,000. To enter, applicants must create a children’s book that deals with themes of tolerance and diversity and promotes a greater understanding of different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs. The book can be either fiction or non-fiction and should be for children between kindergarten and 5th grade. It also must include full-color illustrations.
Oklahoma students currently enrolled in grades 8, 9, or 10 can apply for the chance to receive full tuition to an Oklahoma public two-year or four-year college or part of their tuition at an accredited Oklahoma private college. The application must include the first two pages of the applicant's most recent federal tax return. Deadline is June 30th.
Any student can apply by simply registering on the website. A winner is chosen each month to receive $2,000. Deadline is the last day of each month.
Any high school student who registers and completes a profile at cappex.com will be entered into a drawing to receive $1,000. Deadline is March 31st.
Any US student 13 or older can apply for the chance to win a $1,500 scholarship. Applicants must respond to the following statement in no more than 250 words: “Create a Top Ten List of the top ten reasons you should get this scholarship.” Deadline December 31st.
Students who are 14 or older can apply simply by registering for the CollegeSTEPS program. Awards are $5,000. Deadline is June 30th.
Too old for these scholarships? Check out these 21 scholarships that you can apply to in your senior year of high school.
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Mary Ann holds a BA in Classics and Russian from the University of Notre Dame, and an MA from University College London. She has years of tutoring experience and is also passionate about travel and learning languages.