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20 Top Scholarships for High School Seniors

Posted by Francesca Fulciniti | Sep 16, 2015 8:30:00 AM

Financial Aid

 

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Aside from grants and loans, private scholarships are some of the best ways to help fund your college education. There are thousands of scholarships out there for high school seniors, all with different eligibility requirements, deadlines, and award amounts, so it would be worth your time to do your own research.

Senior year is prime crunch time when it comes to your college scholarship search. If you’re just starting the search process and need a little help getting off on the right foot, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best college scholarships for high school seniors based on availability and award amounts. These scholarships are generally flexible (you’ll be able to use them at any accredited college you choose to attend), and don’t have any geographical restrictions (so you’re eligible to apply no matter where you live in the US).

The list is broken down into lists of scholarship competitions, merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and specialty awards. Check out the end of the post for strategies on getting the most scholarship money possible!

 

Scholarship Competitions

 

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All scholarships are competitions - to win the following scholarships, though, you might have to go directly head-to-head with other students.

 

The following scholarships are awarded based on performance in some sort of contest. These types of scholarships can be pretty intensive, so give yourself extra time to effectively participate if you plan on pursuing one of the following awards. 

 

Voice of Democracy Scholarship Competition

Students compete for this award by writing and recording an audio essay on a patriotic theme. This year's theme is "My Responsibility to America." The first place winner receives a grand prize of $30,000; winners also receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC. A total of $152,000 in awards is given out annually. 

  • This competition is open to students in grades 9-12.
  • The submission deadline is November 1, 2016.
  • Read more about submission here.

 

The Fountainhead Essay Contest

Students compete for this award by writing an essay on one of three topics related to Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. The first place winner receives a grand prize of $10,000. Runners-up also receive prizes; a total of $43,250 is given out annually. 

  • The competition is open to students in grades 11-12.
  • The submission deadline is April 26, 2017.
  • Submit your essay online here.

 

The Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

Students compete for this award by writing an essay on one of three topics related to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. The first place winner receives a grand prize of $20,000. Runners-up also receive prizes; a total of $36,000 is given out annually. 

  • The competition is open to high school seniors, college students, and graduate students.
  • The submission deadline is April 28, 2017.
  • Submit your essay online here.

 

American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest

Are you a good public speaker, or do you just want an excuse to work on your public speaking skills? This competition might be a good fit for you. Students compete for this award by preparing and performing a 3-5 minute oration on some aspect of the US Constitution. You can view this year's topics here. The first place winner receives an award of $18,000; second place receives $16,000, and third place receives $14,000. There are also smaller awards for state winners. In total, annual awards amounts can be over $138,000. 

  • The competition is open to US high school students under 20 years of age.
  • Deadlines vary by state. Contests are arranged by local American Legion departments; get more information for your state here.

 

Create-a-Greeting Card Scholarship Contest (Gallery Collection Scholarship)

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Your design ends up here; you get money for college ... it doesn't get better than that! 

 

This scholarship is pretty unique, and is great for students with some untapped artistic talents! Students compete for this award by submitting a photo, piece of artwork, or computer graphic for the front of a greeting card. The winner receives $10,000, and the winner's school receives an award of $1,000. 

  • The competition is open to high school, college, and university students.
  • The submission deadline is March 2, 2017.
  • Submit your design online here.

 

Siemens Math, Science, and Technology Award Scholarships

If you're interested in STEM competitions and would like the opportunity to win some major funding, this scholarship competition is the one for you. Students compete for this award by completing an individual or team research project (so you can win as an individual, or as part of a 2-3 person group). National awards range from $10,000 to $100,000; regional awards range from $1,000 to $3,000. 

  • The competition is open to US high school students.
  • The submission deadline is September 20, 2016.
  • Register for the competition here.  

  

Scholarships Based on Academic Strength

 

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To win these scholarships, you have to show that you're tough - or, at least, that your brain is tough. 

 

The following scholarships are generally awarded based on your academic performance in conjunction with a few other factors (often leaderships skills and commitment to community service). The most competitive applicants will be dedicated, high-achieving students who also show that they're invested in their communities. 

 

Coca-Cola Scholars Program

Coca-Cola Scholars are judged on their academic performance, extracurricular activities, leadership experience, and community service. This scholarship program is fairly large: 150 awards of $20,000 are given out each year. You can read more the Coca-Cola scholarship by reading our guide to winning the award

  • This award is open to current high school seniors.
  • The application opens in August; the submission deadline is typically in October.
  • Read more about submission here.

 

Burger King Scholars Program

Applicants to this scholarship are judged on their GPA, work experience, extracurricular activities, and community service. Award amounts really range - they can be as small as $1,000 and as large as $50,000

  • This scholarship is open to US high school seniors who plan on going to college or vocational/technical school.
  • The application typically opens in October. The submission deadline is typically in December. 
  • Register here to apply for the scholarship. 

 

Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarships

These award eligibility requirements will really vary based on your local Ronald McDonald House Charity chapter. Some scholarships have ethnic eligibility requirements, for example. Deadlines and award amounts will also vary by location, but some of the bigger national awards can be as large as $100,000! You can read more about getting an RMHC scholarship by checking out our how-to guide

  • These scholarships are open to high school seniors, but other eligibility requirements may apply based on the particular scholarship.
  • The scholarship application is typically open in October.
  • Learn more about submission here.

  

Scholarships Based on Financial Need

 

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If your family income isn't enough to cover college expenses, need-based scholarships might be great options for you. 

 

The following scholarships take financial need into account when choosing award recipients. For many of these programs, though, financial need is just one of many criteria considered - strong applicants will also need to be strong students, or leaders, or community activists. You'll likely have to submit documentation around your family income for most of these applications. 

 

Horatio Alger Scholarship Award

This generous need-based scholarship is meant for students who have faced and overcome great obstacles. To be considered eligible, your gross adjusted family income must be at or below $55,000. At the national level, there are 106 $22,000 awards; there are also state scholarships that range between $6,000-$10,500. This one scholarship application will get you considered for many other national, state, and specialized scholarships - less work for you, and many more opportunities for scholarship funding!

  • This scholarship is open to US high school seniors who plan on getting a BA.
  • The application submission deadline is typically in October.
  • Learn more about submission here.

 

Jackie Robinson's Foundation Scholarship Program

Applicants to this need-based scholarship are judged on leadership skills and commitment to community service. To be considered eligible, you must identify as a minority student. As many as 60 new scholarships are awarded annually; the scholarships are 4-year awards, and recipients can receive as much as $7,500 per year

  • This scholarship is open to minority high school seniors.
  • The application typically opens in November. The submission deadline is typically in February. 
  • Learn more about submission here.

 

Engebretson Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship is pretty straightforward: it's awarded to one student each year who demonstrates financial need, in addition to impressive academic performance and leadership ability. The annual award winner receives $5,000 per semester of college. 

  • This scholarship is open to current high school seniors.
  • Applications must be submitted via mail. Get more information here
  • The application submission deadline is typically in March.  

 

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program

In addition to funding for school, this scholarship program offers personal advising on selecting a college, navigating financial aid, and transitioning from high school to college. Applicants are judged on academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, desire to help others, and leadership. Awards are given to 30-40 students each year, and can be as much as $40,000

  • This scholarship is open to high school seniors with financial need who will attend a 4-year college.
  • The application is open from early September to early November. Get notified when the application opens.

 

Elk's National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition 

Applicants to this need-based scholarship are judged on their scholarship and leadership abilities. Over 500 scholarships are available across the country, and total award amounts (over four years) range from $4,000-$50,000. Applications must be submitted to the Elk Lodge closest to your home address, so research the Elk Lodges in your area before you apply!

  • This scholarship is open to US high school seniors.
  • The application submission deadline is November 30, 2016.
  • Read more about submission here

 

Specialty Scholarships

 

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These scholarships are unique - just like every student applicant!

 

The following scholarship programs are national awards but are targeted towards students with specific or unique interests or achievements. Whether you're the next president of the SPCA or the next president of the USA, you should be able to find a specialty scholarships that's seemingly meant just for you!

 

CIA Undergraduate Scholars Program

This program offers more than just a scholarship - if you're selected as a winner, you'll become a part of a pretty unique internship program. Interns work at the CIA during summer breaks, are given an annual salary (with benefits), AND an annual scholarship award of $18,000. You must demonstrate financial need to qualify: there's an income eligibility ceiling of $70,000 for a family of 4 and $80,000 for a family of 5. 

  • This scholarship is open to high school seniors.
  • The applications are accepted April 1-September 15.
  • Read more about submission here. The application reads more like a job app than a scholarship app. 

 

Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship

Are you a proud vegetarian? This might seem like a uniquely niche award, but the scholarship is very real! The Vegetarian Resource Group judges applicants on their "compassion, courage, and commitment to promoting a peaceful world through a vegetarian diet/lifestyle." If you've promoted vegetarianism in your school or community, you'll likely be a strong applicant. The first place winner receives $10,000, and two runners-up each receive $5,000. 

  • The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors.
  • The application submission deadline is February 20, 2017. 
  • Check out the application here, and submission procedures here.

 

Buick Achievers Scholarship Program

This scholarship program is meant for students who plan on pursuing a degree in technology or engineering. Some select design and business programs may also qualify. Applicants are judged both on academic merit and financial need. Winners can receive up to $25,000 for up to 4 years - that's a maximum award amount of $100,000! There are as many as 50 new award winners each year. 

  • This scholarship is open to high school seniors, high school graduates, or current undergraduates.
  • The application typically opens in January; get notified when the scholarship opens.
  • The submission deadline will likely be in late February. 

 

Davidson Fellowship Scholarships

Do you have a really extraordinary achievement that you're particularly proud of? This scholarship goes to unique students who have completed a particularly impressive piece of work in science, technology, engineering, math, literature, music, or philosophy. Scholarship requirements differ based on the type of project. Awards range from $10,000 to $50,000.  

  • This scholarship is open to students under 18 years of age.
  • The application typically opens in November. Get more information here.
  • The submission deadline will likely be in early February.

 

AXA Achievement Scholarship

This scholarship is targeted towards students who have empowered society through achievements that mitigate risk. This can be interpreted pretty broadly, so spend some time thinking about what risk means to you, and if you've participated in making the world a safer place through any of your activities. There are a total of 52 $10,000 regional awards - one winner is chosen from each state, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. Ten national winners receive an additional $15,000 each

  • This scholarship is open to high school seniors who will attend college in 2016-2017.
  • The application typically opens in September; get notified when the scholarship opens.
  • Read more about the scholarship here.

 

William Randolph Hearst Foundation US Senate Youth Program

If you are passionate about politics and government, this is the scholarship for you. The William Randolph Hearst Senate Youth Program is for students who participate in their high school student government and plan on studying government in college. Applicants are judged on their leadership abilities, academic performance, clarity of speech, logical thought, community involvement, and extracurricular activities. 104 winners each receive a $5,000 award, in addition to an all-expenses-paid educational week in Washington DC. 

  • This scholarship is open to high school juniors and seniors.
  • All applications must be submitted by mail (no online submissions accepted). Read more about the scholarship here
  • The application submission deadline is typically in October

 

Tips for Making the Most of Your Scholarship Applications

 

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Tips here, get your tips here!

 

If you're going to go through all the work of submitting a scholarship application, you want to make sure you have the best chances possible of winning awards. The following tips will help you submit the greatest number of successful scholarship applications possible. 

 

Do Your Own Research

As you've probably noticed, many of the above scholarships are fairly generous, national awards that will likely be very competitive. You could be a very strong applicant for any number of scholarships and still not win one of these big national awards. So what's a student to do? 

The reality is that there are countless scholarship programs out there that might be really good fits for your interests, location, background, identity, etc. The more niche a scholarship program, the better chances you'll have of winning an award (if you're a qualified applicant, that is). So do your own research on scholarships programs that operate in your area, or are offered to students with your particular interests or passions. The Ronald McDonald House Charities scholarships are a good place to start. You can also pay a visit to your guidance counselor, who should have more information on local scholarships. You could also branch out on your own, and Google scholarships in your area. If you have a particular talent, skill, interest, or identity, search for scholarships that are offered to students based on those criteria. 

 

Apply Broadly

Applying for scholarships (like applying to colleges), is in part a numbers game. You wouldn't apply to just one school if you wanted to optimize your chances of getting into a great college, would you? Many scholarship applications ask similar questions and require similar information, so if you apply to one program, you may as well apply to a bunch. It's free to apply for most scholarships, so all it takes from you is a few hours of your time. 

Finally, take advantage of applications that submit you for consideration for many scholarship awards, like the Horatio Algier Scholarship application mentioned above. 

 

Make Note of Deadlines

Scholarship applications are all over the place - there's no defined "scholarship season" for submission deadlines, but many are due before you would submit college applications. As such, it's better to start your scholarship search earlier rather than later, so you don't miss out on any great opportunities. The summer before your senior year is a good time to start making note of programs you're interested in. Keep track of application deadlines by keeping a spreadsheet that you update regularly. This is especially helpful if applications require you to ask for letters of recommendation - you can make sure to give teachers and mentors plenty of advance notice to write you a letter. 

 

What's Next? 

If you want to get a head start on scoping out scholarships, you should check out our comprehensive guides to winning some of the most competitive national scholarships available. Learn more about the Coca-Cola Scholarship, the Gates Millenium Scholarship, the Walmart Scholarships, and the McDonald's Scholarships. 

 

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Francesca Fulciniti
About the Author

Francesca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and scored in the 99th percentile on the SATs. She's worked with many students on SAT prep and college counseling, and loves helping students capitalize on their strengths.



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