Did you know that your extracurricular activities can earn you money for college?
In particular, there are a lot of scholarships available to students who have chosen to spend their free time helping out others in their communities through volunteer work.
Read on for the most complete lists of volunteer scholarships available. We've divided the scholarships by type so you can tell easily if you qualify.
Why Community Service Scholarships?
If you're the type of person who spends your free time helping others, you probably already know about some of the benefits of this type of work: you get to make a positive impact in your community while getting life experience that will help you develop as a person.
But you may not have been aware that there's another potential benefit: community service is also a great way to earn some extra cash for college. Many universities and organizations value individuals who they think will make a difference in the world, and offering scholarships to students who have dedicated their time to improving the lives of others is one way that they can contribute to those changes.
How to Find Community Service Scholarships
There are a lot of different kinds of community service scholarships, and they come from a lot of different sources, including charities, the government, religious groups, and universities themselves. Some of the scholarships offered will help fund tuition costs, while others will help you pay for charitable projects that you want to organize, or give you the opportunity to do more volunteer work.
Though you may not have seen many of these scholarships advertised, there are hundreds of them out there. If you don't see something on the list below that pertains to you, do an internet search for what you're interested in or specific to the type of work that you have done.
Other good resources are the college and financial aid counselors at your high school, who may know of local and national opportunities, as well as scholarships related to volunteer programs at your school.
Additionally, ask the organizations where you volunteer if there are any scholarships available. Quite frequently, churches, religious groups, hospitals, and other community clubs and organizations provide awards to help out students with the cost of education.
How to Apply for Community Service Scholarships
Each of the scholarships listed below has its own application procedure and eligibility requirements. Start looking into the scholarships you're interested in well in advance so that you don't miss any deadlines. You can also increase your chances of being eligible for more scholarships if you start to plan early.
You'll see that many of the scholarships below have very specific eligibility criteria. If you're looking to get involved in a community service project and don't have anything particular in mind, try choosing something that will make you eligible for one (or more) of these awards.
Also keep in mind that the community service work you do can qualify you for several different scholarships. Be sure to apply to all scholarships that you're eligible for, and don't be intimidated by the wording of the scholarship requirements—it's always worth a shot to get college money!
Key tip: Apply early, and apply often! Not all of these scholarships are limited to high school seniors and college students. If you start applying in 9th grade (or even earlier), you'll have a head start on building up your scholarship fund.
List of Community Service Scholarships by Category
The following scholarships are grouped according to type of community service or other special requirements. You'll notice that many of these scholarships are available to students who have done any type of community service, as long as you can show significant involvement.
Some of these scholarships should fit into more than one category (such as a social activism scholarship that also requires a high GPA). In these cases, I've put them in what I consider to be the most restricting group.
The categories are:
- General volunteer scholarships
- Financial need
- Strong academics
- Specific field of study
- Environmental focus
- Special circumstances
- Special affiliation
- Certain location or college
- Social activism
Scroll down to the category you most qualify for, or just browse through all the scholarships available!
General Volunteer Scholarships
The scholarships in this list are for students who have dedicated several hours to volunteer work. There are no particular restrictions about the kind of work you can have done for these awards, but you should be able to show long-term commitment and how you've made an impact.
This service program—with a scholarship awarded at the end—is for students aged 17 and older. You must be willing to commit to a year of service at a nonprofit organization or government agency. You will receive a living stipend while you are serving. Scholarship awards given at the end of service are approximately $6,345, or you can instead take an $3,000 cash award. Deadline is rolling.
Bonner Scholars Program
This scholarship is for college students with demonstrated financial need who are willing to perform 10 hours of community service per week during the school year and 280 total hours in the summer. The program meets the full documented financial need of each student. Students must be attending a school with a Bonner Scholars program and will apply through their campus.
This scholarship is for ambitious and determined high school seniors who show respect for themselves, their families, and their communities. Students will have the opportunity to win awards of $2,500, $10,000, or $25,000. Scholarship opens in early September and closes in mid-December, or when they've received 10,000 applications.
This award is for entering freshmen who display motivation, sincerity, and community involvement. Multiple awards between $250 and $1,000 are given. Deadlines vary.
These awards are for students ages 14-18 who have participated in community service in the past 12 months. National Honorees receive a $5,000 award, a medallion, a trophy, and a $5,000 grant to a charity of choice. State Honorees receive an award of $1,000, a medallion, and a paid trip to Washington, D.C. Local Honorees receive a Certificate of Achievement. Deadline is typically in early November.
These scholarships are for students who have shown strong leadership skills—the ability to direct and inspire others—along with a dedication to community service.
This essay contest awards $1,000 to 25 students age 24 or under who have leadership roles in community service activities whose families are Alliant customers (Alliant's service area is Iowa and Wisconsin).
US citizens who have shown leadership, scholarship, and financial need can apply. There are 2 awards of $50,000, 2 awards of $40,000, 2 awards of $30,000, 14 awards of $20,000, and 480 awards of $4,000. Application opens in August, and the deadline is typically in mid-November.
This award is for students who show leadership, drive, and good citizenship. There are around 20 awards of $10,000, which are renewable each year of college for up to $40,000. Applications typically open in December and have a February deadline.
These scholarships are for high school seniors with a GPA between 2.5 and 3.2 and who are leaders and volunteers in their communities. There are fifty awards of $5,000 each. Deadline is typically March 31.
Financial Need Scholarships
These scholarships are aimed at students who have dedicated their time to serving their communities and who also can demonstrate financial need.
High school students who have shown integrity, financial need, academic achievement, and community service may apply for this award. You will need a 2.0 GPA. A family income less than $55K is required. National scholarships of $25,000 are given every year, and smaller state scholarships are available as well. Deadlines for each scholarship vary.
This award is for high school graduates who intend to enroll at a career college. They must have a high school GPA of at least 2.5, be able to demonstrate financial need, and have demonstrated community service during their senior year. Awards are $1,000.
Ronald McDonald House Charities US Scholarships
Students under 21 who can show financial need and who have academic achievement, leadership, and community service experience are eligible for these awards. Most scholarships are administered through local Ronald McDonald House Charities (like these through RMHC Greater Las Vegas); look for the local office near you. Scholarship amounts and deadlines vary.
Higher education costs in the United States have been skyrocketing for the last 20 years, but it's still possible to get a great education without breaking the bank. Learn how you can maximize the quality of your college education while minimizing costs with our six-hour online course.
Strong Academics Scholarships
These scholarships are for students who have managed to balance schoolwork with volunteer work. They are aimed at students who have achieved top grades and test scores.
Graduating high school students with who demonstrate academic achievement and who have shown a commitment to improving their communities are eligible for this award. 150 awards of $20,000 are given every year. You can also check out our complete guide to winning a Coca Cola Scholarship. The deadline is typically at the end of October.
Field of Study Scholarships
These scholarships are for students who are planning on pursuing certain degrees while in college.
This award is for students under the age of 19 who have done significant work in math, science, technology, music, literature, or philosophy, or another field that will benefit society. There are 20 total awards in amounts of $10,000, $25,000, and $50,000. The deadline is typically in mid-February.
This is for students who are interested in a culinary career. Applicants should have strong academic record, leadership, and community service. Award amounts vary, and they can be scholarships, tuition wavers, work study grants, or a combination of the three. The application typically opens in April.
This scholarship is for high school seniors with a GPA over 3.0 looking to enter a strength and conditioning field who have a track record of community service and are members of the NSCA. There are multiple $1,500 awards available. The application opens on August 1 and closes on October 15 each year.
This award is for college or graduate students studying healthcare, who have high GPAs and can show community involvement. Awards range from $500-$10,000. Check out our complete guide on how to win a Tylenol scholarship. The application opens in early May and has a deadline at the end of July.
This award is for high school seniors and college students in the Washington Hospital District who are pursuing a healthcare-related degree, with a GPA of at least 2.5, and who have volunteered for at least 100 hours in healthcare. The award is $1,000 and is renewable for all 4 years of college. Deadline is April 1.
Environmental Focus Scholarships
These scholarships are for students who have dedicated their time to helping the environment.
This scholarship is for students ages 13-22 who have shown leadership in environmental activism. Six awards of $3,000 are given every year, plus a professional film crew will make a short film about the winners' work. The winner will also receive a week-long trip to California to participate in media engagements and environmental conferences. Deadline is May 1.
This scholarship is for students aged 8-18 who have made a significant positive difference to people or the environment. There are 25 awards of $5,000. The application opens in January and has a mid-April deadline.
Special Characteristics and Circumstances Scholarships
These scholarships are for students who have faced certain challenges or who have special characteristics.
LGBT high school seniors with a GPA of 3.0 and above who are involved in community service can apply for this scholarship. Applications are typically accepted from January through April.
This scholarship is for high school seniors who identify as LGBTQ from the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut). You must demonstrate leadership, a strong academic record, and community service. Awards of up to $10,000 are given every year. Deadline is mid-March.
Legally blind college students from US and Puerto Rico may apply. The winner is chosen based on academic excellence, community service, and leadership. Awards are between $3,000 and $12,000. Up to 30 awards are given each year. Applications open in early November and close in late March.
Special Affiliations Scholarships
These scholarships are for students who are associated with certain groups.
These awards are for Burger King employees or relatives of employees who show good citizenship and commitment to the community.
The National Eagle Scout Association offers two kinds of awards for Eagle Scouts: academic awards and merit awards. Academic scholarships are offered in amounts up to $50,000, and merit scholarships are offered up to $5,000. Academic scholarship applicants must be in their senior year of high school. Merit scholarship applicants must be high school seniors or college students not past their junior year of study. Application opens in early December.
Students aged 21 and under who have done at least 100 hours of community service to serve veterans at a VA medical center can apply for these awards. There is one top scholarship of $20,000, and additional scholarships of $15,000, $10,000, $7,500, and $5,000. Deadline is typically in late February.
These awards are for high school students who are members of NHS. Any senior member of a chapter may apply. Awards come in a variety of amounts depending on how far the student advances in the scholarship competition and range from about $3,000-$22,000. Applications open October 1 and have a deadline of December 1.
This award is for high school seniors who have served at least 2 years as a Red Cross volunteer. There is a one-time award of $1,000.
Certain Location or College Scholarships
These volunteer awards are only available to students who are from a certain location or are planning on attending college in certain areas.
This award is available to New York City public high school seniors with good academic standing and who can show leadership in the community. Students must also be eligible for Pell Grants and have a family income below a certain threshold. The award is for $5,000. Deadline is January 31.
This scholarship is for academically gifted Colorado high school students. Applicants must also have community service and leadership experience. The award is $20,000 a year. Deadline is November 1.
High school seniors or community college students enrolling in a bachelor's degree in Oregon or California, who are residents of Oregon or Siskiyou County, California, can apply for this award. Students should show financial need, good character, have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and show concern for others through volunteer projects. Up to 120 awards between $1,000 and $25,000 are granted every year; award amounts are based on need and cover up to 90% of costs not covered by other sources. Applications open November 1.
This scholarship is for high school seniors from Eastlake High School or Redmond High School who plan to attend one of the 10 independent colleges of Washington. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have demonstrated leadership and community service. Awards are of $2,500. They are renewable up to 4 years for a total of $10,000 as long as a 3.0 GPA is maintained. Deadline is typically in early April.
These scholarships are for first year college students from Santa Fe, who have good GPAs and have shown leadership in the community. At least 3 awards of $2,000 to $3,000 each are given every year. Deadline is May 1.
This scholarship is for college students who have shown leadership skills and involvement in solving community problems. You must attend a Campus Compact member institution and be nominated by a college/university chancellor or president. The award amount varies. Deadline is February 1.
This award is for New York City high school seniors who have shown a commitment to education and community service. The award is up to $15,000 per year, renewable for three years. Recipients also receive mentoring and a summer internship at the New York Times.
These awards are for college juniors and seniors attending one of the Independent Colleges of Washington. You must demonstrate a history of dedicated volunteer service throughout high school and college and have financial need. There are three awards of $2,500.
This award is for high school seniors from any high school in Maine. You must be nominated by your principal for facing obstacles in pursuit of higher education, having financial need, being a solid citizen of your school, and showing a commitment to making a difference in the community.
Minority Group Scholarships
These scholarships are for students who have affiliations with certain minority groups or a particular ethnicity.
These scholarships are for Hispanic students with strong academics who have a history of performing public service and charitable activities in the community. Students must have financial need and strong writing skills. Students will also receive an internship placement. Award amount varies. There are several deadlines throughout the year.
High school seniors of Italian descent (at least 25%) with household incomes less than $25,000 per person in the household can apply for this scholarship. You should also have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and have shown commitment to community service. The award amount varies.
These awards are for Hispanic rising seniors with GPAs of at least 3.0 and above who have shown commitment to community service. Deadline is typically in early December.
These scholarships are for high school students and college students who are JACL members (you do not need to be of Japanese/Japanese heritage to be member—anyone can join). You will have to submit a personal statement, your academic record, letters of recommendation, details about your community service, and details about your work experience. There are separate awards for entering Freshmen, and current undergraduate students. The award amounts vary, and the deadline is typically in early March.
This scholarship is for Hispanic high school seniors (at least one parent of Hispanic/Latino heritage) who show academic achievement, financial need, and community involvement. There are a small number of large national awards ($25,000 per year) and some additional local awards of at least $1,000. Deadline is typically late January or early February. You can learn more about McDonald's scholarships here.
These scholarships are for African American high school seniors who have financial need, academic excellence, leadership, and community service experience. The awards are $10,000/year, and are renewable for up to 4 years (for a total of $40,000).
This award is for minority and economically disadvantaged students who are studying art and design, and also have shown a commitment to community service. Basic scholarships are in the amount of $2,000-$3,000. There are also two additional awards of up to $5,000 and honorable mention prizes of $500. Applications open in February, with a deadline in mid-April.
Social Activism Scholarships
These scholarships are aimed at students who have been working hard to bring about changes in society.
This scholarship is for college students who are actively involved in fighting for social justice or civil rights. Multiple awards up to $10,000 are given every year. Deadline is April 1.
This scholarship is for women from developing countries who are pursuing study in the U.S. or Canada. Note that awardees must be at least 25 years of age. Grant awards are for up to $15,000. Deadline is January 15.
This $1,000-prize is awarded to students in grades 9–12 who have been involved in community service in the past 12 months and have encouraged positive race relations. Students will also be invited to attend a symposium at Princeton. Deadline is January 31.
This scholarship is for students aged 5–25 who have shown on-going commitment to an unpaid volunteer activity in the past year that involves fighting hunger. Additional consideration is given if you have been fighting childhood hunger. Winners will receive an award of $5,000 for their education plus a $5,000 grant in their name to a hunger-related charity of their choice. Deadline is typically in early December.
If you're concerned about paying for college, here's a complete guide to figuring out how much college will cost for you.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
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.