A college education can be an excellent opportunity for many students seeking a financially stable and productive future, but a college education can also be costly. In fact, the cost of higher education has tripled over the past two decades. In 2021, the average cost of college for a U.S. student was more than $35,000 a year.
Scholarships can make a huge financial impact on the cost of school, making the opportunity more accessible for many students. This article will highlight some of the top scholarships available to high school seniors right now.
How Do College Scholarships Generally Work?
College scholarships are financial assistance awards that the recipient doesn’t have to pay back, unlike student loans. The scholarship money can be used to pay for tuition at a college, university, or even trade school, as well as housing, food, books, or other school supplies. The organization providing the funding will specify what the scholarship can be used for.
Merit scholarships are geared toward student-athletes or artists, or to award students with an impressive academic performance. Need-based scholarships are based primarily on financial need. The requirements will vary, though. Maybe you need to have a minimum GPA, submit letters of recommendation, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or have some type of public service experience — so read each scholarship’s requirements carefully.
In some cases, scholarships are provided as a one-time payment for an incoming first-year college student, while some scholarships are ongoing and renewable each year that you’re enrolled in classes.
Whenever you apply for a scholarship, it’s important to closely read all the rules and requirements so that you understand what the money can be used for.
When Should High School Seniors Apply for Scholarships?
Each scholarship you apply for will have its own rules, including deadlines. For the most part, though, you’ll want to begin researching and applying for scholarships during the second half of your high school junior year or the summer before your senior year — around the time you’ll be submitting your college applications or right after. Many scholarships will even have an application due date set for a year before you start college — sometimes even earlier than that.
You’ll also want to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) starting Oct. 1 before you start college to make sure you qualify for and receive the highest amount of financial aid through Pell Grants and other programs.
While your FAFSA application won’t determine whether you’ll receive any scholarship funding, it’s important to know the amount of federal aid you’ll be receiving so you know how much scholarship or grant money you might need beyond that award to pay for your schooling.
10 Best Scholarships for High School Seniors
If you’re a high school senior seeking additional funding for your higher education, here are some high school scholarship programs you should consider. As you work through the enrollment process, your college admissions counselor might also have some scholarship suggestions specific to your university or region.
With an extensive scholarship database worth more than $7 billion, this site connects students with scholarships offered to those with a wide range of experiences, skills, and talents. It also offers its own annual $10,000 scholarship contest.
This no-essay contest is open to college freshmen, as well as transfer and graduate students. To enter, all you need to do is create a free profile on CollegeXpress and be admitted to one of the website’s more than 1,000 member schools. A winner is chosen at random every spring.
This contest offers more than a dozen scholarships in the amount of $1,000 and $2,500. To enter, students are asked to share their personal stories of overcoming hardships. The contest also asks that you share how you overcame these challenges and what advice or resources you’d suggest to other students in similar situations. In addition to helping students further their education, the scholarship competition aims to help youth facing adversity realize that they’re not alone.
Pettable Pet Lovers Scholarship
This scholarship fund for animal lovers offers a $1,000 award to a different winner every three months. To enter, you’re asked to submit a favorite photo of your pet and share a short caption, ranging from 10 to 100 words, that shares the story behind your photo.
In addition to four scholarship awards being given annually, Pettable will also feature the best photo submissions from the contest’s finalists on its Instagram page. Winners will be asked to verify their college enrollment status by providing a recent transcript.
Greater Than Gatsby Annual Scholarship
To support the next generation of visual art and content creators, Greater Than Gatsby — which creates lightroom presets and Photoshop actions for photographers — offers $1,000 to two recipients annually. The funds can be used to help pay for tuition and other academic expenses.
To be eligible for this essay scholarship, you must be a recently accepted high school student or a current undergraduate or graduate student at an accredited U.S. college or university who is majoring in the following fields of study: any type of art, communications, English, film, fine arts, journalism, multimedia, photography, or visual arts.
To apply for this award, you must submit three of your best photographs and write an essay of at least 500 words about your interest in photography and how it relates to your career goals and passions. The deadline for submissions is May 1 each year.
Here’s another award for animal lovers: Rover.com — which connects pet parents with sitters and dog walkers — offers students a $2,500 scholarship to help fund their education. To apply, submit a 400- to 500-word essay answering the scholarship question. The question for the current submission period, which closes May 1, 2022, asks students how growing up with a pet in their life — whether it’s their own pet or that of a friend or family member — impacted the person they are today.
The contest is seeking essay responses that share unique ideas and personal stories about the impact of animals on our lives. To be eligible for this award, you must have a 3.0 GPA and be a graduating high school senior, a current undergraduate student pursuing an associate degree at a community college or a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college, or a graduate student enrolled in a master’s degree program.
Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
This scholarship attempts to destigmatize mental health issues, especially in African American, Hispanic, and other minority students. All students who have struggled with mental health or who have seen loved ones struggle with mental health firsthand are invited to apply for this award.
Applicants are asked to write a short essay from 200 to 800 words about their personal mental health journey and how it has impacted their beliefs, relationships, and goals. The scholarship application deadline to submit your essay is June 14, 2022. Two scholarships of $860 each will be awarded.
Michael Moody Fitness Scholarship
This $1,500 annual award is geared toward students who have an interest in health- and fitness-related fields. The scholarship contest is open to high-achieving high school seniors and undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate participation and leadership in school activities.
You’ll be asked to submit your list of academic achievements, extracurricular activities, work experience, community service with nonprofits and other organizations, and your current high school or college GPA. The funds can be used for any education-related expenses — tuition, fees, books, room and board, and supplies. The deadline for the current submission period is Aug. 1, 2022, although the program will only accept and consider the first 1,000 applications — so get yours in early.
Offered by the Solar Action Alliance, this scholarship is designed for students who are passionate about the clean and renewable energy provided by the sun. Applicants are asked to write a 500- to 1,000-word essay discussing what excites them the most about the future of solar energy.
The deadline to apply for this annual $1,000 award is July 1, and you must be a full-time student at an accredited college or university — or plan to be one — and have at least a 3.2 GPA.
Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation awards $3.55 million in achievement-based scholarships to 1,400 graduating high school seniors each year. Awards range from $1,000 to $20,000.
To be eligible for this scholarship, you must be a current high school student attending a U.S. school. You’ll need to be expecting your high school diploma during the current academic year and plan to pursue a degree at an accredited U.S. postsecondary institution. A minimum overall GPA of 3.0 is also required.
Most Valuable Student Scholarship
Each year, the Elks National Foundation awards 500 four-year scholarships, most of them ranging from $1,000 to $12,500. The top 20 finalists also participate in an all-expenses-paid Leadership Weekend in Chicago, Illinois, where judges will interview them as they vie for a limited number of $30,000, $40,000, and $50,000 awards.
Discover More About Scholarships and Paying for College at CollegeFinance.com
CollegeFinance.com wants to help students and their families make the most informed decisions when it comes to financing their higher education. We’re here to provide you with the information you need to make empowered choices and minimize your borrowing when attending college or university.
One of the best ways to offset the number of student loans you’ll need is through scholarships and grants. We’re here to assist with your undergraduate scholarship search and help you learn about some of the best scholarship opportunities that match your unique interests and experiences.