Timothy Peck 10 min read 12th Grade, Financial Aid, Scholarships

16 Best Scholarships for High School Seniors

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Senior year is a busy time for college-bound high schoolers. During this time, students devote an enormous amount of energy planning for their futures. Most high school seniors are obviously focusing on college applications, but they should also think about how they will pay for college. One way to cover the cost of higher education is scholarships. That’s why we put together this list of the best college scholarships for high school seniors.

 

Why Scholarships Matter

 

College is an enormous investment. From the late 1980s to 2018, the cost of an undergraduate degree has skyrocketed—rising 213% at public schools and 129% at private schools, adjusting for inflation. During the 2019-2020 school year, the average cost of tuition and fees at private colleges was $41,426. At public colleges, the average expense was $27,120 for out-of-state students and $11,260 for in-state students. 

 

According to CBS, 43 million Americans have student debt, with the average household owing almost $48,000. Even more alarming is that of those 43 million Americans with student loan debt, 5.2 million of them are in default—that’s 12.1%! It’s no wonder student loan debt is becoming an increasingly common topic among politicians, on the nightly news, and around the dinner table. 

 

Scholarships are extremely valuable to college-bound high schoolers because they offer an excellent opportunity to lower the cost of college—unlike loans, you don’t need to repay them. Here’s a list of the best scholarships for high school seniors. 

 

16 Best Scholarships for High School Seniors

 

1. Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway

Amount: $100,000

Deadline: October 17, 2019 (2020’s date is TBD)

Eligibility: 

  • Legal U.S. resident between ages 18-24
  • Cannot be an active or prior NCAA collegiate athlete
  • Cannot have played semi-professional or professional football at any time
  • Employees of Dr. Pepper and members of their immediate family are disqualified from competing

 

One of the most recognizable competitions in college sports, Dr. Pepper selects 20 applicants to participate in a contest, where they throw footballs into a giant can of Dr. Pepper at one of five college division championship football games. To qualify for the competition, you must submit a video detailing your goal, how you’re planning to achieve it, and why it’s important to you. Working Dr. Pepper into your video isn’t required, but it isn’t a bad idea either. 

 

Take an in-depth look at the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway in our blog post How to Apply to the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway.

 

2. Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition

Amount: $50,000 

Deadline:  November 5, 2019 (the application deadline for 2020 is TBD)

Eligibility: 

  • High school senior who has taken the SAT or ACT
  • U.S. citizen 
  • Planning to attend 4-year accredited U.S. college

 

Application Requirements:

  • SAT/ACT scores
  • Transcript
  • Essays
  • FAFSA information

 

The Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Scholarships are awarded at the organization’s Leadership Weekend in Chicago—applicants advance through local, district, and state competitions to reach national judging during this weekend. At this all-expenses-paid event, the top 20 finalists interview with national judges for two first-place awards of $50,000—one given to a male student, the other to a female student. Independent Lodge selection committees will evaluate applications as they move through the competitions using a variety of criteria, including leadership, academic merit, financial need, and community involvement.  

 

Read our blog How to Apply for the Elks National Foundation: Most Valuable Student Award for more info on this prestigious award. 

 

3. Cameron Impact Scholarship

Amount: $20,000-$50,000

Deadline: May 22, 2020; 12:00 pm Pacific Time 

Eligibility: 

  • Minimum unweighted GPA of 3.7 on a 4.0 scale
  • U.S. citizen
  • A high school senior planning to attend an accredited four-year college full-time

 

Application Requirements: 

  • Online Application
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcript 

 

This scholarship is awarded to high school seniors who have demonstrated excellence in numerous pursuits—academics, extracurricular activities, and community service—with a desire to make a positive change in their communities and the world. Left intentionally broad, the scholarship welcomes students with the aspiration to make a positive impact in both the private and public sectors, and through any number of professional careers. 

 

4. Davidson Fellows Scholarship

Amount: $50,000

Deadline:  February 12, 2020

Eligibility: 

  • 18 or younger as of October 1, 2020
  • U.S. citizen residing in the U.S. or a Permanent Resident of the U.S.

 

Application Requirements: 

  • Contributed a significant work that experts in the field recognize as having the potential to make a positive contribution to society
  • Available to attend the the awards ceremony at MIT with a parent or guardian (travel and lodging is paid for by the Davidson Institute) 

 

Davidson Fellows Scholarships are awarded to students who have completed a significant piece of work—in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, and Outside the Box—that experts view as meaningful and having the potential to make a positive contribution to society. Works can include the creative application of existing knowledge, a high-impact new idea, an innovative solution with broad-range implications, an advancement that can be replicated and built upon, an interdisciplinary discovery, remarkable performance, or another extraordinary accomplishment.

 

5. GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program

Amount: $40,000

Deadline: 2020 program is closed (2021 is TBD) 

Eligibility: 

  • Minimum 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale)
  • A U.S. citizen
  • A high school senior
  • Planning on enrolling full-time in a bachelor’s degree program at an accredited four-year U.S. college 

 

Sponsored by General Electric (GE) and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, this scholarship is dedicated to honoring the legacy of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Awarded to skilled and successful students, the scholarship promotes principles important to its namesake: individual liberty, economic opportunity, global democracy, and national pride. The GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program is looking for students with demonstrated leadership, drive, integrity, and citizenship. 

 

See out blog post on GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program for more information.

 

6. VFW Voice of Democracy Competition

Amount: $30,000

Deadline: October 31, 2020 

Eligibility: 

  • 9th-12th grade
  • Enrolled in a public, private, or parochial school, or home study program, in the U.S., its territories, or its possessions

 

Dating back to 1947, the Voice of Democracy Competition is an audio-essay program giving students the chance to express their thoughts through a recorded essay about democratic- and patriotic-themed principles. Essays are judged on three criteria: originality, content, and delivery. 

 

7. Doodle 4 Google Competition

Amount: $30,000

Deadline: March 13, 2020; 8:00 pm Pacific Time 

Eligibility: 

  • Kindergarten-12th grade
  • U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. legal resident
  • Enrolled in a U.S.-based school (including homeschool, or a school in Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands)

 

The Doodle 4 Google Competition gives applicants the opportunity to create one of the doodles that graces Google’s homepage every day. The competition’s themes change yearly (this year’s is how to show kindness) and the only requirement for them is that they must include the letters G-O-O-G-L-E. Applicants are encouraged to express themselves through whatever medium they desire—although if you create a 3D doodle, you’ll need to submit it in a 2D format.

 

8. Equitable Excellence Scholarship

Amount: $25,000

Deadline: December 14, 2020

Eligibility: 

  • U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident living, or claiming residency, in the U.S. or Puerto Rico
  • High school senior planning on attending an accredited two- or four-year college or university in the U.S. 

 

Formerly known as the AXA Achievement Scholarship, the Equitable Excellence Scholarship is awarded to driven and determined students of high character, with recipients coming from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Special consideration is given to applicants with achievement that mitigate risk in sectors such as finance, the environment, health, safety, and emergency preparedness.

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9. Taco Bell Live Más Scholarship

Amount: $25,000

Deadline: January 23, 2020; 5:00 pm Pacific Time

Eligibility: 

  • Students ages 16-24 (applicants who are minors require parental consent)
  • Legal resident of the U.S.
  • On track to apply for, or currently enrolled in, an accredited post-high school or post-secondary educational program

 

The Live Más Scholarship selects winners a little differently than the traditional scholarship award winners. The Taco Bell Foundation is less concerned with academic and athletic excellence and more interested in finding what they call “passioneers”—students who blaze their own paths, pursue their passions, and inspire others. To apply, students must submit a video between 30 seconds and 2 minutes that answers questions about their passions and educational plans.

 

For more information on this scholarship, check out our post Taco Bell Scholarship: Everything You Need to Know.

 

10. Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

Amount: $25,000

Deadline: September 19, 2019; 11:59 pm Pacific Time (2020 is TBD)

Eligibility: 

  • In 12th grade, a college undergraduate, or graduate student

 

Application Requirements:

  • Essay must be between 800 and 1,600 words in length and double spaced 
  • Essay must be solely the work of the entrant
  • Written in English only

 

Applicants for the Atlas Shrugged Essay contest are tasked with writing an essay about one of three provided topics on Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. Judges of the contest are looking for clear, articulate writing; well-organized thoughts; and an exceptional grasp of the philosophy underlying Rand’s book. 

 

11. Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship

Amount: $20,000

Deadline: October 31, 2020; 5 pm Eastern Time 

Eligibility: 

  • 12th graders 
  • U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, U.S. Permanent Resident, Refugee, Asylee, Cuban-Haitian Entrant, or Humanitarian Parole—based on the guidelines used by U.S. Department of Education for Federal Financial Aid eligibility
  • Current high school, or homeschooled, seniors attending school in the U.S.
  • Planning on pursuing a degree at an accredited post-secondary institution in the U.S.

 

The Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship is awarded to exceptional students with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to make a difference in the world. An achievement-based award, recipients are chosen for their leadership, service, and commitment to making a significant impact on their schools and communities. There is no essay component, but students will need to fill out information about their courses, extracurriculars, financial situation, awards, and class rank. 

 

For more information, check out our post Coca-Cola Scholarship: What it is and How to Apply.

 

12. Foot Locker Scholar Athletes Program

Amount: $20,000

Deadline: January 3, 2020; 5 pm Eastern Time (2021 is TBD)

Eligibility: 

  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Legal Resident
  • High school senior entering an accredited four-year institution for an undergraduate degree
  • Involved in high school sports, intramural sports, or community based sports

 

Application Requirements: 

  • 2 essay responses
  • 1 letter of recommendation 

 

Different than most athletic scholarships, the Foot Locker Scholar Athletes Program is as likely to reward the student who kept team spirit high as it is the student who led the state in scoring. This scholarship honors athletes exhibiting excellence and leadership cultivated on the field and in the locker room to positively change the lives of others. 

 

13. Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge

Amount: $15,000

Deadline: February 26, 2020; 8:00 PM Eastern Time

Eligibility:

  • Minimum 13 years of age
  • Legal U.S. residents of the 50 states and District of Columbia
  • Enrolled in 9th-12th grade at public, private, parochial, or home school in the U.S. 

 

Promote safety among your peers, inspire others, and take home a $15,000 scholarship. The Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge permits you to work alone or in a group of up to four to create an original video between 30-60 seconds long that demonstrates a solution for distracted driving. 

 

14. Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: March 2, 2020; 11:59 pm Eastern Time 

Eligibility: 

  • 14 years of age or older
  • Open to all high school, college, and university students enrolled in an academic program designed to conclude with a diploma or degree
  • Open to legal residents of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
  • International students who have a student visa to attend school in the United States are considered legal residents and eligible

 

Express your artistic side for a chance to win a $10,000 award from the Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship. Submit a photo, artwork, or computer graphic for use as the front of a greeting card that will wow judges and win votes on the scholarship’s Facebook page.

 

15. National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) Hollister Co. Anti-Bullying Scholarship 

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: February 1, 2021

Eligibility: 

  • 14 years of age or older
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0

 

Application Requirements:

  • Personal response of up to 500 words to one of two questions on the application
  • Transcript 
  • Recommendation from an educator
  • Resume of honors and awards, leadership activities, community service activities, extracurricular activities, internships, and employment history

 

Reflecting the mission of scholarship sponsor Hollister—to celebrate individuality and to unconditionally support each other—the NSHSS Hollister Co. Anti-Bullying Scholarship is available to students who have persevered and overcome bullying, as well as those who’ve led anti-bullying efforts in their schools and communities to help keep this from happening to others. 

 

16. Horatio Alger Scholarship

Amount: $25,000

Deadline: Application period runs between August 1 and October 25

Eligibility: 

  • Enrolled as a full-time high school senior in the US and progressing normally toward graduation with plans to enter college in the US no later than the fall following graduation 
  • Demonstrate financial need—$55,000 or lower adjusted gross family income is required
  • Minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0
  • U.S. citizen

 

Application Requirements:

  • Academic information
  • Financial information
  • Adversity Section—description of the adversity you’ve faced
  • Support Form filled out by an adult confirming the information in your Adversity Section
  • Proof of citizenship

 

Horatio Alger scholarships are awarded to promising young students from low-income families with traits mirroring the heroes of the scholarship namesake’s books—a young person overcoming economic hardship through hard work, bravery, and honesty. In addition to a $25,000 award, winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Scholars Conference.

 

Read more about the Horatio Alger Scholarship in our article Horatio Alger Scholarship: Everything You Need to Know.

 

How Outside Scholarships Impact Your Financial Aid Award

 

Outside scholarships, or scholarships that aren’t provided by your college, can affect your financial aid package. You should always report any outside scholarship you win to your college. Some colleges will view a scholarship as an asset, and consider it when calculating how much money you’re able to contribute to your education. This could mean that the college could take away some financial aid if you win a scholarship.

 

Every student’s situation is unique, however, and policies about scholarships vary from school to school. That’s why it’s important to work with your college’s financial aid department in advance. To learn more about this topic, check out our blog post How Outside Scholarships Impact Your Financial Aid Award

 

Tips For Applying For Scholarships 

 

More work = fewer applicants: The more work applying for a scholarship is, the smaller the applicant pool will likely be. Scholarships involving video production such as the Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge, an audio recording like the VFW Voice of Democracy Competition, or a well-thought-out essay like the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest all demand a healthy amount of hard work which keeps the competition at bay. 

 

Apply to a mix of larger and smaller awards: All the above scholarships are relatively well-known, so they will still be incredibly competitive even if they involve a lot of work. Don’t limit yourself to applying for huge national awards—look for local groups who may have smaller awards, but also smaller pools of candidates.

 

Research past winners: Scholarship committees tend to have an idea of “what they’re looking for.” To present yourself in the best light, research past winners to get a better sense of what scholarship committees want to see. Most scholarship pages will have a section dedicated to past winners, what their application was like, and where they are now. If not, you can always Google the name of the scholarship and “past winners.”

 

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.