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How to Apply for the Elks National Foundation: Most Valuable Student Award



College tuition has been on the rise for decades. According to CNBC, college costs are more than two-and-a-half times higher than they were 30 years ago. Average four-year tuition at private institutions was $15,160 for the 1987-1988 school year, while 2017-2018 tuition was on average $34,740. At public institutions, the increase was similar, going from $3,190 to $9,970 over that same time period.


It’s no wonder that paying for school can be one of the biggest worries weighing on your mind during the application period. Finding out there’s a gap between what you can afford and the cost of attending your top choice schools is difficult, but not a deal breaker. Outside scholarships can help bridge this financial gap. The Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Award is one scholarship that could help you pay for your education. Read on to learn how to apply for this award.


Applying for the Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Award


The Most Valuable Student Award is a four-year scholarship awarded to 500 students across the nation each year. Male and female students compete separately, and awards range from $1,000 to $12,500 per year.


Each year, the top 20 finalists will be invited to an all-expenses-paid Leadership Weekend in Chicago to interview with the national judges. There are two first-place awards of $50,000, two second-place awards of $40,000, two third-place awards of $30,000, and fourteen awards of $20,000 for the remaining finalists. There are also 480 runners-up who will receive scholarships of $4,000.


To qualify for the Most Valuable Student scholarship, you will need to be a high school senior who will go on to pursue a four-year degree at an accredited U.S. college or university. You must also be a United States citizen. To qualify as a finalist, you must also be able to attend the Leadership Weekend in Chicago to interview with national judges. You do not have to be related to a member of an Elks Lodge.


You should be prepared to submit your standardized test scores (SAT/ACT), grades, FAFSA information, and write essays for the application.


In 2018, the application opened on August 15 and had a deadline of November 15.

Tips for Applying for Scholarships


While applying for scholarships, one helpful approach is to treat them like another college application. Often, scholarships are looking for similar qualities in their applicants as colleges are. For instance, the Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Awards are evaluated based on:


  •         Leadership
  •         Academic achievements and records
  •         Financial need
  •         Community involvement
  •         Essay content


Many of these categories should be familiar to you as you begin to prepare your college applications. If you can, work toward building out your profile in these categories early on in your high school career, and when you prepare your scholarship application highlight your best self in each of these evaluation points. Let’s go through each of these points to see how you can maximize your Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Award.



Extracurriculars are often a great way to stand out on an application and demonstrate your passion for an academic interest, hobby, or cause. Earning a leadership position in an extracurricular not only demonstrates a commitment to the activity, but shows implicit qualities that are often valued in scholarship applications. Another way to approach this attribute is to think about actions you have taken that show what type of leader you are–remember, not everyone has to stand at the front of the room to lead.


Academic achievements and records

This category refers to the “numbers” parts of your applications like your grades and standardized test scores. In addition to a high GPA, scholarship committees will be looking for a rigorous course load and if you have taken advantage of academic opportunities outside the classroom like internships or job shadowing related to your academic interests.


Financial need

Your financial need isn’t something you can control, but it does play a big role in the Most Valuable Student Scholarship. Be sure to submit your FAFSA and other financial information as requested promptly and completely to maximize your chances.


Community involvement

The scholarship is intended to help Elks National Foundation build stronger communities, so it is natural that the selection process values community involvement. What are some ways you are involved in your community? Volunteering, community events, and more are all great opportunities. If you can find a local cause you are passionate about and start a new initiative for its advancement, your application could really stand out.


Essay content

Like college essays, scholarship essays are an opportunity to put a voice and story to the other parts of your application. A strong essay can often be the difference between a “yes” and a “no” for two otherwise similar candidates, so think about what makes you a unique applicant and how you can best show that in an essay. Then, give yourself enough time to draft, revise, and get feedback from an outside source like a trusted friend or a professional, then make sure to proofread your application last time.


If you become a top 20 finalist and travel to the Leadership Weekend to interview with the national committee, be sure to check out our guide on college interview questions.  


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
Anna Ravenelle is a graduate of Cornell University, where she studied English with a concentration in Creative Writing. After spending two application cycles in the CollegeVine applications division, she now uses her admissions experience to help a greater number of students. She resides in New York but her heart has never left New Hampshire, where she grew up.