Scholarships and Competitions for students in the Performing Arts
Introduction: Performing Arts as an Extracurricular
“Performing arts” is a broad term that loosely refers to any creative activity that is presented to an audience. The category covers a wide variety of fields, from the conventional music, theatre, and dance to the more unusual circus performance, improvisation, film and television, and so on.
Any dancer, actor/actress, musician, or other type of performer can consider themselves part of the performing arts, along with behind-the-scenes personnel like directors, producers, and stage crew. Thus, you don’t necessarily have to be a performer to be in the performing arts; in fact, these other roles are incredibly valuable, as they make the entire production possible.
If you’re a high school student interested in pursuing the Performing Arts as a hobby or a career, there are a number of ways that you can get involved. Many high schools have elective courses in the performing arts such as theatre, orchestra, band, and dance. Sometimes, joining these courses can even fulfill the arts or physical education requirements at your high school.
If these courses are not available at your school or they don’t fit into your schedule, there may be some clubs or organizations at your school that involve the performing arts. Maybe your school has a Drama Club, Film Club, or other performing arts organization that you can join.
If neither of those options is available to you, you can either start your own club or organization at your school or look to your community for opportunities to pursue the performing arts such as local theatre groups, classes at a community center, or dance schools close to you. You’ll get to do something you enjoy, and colleges will appreciate that you took the initiative to create and seek out extracurricular opportunities.
As is the case with any other extracurricular activity, sustained involvement in the performing arts as a high school student is a signal to colleges that you possess qualities that they seek in a prospective student such as dedication, responsibility, leadership, skill, and passion for a specific field. Furthermore, many performing arts opportunities in high school are competitive, giving you the chance to win awards to put on your college resume.
For further information on awards and quantifying your achievements in the Performing Arts, see How to Quantify Your Achievements in the Visual and Performing Arts.
Moreover, students who get involved in the performing arts are eligible for a wide variety of niche scholarships. Countless companies and foundations offer merit-based scholarships to high school students in order to foster their development in the performing arts and help them pay for college.
If these performing arts scholarship opportunities interest you, keep reading. We at CollegeVine have compiled a brief list of scholarships available to high school performing arts students. See which ones you qualify for, and try applying—you could earn quite a bit of money to help with your future college costs.
The Gordon Hay Scholarship
Every year, Blumenthal Performing Arts awards a $5,000 scholarship to a graduating high school senior in the Charlotte, NC region who has demonstrated personal and scholarly excellence, community engagement, and plans to pursue a career in a non-performance area of the performing arts. This includes, but is not limited to, music composition, orchestration, choreography, playwriting, set design, costume design, and stage management.
Although the scholarship is merit-based, special consideration will be given to those who can demonstrate financial need.
If these criteria apply to you, check out the scholarship website for more detailed information and to apply.
Vectorworks Design Scholarship
For students interested in pursuing a design-related field in college, this is the scholarship for you. The Vectorworks Design Scholarship offers a $3,000 scholarship to multiple students across the globe. In addition, all Vectorworks Design Scholarships recipients automatically compete for the Richard Diehl Award, an additional $7,000 given to the best overall submission.
In order to qualify for this scholarship, you must be enrolled in or accepted to undergraduate or graduate studies at an accredited college or university and pursuing a design-related degree. This includes degrees like architecture, interior design, graphic design, event planning, and more.
For more information and to apply, to see the Vectorworks Design Scholarship website.
Princess Grace Awards
The Princess Grace Awards program specifically targets emerging dancers, theatre performers, and film artists. This program provides not only scholarships but also apprenticeships and fellowships to give artists the financial support and encouragement they need to develop their talent.
In order to apply, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and be nominated by a school department chair/dean, company artistic director, or other specified nominating organization. Self-nominations are not allowed.
The application is online and varies depending on what form of art you specialize in—Playwriting, Theatre, Dance Performance, Choreography, or Film. For more information, visit the Princess Grace Foundation’s Website.
Eugenia Vellner Fischer Award for the Performing Arts
The Miss America Foundation has a scholarship opportunity for anyone who is planning to pursue a degree in the performing arts and has competed in the Miss America system at the local, state, or national level after 1998. The scholarship can be used for any undergraduate or graduate study and is applicable at any post-secondary institution.
In order to apply, you will need to have recommendation letters, essays, and a transcript handy. You may also need proof of enrollment at a college or university and a demonstration of financial need.
To learn how to apply, see the Miss America Foundation website.
BMI Foundation Scholarship Program
This is a comprehensive award and scholarship program provided by the BMI Foundation for any worthy and talented musician. They offer awards, scholarships, prizes, and commissions for songwriters, film and television musicians, composers, classical conductors, and many others.
There are twenty different awards and scholarships you can apply for through the BMI Foundation, and each one has separate eligibility requirements, application requirements, and deadlines. Visit the BMI Foundation website to browse all the available programs and see which ones you qualify for.
If you’re looking for further help with your scholarship and college application process, check out our College Application Guidance Program. We can help you organize your college planning and guide you through the admissions process.
National YoungArts Foundation Awards
The National YoungArts Foundation’s national competition recognizes hundreds of artists in the United States in ten disciplines: Cinematic Arts, Classical Music, Dance, Design Arts, Jazz, Photography, Theatre, Visual Arts, Voice, and Writing.
The most promising artists receive a cash prize of up to $10,000 and become eligible to participate in National YoungArts week in Miami, New York, or Los Angeles. There, for one week, they get the opportunity to learn from master artists in their field and perform in the most prestigious venues in the country.
In addition, YoungArts winners in their Senior Year of High School can also be nominated as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the nation’s highest honor for young artists.
To learn more and apply, visit the National YoungArts Foundation website.
Harlequin Scholarship Program
Harlequin Floors provides the professional dance surfaces at prestigious stages and dance studios across the United States. Each month, as part of their partnership with the dance community, Harlequin awards $1000 in scholarships to a dancer. To be considered, all you have to do is submit an audition video by the monthly deadline.
To learn more about Harlequin Floors and the Scholarship Program, see the Harlequin website.
To apply for the monthly scholarship, go to The World Dances website.
Educational Theatre Association Scholarships
The Educational Theatre Association offers a variety of scholarship options for high school students pursuing theatre now and in college. Most of the scholarships offered are for $1,000, but the amounts vary. Note that some of the scholarships are only available to those who participated in the International Thespian Festival.
There are 11 different scholarships available, each with different eligibility requirements, application requirements, and deadlines, so visit the Educational Theatre Association website to browse all of the options and see which ones you qualify for.
Things to Remember When Applying/Auditioning
Each of the Performing Arts scholarships listed above is a national scholarship or program that attracts the very best students in its respective artistic discipline. When you apply, you are going to be facing some tough competition, so you will need to make adequate time in your schedule to prepare and craft your application or audition piece. Make sure you check the deadlines to ensure you have enough time to prepare.
Also, be realistic about your skill level and goals when you are deciding which scholarships to apply for. Some of these scholarships target people who plan to make a career out of the performing arts, so don’t apply to those scholarships if you’re only interested in pursuing your art in high school, with limited involvement once you get to college.
When you apply, make sure to read all of the instructions very carefully. Performing arts scholarships tend to have very specific eligibility requirements, so you need to be sure that you meet every requirement for the scholarships you are applying for and can provide proof of this fact.
In addition, keep in mind that the above scholarships aren’t the only ones out there. If you’re interested in the performing arts and plan to pursue them in some capacity in high school, you should do some more research on performing arts scholarships in your community, school, and age range. You may find a lot more scholarship opportunities that could be less competitive and better suited to your needs.
Lastly, remember that now is not the only time for you to apply for scholarships. Many performing arts scholarships are only available for students currently pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, so be sure to check back once you’re in college to see what opportunities may have opened up for you.
For more information about scholarships in general and in specific fields, take a look at these blog posts:
Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.
Want more college admissions tips?
We'll send you information to help you throughout the college admissions process.