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9 College Scholarships for High School Sophomores

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What’s Covered:


High schoolers spend a large part of their time concerned about college, specifically getting into college. However, another factor for them to consider is paying for college—college costs have increased by more than 25% in the past decade. One way to offset the growing expense is with scholarships. Getting a jump on applying for scholarships is a great way to increase your odds of winning an award and relieves some pressure later in your high school career. 


If you’re looking to get a head start on winning a scholarship, here are some great opportunities for sophomores to take advantage of. 


9 Scholarships for High School Sophomores


1. Ayn Rand “Anthem” Essay Contest


Amount: $2,000

Deadline: April 29, 2021

Eligibility: Grades 8-12 

Application Requirements: 600- to 1,200-word essay 


Funded by the Ayn Rand Institute, this essay contest challenges young readers to compose an essay about Ayn Rand’s dystopian novella about individualism vs. collectivism, Anthem. Students are given three topics to choose from and qualify for three awards:


  • First place: $2,000
  • Second place: $250
  • Third place: $100  


2. Profile in Courage Essay Contest


Amount: $10,000

Deadline: January 15, 2021

Eligibility: Grades 9-12 

Application Requirements: 700- to 1,000-word essay with five listed sources


The Profile in Courage essay contest is held in the spirit of John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage, in which he detailed eight U.S. senators who placed the nation’s interest above their own. Students are tasked with researching and writing an essay about a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917 (Kennedy’s birth year) and followed the example of those senators to perform a politically courageous act. John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy are not eligible as subjects for essays. Prizes include:


  • First place: $10,000     
  • Second place: $3,000
  • Finalists: $1,000 each (5 awards) 
  • Semi-finalists: $100 each (8 awards)


3. Technology Addiction Awareness Scholarship


Amount: $1,000

Deadline: January 30, 2022

Eligibility: Grades 9 and up 

Application Requirements: 140-character message and a 500- to 1,000-word essay 


If you, or a friend, find yourself glued to your phone, tablet, or television, you’re not alone—the average teenager spends more than seven hours a day in front of a screen, and that doesn’t include time for schoolwork. To win this award, applicants are asked to submit an essay about technology addiction and a 140-character statement completing the sentence Instead of spending time with technology, I’d rather…


4. Leaders Save Lives Scholarship Program


Amount: $1,000 to $2,500

Deadline: May 31, 2021

Eligibility: Grades 9 and up 

Application Requirements: Host a blood drive and collect at least 25 pints 


Applicants qualify for this great scholarship—which also looks fantastic as an extracurricular activity—by coordinating a blood drive. Scholarships are tied to the success of your event and scholarship amounts depend on how much blood is collected. 


  • 25-59 pints: $1,000 (6 winners)
  • 60-99 pints: $1,500 (2 winners)
  • 100+ pints: $2,500 (2 winners)


As a bonus, organizers who collect more than 25 pints of blood at their events will also receive a gift card tied to how much blood was collected at their event. 


  • 25-59 pints: $50
  • 60-99 pints: $100
  • 100+ pints: $200


5. Centene Institute Youth Impact Award: Vaping Prevention


Amount: $5,000

Deadline: April 16, 2021 

Eligibility: Ages 14 to 19 

Application Requirements: 30- to 60-second video message aimed at raising awareness and providing preventative education about vaping and e-cigarettes


This contest is ideal for students with an interest in all aspects of video production. To compete for this award, entrants must conceive an original concept, then film and edit a 30- to 60-second video that raises awareness about vaping and e-cigarettes and provides preventative education to their peers. Entrants may work as a team, in which case awarded funds are distributed evenly among winning teams members. Prizes include:


  • National First-Place Prize: $5,000 (1 winner)
  • National Second-Place Prize: $3,000 (1 winner)
  • National Third-Place Prize: $1,500 (1 winner)
  • National Recognition Prizes: $500 (10 winners)

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6. Cancer Unwrapped Teen Writing Contest


Amount: $1,000

Deadline: March 14, 2021

Eligibility: Grades 9-12 

Application Requirements: 500- to 1,000-word essay


Unfortunately, cancer is something that touches the lives of a lot of high school students, either directly or through a loved one. To win this award, share your story about cancer. In the past, all types of tales have won—from triumph to turbulence to loss—but one thing they all have in common is that they’re personal, honest, and heartfelt. 


7. Ocean Awareness Contest (Senior Division)


Amount: $1,500

Deadline: June 14, 2021

Eligibility: Ages 15-18  

Application Requirements: A piece of art in response to one of five prompts


The purpose of the Ocean Awareness Contest is to allow young people to learn, explore, and communicate about environmental issues with art. The theme of this year’s contest is Water Rising and students are tasked with responding to one of five prompts tied to the theme. Submissions can include:


  • Visual Art
  • Creative Writing
  • Film
  • Interactive & Multimedia
  • Performing Arts: Music & Dance
  • Poetry & Spoken Word


Prizes include $1,500 (Gold), $1,000 (Silver), $500 (Bronze), and $100 (honorable mention). Plus, 20 additional awards are available through the We All Rise Prize for those who identify as Black, Indigenous, or Latinx. 


8. Create Real Impact Contest


Amount: $1,500

Deadline: April 15, 2021

Eligibility: Ages 14-22 

Application Requirements: Submit an entry into one of four categories—creative writing, video, graphic design, and music—with solutions or strategies to stop reckless and distracted driving


Young creatives will love this contest as it allows them to choose their preferred medium for putting an end to the #1 killer of young people: reckless and distracted driving. All work must be original and each category has its own requirements. The grand prize winner can double their award by partnering with a community group to use their platform to amplify the message of making safe driving choices. In addition to the grand prize, there is also a $1,500 Spanish Language award which is chosen from the video and graphic design categories. 


9. Sphinx Competition (Junior Division)


Amount: $10,000

Deadline: October 20, 2022

Eligibility: Ages 17 and under who identify as Black or Latinx

Application Requirements: Video audition, current biography, repertoire list, and a high-resolution headshot


More than merely an award, the Sphinx Competition provides an opportunity for young Black and Latinx string players in four categories—violin, viola, cello, and double bass—to play with a major orchestra, perform at concerts, and appear on a nationally broadcast radio show. Repertoire requirements are dependent on category. Prizes include:


  • 1st Place: $10,000 cash prize, solo appearances with major orchestras, performances with the Sphinx Honors Orchestra at the Honors Concert, nationally broadcast radio appearance on From the Top
  • 2nd Place: $5,000 cash prize, performance with the Sphinx Honors Orchestra
  • 3rd Place: $3,000 cash prize, performance with the Sphinx Honors Orchestra



5 Tips for Applying to Scholarships


Winning scholarships is extremely beneficial when it comes time to pay for college—make the most of your time and increase your odds by following these tips for successfully securing scholarships. 


1. Prioritize Awards


When building a list of scholarships, rank them in order of importance using factors like due date, fit, and prize amount. This will allow you to direct your attention to the most pressing awards and focus your energy on the awards you have the best chances of winning. 


2. Balance Quantity & Quality


The more scholarships you apply to, the better your odds are of winning one. However, don’t sacrifice the quality of your applications in the name of speed. Take your time, read the directions, answer every question, and proofread. 


3. Work Smarter, Not Harder 


Applying for numerous scholarships is a lot of work, especially if they involve writing an essay. In many cases, with some slight tweaks, you can use the same essay to apply for multiple awards. Just make sure the essay fits the question and stays within the word count.  


4. Create a Scholarship Schedule 


Create time in your calendar to apply for scholarships. Even just a few hours a week devoted to finding and applying for scholarships adds up, especially if you start as a sophomore! Think of this time as a part-time job that will pay off when it comes time to head to campus. 


5. Apply Early 


Just because a scholarship’s application period ends at 11:59:59 p.m. ET on a given date doesn’t mean you have to wait until that day to apply. Submitting an application early avoids the chances of getting sabotaged by technology, like a website crashing or internet outage. It also means you won’t be scrambling to finish the application at the last minute.

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.