The time has come, fellow seniors, for us to slave over hours and hours of personal statements, activities lists, and supplemental essays with the hope that we might (just might) get into the college of our dreams. And hopefully, by this point we've already let a few of our apps venture into the unknown that is the college admissions office. But the January 1st deadline will soon be upon us.
But what happens in 6 months when you get into Princeton (by some stroke of amazing luck) but now have to deal with that $60k+ price tag?
So to avoid that sticky situation, here are some scholarships for high school seniors to apply to this college application season and maybe save some money along the way.
1. College-Specific Scholarships
Before we get into the numerous outside private scholarships available, it’s important to first apply for scholarships for the schools you are applying to this winter. These often have the largest scholarship amounts and can range from $2,000 to more-than-full-tuition. Most college-specific scholarships are given out based on initial review of the application, that is, the same time they decide whether or not to admit you to the university, and therefore do not require a separate application. But there are many that do require a separate essay or application, so make sure to go to the college’s “Scholarships” page to see if you qualify for an application and to fill that application out when you apply.
Keep in mind, their scholarships can either be need-based (where your financial situation is used as criteria) or merit-based (where your academic excellence is used as criteria) - so be sure to apply to the correct ones. But don’t let these labels hold you back from applying - go for it regardless of whether you think you meet every single criterion, just to at least give yourself the chance.
2. Burger King Scholars Program
This is open to all employees of Burger King as well as all high school seniors. Award amounts for this scholarship program range from $1,000 to $50,000! Scholarships are distributed based on academic performance, extracurricular activities, and community service. The application closes in mid-December, but it will automatically close if there are more than 50,000 applicants - so make sure to apply as soon as possible!
There are several other large organizations similar to BK (like Coca-Cola) that offer these large merit-based scholarships. Deadlines vary, however, so make sure to be on top of scholarship deadlines the same way you are for college admission deadlines.
Also, as a general rule, apply for college-specific scholarships first, before going on to these larger and more selective ones, just because there is a decreased chance of winning these scholarships as compared to those offered directly by the educational institution.
3. Ronald McDonald House Charity Scholarships
This group of scholarships is based largely on whether or not your local RMHC chapter is offering scholarships that year, but prizes can range from $1,000 to $100,000 at the national level! The application usually opens around October and closes around January. This scholarship is also based on academic performance and extracurriculars and requires an essay to apply.
4. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead Essay Contests
Both scholarships are based on an essay response related to one of the two above novels by Ayn Rand. The Atlas Shrugged scholarship prize is $20,000 while the other is $10,000, with the runners-up also receiving prizes. The deadline for both competitions is in early May.
Besides just this one essay competition, there are a bunch out there, ranging from expository writing to narrative writing. However, because the applicant pool for these types of scholarships is so large, it’s better to apply to as many as possible to give yourself a better chance of receiving one.
5. Create-a-Greeting-Card Scholarship
This last one is for all you creative people out there - and to show that all kinds of scholarships exist, if only you look for them! This scholarship contest awards $10,000 to the competitor with the best artwork for the front of a greeting card, as well as awarding $1,000 to their school. The deadline for this submission is in early March.
6. Raise.me Micro-scholarships
I love this website, and I am currently using it to maximize my aid offers at several universities. In raise.me, students have the opportunity to earn “micro-scholarships” from a multitude of universities based on small accomplishments in school.
For example, University of Rochester is giving me $340 for every “A” I get in a core class. These small scholarships build up, and as of right now, I have almost $45,000 from U of R.
Different colleges give different amounts of money for different accomplishments, but in the end, if you choose to apply to that university, what you have earned through raise.me turns into the minimum merit aid they can possibly give you. (This means your merit award from the college might be larger, but cannot be smaller than your Raise.me earnings.) Keep in mind, however, only a few select colleges participate in raise.me, and you must enroll in the university to receive that scholarship.
This type of scholarship is especially useful to those who think they might not receive merit aid from universities the typical way and guarantees at least a little money from the college if you choose to attend.
7. Scholarship Search Engines
By this, I mean Fastweb, Cappex, Niche, those type of scholarship databases where there are hundreds of thousands of scholarships available for you to apply to. I am in general weary about these websites, especially Fastweb (the number of emails I get from them is ridiculous), but it can be a place to find more specialized, more personalized scholarships. Here, you might find scholarships geared towards your specific career interest, your ethnicity, or your region, all of which decrease the pool of applicants and therefore increase your chance of receiving the scholarship. However, these scholarships are usually for very small amounts, ranging from $100 to $1000, and very rarely over that. I definitely recommend checking a few of them out - apply to ones that don’t require effort, but it’s more important to apply to the ones that do require some effort (like writing an essay) because that automatically narrows the pool of applicants down.
Those are just a few of the countless scholarships available for high schoolers to apply to! Don’t be satisfied with just the financial aid package of the university, look for outside opportunities to make that price tag a little cheaper.
I will put in a little disclaimer here, however. Keep in mind that once you accept an offer of enrollment, colleges require you to declare all money received from an outside scholarship source, which will affect your total financial aid package from the university. Just be cognizant that even all of the little $100 scholarships will be affecting your total financial aid package, and make scholarships decisions accordingly. But that being said, by no means use this as an excuse not to apply! These scholarships (especially the larger ones) can be life changing - definitely give yourself a shot.
With that, I wish you all the best, soon-to-be-college-freshmen!
And as always, thanks for reading!