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Scholarships by Grade Level

When most people think of college scholarships, they think of awards given to college freshmen based on applications submitted during their senior years of high school. While many scholarships do fit this description, this is by no means the case for all awards: In fact, there is free money awarded to students at every grade level.

A few scholarships will have open eligibility, allowing anyone who meets basic requirements to apply, whether they are high school (or even middle school) students, college students, or graduate or professional students. Many such awards may be sweepstakes contests or awards based on specific activities such as community service. Others may divide awards by grade level or age group and give out multiple scholarship prizes. These allow for a broad appeal but still ensure that students with more educational experience and therefore stronger academic skills don’t have an unfair advantage when it comes to winning scholarships.

Many providers limit scholarships by grade level

More commonly, though, scholarships are targeted to specific age groups or grade levels. These might range in specificity from a scholarship for high school juniors born in a particular calendar year to a scholarship for anyone who is currently enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate or professional program. While scholarship competitions that limit eligibility to students in a particular grade in high school or year in college are fairly common, more general eligibility categories are probably what you’re likely to see the most.

By limiting their eligibility requirements to one group of students, scholarship providers are ensuring that students who take the time to enter their contest are competing with students of similar levels of educational attainment. This can help ensure a high quality pool of applicants and also assist scholarship providers in judging the submitted applications more fairly. For example, mistakes that are common and easily forgiven in an essay by a high school junior are not so common or easily forgiven in an essay by a doctoral student.

Scholarships for High School Students

Scholarships for high school students are probably the most common category of scholarships by grade level. High school students are planning on starting college for the first time and likely don’t have other sources of funding lined up. Scholarships for high school students, therefore, are creating an investment in a student right at the beginning of his or her academic career and are providing funding that is likely desperately sought.

Scholarships for Undergraduate Students

Not everyone has four years of funding locked in when they arrive on campus the first day, and many students may find themselves continuing their scholarship search throughout all four years of college. Unexpected expenses arise, grades fluctuate, and plans change as students spend time in school, so a student who may not have been a prime candidate for a scholarship as a high school student may become one as a college sophomore or junior. Many scholarship providers recognize these changes and have created scholarships for undergraduate students who are successfully continuing their studies beyond the first year of college.

Scholarships for Graduate Students

While less common than the other varieties, scholarships for graduate students are available. Graduate students typically rely heavily on fellowships or assistantships but these aren’t available to everyone and don’t always cover a graduate student’s living expenses. Therefore, a number of scholarship providers are willing to help graduate students finish the last leg of their educational journeys by providing a bit of extra funding.

Other Resources

To help get you started exploring the scholarship opportunities available to students at your particular juncture in life, check out our free resources on scholarships by grade level listed above. These resources come in addition to other sections of our site that break down scholarships by location, by major or by type. To get the most customized list of scholarship awards, though, you will want to fill out a profile on and conduct a free college scholarship search. This will match you with scholarship opportunities relevant to you, whatever your grade level may be.

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