scholarships for college

Investing in a college education can be expensive, and many high school seniors will choose not to further their studies out of fear of all the college costs and post-graduate debt that comes with an undergraduate degree. As of 2023, the average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public college in North America, for example, is $9,678 for in-state students and $27,091 for out-of-state students.

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This is where college scholarships can change the game. A college scholarship provides students with financial aid toward their education. Students can apply for scholarships in various ways: through businesses, schools, community foundations, colleges and a number of other ways.

Different Types of College Scholarships

There are a variety of scholarships available for undergraduate students, and not all are related to academic achievement. Some scholarships are solely merit-based scholarships, meaning they aren't based on financial need. Scholarships will also differ depending on whether you're applying for four-year colleges or community colleges.

Some of the types of scholarships offered:

How Much Do Scholarships Pay Out?

It is also important to consider the potential payout from different scholarships during your scholarship search, and what kind of scholarship money you may be receiving. As the U.S. Department of Education awards an estimated $46 billion in scholarship money each year, there is a lot of scholarship money out there, and college scholarships can contribute a lot toward education-related expenses.

Scholarships tend to fall into one of two main categories regarding student aid:

This means that some scholarships will pay for all of your educational expenses, while partially funded scholarships will cover a portion of the tuition fees, or may only cover living expenses or money for educational resources, such as textbooks. It's essential to choose the right type of scholarship for your financial situation.

Generally, academic and athletic scholarships will provide the most money, and this is due to the level of competition and strict criteria necessary to achieve either of these types of scholarship. For example, an athletic scholarship may cover most or all of your tuition costs, but obtaining one requires an incredibly high standard of athletic performance throughout your time at school, in addition to a grade point average that is up to the standards of the university.

How to Maximize Your Scholarship Opportunities

Each scholarship program will have different eligibility requirements, but the process for applying typically remains the same for high school students looking to pursue post-secondary education.

Start Early

Considering the prospect of scholarships early in your high school career will enable you to prepare your application and have your academic record in the best possible shape, whilst also allowing you to gain a better understanding of what scholarship committees want in an application.

Applying for scholarships early will give you more time to write your application (if a written submission is required) and a chance to boost your grades and add extra-curriculars to your application.

Make Sure the Fundamentals Are In Order

While each scholarship may have unique criteria for selection, there are some basic requirements that can enhance opportunities for students to be selected, regardless of the scholarship they are applying for.

Decide Which Scholarship Options You Wish to Pursue

The majority of scholarships for students are granted by colleges themselves, often referred to as "institutional scholarships", which universities and colleges offer to high school seniors with strong scholarship applications. Of these, many will be directly related to a student's standardized test scores, so getting a good score on your SAT or ACT can be critical in securing this type of free money.

Private scholarships are another avenue to explore, although some of the larger ones may be more competitive. Numerous prominent companies like Google, Microsoft, Walmart, and Coca-Cola, among others, offer scholarships. Your school might have a list of available scholarship opportunities, so it's worth asking your teachers or counselors and checking your school's website to find scholarships that suit you.

Continue Applying for Scholarships as a College Student

The quest for scholarship opportunities doesn't conclude when you start college. You can still seek scholarships and financial aid throughout your schooling, and many current college students do this to greatly alleviate the financial burdens they face during this time.

Frequently Asked Questions about Scholarships

1. How Can I Improve My Chances of Obtaining a Scholarship?

Take the Application Process Seriously

You should treat applying for scholarships in the same way that you would treat a job. Use your free time wisely to scholarship search, and take care with your applications, paying close attention to details. More time spent working on your scholarship applications and improving your grade point average means that your essay is more likely to stand out, and won’t simply blend in with the rest.

Choose a Scholarship That Works For You

Not every scholarship will be the best fit for you and your personality, so take the time to really look around for scholarships that could apply to your unique traits. Consider your talents, hobbies, future goals, and even your background or gender. There are scholarships related to specific criteria, such as first-generation students or permanent residents of certain states, so spend time browsing and deciding which ones you would have the best chance of receiving.

Get Involved in the Community

Your community involvement can play a big role in determining whether you receive a scholarship or not. Many colleges will take into account your community service and community activities when considering your application, as this highlights your efforts in giving back to your local area. Consider volunteering in shelters or starting fundraisers to help support your community.

2. Are There Scholarships Available for Master's-Level Study or Doctoral-Level Study?

Scholarships are not only limited to college freshmen. If you're looking for a scholarship for Master's-Level Study or Doctoral-Level Study as a graduate student, then there are scholarships available that help to cover college tuition or college costs at this level. Many of these scholarships are also available to international students looking to attend graduate schools.

Scholarships for graduate school students, both in the US and internationally, are offered by a range of universities, such as the Oxford Rhodes Scholarship, as well as government-funded scholarships. There are also many major-specific scholarships available, to both US students and international students. You can find scholarships for Master's-Level Study and Doctoral-Level Study by taking a look at our list of scholarships.

3. Where Can I Find Scholarship Opportunities?

4. What are the Key Components of a Compelling Scholarship Application?

Not all scholarships require a written essay, and a no-essay scholarship is an option if that is something you are looking for. However, many scholarship providers will ask you to submit a written application, highlighting why you deserve their scholarship. The financial aid office will consider your application carefully, so it needs to stand out from the crowd.

5. Are There Scholarships Specifically for Certain Fields of Study?

There are scholarships available to college students involved in specific fields of study, such as STEM subjects, as well as healthcare and education majors. If you’re obtaining a degree in nursing, teaching, or one of the fields listed above, there will likely be scholarship and financial aid opportunities available to you.

However, other subjects may have scholarship opportunities on offer to help subsidize the cost of attendance or resources, so be sure to check out our Scholarship Database by subject to help you narrow down your search.

Dell Scholars Program

  • Amount $20,000
  • Deadline December 1, 2023

The Dell Scholars program recognizes that achieving college graduation involves more than just financial support. It was intricately designed to offer a comprehensive support system that addresses the challenges students commonly encounter during their pursuit of a degree. Acknowledging the significant burden of college costs on students and their families, the program annually selects 500 Dell ... Read more

Hagan Scholarship Foundation

  • Amount $60,000
  • Deadline December 1, 2023

The Hagan Scholarship stands as a nationwide beacon, a need-based merit scholarship specifically designed for high-achieving rural students. This scholarship opportunity is tailored for those who graduate from public high schools situated in over twenty eligible states, specifically in counties with fewer than 50,000 residents. Eligible candidates must be U.S. citizens, residents of an eligible ... Read more

Cards Against Humanity Science Ambassador Scholarship

  • Amount $160,000
  • Deadline December 13, 2023

The Science Ambassador Scholarship aims to empower and recognize the academic contributions of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). To apply, prospective candidates are required to create a three-minute educational video showcasing their passion for a STEM topic. The scholarship emphasizes creativity, accuracy, and a demonstrable enthusiasm for the chosen subject. ... Read more

Burger King Scholars

  • Amount $60,000
  • Deadline December 15, 2023

The Burger King Scholars Program is a beacon of educational support, providing financial assistance to a diverse range of students. This comprehensive program offers opportunities for both high school seniors and employees, emphasizing accessibility and inclusivity. Scholarship Details Burger King General High School Senior Track: Available to all high school seniors who meet the ... Read more

Taco Bell Live Más Scholarship

  • Amount $25,000
  • Deadline January 3, 2024

The Live Más Scholarship is for students who are pursuing higher education, preparing for the workforce, or channeling their passion into transformative changes in their communities and beyond. Our belief in your potential is unwavering and we support you at every stage of your journey, whether you're just beginning to recognize your strengths, or you're already making strides in bringing your ... Read more

GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program

  • Amount $40,000
  • Deadline January 4, 2024

The GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program, in partnership with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, offers significant financial aid to high school seniors across the nation who exemplify leadership, drive, integrity, and citizenship. This program aims to support a diverse group of over 200 student leaders in various fields, contributing a significant amount of $8.2 million to students ... Read more

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

  • Amount $10,000
  • Deadline January 12, 2024

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides financial support, staffing, and creative resources for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The Kennedy Library Foundation is not a grant-making foundation. Through its Board of Directors, its committees and staff, the Foundation assists the Library in the planning and establishment of its long-term ... Read more

TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship

  • Amount $80,000
  • Deadline January 31, 2024

We believe in breaking down barriers to education, especially for those who face challenges due to their immigration status. Our Opportunity Scholarship is designed for undocumented students living in locked-out states, where accessing higher education seems like an insurmountable obstacle. If you find yourself in such a situation, we are here to open doors for you. Key Features of the ... Read more

John Lennon Scholarships

  • Amount $20,000
  • Deadline February 3, 2024

The John Lennon Scholarships are an annual competition open to student songwriters and composers of contemporary musical genres including alternative, pop, rock, indie, electronica, R&B, and experimental. Over the past twenty years, more than $400,000 in scholarships has been awarded to talented young musicians from colleges and universities throughout the United States, making this award one of ... Read more

McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship

  • Amount $100,000
  • Deadline February 6, 2024

McDonald's is giving away scholarships worth up to $100,000 to as many as 30 students with at least one parent of Hispanic heritage. Check out the requirements below to find out if the McDonald’s® HACER® National Scholarship is right for you: Applicants must be a high school senior, legal U.S. resident who is younger than 21 years old. You must carry a minimum 2.8 GPA, be eligible to attend a ... Read more

Davidson Fellows Scholarship

  • Amount $50,000
  • Deadline February 14, 2024

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship awards scholarships to extraordinary young people, 18 and under, who have completed a significant piece of work. Application categories are Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy and Outside the Box. Davidson Fellows are honored every year in Washington, D.C. with Congressional meetings and a special reception. Applicants must ... Read more

HBCU Week x NFL Scholarship

  • Amount $10,000
  • Deadline February 16, 2024

The mission of HBCU Week is to encourage high-school aged youth to enroll into HBCU’s, provide scholarship dollars for matriculation and sustain a pipeline for employment from undergraduate school to corporate America. This scholarship is open to students entering an HBCU and working towards a bachelor’s degree. Applicants will have to provide proof of acceptance into a Historically Black College ... Read more

Ceiba Diversity Scholarship

  • Amount $5,000
  • Deadline March 1, 2024

The Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit international conservation organization committed to fostering and supporting diversity in environmental science. Our Diversity Scholarship enables minority students of limited financial means to travel to the tropics and gain international experience in biological research and conservation on Ceiba’s “Tropical Conservation ... Read more

Doodle for Google Scholarship

  • Amount $30,000
  • Deadline March 14, 2024

Use your imagination to create a Google Doodle based on what you’re grateful for. Students can work with any materials they choose, but all Doodles must be entered using the entry form. Parents and teachers can mail the completed entry form or submit it online as a .png or .jpg. The National Winner's artwork will be displayed on for one day. The winner will also receive a $30,000 ... Read more

911 Promise Scholarship

  • Amount $15,000
  • Deadline March 15, 2024

The 9/11 Promise Run is dedicated to offering scholarships to deserving children of first responders and military service members who have endured loss or injury, rendering them unable to pursue employment. Our mission is to make a positive impact on the lives of these children and families by providing financial support for their education. Scholarship Details: • Scholarship amounts ... Read more

Women in Cyber Scholarship Program

  • Amount $10,000
  • Deadline March 17, 2024

A diverse talent pool is fast becoming a business imperative. We need a wide variety of different experiences, skillsets, and ways of thinking in order to stay ahead of nimble and innovative cyber criminals as the financial system evolves. Scholarship Details Financial Award: $10,000 USD Mentorship: Academic year mentorship from a financial services firm. Conference ... Read more

Girl Up Sports Fellowship

  • Amount $2,500
  • Deadline April 3, 2024

Girl Up is committed to bridging the gender gap in sports and breaking down barriers everywhere they exist. Supported by partners and donors, the new Girl Up Sports Fellowship honors young leaders’ unwavering commitment to making the world a better place for every girl, everywhere. From youth sports teams and professional athletes, to the back-end business of sports, girls and women face ... Read more

Organization of Latino Actuaries Scholarship Program

  • Amount $7,500
  • Deadline April 15, 2024

The Organization of Latino Actuaries (OLA) is on a mission to increase the representation of Latine actuaries. To further this vision, we proudly offer academic scholarships to Latinos who will be entering a U.S. college or university in the upcoming academic year and have a keen interest in the actuarial profession. Our scholarship application window is open from November 1st, through April ... Read more

Exceptional Youth Scholarship

  • Amount $10,000
  • Deadline April 15, 2024

The Exceptional Youth Scholarship, sponsored by the Foundation for Global Sports Development, stands as a beacon of recognition for high school seniors who embody excellence in academics and a profound commitment to community service. This scholarship program is designed to empower the future leaders who have not only excelled academically but have also made a significant impact through their ... Read more

Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

  • Amount $10,000
  • Deadline April 15, 2024

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes welcomes applications from public-spirited young people and honors outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. Their leadership and courage make them true heroes - and inspirations to us all. Applicants must be 8 to 18 years of age and must be permanent residents of the U.S or Canada, and must be ... Read more

The Paradigm Challenge

  • Amount $100,000
  • Deadline May 1, 2024

The Paradigm Challenge is an ongoing competition that invites students up to age 18 from around the world to use kindness, creativity, and collaboration to help solve real-life problems and make a difference. Students may enter the Paradigm Challenge individually or as teams of any size. All types of entries are welcome, including posters, videos, inventions, public messages, community events, ... Read more

Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation

  • Amount $20,000
  • Deadline May 1, 2024

Attention high school seniors and post-secondary students! If you're passionate about a career in printing technology, printing management, graphic communication, packaging, or publishing, the PGSF Scholarship is your key to advancing your education and future in this dynamic field. Here are the essential details you need to know: Eligibility: To be considered for this prestigious ... Read more

Cure Cancer Support Scholarship

  • Amount $5,000
  • Deadline June 1, 2024

The scholarship is designated for students who were diagnosed with cancer and whose disease and related treatments placed a significant financial burden on them and their families. Scholarship recipients must furnish a letter of confirmation by a licensed physician as proof of their cancer diagnosis. Please note that this documentation will be required following the award notification and ... Read more

Stuck At Prom Scholarship Contest

  • Amount $10,000
  • Deadline June 7, 2024

We’re giving away $20,000 in cash scholarships to high school students who make the best prom attire out of Duck® Brand Duct Tape! New this year? We want to make sure everyone has a chance to enter and win no matter what prom looks like for you. So, we have removed the requirement to wear your one-of-a-kind creation to prom -- you just need to be enrolled in high school or a home school ... Read more

ConnectHER Film Festival

  • Amount $5,000
  • Deadline June 15, 2024

The ConnectHER Film Festival is an international youth competition that welcomes short films about issues that impact women and girls. Before making a film for submission, please read all of the following entry requirements and FAQs. Films must focus on one of our topic areas listed on our website. Categories include global girls’ education, women and work, ending violence against women, women ... Read more

Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway

  • Amount $100,000
  • Deadline October 11, 2024

Attention, students! Get ready to elevate your educational journey with the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway. If you're aged between 18 and 24, this is your chance to step onto the field at a Conference Champ Game and turn your dreams into reality. Sponsored by the iconic soft drink company Dr Pepper, this renowned scholarship program is not just about winning; it's about making an impact on your ... Read more

Annual Sphinx Competition

  • Amount $50,000
  • Deadline October 23, 2024

The Sphinx Competition is a national competition offering young Black and Latinx classical string players (violin, viola, cello, or double bass) a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges, and to perform with and receive mentorship from established professional musicians. Application requirements include a video audition (please refer to the audition ... Read more

VFW Voice of Democracy Competition

  • Amount $35,000
  • Deadline October 31, 2024

Since 1947, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has dedicated itself to fostering patriotism and nurturing the potential of the future generation. The Voice of Democracy audio-essay program, initiated by the VFW, provides a remarkable platform for high school students (grades 9-12) to express their thoughts on democratic and patriotic themes through recorded essays. The national first place winner ... Read more

Prudential Emerging Visionaries

  • Amount $15,000
  • Deadline November 2, 2024

At Prudential, we believe in recognizing and empowering young visionaries who are committed to finding innovative solutions to financial and societal challenges in their communities. If you are between the ages of 14 and 18 and have a transformative idea, the Emerging Visionaries Scholarship is an opportunity to turn your vision into reality. Key Features: • Age Group: Open to young ... Read more

Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholarship

  • Amount $250,000
  • Deadline November 8, 2024

Each year, nearly 1,900 students enter the Regeneron STS, submitting original research in critically important scientific fields of study. Unique among high school competitions, the Regeneron STS focuses on identifying, inspiring, and engaging the most promising scientists among the nation’s high school seniors. All Regeneron STS entrants must follow the official rules of entry, which outline ... Read more

Colgate-Palmolive Haz La U Scholarship

  • Amount $10,000
  • Deadline November 13, 2024

At Colgate, we believe that a higher education is a path to a brighter future and are dedicated to helping students get there. That’s why, in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and as part of the Foundation’s Youth Awards, we sponsor “Haz La U” (Make the U), a college grant program for high school seniors of Hispanic heritage. Have you focused on academic excellence, dedicated ... Read more

Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award

  • Amount $10,000
  • Deadline November 15, 2024

To be eligible to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Artist Award, applicants must: be classical instrumentalists, vocalists and composers who are full-time high school students (ages 13-18) and have not yet entered college; have strong musical ability and a willingness to participate in the Learning and Media Lab Fellowship; demonstrate financial need; demonstrate a strong commitment ... Read more

Last Reviewed: November 2023