18 Top Scholarships for High School Seniors


Aside from





private scholarships are some of the best ways to help fund your college education

. There are thousands of scholarships out there for high school seniors, all with different eligibility requirements, deadlines, and award amounts, so it’s definitely worth your time to do some research.

Senior year is prime crunch time when it comes to your college scholarship search. If you’re just starting the search process and need a little help getting off on the right foot, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled a list of some of the

best college scholarships for high school seniors based on availability and award amounts

. These scholarships are generally flexible (so you’ll be able to use them at any accredited college you attend), and they also don’t have any geographical restrictions (so you’re eligible to apply no matter where you live in the US).

The list is broken down into four sub-lists:

scholarship competitions, merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and specialty awards

. Don’t forget to check out the end of the article for strategies on getting the most scholarship money possible!

Scholarship Competitions

The following scholarships are awarded

based on performance in some sort of contest

. These types of scholarships can be pretty intensive, so give yourself extra time to effectively prepare if you plan on pursuing one of them.


All scholarships are competitions—to win the following scholarships, though, you’ll have to go head-to-head with other students.

Voice of Democracy Scholarship Competition

Students compete for this award by writing and recording an audio essay on a patriotic theme. The theme for the 2020-21 contest is “Is The Country the Founders Envisioned?”. The first-place winner gets a

grand prize of $30,000

and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC. The program gives out a total of $1.9 million in awards and incentives each year.

  • Eligibility:

    Students in grades 9-12

  • Deadline:

    October 31, 2021

The Fountainhead

Essay Contest

Students compete for this award by writing an essay on one of three topics related to Ayn Rand’s book

The Fountainhead.

The first-place winner will receive a

grand prize of $5,000

. Runners-up also receive awards. Each year, a total of $22,500 is given out in prize money.

  • Eligibility:

    Students in grades 11-12

  • Deadline:

    April 28, 2022

Atlas Shrugged

Essay Contest

Students compete for this award by writing an essay on one of three topics related to Ayn Rand’s novel

Atlas Shrugged.

The first-place winner will receive a $10,000 prize.

Runners-up also win prizes, and a whopping $40,000 in scholarship money is awarded annually.

  • Eligibility:

    High school seniors, college students, and graduate students

  • Deadline:

    September 27, 2021

American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest

Are you a good public speaker, or do you just want an excuse to hone your public-speaking skills? Then this competition would be a good fit for you. Students compete for this award by preparing and performing an

eight- to 10-minute oration

on some aspect of the US Constitution, as well as giving a three- to five-minute speech on an assigned topic. You can

view this year’s topics here


The first-place winner receives $25,000

, second place receives $22,500, and third place receives $20,000. There are also smaller awards for state winners. More than $203,500 in prize money is given out annually.

  • Eligibility:

    US high school students under 20 years of age

  • Deadline:

    Varies by state

    , as contests are arranged by local American Legion departments

Create-a-Greeting Card Scholarship Contest (Gallery Collection Scholarship)

This scholarship is pretty unique—and it’s great for students with some untapped artistic talents! Students compete for this award by submitting a photo, piece of artwork, or computer graphic to be used on the front of a greeting card.

The winner will receive $10,000

, and the winner’s school will also get $1,000.

  • Eligibility:

    High school and college students aged 14 or older

  • Deadline:

    March 2, 2022


To win these scholarships, you have to show that you’re tough—or at least that your brain is tough.

Scholarships Based on Academic Strength

The following scholarships are generally awarded

based on students’ academic performance in conjunction with a few other factors

, such as leadership skills and commitment to community service. As a result, the most competitive applicants will be dedicated, high-achieving students who are also invested in their communities.

Coca-Cola Scholars Program

Coca-Cola Scholars are judged primarily on their academic performance, extracurricular activities, leadership experience, and community service. This scholarship program is fairly big:

150 awards of $20,000 each

are given out every year. You can learn more about the Coca-Cola Scholarship by reading

our guide to winning the award


  • Eligibility:

    US high school seniors; can’t be children or grandchildren of Coca-Cola employees (current and former)

  • Deadline:

    October 31, 2021

Burger King Scholars Program

Applicants for this scholarship are judged on their GPA, work experience, extracurricular activities, and community service. Award amounts range from those as small as


to those as large as



  • Eligibility:

    Employees and their spouses/partners/children, US high school seniors

  • Deadline:

    December 15, 2021

Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarships

For these, award eligibility requirements will vary based on your local Ronald McDonald House Charity chapter. For example, some have ethnic eligibility requirements. Deadlines and award amounts will also vary by location, but

some of the bigger national awards can be as large as $100,000

! Check out

our how-to guide

to learn more about getting an RMHC scholarship.

  • Eligibility:

    High school seniors, but other requirements may apply depending on scholarship

  • Deadline:

    Varies depending on scholarship, but usually January


If your family income isn’t enough to cover college expenses, need-based scholarships would be a great option for you.

Scholarships Based on Financial Need

The following scholarships

take financial need into account

when choosing award recipients. For many of these programs, though, financial need is

just one of many criteria considered

. In other words, strong applicants will also be successful students, leaders, or community activists. For most of these applications, you’ll likely have to submit documentation about your family income.

Horatio Alger Scholarship Award

This generous need-based scholarship is geared toward students who have faced and overcome great obstacles. To be considered eligible,

your gross adjusted family income must be at o

r below $55,000

. At the

national level

, there are 106


awards; at the

state level

, there are scholarships of


each for all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia).

This one scholarship application will get you considered for many other national, state, and specialized scholarships

, which means less work for you and more opportunities for scholarship funding!

  • Eligibility:

    US high school seniors with a GPA of 2.0 or above who plan on getting a bachelor’s degree

  • Deadline:

    October 25, 2021

Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program

Applicants to this need-based scholarship are judged on their leadership skills and commitment to community service. To be considered eligible, you must identify as a minority student. As many as 60 new scholarships are awarded annually. The scholarships are four-year awards, and recipients can receive as much as

$30,000 over four years


  • Eligibility:

    US minority high school seniors with a minimum SAT of 1000/ACT of 21 who plan on getting a bachelor’s degree in the US

  • Deadline:

    Likely February 1, 2022

Engebretson Foundation Scholarship

This need-based scholarship is pretty straightforward: it’s awarded to one student each year who demonstrates not only financial need but also impressive academic performance and leadership ability. The annual award winner receives

$5,000 per semester of college

. Winners may reapply for the prize every year.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program

In addition to providing funding for college, this scholarship program offers personal advising on selecting a college, navigating the financial aid process, and transitioning from high school to college. Applicants are judged on academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, desire to help others, and leadership skills.

Awards are given to students each year and can be as high as $40,000 per academic year.

  • Eligibility:

    High school seniors with financial need who plan to attend a four-year college

  • Deadline:

    November 18, 2021

Elk’s National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition

Applicants to this need-based scholarship are judged on their scholarship and leadership abilities. Each year,

500 scholarships are given out across the country, with award amounts (over four years) ranging from $4,000 to $50,000

. Applications must be submitted to the Elk Lodge closest to your home address, so make sure to research the Elk Lodges in your area before you apply.

  • Eligibility:

    US high school seniors who plan to attend a four-year US college

  • Deadline:

    November 15, 2021

Gates Scholarship

The Gates Scholarship aims to help scholastically outstanding minority high school seniors reach their full potential. Every year, 300 students receive a scholarship covering

the full cost of attendance (including tuition, fees, room, board, books, and transportation) that is not already covered by other financial aid and expected family contribution

. Read more about the Gates Scholarship and how to win it in

our complete guide


  • Eligibility:

    US minority high school seniors who are Pell-eligible (Pelligible?), have a minimum 3.3/4.0 GPA, and plan to attend a four-year US college

  • Deadline:

    September 15, 2021


These next scholarships are unique—just like every student applicant!

Specialty Scholarships

The following scholarship programs are national awards that target students who have

specific or unique interests or achievements

. Whether you’re the next president of the SPCA or even the USA, you should be able to find a specialty scholarship that’s perfect for you!

Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship

Are you a proud vegetarian? This might seem like a niche award, but the scholarship is very real! Applicants are judged on their “compassion, courage, and a strong commitment to promoting a peaceful world through a vegetarian diet/lifestyle.” If you’ve promoted vegetarianism at school or in your community, you’ll likely be a great candidate for this scholarship.

The first-place winner will receive $10,000, and two runners-up will each receive $5,000.

  • Eligibility:

    High school seniors

  • Deadline:

    February 20, 2022

Davidson Fellowship Scholarships

Do you have an extraordinary achievement that you’re particularly proud of? This scholarship is for students who have completed an impressive piece of work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math, literature, music, or philosophy. Scholarship requirements differ based on the type of project, with

awards ranging from $10,000 to $50,000


  • Eligibility:

    US citizens or permanent residents 18 years of age and under

  • Deadline:

    Likely March 2022

Equitable Excellence Scholarship Scholarship

The Equitable Excellence scholarship (formerly the AXA Achievement scholarship) targets

students who have empowered society through achievements that mitigate risk

. This idea can be interpreted pretty broadly, so spend some time figuring out what risk means to you and whether you’ve participated in making the world a safer place through any of your activities.

In 2020, hundreds of students representing all 50 states; Washington, DC; and Puerto Rico

received one-time scholarships


$2,500, $10,000, or $25,000


  • Eligibility:

    US high school seniors

  • Deadline:

    Likely January 2022 (or until they receive 10,000 applications)

William Randolph Hearst Foundations US Senate Youth Program

If you’re passionate about public service, this is the scholarship for you. The Senate Youth Program targets

students who participate in their high school student government and plan to study history or political science in college

. Applicants are judged on their leadership skills, academic performance, community involvement, and extracurricular activities.

Each winner will receive a $10,000 award

in addition to an all-expenses-paid educational week in Washington, DC.

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Tips here, get your tips here!

Making the Most of Your Scholarship Applications: 3 Key Tips

If you’re going to go through all the work of submitting a scholarship application, then you want to

make sure you have an excellent shot at winning awards

. The following three tips will help you submit the greatest number of successful scholarship applications possible.

#1: Do Your Own Research

As you’ve probably noticed, many of the above scholarships are fairly generous national awards that’ll likely be quite competitive.

Unfortunately, you could be a strong applicant for many of these scholarships and still not win a big award.

So what’s a student to do?

The reality is that there are countless scholarship programs out there that might be really good fits for your interests, location, background, identity, etc.

The more niche a scholarship program is, the better chances you’ll have of winning an award

(assuming you’re qualified for it). So do some research on scholarships programs that operate in your area or are offered to students with your particular interests, experiences, skills, or passions.


Ronald McDonald House Charities scholarships

are a good place to start.

You can also pay a visit to your guidance counselor who should have more information on local scholarships.

In addition, you could branch out on your own by

searching online for scholarships in your area

. If you have a particular talent, skill, or interest, look for scholarships that are offered to students based on those criteria.

#2: Apply Broadly

Applying for scholarships—like applying to colleges—is, in part, a numbers game. You wouldn’t apply to just one school if you wanted to optimize your chances of getting into a great college, would you?

Many scholarship applications ask similar questions and require similar information, so

if you apply to one program, you might as well apply to a bunch

. It’s free to apply for most scholarships anyway—all it takes is a few hours of your time.


take advantage of applications that submit you for consideration for


scholarship awards

, such as the Horatio Alger Scholarship mentioned above.

#3: Make Note of Deadlines

Scholarship applications are all over the place—there’s no defined “scholarship season” for submission deadlines, but many are due before

college application deadlines

. As such,

it’s better to start your scholarship search sooner rather than later so you don’t miss out on any great opportunities


The summer before your senior year is a good time to start making note of programs you’re interested in. Keep track of application deadlines by

maintaining a spreadsheet

that you update regularly. This is especially helpful if applications require you to ask for

letters of recommendation

; you can make sure to give teachers and mentors plenty of advance notice to write you a letter.

What’s Next?

Want to get a head start on scoping out scholarships?

Then check out our comprehensive guides to winning some of the most competitive national scholarships available, including the

Gates Scholarship

, the

Coca-Cola Scholarship

, the

Walmart Scholarships

, and the

McDonald’s Scholarships


Looking for scholarships with low-hassle applications?

Our article on

the easiest scholarships to apply for

will give you a great starting list.

Wondering if you can get a scholarship for something like

being left-handed


Learn more about the

weirdest scholarships you can win

in our guide.

Need more help with your scholarship search?

Read our expert guide on

how to find college scholarships


the best scholarship search websites


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