Scholarships for High School Seniors
Scholarships help cover the increasing costs of higher education. No matter what your academic background, grades or major, you can find money-saving scholarships to pay for college. Reach out and get some of the money you deserve by applying for 2016 scholarships today.
Congratulations Class of 2016! You are finally high school seniors, and about to begin the journey of a lifetime – your first giant leap into adulthood. This year is going to be an experience unlike any other! You will not only be expected to juggle classes, homework, school activities, while making stellar grades; you will also want to participate in all of the special events that will make your senior year so special. Years from now you’re going to want to remember this year as one filled with special moments . . . and when it comes to making memories, you don’t want to miss a thing!
One of the most important parts of your senior year will be the finalization of your college plans. A subject that always arises regarding further education is, “How are we going to pay for it?” In this day and age, a college education is very expensive, and most families just can’t bear the brunt of paying all of the associated expenses on their own. A scholarship or grant might be your answer.
So, What is Scholarship?
Are you confused about Scholarship? Watch our "What is Scholarship? - Quick and Easy Explanation" video. This video covers a basic overview of scholarship in just under 3 minutes.
Once you start looking, you’re going to be surprised by the breadth and scope of what is available. Whenever a student is asked why they did not receive any scholarships, the most common answer is, “Oh, I wouldn’t qualify!” Don’t believe it! This is a popular misconception and it has kept innumerable students from going on to school after high school graduation. The varieties and types of scholarships for high school seniors that are available to you are impossible to count.
- There are programs ranging in amounts from only a few dollars to thousands of dollars.
- Some are for only one year while others are renewable each year, based on your performance.
- Many are based on need.
- Others require a high grade point average and/or SAT scores.
- Not all scholarships require good grades or high scores.
- Previous community service is a requirement for a growing number of awards.
- There are opportunities based on ethnicity or cultural background.
- Residency in a specific state or city is required for others.
- Many are gender specific.
- There are many presented by professional associations designed to encourage young students to enter their field.
Once you begin to look, you will quickly reach one obvious conclusion – in one way or another, every graduating high school senior is probably qualified to receive a scholarship. The only catch? You have to put forth the effort, do the work, and apply for them!
So, how do you go about finding them? Searching is easy, but it does require persistence and tenacity. For one thing, you are going to find so many scholarship and/or grant opportunities that you may suffer from information overload at first. However, just keep in mind that almost all of these fit into specific categories. They may be listed by state of residence, gender, field of study, ethnicity or minority, or even your interests or hobbies. There are even special programs based on your interests! Imagine being given money for college just for being tall, or left handed, or for competing to create something new made out of an unusual product.
There are numerous ways to conduct your search, and in this article we’re going to discuss just a few of the most common:
- Where do I start?
- Campus visits
- Who do you know?
- An old fashioned brick and mortar library
So, where do you look first? Meet with your high school guidance counselor -- they know more about you and programs available in your area than anyone. Most likely, there are scholarships awarded to graduating seniors every year right there at your high school. Many student applicants are required to be recommended by their counselor or high school principal. Counselors receive information throughout the year about special awards available for a limited time; and, who knows? You might just qualify for one of them!
Next, when scheduling those college campus visits, be sure to have your parents schedule a visit with the financial assistance officer on campus. Schools make amazing offers to students based on their grades, interests, intended career path, minority/ethnicity, or need. Most universities and colleges give scholarships or grants to deserving students, and this holds true from state universities all the way up to the Ivy Leagues. This important meeting may help determine your final college selection.
You’ve heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Ask your family and relatives if they, or someone they know, belong to a civic organization like Rotary International, the Lions, or Kiwanis. Did any of your relatives serve in the military? Are they members of the VFW? Does your mom or dad work for a company that sponsors scholarships for students who are children of employees?
Our next recommendation may sound a bit archaic, but go to your school or public library. There are multiple guide books printed every year, already indexed, divided, and categorized, full of nothing but scholarship listings. Included in each listing is information for that specific award: eligibility requirements, application qualifications, deadlines, as well as where and how to apply.
Finally, fire up your PC and let your fingers search for you. There are links to specific scholarship directory sites, many with applications that you can print off and send in. Descriptions include complete eligibility requirements, along with specific instructions regarding your application package.
Visit our 2016 Scholarships page for general opportunities.
Look up www.collegeboard.com online. Your parents will find an informative “Parents Guide to College,” which provides a lot of helpful facts about financial aid, who is eligible, and how to apply. There is even a special calculator provided to help them estimate the real costs of a college education and determine how much aid might actually be required. Check out www.finaid.org/calculators for one more example of this valuable tool for estimating costs and student budgets. At the same site you can find a wealth of information about funds from various sources. They also provide clear explanations of how military programs can help finance your education; how education tax benefits work; and, how to apply for tuition payment plans.
Go to our List page to find Scholarships by Major and other resources.
Simply go to our State section. This link will lead you to a complete state-by-state directory of scholarship opportunities listed by state. You will also find information about those designated by minority, cultural background, subject of interest, gender, etc.
Note: The most important characteristic of a scholarship or grant is that unlike a loan, the funds never have to be repaid. In essence . . . it’s free money!
The largest category is composed of general scholarships and grants. These are not necessarily limited to any specific major field of study, school, gender, ethnic group or minority. Many of these are based on financial need, and for some, the standard for grades and SAT scores is not set as high as for other awards. There is something to be found here for just about everyone.
Then there are scholarships based on specific major fields of study. The majority of these are directed to college upper classmen who have already locked in on their chosen career paths, but some of these are scholarships for HS students, who already have a solid idea of what area they would like to study. They are often awarded to good students to encourage them to enter a particular field that is under-populated by their gender or minority group. This particular category is quite broad, and you will notice that it really doesn’t matter which career path you’ve selected -- you’ll find specific scholarships for just about any career you can think of – and some that you haven’t even heard of yet!
Many programs are offered to members of specific ethnic or gender minorities. You’ll find numerous awards designated for those with your ethnic or cultural background. Some of these also require residency in a particular state or region of the country.
Speaking of states, one of the largest categories are those based on your state of residence – and some of these are for students residing in particular cities in that state.
Don’t overlook the scholarships at your chosen college or university. These schools are rich in endowments and just looking for likely students to award.
Perhaps you are a woman who plays volleyball – and plays it really well. Football players are not the only athletes who go to school on athletic scholarships. There are just as many categories here as there are sports available.
And what if you’re not planning to attend a university or 4-year college? There are numerous opportunities available for students entering 2-year community colleges and vocational/technical schools. You will find these listings in the same places as you find the others.
Application Process and Eligibility Requirements
Once you take the plunge and start digging, and then decide where to apply, it’s all about doing the work to ensure that yours is the best application they receive. Here are some of the standard items required in scholarship application packages.
- Application – It should go without saying that you should double check to be sure you are using the correct application form, and that everything is clearly written and spelled correctly. Pay close attention to application deadlines.
- Letters of Recommendation – Collect these from teachers – past and present, your minister, professional friends of the family, etc. This is not a step to be left until the last minute, especially with your teachers; give them time to reflect on your performance, leadership abilities, and to imagine your future potential.
- Grades - By your senior year, you have already established a track record of academic achievement and leadership ability. You will be required to submit up to date copies of your transcripts.
- College Entrance Exam Scores – An official copy of your SAT or ACT scores are a standard requirement.
- Admission Verification – If you already have been accepted as a student at a particular university or college, you will need to include a copy of the acceptance letter.
- Essays – Write carefully constructed essays based on the subject requirements of the selection committee. As an added measure, work with one of your teachers to review each essay before submission. (Samples, Thank you letters)
- Community Service - Hopefully you started contributing community service hours early in your high school career. Your record as a volunteer serves two purposes. First, it is often looked upon as your first real “job” even though you were not paid in dollars. It also indicates that you are personally capable of thinking of others enough to contribute to their well being. (Volunteering)
- Verification of Financial Need – No matter what the financial situation of your family might suggest, you should fill out the FAFSA (Federal Student Assistance) application form on line. You will receive a SAR (Student Aid Report) based on the information you submitted. The SAR can be a very important item in your application package because so many grants and/or scholarships are based on need. You can find the necessary form at www.fafsa.ed.gov. There is no charge for this application. You can find more information on this subject at www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov
- Verification Documentation – If you are applying for a VFW scholarship, you may have to attach verification of military service. Likewise, if you are seeking a scholarship for Native Americans, you will have to submit verification of tribal membership.
The Financial Aid Overview for Seniors
The Financial Aid process can be confusing and intimidating. Our infographic covers a quick and simple overview of the Financial Aid. Get started as soon as possible as there are time limits to get priority consideration.
The single most important thing to remember is to apply – and apply – and then apply again! Apply for every award you even think you may qualify for. There is a lot of competition out there, but keep in mind all of the unclaimed scholarship dollars each year – and all because no one made the effort to apply for them.