How to Get Scholarships in High School

Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland

If you’d like to lower the cost of your college education, you shouldn’t just rely on federal student loans or financial aid. Scholarships can significantly reduce the amount of money you have to pay for high education, and there are countless opportunities available. In many cases, you don’t even need to wait until you’re getting ready to graduate. There are lots of scholarships for high school juniors, seniors, and even current college students. Read on to learn how to get scholarships in high school so you’re in a solid financial place when college starts.

What is a scholarship?

female high school student

A scholarship program provides money for college tuition. These awards are “gift” financial aid, which means you don’t have to pay the money back. Unlike grants, which are based on financial need, most scholarships are merit-based. Providers award the funds to applicants who best fulfill the selection requirements. Scholarships are available for high school students, college students, and even graduate school students.

How do scholarships work?

YEach scholarship program has its own eligibility requirements and selection process. In most cases, however, you need to meet the stated criteria and apply for the award by the deadline.

For a scholarship with a minimal application, you may only need to supply your name, contact information, and age. Others require essays, musical compositions, poems, or other creative works.

Some scholarship programs require high school seniors to have a certain GPA, submit a personal essay, or show that they’ve performed community service. Others are based on athletic achievements. Additionally, there are awards that are more like prizes or drawings, which you can win simply by being chosen randomly.

How to get scholarships in high school for junior and senior students

Read on to learn how to get college scholarships even while you’re still in high school.

Don’t delay

It may seem like you have plenty of time to prepare for college and apply for scholarships, but the time goes fast. If you procrastinate on getting college funding, you could end up having to take out federal loans or wait for a year while you save up money for tuition.

There are plenty of scholarships available to high school juniors and seniors. Many programs allow early applications, so you don’t have to wait until you are in the spring of your senior year. The earlier you can start your search, the more chances you have of getting scholarship money for tuition.

Look around

It’s easy to think that scholarships are only available to high school athletes or students with exceptional academic performance. While there are plenty of awards for academic and athletic excellence, those aren’t the only scholarships available.

High school is the perfect time to look for other types of awards. A quick scholarship search on the internet will show you countless opportunities with minimal selection criteria. Some are as simple as making a free account on a website.

Keep an eye out for niche scholarships for unique talents, projects, or hobbies. If you enjoy woodworking, for example, you may be able to find an award sponsored by a company in that industry.

Think ahead

Many of the decisions you make in high school can affect your odds of winning merit scholarships. You can give yourself the best chance of getting chosen by making strategic decisions about your classes, electives, and extracurriculars.

Many scholarship programs take academic performance, sports, music, and other activities into account when selecting winners. So while you’re a high school senior, it’s a good idea to split your time between homework and other activities.

However, don’t try to do everything. Trying to keep valedictorian-level grades, play three sports, be student body president, and max out your volunteer hours will probably just make you tired and stressed. Focus on things you enjoy and care about.

How to apply for high school scholarships

high school students

Here’s a step-by-step guide to applying for scholarships as a high school student.

Step 1: Make a list

Whether you’re a high school junior or senior, the first step to earning college scholarships is making a list of available opportunities. Research scholarship opportunities, and make a list of those you’re eligible for. It’s best to organize your list according to deadlines, so you know which ones you need to apply for first.

There are several ways to find scholarships, and the easiest place to start is the internet. Some scholarship websites allow you to apply in just a few clicks, which is extremely time-efficient. You can also get information about scholarship opportunities from your high school counselor, the library, local community organizations, and the college you plan to attend.

Step 2: Prepare your materials

Some scholarship applications only require basic information, but others include lots of paperwork. Before you sit down to fill out applications, gather all your materials together so you don’t have to waste time looking for documentation.

You might not know what each application needs before you start, but there are some good basics to have on hand:

  • Transcripts
  • Community service hours
  • Details on extracurricular activities
  • Standardized test scores
  • Personal statement/essay templates
  • Recommendation letters

Having all this paperwork easily accessible can streamline your application process. If you come across applications that need additional documentation, make sure to get that information before submitting the paperwork.

Step 3: Fill out the applications

Most applications are online, but there are still some that require you to submit a hard copy. In either case, awards with minimal applications are fairly straightforward.

You’ll spend a lot of time filling out your name, date of birth, and contact information. Even though this information is basic, it can be easy to overlook small errors and typos, so make sure to double-check everything before you submit it.

For applications that require essays, personal statements, transcripts, or other documentation, go through the packet one more time after you assemble it before you submit it. You don’t want your application to be rejected just because you forgot a page of your transcripts or left a form field blank.

Before you fly, it’s essential to check with your airline to see if you can keep your ESA with you. If not, your emotional support animal may be able to fly as a pet, which means they must be in a carrier in the cargo compartment.

Step 4: Continue searching

If you’ve thought ahead and applied for a bunch of scholarships during your junior year, you may think it’s time to sit back and relax. However, there are plenty of scholarships that are only available to graduating high school seniors, so you can’t be finished quite yet.

You’ll probably apply for a lot more awards as a high school senior, but even after you meet those deadlines, it’s not quite time to stop. New opportunities become available all the time, so it’s worth it to set aside some time every month to look for any additional opportunities. Remember that there are also awards for college students, so keep looking every year.

Applying for high school scholarship tips

male high school student

Here are some top tips for applying for scholarships while you’re in high school.

Start searching early

There’s not really a time that’s “too early” to start looking for scholarships. You don’t need to wait until your senior year to apply; in fact, you shouldn’t.

There are numerous scholarships for high school juniors, which makes it easy to get a jump on college funding. Plus, you can use your time as a junior to find additional scholarships for high school seniors, so you’re ready to apply when the time comes.

Read the eligibility rules carefully

In your quest to apply for as many scholarships as possible, make sure you don’t waste your time on awards you can’t win. There are countless programs with minimal eligibility requirements, but there are just as many that are restricted to minority high school seniors or students with certain grades, hobbies, or accomplishments.

Make a plan to hit the deadlines

Most application deadlines are in the fall and spring, but there are some programs with summer due dates. While you’re researching awards and figuring out which ones you want to apply for, organize your list according to the deadlines. That way, you can use your time efficiently and avoid missing out on money due to a late application.

Apply for a mix of opportunities

Scholarships vary in terms of application requirements and monetary amount. Generally, scholarships that are worth less are easier to apply for. Big awards may take more time. For most high school students, it’s best to split time between applying for larger and smaller scholarships.

Don’t forget to proofread

The last thing you want is to have your application rejected because of a silly typo or missing word. Take a few minutes to make sure your work is error-free and to verify that you’ve included everything necessary in your application packet.

FAQs on high school scholarships

Find answers to some of the most common questions about scholarships for high school students.

What can you expect when applying for scholarships as a high school student?

Applying for scholarships takes time and effort. Even awards with minimal applications require you to find them, figure out if you meet the criteria, fill out the application, and submit it.

Expect to spend a fair amount of time researching scholarship programs and filling out applications. You’ll need to have easily accessible proof of your grades, community service projects, extracurricular activities, and hobbies. For some applications, you’ll need to write an essay or personal statement that providers can use to determine if you deserve the scholarship.

How much time during high school should you spend applying for college scholarships?

There are plenty of scholarships for high school seniors and juniors. The more applications you fill out, the better chance you have of winning some free money for college. Most awards have fall deadlines between August and November or spring deadlines between January and May.

As a high school student, it’s a good idea to plan on spending an hour each week to find and apply for scholarships. Remember that the time each application takes will vary. It may only take a few minutes to apply for a smaller award worth a few hundred dollars. For a full-ride scholarship, you might need to spend hours on the application.

What can you expect when applying for scholarships as a high school student?

Applying for scholarships takes time and effort. Even awards with minimal applications require you to find them, figure out if you meet the criteria, fill out the application, and submit it.

Expect to spend a fair amount of time researching scholarship programs and filling out applications. You’ll need to have easily accessible proof of your grades, community service projects, extracurricular activities, and hobbies. For some applications, you’ll need to write an essay or personal statement that providers can use to determine if you deserve the scholarship.

How should you plan your high school classes and activities for better scholarship applications?

There are many things you can do during high school to give yourself the best chance of winning scholarships. While some awards are chosen by a random drawing, others are based on academic performance and how well the applicant meets the selection criteria. Some scholarships are designed to support minority students or low-income students.

There are several things that are necessary for most merit-based scholarships. Selections can be based on community service, good grades, athletic talent, high standardized test scores, extracurricular interests, and passion for a certain industry or career field.

How much time during high school should you spend applying for college scholarships?

There are plenty of scholarships for high school seniors and juniors. The more applications you fill out, the better chance you have of winning some free money for college. Most awards have fall deadlines between August and November or spring deadlines between January and May.

As a high school student, it’s a good idea to plan on spending an hour each week to find and apply for scholarships. Remember that the time each application takes will vary. It may only take a few minutes to apply for a smaller award worth a few hundred dollars. For a full-ride scholarship, you might need to spend hours on the application.

TKeep all these things in mind when planning your high school senior year. Participate in student council, volunteer at a local organization, focus on music or sports, and keep your GPA high.

How can you increase your chances of getting a scholarship as a high school student?

Give yourself the best chance to win scholarships in high school by applying early and often. Make sure you submit all the required materials with each application, and search for new opportunities every month.

There are many programs that accept scholarship applications from high school seniors and juniors. Don’t wait until a few months before college to start your scholarship search.

What are the most common scholarship application mistakes high school students make?

Procrastination is the most common mistake high school students make when it comes to applying for scholarships. Many awards have deadlines in the early fall, so you can’t wait until you graduate to start figuring out how you will pay for college.

Another common mistake is thinking that junior year is too early to start working on the college admissions process. There are plenty of things high school juniors can do in preparation for college, including finding and applying for scholarships.

Many high school students ignore small awards. A few hundred dollars won’t cover tuition for even a semester, but every little bit of financial aid helps. Plus, most of these minor awards have quick and easy applications that only take a few minutes to fill out. If you apply for and win several small scholarships, you can significantly reduce your student loan debt or reliance on federal student aid.

What are the most important things to remember as a high school student applying for scholarships?

Remember that scholarships aren’t available only for high school students with exceptional academic or athletic achievements. There are countless awards available, and many of them have minimal eligibility requirements. Don’t overlook any source of financial assistance, especially scholarships with quick and easy applications.

About the author
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland is equally passionate about math and grammar, and she has incorporated both into her career. She spent several years as a signals analyst for the Defense Department, creating and editing reports for the intelligence community. After her two kids were born, she transitioned to a career as a freelance writer. When she isn't crafting content, she's usually reading, baking, or playing video games.