Leadership In Early Years Essay Scholarships

Aside from grants and loans, 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 would be worth your time to do your own 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 (you’ll be able to use them at any accredited college you choose to attend), and they 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 lists of scholarship competitions, merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and specialty awards. Check out the end of the post for strategies on getting the most scholarship money possible!

  

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

 

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 the following awards. 

 

Voice of Democracy Scholarship Competition

Students compete for this award by writing and recording an audio essay on a patriotic theme. This year's theme is "American History: Our Hope for the Future." The first place winner receives a grand prize of $30,000; winners also receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, DC. A total of $154,000 in awards is given out annually. 

  • This competition is open to students in grades 9-12.
  • The next application submission deadline is expected to be in October 2018.

 

The Fountainhead Essay Contest

Students compete for this award by writing an essay on one of three topics related to Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. The first-place winner receives a grand prize of $10,000; runners-up also receive prizes. A total of $43,750 is given out annually. 

  • The competition is open to students in grades 11-12.
  • The submission deadline is May 15, 2018.

 

Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

Students compete for this award by writing an essay on one of three topics related to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. The first-place winner receives $10,000. Runners-up also receive prizes, and a whopping $43,7500 in scholarship money is awarded annually. 

  • The competition is open to high school seniors, college students, and graduate students.
  • The submission deadline is May 15, 2018.

 

American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest

Are you a good public speaker, or do you just want an excuse to work on your public speaking skills? This competition might be a good fit for you. Students compete for this award by preparing and performing a 3-5 minute oration on some aspect of the US Constitution. You can view this year's topics here.

The first place winner receives an award of $18,000, second place receives $16,000, and third place receives $14,000. There are also smaller awards for state winners. In total, annual awards amounts can be over $138,000.

  • The competition is open to US high school students under 20 years of age.
  • Deadlines vary by state, as contests are arranged by local American Legion departments. Get more information for your state here.

 

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 for the front of a greeting card. The winner receives $10,000, and the winner's school receives an award of $1,000. 

  • The competition is open to high school, college, and university students.
  • The next submission deadline is expected to be in March 2019.
  • Submit your design online here.

 

Siemens Math, Science, and Technology Award Scholarships

If you're interested in STEM competitions and would like the opportunity to win some major funding, this scholarship competition is the one for you. Students compete for this award by completing an individual or team research project (so you can win as an individual, or as part of a 2-3 person group). National awards range from $25,000 to $100,000, and regional awards range from $1,000 to $6,000. 

  • The competition is open to US high school students.
  • The next submission deadline is expected to be in September 2018.
  • Register for the competition here.

 

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 your academic performance in conjunction with a few other factors (often leadership skills and commitment to community service). The most competitive applicants will be dedicated, high-achieving students who also show that they're invested in their communities. 

 

Coca-Cola Scholars Program

Coca-Cola Scholars are judged on their academic performance, extracurricular activities, leadership experience, and community service. This scholarship program is fairly large: 150 awards of $20,000 are given out each year. You can learn more about the Coca-Cola scholarship by reading our guide to winning the award. 

  • This award is open to current high school seniors.
  • The application opens in August; the submission deadline is typically in October.

 

Burger King Scholars Program

Applicants to this scholarship are judged on their GPA, work experience, extracurricular activities, and community service. Award amounts really range—they can be as small as $1,000 and as large as $50,000

  • This scholarship is open to US high school seniors who plan on going to college or vocational/technical school.
  • The application period typically opens in October and closes in December. 
  • Register here to apply for the scholarship.

 

Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarships

These award eligibility requirements will really vary based on your local Ronald McDonald House Charity chapter. Some scholarships have ethnic eligibility requirements, for example. Deadlines and award amounts will also vary by location, but some of the bigger national awards can be as large as $100,000! You can read more about getting an RMHC scholarship by checking out our how-to guide. 

  • These scholarships are open to high school seniors, but other eligibility requirements may apply based on the particular scholarship.
  • The scholarship application typically opens in October.

 

If your family income isn't enough to cover college expenses, need-based scholarships might be great options 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—strong applicants will also need to be strong students, leaders, or community activists. You'll likely have to submit documentation about your family income for most of these applications. 

 

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 or below $55,000. At the national level, there are 106 $25,000 awards; there are also state scholarships that range between $6,000 and $10,500. 

This one scholarship application will get you considered for many other national, state, and specialized scholarships—which means less work for you and many more opportunities for scholarship funding!

  • This scholarship is open to US high school seniors who plan on getting a BA.
  • Application season typically runs from August to October.

 

Jackie Robinson's Foundation Scholarship Program

Applicants to this need-based scholarship are judged on 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.

  • This scholarship is open to minority high school seniors.
  • The application period typically runs from November to February.

 

Engebretson Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship is pretty straightforward: it's awarded to one student each year who demonstrates financial need, in addition to impressive academic performance and leadership ability. The annual award winner receives $5,000 per semester of college. 

  • This scholarship is open to current high school seniors.
  • Applications must be submitted via mail.
  • The application submission deadline is typically in March.  

 

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program

In addition to providing funding for school, this scholarship program offers personal advising on selecting a college, navigating financial aid, and transitioning from high school to college. Applicants are judged on academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, desire to help others, and leadership. Awards are given to up to 40 students each year, and can be as much as $40,000

  • This scholarship is open to high school seniors with financial need who will attend a 4-year college.
  • The application is open from early September to early November. Get notified when the application opens.

 

Elk's National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition 

Applicants to this need-based scholarship are judged on their scholarship and leadership abilities. In total, 500 scholarships are awarded across the country, and total award amounts (over four years) range from $4,000 to $50,000. Applications must be submitted to the Elk Lodge closest to your home address, so research the Elk Lodges in your area before you apply!

  • This scholarship is open to US high school seniors.
  • Last year's application period opened September 1st. The start date and deadline for this year have yet to be announced but is typically in November.

 

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

 

Specialty Scholarships

The following scholarship programs are national awards but target students with 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!

 

CIA Undergraduate Scholars Program

This program offers more than just a scholarship—if you're selected as a winner, you'll become a part of a pretty unique internship program. Interns work at the CIA during summer breaks, are given an annual salary (with benefits), and an annual scholarship award of up to $18,000. You must demonstrate financial need to qualify. Income eligibility ceilings are $70,000 for a family of four or fewer, and $80,000 for a family of five or more. 

  • This scholarship is open to high school seniors.
  • Applications are accepted April 1-August 31, 2018.

 

Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship

Are you a proud vegetarian? This might seem like a uniquely niche award, but the scholarship is very real! The Vegetarian Resource Group judges applicants on their "compassion, courage, and a strong commitment to promoting a peaceful world through a vegetarian diet/lifestyle." If you've promoted vegetarianism in your school or community, you'll likely be a strong applicant. The first-place winner receives $10,000, and two runners-up each receive $5,000

  • The scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors.
  • The application submission deadline is usually in February.

 

Davidson Fellowship Scholarships

Do you have an extraordinary achievement you're particularly proud of? This scholarship goes to unique 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, and awards range from $10,000 to $50,000.  

  • This scholarship is open to students 18 years of age and under.
  • The application window typically runs from November to February. 

 

AXA Achievement Scholarship

This scholarship targets students who have empowered society through achievements that mitigate risk. This can be interpreted pretty broadly, so spend some time thinking about what risk means to you and if you've participated in making the world a safer place through any of your activities. Last year, more than 300 students representing all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico received one-time scholarships in increments of $2,500, $10,000, or $25,000.

  • This scholarship is open to high school seniors who will attend college in 2019-20.
  • The application period opens September 2018.

 

William Randolph Hearst Foundations US Senate Youth Program

If you are 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 abilities, academic performance, community involvement, and extracurricular activities. Each winner will receive a $10,000 award in addition to an all-expense-paid educational week in Washington DC. 

  • This scholarship is open to high school juniors and seniors.
  • Students can apply through their high schools or state selection contacts.
  • The application deadline varies depending on the state but is typically around October.

 

Tips here, get your tips here!

 

Tips for Making the Most of Your Scholarship Applications

If you're going to go through all the work of submitting a scholarship application, you want to make sure you have the best chances possible of winning awards. The following 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 will likely be very competitive. You could be a very strong applicant for any number of scholarships and still not win one of these big national awards. 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, the better chances you'll have of winning an award (if you're a qualified applicant, that is). So do your own research on scholarships programs that operate in your area, or are offered to students with your particular interests or passions.

The 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. 

Finally, take advantage of applications that submit you for consideration for many scholarship awards, such as the Horatio Algier 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 earlier 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 Coca-Cola Scholarship, the Walmart Scholarships, and the McDonald's Scholarships.

Need more help with your scholarship search? Read our expert guide on how to find college scholarships.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

 

Many students think that they should start looking at college scholarships once they actually start applying to college—so, sometime early on in their senior year. Although it’s true that many big-name scholarships require applicants to be high school seniors, there are some great awards out there for younger students as well.

So why not get a head start in applying for scholarship awards? You could win money for college, sure, but you’ll also get experience in the scholarship application process before submitting even more applications your senior year.

I’ve compiled a list of scholarships for high school juniors. This list will be a great place to start, but you might also want to search for more targeted awards (e.g., by geographic area). You can browse the scholarships below based on whether they're competitions or merit-based scholarships. Read to the end for tips and strategies on getting the most scholarship money possible!

 

Are you ready for a little (friendly) competition? It's a win-win! You can get application practice, scholarship funding, or both! 

 

Essay- and Project-Based Scholarships for Juniors 

If you have a competitive side, these scholarship programs might be just the thing to get you motivated! Whether you're a debate pro or a science nerd, you're sure to find a competition right up your alley. 

 

Voice of Democracy Scholarship Competition

To compete for this scholarship, applicants write and record an audio essay on an annual patriotic theme. The theme for 2017-2018 is "American History: Our Hope for the Future." The first place winner walks away with a $30,000 scholarship, but runners-up also receive awards; a total of $2.1 million in scholarship funding is given out annually. Winners also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC!

  • This scholarship is open to students in grades 9-12.
  • The next submission deadline will likely be in October 2018.

 

American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest

Similar to the Voice of Democracy Scholarship Competition, students compete for this scholarship by writing and performing a three- to five-minute oration on some aspect of the US Constitution. First place takes home $18,000, second place $16,000, and third place $14,000. You can learn more about this year's assigned topics here.

  • This scholarship is open to high school students under 20 years of age.
  • Deadlines vary by state, so check with your local American Legion Department. Get more information for contests in your state here.

 

The Fountainhead Essay Contest

Are you an Ayn Rand fan? Or have you read The Fountainhead for school? Then you've already done the lion's share of the work for this scholarship competition! Students compete for this award by writing an essay on one of three topics related to The Fountainhead (you can check out this year's topics here). The first-place winner is awarded a grand prize of $10,000, although runners-up also receive prizes. In total, this program gives out $43,250 annually. (This is a cash prize, so you'll receive the money personally.)

  • This scholarship is open to students in grades 11-12.
  • The submission deadline is May 15, 2018.

 

Siemens Math, Science, and Technology Award Scholarships

If you're into research projects, you'll love this scholarship program. Students compete by completing an individual or team project in the STEM fields. The payout is pretty significant, with national awards ranging from $25,000-100,000 and regional awards ranging from $1,000-3,000

  • This scholarship is open to US high school students.
  • The next submission deadline will likely be in September 2018.

 

Gen and Kelly Tanabe Scholarship

This is a smaller scholarship, but it's also pretty easy to compete—all you have to do is write a 250-word personal statement. You can even reuse an essay you wrote for class, another scholarship, or a college application! The applicant who submits the highest-quality essay wins a $1,000 scholarship.

  • This scholarship is open to US students in grades 9-12.
  • The submission deadline for the spring 2018 cycle is July 31, 2018.

 

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

Do you follow US politics? Then this competition may be the one for you. Students compete by writing an essay that demonstrates their understanding of JFK's description of political courage. You can get more detailed information on this year's essay topic here. You can even read past winning essays to get an idea of what is expected of applicants. Award amounts range from $500 all the way up to $10,000.

  • This scholarship is open to US students in grades 9-12.
  • The submission deadline for the 2018 contest is January 4, 2018.

 

Do you fancy yourself a bit of a bookworm? 

 

Merit-Based Scholarships for Juniors

These scholarships are still competitions in that you and a bunch of other applicants are vying for a limited amount of funds. But instead of being evaluated on your oratorical or scientific acumen, you'll be evaluated on personal qualities. Some of these scholarships heavily value scholarship, whereas others value leadership or community service (or even a combination of both!). 

 

William Randolph Hearst Foundation US Senate Youth Program

This is a bit of a specialty scholarship program—it's meant for students who are serving in student government and plan on taking government courses in college. Applicants are judged on their leadership abilities, academics, clear speech, logical thought, community involvement, and extracurriculars. A total of 104 award winners receive $10,000 each as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to a conference in Washington, DC. 

  • This scholarship is open to students in grades 11-12.
  • Submission deadlines vary by state, but are usually in the fall.

 

Carson Scholars Program

To be a competitive applicant for this scholarship, you must demonstrate academic excellence in addition to a dedication to serving your community. The minimum GPA eligibility requirement is 3.75/4.00. If you'd like to be considered for this award, you must be nominated by an educator at your school, and only one nomination per school is allowed. Winners receive a $1,000 prize. You can request an application here.

  • This scholarship is open to students in grades 4-11.
  • The submission deadline is January 8, 2018.

 

National Merit Scholarship

If you're a junior in high school, chances are you've already taken the PSAT. But did you know that by just taking that test, you've already started the process of entering yourself into this scholarship competition? Students compete for this award by striving to get a top PSAT score (depending on your state, you'll need a Selection Index score of 211 or higher to qualify). You must then submit an application with other standard scholarship information. The competition gives out $2,500 awards to about 7,500 students every year (with corporate and institutional sponsors giving out additional awards).

 

Like most things in life, you'll be most successful with your scholarship applications if you employ some solid long-term strategies. 

 

3 Tips for Getting the Most Scholarship Money Possible

If you're starting the scholarship application process in 11th grade, you've got a long road ahead of you. This is a good thing! Scholarship programs have varying requirements, deadlines, and expectations, so the earlier you get started, the better chance you'll have of getting money!

Below are our top tips to help you win the most scholarship money you can as a junior.

 

#1: Do Your Own Research

It's great to get started with these larger national scholarships, but as you might imagine, the competition gets pretty fierce when you're dealing with these noteworthy scholarship programs. Even if you're a very strong applicant for a particular award, chances are you could be a very strong applicant for a particular scholarship and still not win award money if the program is particularly competitive. 

The more independent research you do into smaller, tailored scholarship programs, the better your chances of getting funding for school will be. That isn't to say you shouldn't apply to the big scholarships—you definitely should!—but you should also have some smaller "safety" awards. The more niche a scholarship program is, the better chances you'll have of winning an award (assuming you're a qualified applicant, that is).

So do your own research on scholarships programs that operate in your area or are offered to students with your particular interests and passions. The easiest way is to Google scholarships in your area. If you have a particular talent, skill, interest, or identity, search for scholarships that are offered to students based on those criteria. 

You can also talk with your guidance counselor who should have more information about local scholarships and how to apply for them.

 

#2: Apply Broadly

This is another strategy designed to increase your odds of coming out of the process with some extra college money in your pocket. Basically, apply to as many scholarships as possible.

Many scholarship applications ask similar questions and require similar information, so if you apply to one program, you might as well apply to several. It's free to apply for most scholarships, so all it takes from you is a few hours of your time.

For example, the Gen and Kelly Tanabe Scholarship listed above will let you use a personal statement from class or even another application, meaning you can kill two birds with one stone! 

 

#3: Make Note of Deadlines

Many scholarships are due before college applications. As such, it's better to start your scholarship search earlier rather than later so you don't miss out on any great opportunities.

This is especially true for scholarships geared toward high school seniors. If you're looking into scholarships now, this is the perfect time to get a jump on some of the bigger scholarships for 12th graders.

You can keep track of application deadlines by keeping a spreadsheet that you update regularly. This is helpful if applications require you to ask for letters of recommendation. In that case, be sure to give your teachers and mentors plenty of advance notice to write you a letter

 

What's Next? 

If you want to get a head start on scoping out scholarships, check out our comprehensive guides to winning some of the most competitive national scholarships available. Learn more about the Coca-Cola Scholarship, the Gates Millennium Scholarship, the Walmart Scholarships, and the McDonald's Scholarships. 

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

 

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