Bold.org Scholarships Blog

How to get scholarships in high school

Bold.org Editorial Team

Top experts in a variety of areas

Finding scholarships while in high school might sound like you're getting ahead of yourself, but it is never too early to find financial aid to help fund your education. In fact, it is encouraged to apply early for scholarships of any kind, as scholarship programs may have limited funds that are given on a first-come, first-serve basis. Scholarships are available at any education level to help ease the burden of paying for college. In fact, the federal student aid office recommends that students begin applying for scholarships the summer before they become high school seniors.

On Bold.org, you can begin this process even earlier on, as students are allowed to make a profile when they are as young as 14 years old. Additionally, students do not need to be graduating high school seniors in order to apply for scholarships. Current college students and graduate students alike are welcome and encouraged to continue applying for all kinds of scholarships, from merit scholarships to community service scholarships.

Graduating high school seniors looking to attend college might find scholarships crucial to funding their undergraduate studies. With the average price of a bachelor's degree totaling close to $400,000, high school students may be starting to look at scholarships as early as their junior year to see what kind of college funding is out there. Finding scholarships while in high school can also give students more agency when choosing a college as price may be less of a factor if they've already earned scholarship aid.

Scholarships for high school students have been in greater demand with the rising cost of higher education and the rising amount of student loan debt. Aside from college scholarships, private student loans and federal student loans are also options to fund your studies. Students who graduated in 2021 have an average of $31,100 in debt at graduation, a little over the mean average of student loan debt for the past decade: $30,000.

Annually, scholarships and grants pay for 25% of educational expenses, and 63% of all undergraduate students receive at least one grant or scholarship to help pay for their education, making scholarships a popular option for college students. A student with high financial need may receive school scholarships from their university or college, or they could receive student aid after completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which awards $112 billion in financial aid to students annually.

The scholarship search and application process will take some time, however, with how steep the scholarship competition can get it will be worthwhile to spend the necessary amount of time during this process.

Finding scholarships for high school students on Bold.org

Once you've found a scholarship for high school students or high school seniors that you'd like to apply for, you can create a free account on Bold.org and get started!

Bold.org is dedicated to alleviating the burden of paying for college and is here to assist you with making the scholarship search simple and straightforward. Scholarships may be categorized by education level, major, and location, so be sure to adjust the filters as needed.

In addition to your Bold.org profile, some scholarships will require an essay prompt or other submission as part of the application. High school students can filter scholarships by education level or specific degree program, such as this list crafted specifically for students still in high school.

Additionally, prospective college students may also consider speaking with a counselor or advisor about other scholarship options available.

How to find scholarships for high school students

In addition to applying for college, you may want to look at financial aid options besides federal loans if you're concerned about loan payments. Federal grants are offered to high school students when they fill out the FAFSA, but many scholarships do have their own scholarship applications.

Finding scholarships for high school students

Knowing what your interests and career aspirations are will be helpful when finding scholarship opportunities. For instance, if you are interested in pursuing a degree in social welfare, then a community service scholarship may be a good option for you.

Outstanding students will be eligible for multiple scholarships to help boost their financial aid packages as well, whether they earn a scholarship through extracurricular activities or community organizations.

Finding scholarships for high school students through a university or college

Upon applying to the college or university, the institution of higher education will typically consider you for scholarships that can help cover tuition and offer financial assistance. Some of these scholarships will be renewable each year you're a student, and others could be awarded on a one-time basis.

If you're considering what additional scholarships you could earn as a college student, a list of eligible college scholarships and their requirements will be listed on the college or department's website. Scholarships based on academic achievement will detail all the requirements needed for your application or in some cases, you might not need to apply at all.

Finding scholarships through a professional organization

Even if you're still attending high school, there are a few organizations or societies that could be beneficial to providing college funding before you start your freshman year.

Minority students may be able to find scholarships through professional organizations or societies. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is one example of a scholarship program that empowers Hispanic students and awards students for their academic performance, ensuring that the next generation does receive that support to achieve their career goals.

Finding scholarships for high school athletes

Student-athletes will have to go a different route to receive college scholarship money. High school students will first have to be recruited by a college or university and, depending on which division the school plays in, will be eligible for athletic scholarships.

Students must demonstrate academic and athletic excellence prior to entering college, and most students commit to a school during their senior year. Four-year scholarships like these won't have to be repaid and often require the student-athlete to maintain a certain GPA throughout their college career.

How to apply for high school scholarships

Applying for a scholarship is very similar to the college admissions process. The application process may seem intimidating, but giving yourself the time to prepare and gather the application materials will make the process less stressful. All the preparation and care given to your application will be worthwhile in the end, and you'll be able to enjoy the rest of your senior year.

Compile a list of scholarship opportunities to apply to

Once you have done a few searches and have found the high school scholarships you want to apply for, create a Google doc or sheet to keep track of deadlines and any links that will be helpful to remember.

This step can be done on paper or electronically, but it is pertinent to stay organized so as not to get confused or stressed about which scholarships you've submitted and the ones you have left.

Moreover, as you draft your list, be sure to read the eligibility requirements for your scholarships of choice. You don't want to make the mistake of applying to a graduate students scholarship when you are only a high school senior. Furthermore, applying to scholarships with narrow specific criteria that you do match can even increase your chances of winning, since there will be fewer applicants. For instance, a scholarship available only to minority high school seniors planning to study chemistry will have fewer applicants than one open to all college students.

Draft and review your personal essay

Your scholarship essay is an important component of your scholarship application. Oftentimes, high school students are asked to talk about a challenging moment in their life and how they overcame it, or how a personal experience sparked a period of personal growth for them.

Scholarship essay questions may vary, but do plan out and outline your essay ahead of time to organize your thoughts. Once you feel ready to write, go for it!

Reach out to teachers, coaches, or advisors for recommendations

It may feel intimidating to ask someone for a recommendation, but chances are they are well-versed in writing recommendations and more than happy to help!

Most students ask a teacher who knows them well or one who can speak to their strengths, but there are no requirements as to who students can ask for a recommendation.

High School Scholarships Application Tips

Besides maintaining strong academic performance and staying on top of after-school activities, there are a few things to keep in mind when starting the application process.

Apply as early as possible

There are a few advantages to applying early. Once you submit everything before the scholarship deadline, you'll be able to relax and not worry about applying for scholarships and colleges at the same time.

Some scholarships for high school students are limited in funds, so if you apply early you'll have better chances of standing out and receiving an award.

Ask more than one person to proofread your materials

Does writing a personal essay discussing your goals or past experiences stress you out? Luckily, an academic counselor, teacher, or parent can help you outline and draft your scholarship essays

Scholarships should go into depth about your academic performance and dedication to your studies, and also highlight any extracurricular activities you're passionate about, like community service or

Ask for recommendation letters as early as possible

Chances are the person you're asking for a recommendation letter has a busy schedule, so be mindful of how late you ask for a recommendation letter. A month to two weeks is the ideal window for asking a recommender, and some scholarships ask for two or three recommendation letters so start planning early.

Have a list of your extracurricular activities and interests from high school ready to give to the person writing the letter so they know exactly what to mention and emphasize in the letter. The letter is the scholarship committee's glimpse into who you are as a person, so make sure to ask your recommender to mention any achievements or awards that you've accomplished.

Frequently asked questions about scholarships for high school students

When should a high schooler start applying for scholarships?

It is recommended that high school students apply for scholarships as soon as possible and stay on top of deadlines early in the school year. High school students and high school seniors usually apply the summer before that incoming year.

High school juniors should follow a similar schedule and start applying in the summer before the semester begins to get a jump on their applications. It is important to gather the necessary materials and information early on to avoid becoming overwhelmed - especially once the school year starts.

If you are unable to start the scholarship search that early, don't worry! There are deadlines throughout the year, so many scholarships will be available outside of that window.

Do you have to pay back scholarships?

Fortunately, you do not have to pay back scholarships! College scholarships and scholarships of any kind are free money and do not require the recipient to pay them back.

The great thing about scholarships is that they can lessen the number of federal student loans you would have to take out otherwise. A few hundred dollars still make a difference — a scholarship of even $500 could cover the cost of textbooks for one academic year.

Do scholarships expire?

Scholarships don't expire, but scholarship programs will specify how long the scholarship will fund your college studies. For example, merit scholarships may span your entire college career but you have to maintain a certain GPA throughout all four years.

On the other hand, small scholarships may only fund a year or two due to a limit of funds from the scholarship program.

What do scholarships look for?

Scholarship programs look for well-rounded students who have challenged themselves academically and show potential to become leaders and top professionals in their field. Merit-based scholarships specifically look for academic excellence and good grades, but if you're a visual arts student, your scholarship application may require different materials beyond academic strength.

How many scholarships should I apply for?

There is no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for, so feel free to apply for as many as you'd like! However, the total scholarship money you receive cannot exceed the amount of money that you are expected to pay for attending college, so keep in mind what your total educational costs are.