Scholarships for high school seniors: What to know and where to look

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Scholarships are a form of financial aid that can be need-based, merit-based or academic-based. Scholarships are gifts; they do not have to be repaid. Some scholarships are renewed automatically every year you’re in school, while others are given on a one-off basis.

Many scholarships are available for high school seniors about to start their first year of college. While the best way to find relevant scholarships for you is to use a scholarship search engine, below you can find a list of the most popular, simple and unique scholarships for high school seniors available.

Where to find scholarships for high school seniors

The more scholarships you apply to, the greater the chances of earning money for school. That’s why it’s so important to look for scholarships from a variety of sources. The easiest way to do that is through scholarship search engines, which compile thousands of scholarships and let you filter by specific criteria. The following sites are the best for finding scholarships if you’re a high school senior attending college next year.

You can also search for scholarships through local organizations, such as rotary clubs or local businesses. Colleges may also have their own scholarships available, which you can inquire about when you apply.

9 best scholarships for high school seniors

There are thousands of scholarships for high school seniors available, many of which are focused on specific majors, hobbies or interests. The nine scholarships below are a good place to start your search.

1. Technology Addiction Awareness Scholarship

Both high school and college students are eligible for the Technology Addiction Awareness Scholarship, which requires a 140-character answer to the question, “Instead of spending time with technology, I’d rather…” Finalists for this award will be asked to submit a 500- to 1,000-word essay about technology addiction.

Amount: $1,000
Application deadline:
Jan. 30, 2022
Apply here:

2. Unigo $10K Scholarship

Students at least 14 years old can apply for the Unigo $10K Scholarship, which requires a 250-word essay on the question, “2020 was a year to be remembered. What will you remember most about 2020 and why is it important to you?”

Amount: $10,000
Application deadline: Dec. 31, 2021
Apply here:

3. Imagine Dragons Origins Scholarship

The pop-rock band Imagine Dragons sponsors this scholarship, designed for refugee, immigrant or first-generation American students. Four winners will be chosen, and each will receive $2,500. Applicants have to write an essay between 200 and 1,000 words on their cultural experience and how it’s shaped their future goals.

Amount: $2,500
Application deadline: Sept. 15, 2021
Apply here:

4. Young Filmmakers Contest

Creative students can submit a film for the chance to win the Young Filmmakers Contest, which offers a $1,000 scholarship for high school and college students, plus a $1,000 matching grant. The subject should be the environment. Live-action films must be between three and eight minutes long, while animated or stop-motion films must be at least 45 seconds long.

Amount: $1,000
Application deadline:
Jan. 9, 2022
Apply here:

5. Coca-Cola Scholars Scholarship

The Coca-Cola Scholars Scholarship program offers 150 scholarships, each worth $20,000. Students must have a 3.0 unweighted GPA. Students are chosen on the basis of their leadership skills and academic achievement; ideal candidates are “passionate and service-oriented, and demonstrate a sustained commitment to bettering their community.”

Amount: $20,000
Application deadline: Oct. 31, 2021
Apply here:

6. United States Senate Youth Program

High school students passionate about government and public policy can apply for the United States Senate Youth Program, which provides a $10,000 award and a special week-long educational program in Washington, D.C. Winners will be chosen from each state and the District of Columbia. Students must be interested in public service and have held an elected position in either their student body or their community.

Amount: $10,000
Application deadline:
Depends on the state
Apply here:

7. Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship

Students who’ve binged “The Walking Dead” or classic zombie movies will love the Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship essay prompt, which asks you to describe how you’d survive a zombie attack in 250 words or less. Students must be at least 14 years old and be U.S. residents.

Amount: $2,000
Application deadline:
Oct. 31, 2021
Apply here:

8. Superpower Scholarship

Superhero fans will enjoy applying for the Superpower Scholarship, which requires them to explain which superhero they’d trade places with and why. The essay must be 250 words or less, and students have to be at least 14 years old to enter.

Amount: $2,500
Application deadline: March 31, 2022
Apply here:

9. Greater Than Gatsby Annual Scholarship

Students passionate about photography can apply for the Greater Than Gatsby Annual Scholarship, which requires three photographs and a 500-word essay describing your interest in the subject. Students have to major in media, communications, visual arts or other related subjects.

Amount: $1,000
Application deadline:
May 1, 2022
Apply here:

How scholarships affect your financial aid package

Receiving a scholarship may affect how much federal aid you’re eligible to receive. Scholarships reduce the total cost of attendance, and you can’t be offered more financial aid than the total cost of attendance. The exception is the Pell Grant, which will not be reduced if you receive a private scholarship. If your total scholarships and the Pell Grant exceed the cost of attendance, the college will pay out the difference directly to you.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply for scholarships. Scholarships don’t have to be paid back, whereas student loans do, so it’s almost always in your best interest to go after as many scholarships as you can before applying for federal aid like student loans.

Next steps

To find the best scholarships for you as you prepare to graduate high school, do your own research and find scholarships that are specific to you — whether it’s because of your state, your future major or your interests and activities. Apply to as many scholarships as possible. Every dollar you earn in aid is one less dollar that you have to borrow in student loans.

Learn more:

Written by
Zina Kumok
Contributing writer
Zina Kumok has been a full-time personal finance writer since 2015. She’s a three-time nominee for Best Personal Finance Contributor/Freelancer at the Plutus Awards and a two-time speaker at FinCon, the premier financial media conference.
Edited by
Student loans editor