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How to Get Scholarships for High School Seniors

How do scholarships for high school seniors work?

More high school graduates are attending college than ever before. Nearly 70 percent of spring graduates in the class of 2017 went to college the following fall, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This represents an increase of about 10 percent from the year 2000.

When you consider the rising rates of college tuition, you see the challenges that the family of a senior in high school is facing. The average tuition for attending a state university for state residents has more than doubled since 2000 from $3,500 to $11,260, a price spike that is also typical of private college and out-of-state tuition. With more students looking for ways to pay the steadily rising cost of higher education, competition for scholarships is brisk.

Athletic scholarships are just one type of funding available to college students. There are need-based scholarships for high school seniors and their families, which are designed to help low-income students. Academic scholarships, minority scholarships and STEM scholarships are also available.

Each scholarship application is different, so be sure to read through the requirements before applying. Pay special attention to the deadline date. Your student must submit the complete application package well within that timeframe.

Besides providing financial assistance for paying college tuition, scholarships for high school students offer much more. For high school seniors, scholarships can open the way to a professional career. Merit scholarships for high school seniors and their families provide recognition and rewards for students who have worked hard in their studies.

Although no two scholarships for college students are identical, they usually work in similar ways. You apply, a committee or individual selects the recipients and then announces their names. Funding may go directly to the university financial office or to the student for payment of tuition.

Some college scholarships are renewable for all four years of university, provided the recipient meets specific guidelines like a GPA threshold. Some scholarships are one-time only awards. Full ride scholarships cover housing and expenses as well as college costs.

What does it take to get scholarships for high school seniors?

When you ask how to get scholarships, you will get several answers. Each organization offering scholarships for high school students may have slightly different criteria. For example, a coach awarding football scholarships is looking for the best players who meet academic guidelines while a committee conferring a STEM scholarship is more interested in relevant experience and academic skills.

In general, though, students how have the following qualities and experiences are more likely to win scholarship funding than those who do not:

  • Strong organizational skills
  • Attention to detail
  • A strong academic record
  • Work and internship history
  • Community service/civic engagement
  • Leadership skills/practical experience

One of the ways a student can demonstrate attention to detail is by submitting a complete scholarship application that meets the guidelines and arrives prior to the cutoff date. If you miss the deadline, you are likely to miss out.

A general list of scholarships for high school students is a good place to start your scholarship search. Once you get an idea of what types of college scholarships are on offer, you can narrow down your list of scholarships according to the type you and your student are looking for.

What different types of scholarships for high school students are available?

Although full ride scholarships for free college are in short supply, other types of scholarships for high school seniors abound, but you have to do the research to find the ones that are the best fit. Types of college scholarships include:

  • Academic scholarships
  • Sports scholarships
  • STEM scholarships for high school students
  • Engineering scholarships for seniors
  • Athletic scholarships for high school athletes
  • Scholarships for underserved communities

Many universities, field of study organizations, in-state industries and branches of the military offer academic scholarships for high school students who have earned a high GPA during their high school freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. On average, you need a 3.5 or above GPA to be considered for merit scholarships, but full ride scholarships typically go to high school students whose GPA is 3.8 or higher.

A handful of universities don't even require a separate application for merit-based scholarships for college students. If your child's college application lists a high class ranking plus an ACT and/or SAT score that is at or above a specific threshold, the school will guarantee a college scholarship for your high school senior.

If a student plans to major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, you should research STEM scholarships. Offered by such STEM-related organizations as The American Society for Engineering Education, Davidson Institute and The Gates Foundation, STEM scholarships and engineering scholarships help promising high school seniors continue their education at a college or university of their choice.

Scholarships for high school athletes are another type of financial aid available for most college sports. Some of the best-funded scholarships for high school athletes include:

College-bound high school students who are part of underserved communities should research minority scholarships for college students designed to help high school students with disabilities, minority students, women and LGBTQ students. Many minority scholarships are merit scholarships that recognize excellence in academics. Others aim to help more students of mixed or underserved backgrounds get college degrees. Some women's scholarships are offered by organizations in occupations in science and technology that have been historically filled by men.

Explore how to get scholarships for high school students that fit your child's particular strengths by starting with a comprehensive list of scholarships when your student is still a senior in high school. You will find that you have plenty of sources to choose from.

Are Grants the Same as Scholarships for High School Seniors?

Grants for college are similar to scholarships for college students because you do not have to repay them. The primary difference between the two is that most grants are given based on need while scholarships can be based on other criteria as well. Merit, athleticism and underserved status are all other bases for scholarship awards.

You can also search for grants and scholarships by major, if your student has already decided upon a career path. More than $350 million in college funding is available to business and marketing majors while approximately $400 million is up for grabs in computer science. For future teachers and school administrators, scholarships totaling nearly $450 million are on offer by various organizations, and $575 million in college funding is available to those entering pre-med programs.

Write a Winning Scholarship Essay

Although there are a few scholarship applications out there that don't require an essay, the majority of them do. A scholarship essay provides you with the chance to stand out as an individual. Because competition is tough for the best college scholarships, your essay is likely to be key to a win. Therefore, be sure you give it your best.

Some tips from scholarship specialists for writing a winning essay include:

  • Start with an attention-grabbing first paragraph
  • Keep the content clear and to the point
  • Closely follow all of the essay specifics such as word count
  • Let your unique personality shine through with tangible details
  • Allow plenty of time to tailor the essay to fit the scholarship
  • Proofread to make sure your essay is flawless

Although the essay is a critical component of your application package, you and your student should make sure that you fulfill all of the other requirements to the letter. For example, include any recommendations and transcripts the application asks for. Make sure to fully complete that the application itself correctly.

Do I Need a Scholarship Resume?

A scholarship resume can be a useful addendum to your application in specific cases. Expressly designed to summarize your educational background, strengths and experiences in a page or less, this type of resume gives committees an easy to scan snapshot of what makes you unique.

This type of resume may also be useful to you as you fill out scholarship applications. It serves as a handy reference for the information you need as you fill out the forms.

A resume like this is a great make-ahead tool as you and your student anticipate the scholarship application process. You can do other tasks to prepare as well. Even high school freshmen and their families can be proactive in preparing for a future scholarship search. For example, athletes who dream of playing on an NCAA team can get started on creating an online profile with a college recruiting service.

A limited amount of funding for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors who are college bound is available too. Getting funded for special projects while in high school looks impressive to scholarship committees. Competing with other scholars who are high school sophomores and juniors, and winning regional, industry-related or underserved community scholarships, demonstrates your student's worthiness to obtain college scholarships for high school seniors once they are ready.

How to Find Funding for High School Students that Fits

Consider some of the following criteria when you and your student are putting together your scholarship application list:

  • Can you use it at one of the colleges you like?
  • How far from home is the school offering the scholarship?
  • Is the award for a specific major that your student wants to pursue?
  • Is the sports scholarship a good fit for your student athlete?
  • Does the scholarship recognize the talent, gender, and/or ethnicity of your student?
  • Does your student meet the academic requirements?
  • Will your student be able to maintain the required GPA for scholarship renewal?

When you receive news that your child has been chosen to receive a partial scholarship, you should keep applying for more funding each semester and/or each year. If it is a full ride scholarship, you and your student must make sure that you continue to meet the eligibility requirements to maintain that funding.

NCSA Helps Students Get Athletic Scholarships

NCSA, the largest and most successful college athletics recruiting service in the world, has built its reputation on bringing college coaches, recruiters and gifted athletes together to form stronger, more competitive programs. We work with high school athletes and their families every step of the way through the recruiting process, from goal-setting to connecting with coaches at the colleges they want to attend.

We have more than 35,000 university coaches in our network. These coaches look to NCSA first to find out who is looking for recruitment, what their skills are and where they have played. Coaches watch the videos on their top prospects' online profiles. They compare stats. NCSA provides all the information a coach needs to select players for future teams.

High school athletes get a full array of tools to create the kind of profiles that attract notice. We also provide a ranking calculator, so athletes can see how they stack up to other athletes in the NCSA system. We also offer advice for calling coaches when the time is right.

Partner with NCSA on Your Scholarship Journey

Parents and athletes alike who have used NCSA to help them get college athletics berths give NCSA a resounding thumbs up. Out of some 86,000 reviews, we have received over the years, nine out of ten say they would definitely recommend our services. Since 2000, NCSA has helped more than 150,000 high school athletes on college sports rosters.

Find out more about NCSA's college recruiting services by calling us at 866 495-5172. Get started on your student athlete's free profile today.

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