How to Get College Scholarships While You're Still in High School

Last updated: Dec 18, 2020

Think you need to wait until senior year to start applying for scholarships? Think again! If you know where to look, there are, quite literally, millions of scholarship dollars available to students in grades 9-12. Our roundup shows you how to get college scholarships no matter where you are in your high school career.

Academic Merit Awards

Davidson Fellows Scholarship

Award Amount: $10,000-$50,000
Eligibility: Applicants must be 18 or under

One of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships, the Davidson Fellows Scholarship recognizes students who have completed a significant piece of work in the categories of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, music, philosophy, and an "outside the box" category.

National Merit Scholarship Program

Award Amount: Varies
Eligibility: Students in grades 11-12

Students who take the PSAT or NMSQT in their junior year of high school are eligible to participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Awards vary by school, but USF offers finalists full-tuition scholarships, study abroad scholarships, and more.

A high school student researches college scholarship options on her laptopArt & Writing Awards

Create a Greeting Card Scholarship

Award Amount: $10,000
Eligibility: High school and college students ages 14 and up

To be considered for the Create a Greeting Card Scholarship, submit an original photo, piece of artwork, or computer graphic for the front of a holiday, get well, or birthday greeting card.

Doodle 4 Google

Award Amount: $30,000
Eligibility: Students in grades K-12

Students are invited to create a Google doodle to feature on the Google web page for a day. Winners receive a $30,000 college scholarship, a computer, and a trip to Google to meet the doodlers.

Girls Impact the World Film Festival

Award Amount: Up to $5,000
Eligibility: Students of any gender age 25 and under

Students submit 3- to 6-minute short films that focus on a variety of global women's issues, including maternal health, microfinance initiatives, child-marriage, sex-trafficking, poverty alleviation, and more.

Ocean Awareness Contest

Award Amount: Up to $1,500
Eligibility: Students ages 11-18

Take part in the Ocean Awareness Contest to earn cash awards and raise awareness about the climate crisis and potential solutions through art, creative media, and storytelling.

One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest

Award Amount: Up to $1,000
Eligibility: Applicants ages 8-25

Entrants to the One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest are tasked with creating a 3- to 8-minute film (or 45-second animation) about one of six sustainability topics: energy, food, transportation, waste, water, or open space/ecosystems.

Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge

Award Amount: Up to $15,000
Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12

Inspire your peers to drive safely! Create a video designed to stop distracted driving and you could win up to $15,000.

Essay Awards

Americanism Essay Contest

Award Amount: $1,000-$5,000
Eligibility: Students in grades 7-12

Each year, the Fleet Reserve Association sponsors this  contest to promote the spirit of Americanism and patriotism among our country’s youth. 

Don’t Text and Drive Scholarship

Award Amount: $1,000
Eligibility: High school, college, and graduate school students

Submit a short 140-character statement about the dangers of texting and driving. Ten finalists will be invited to submit a longer 500- to 1,000-word essay for a chance to win.

Profile in Courage Essay Contest

Award Amount: $100-$10,000
Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12

This contest challenges students to write an original and creative essay that demonstrates an understanding of political courage as described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage.

We the Students Essay Contest

Award Amount: Up to $7,500
Eligibility: Students ages 14-19

Sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, We the Students Essay Contest requires students to write an essay addressing a current issue in civics.

A student reviews USF tuition and fees on a laptop computer

Micro-Scholarship Awards

You can earn small awards (known as micro-scholarships) from RaiseMe and the College Board just by documenting things you do anyway – like getting good grades, completing the FAFSA, or working at a part-time job during high school.

RaiseMe

Award Amounts: Up to $80,000
Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12

Use the RaiseMe app to earn awards — some as small as $50 — for school achievements such as making the honor roll, joining a sports team, being part of a club, or volunteering.

The average award is $22,500, earned from RaiseMe’s more than 225 partner institutions. However, you must be accepted and enroll in the particular college awarding the money.

The list of participating institutions is impressive and includes colleges such as Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pennsylvania, Tulane, Florida International University, and of course, the University of South Florida.

College Board Opportunity Scholarships

Award Amounts: $500-$2,000
Eligibility: Students in grades 11-12

Complete small tasks and earn an award for each, such as building a college list, taking a practice test, and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. 

Volunteer and Community Service Awards

Carson Scholars Fund

Award Amount: $1,000
Eligibility: Students in grades 4-11

Carson Scholars must have a minimum GPA of 3.75 and display humanitarian qualities through community service.

DoSomething.org College Scholarships

Award Amount: $1,000-$5,000
Eligibility: Applicants ages 25 and younger

Enter to win by doing community service. There are no essays, GPA requirements, recommendations, or applications, and you can enter multiple scholarships.

Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

Award Amount: $1,000 or $5,000
Eligibility: Students in grades 5-12

This is the largest youth recognition program in the U.S. based exclusively on volunteer community service. To qualify, you must have engaged in a volunteer activity during the 12 months prior to the date of the application.

Other Awards

There are some unusual, but completely legit, scholarships out there. Have fun with a few of these!

Flavor of the Month Scholarship

Award Amount: $1,500
Eligibility: Applicants 13 years old and up

What ice cream flavor best reflects your personality and why? Tell Unigo about your ice cream flavor, and you could scoop up a sweet $1,500 scholarship.

Niche “No Essay” Scholarship

Award Amount: $2,000
Eligibility: All high school and college students

Hate essays? This is the scholarship for you! Every month, Niche randomly chooses a winner for this scholarship, and you can apply every month.

Stuck at Prom Scholarship

Award Amount: $500-$10,000
Eligibility: High school students 14 years old and up

Stock up on your favorite Duck® Brand Duct Tape colors and make some amazing prom attire to win this unique scholarship.

Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship

Award Amount: $2,000
Eligibility: Applicants 13 years old and up

Imagine that your high school/college has been overrun with zombies. To win this scholarship, flesh out a plan to avoid the zombies, including where you would hide and the top five things you would bring with you to stay alive.

Next Steps: Dive in and Apply

Now that you know about some of the scholarships available to high school students, start applying! But first, download our tip sheet for ideas on how to put your best foot forward and ensure your scholarship applications rise to the top of the pile. 

Download Our Scholarship TipsInterested in other scholarships we didn’t cover here? Check out our top ways to find college scholarships for free, and learn more about scholarship opportunities available at USF by visiting the University Scholarships and Financial Aid Services website or calling 813-974-4700.