Scholarships for High School Seniors

By the time most students are in their senior year, they’ve already established a scholarship or other college funding program. Colleges and universities are now reaching out with offers to students in the 8th and 9th grade. Senior year in high school is more about maintaining a solid grade point average, staying out of trouble, saving money for college, and participating in extra-curricular activities to polish off that college application.

Scholarships for High School Seniors

Scholarships for High School Seniors

But high school seniors who don’t already have a scholarship lined up shouldn’t worry too much. Plenty of financial aid and scholarship offers are available for students in their final year of high school. In fact, accolades and accomplishments earned during that final year of school can lead to even better offers and aid packages, especially for students who improve their SAT and ACT scores during the 12th grade.

How to Improve Your Scholarship Offers as a Senior

Because money for college comes from so many sources, your options for improving your access to funding are nearly endless. Here are some ideas to improve your standing in the eyes of financial aid departments and scholarship committees.

1. Improve Standardized Test Scores

Most aid packages and financial offerings from colleges and universities will pay particular attention to your score on the SAT, ACT, or other standardized test program. Students are now taking these tests, or preliminary versions of them, as young as the 7th grade. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with whatever score you earned in years past.

Rumors abound about the downsides of taking the SAT test too many times, but the truth is that admissions counselors and committees that hand out money for college only look at your best score, not necessarily the number of times you took the test itself. SAT experts say you can take the exam 100 times and still count on your best score representing you on paper when it counts. So go ahead and re-take those standardized tests. If you improve your score, you may find yourself with better scholarship offers.

2. Get Involved in Extra-Curricular Activities

Even though you only have one year left to participate, most extra-curricular programs have scholarships designed for students who participate. Joining the choir, marching band, or any other sort of club that operates outside the normal boundaries of school hours will improve your standing in the eyes of those who dole out cash for college.

3. Become a Volunteer

Volunteer work looks great on scholarship and college applications, and with so many ways to act as a volunteer you’d be foolish not to at least give this kind of work a try. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, or offer to read to the elderly at a nearby nursing home. If you need suggestions for what sort of volunteer work to pursue, talk to a college admissions counselor or a member of the clergy at your church or religious group.

4. Talk to Your School Counselor

The majority of your counselor’s job is to help you find a college that fits your needs and to assist in finding funds so you can afford that college education. Regular visits to your school counselor can lead to new ideas for finding scholarships that you may not be able to find on your own. Your school counselor should be your best friend in your senior year.

5. Research New Scholarship Offers

You may think you’ve read every financial aid book and advice article in the world, but with so many thousands of scholarships handed out each year, there are bound to be some offers you haven’t considered yet. Reading through the posts here at is a good jumping-off point. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and look for new offers you haven’t considered before.

Links to Scholarships for Seniors

These five scholarships are aimed specifically at students nearing the end of their high school careers. This is a small sample of the huge number of aid packages available to graduating seniors, so don’t limit yourself to these examples only. Read through the list and start your own search for 12th grade financial aid packages.

1. Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Four Year Award For Seniors

The Coca-Cola company hands out a huge number of awards to high school seniors each year; most recently, they began giving up to 250 such awards each academic year. These awards are based on academic achievement, and are broken up into  two categories. Fifty top-tier students earn a $20,000 scholarship (worth $5,000 per year for four years of college) while 200 other seniors are given a $10,000 award handed out in units of $2,500 per year. Apply for this award if your GPA is at least 3.0 and you are not related to any employee of the Coca-Cola bottling company.

2. John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Award

The JFK Profile in Courage scholarship is given out to three students who write essays based on an annual theme. The student whose essay wins the essay contest overall earns a $10,000 scholarship, while the second-place winner earns a $1,000 award, and the second runner-up collects $500.

3. Jim McKay Memorial Scholarship

If you’re a high school senior interested in a degree in communications, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awards one $10,000 scholarship per year to people just like you. The Jim McKay Memorial Scholarship is given to a student who has demonstrated excellence in video and TV programming and has maintained good academic standing.

4. “Freedom in Academia” Essay Contest

This offer is perfect for seniors with a love for creative and critical writing. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is now in its fourth year of awarding a $5,000 scholarship, a $2,500 scholarship, and five $1,000 scholarships to students who write essays on free thinking in academic settings. Demonstrating an understanding of the First Amendment in an essay is the main criteria for this award.

5. AXA Achievement Scholarship

The AXA Equitable Insurance Company selects one senior from each of the fifty states, one from Washington, D.C., and one from Puerto Rico to receive a $10,000 scholarship, for a total of $520,000 in aid money annually. As an added bonus, the top 10 selected students will earn an additional $15,000 award and an internship at AXA Equitable upon graduation.

Don’t worry too much about not having enough scholarship funding if you’re in your last year of high school. Plenty of time exists to rack up more money for school. The above five awards barely scratch the surface of what 12th graders can access before they make the leap to a four-year college or university.

1 comment for “Scholarships for High School Seniors

  1. Imari Scott Cheatham
    August 13, 2013 at 12:35 am

    I am a high school senior with plans to major in communication. I have not collected enough money presently to enroll financially. I have applied and been accepted to Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN. I need tuition and other. Please respond and send application where applicable.
    Thank you.

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