Best Scholarships for High School Seniors to Apply for in 2023
High school seniors applying to college face a difficult transition that is only intensified by the overwhelming costs of college. Between dealing with college applications and the rest of the college admissions process, many high school seniors don't want to devote their limited time to scholarship applications.
However, with college costs steadily rising and now averaging $35,331 per year, it's becoming increasingly difficult for most students to afford college by themselves or even with family assistance. As a result, many students are forced to turn to loans early in their education in order to stay in school.
While student loans can allow students with limited resources to earn their degrees, they can also leave graduates buried in debt for years or decades after graduation. More than $1.7 trillion is currently owed by borrowers in the United States alone, and that number is only growing as more and more students are forced to borrow to afford college.
Between high interest rates and low-paying entry-level jobs, it can be difficult for recent graduates to afford their student loan payments. As a result, many borrowers default on their loans and may even end up in more debt in the years after graduation.
Black students, in particular, are disadvantaged by student loans, as 30% of Black college graduates default on their loans within the first twelve years of repaying and 48% owe an average of 12.5% more than they initially borrowed four years after graduating.
Fortunately, scholarships for high school seniors are a great way for students to afford the costs of college without becoming overwhelmed by debt. The scholarships below provide opportunities for high school seniors who want to take charge of their college finances!
BTL Athletes Scholarship
The BTL Athletes Scholarship will award 5 winners $15,000 each to help them afford their college expenses.
Undergraduate students and high school juniors and seniors may apply for this scholarship as long as they are low-income students. High school applicants must also be varsity athletes and college applicants must be student-athletes.
- Selection Criteria: High school juniors or seniors or undergraduates who are low-income and varsity/student-athletes
- Deadline: January 28, 2023
- Award Amount: $75,000 total, $15,000 each
Linda "Noni" Anderson Memorial Music & Arts Scholarship
In recognition of the barriers that low-income students face, the Linda "Noni" Anderson Memorial Music & Arts Scholarship will specifically support low-income students who need funding in order to pursue higher education. Three applicants will be chosen as recipients, with each earning $5,000.
Students can apply by writing about their artistic passions and submitting one or two pieces from their portfolios.
- Selection Criteria: Low-income high school seniors or undergraduate students who are pursuing arts or music and have GPAs of 3.0 or higher
- Deadline: April 1, 2023
- Award Amount: $15,000 total, $5,000 each
James A Cook Memorial Scholarship
The James A Cook Memorial Scholarship aims to honor the life of James A. Cook, a generous leader in his community and a beloved father and grandfather.
Students who embody the kindness that James exhibited in his life may apply by writing about how they practice servant leadership to help others.
- Selection Criteria: High school seniors in Michigan
- Deadline: May 1, 2023
- Award Amount: $10,325
Nitro Pay For College No-Essay Scholarship
The Nitro Pay For College No-Essay Scholarship seeks to tackle the problem of paying for college amid rising costs. As college costs rise and the student loan crisis grows, this scholarship will help fight student debt by giving one recipient $10,000 to pay for college.
Any current student who needs help paying for college may apply for this no-essay scholarship opportunity.
- Selection Criteria: Current student, no essay required
- Deadline: Rolling deadlines; the next deadline is February 1, 2023
- Award Amount: $10,000
"Be Bold" No-Essay Scholarship
The "Be Bold" No-Essay Scholarship is exclusively available on Bold.org and is open to all students who live boldly. Since no essay is required, applicants will be judged based on the boldness of their profiles, and the most earnest, determined, and moving student will win.
- Selection Criteria: All students who live boldly, no essay required.
- Deadline: Rolling deadlines; the next deadline is February 1, 2023
- Award Amount: $25,016
Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
The Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship seeks to raise awareness about the impacts of mental illness and suicide. In recognition of the life and struggles of Ethel Hayes, this scholarship will support three students who have faced mental health struggles or have loved ones who have struggled with mental health.
- Selection Criteria: Current students who have experience with mental health struggles or family members battling mental illness
- Deadline: June 14, 2023
- Award Amount: $5,200 total, $1,734 each
Young Women in STEM Scholarship
The Young Women in STEM Scholarship aims to support diversity in the male-dominated STEM field by supporting female high school seniors and undergraduates who are pursuing STEM.
To apply, students must submit a short essay answering three prompts about their motivations, goals, and past challenges. Three applicants will be selected as recipients of the award, with each receiving $5,000.
- Selection Criteria: Female high school seniors and undergraduate students who are low-income and pursuing STEM
- Deadline: May 23, 2023
- Award Amount: $15,000 total, $5,000 each
Cat Zingano Overcoming Loss Scholarship
MMA competitor Cat Zingano has worked with Bold.org to provide the Cat Zingano Overcoming Loss Scholarship for students who are overcoming the loss of a loved one, guardian, or close family member so they have the support they need to move forward.
This scholarship comes from Cat's own experiences overcoming loss after her mother passed away from cancer in 2005 and her husband passed away in 2014. To apply, students can write about how the loss of their loved one has made them refocus on what's most important in life and what they want to fight to achieve.
- Selection Criteria: High school and college students who are going through the loss of a family member or loved one and need financial support for their education, essay required.
- Deadline: March 17, 2023
- Award Amount: $10,200
Trees for Tuition Scholarship Fund
The Trees for Tuition Scholarship Fund is specifically geared towards high school seniors and undergraduate students who are passionate about helping others and the world at large. Students in Georgia who are devoted to helping their community and completing their degrees may apply for this scholarship.
Twelve winners will be selected to split this $24,000 award, making it a great scholarship for Georgia students to apply for due to the high number of recipients and the limited eligibility pool. While any Georgia high school senior or undergraduate student may apply, those in Atlanta are preferred and strongly encouraged to submit an application.
- Selection Criteria: High school seniors and undergraduate students in Georgia, Atlanta preferred
- Deadline: June 1, 2023
- Award Amount: $24,000 total, $2,000 each
SmartAsset High School SmartStart Personal Finance Scholarship
The SmartAsset High School SmartStart Personal Finance Scholarship is exclusively open to high school seniors and aims to spread financial education to the next generation. With college costs constantly increasing and many students taking out loans as a result, this scholarship seeks to help students avoid debt while spreading awareness of financial responsibility.
- Selection Criteria: High school seniors who have 3.0 GPAs or higher
- Deadline: June 1, 2023
- Award Amount: $5,000
Marcarelli Community Scholarship
The Marcarelli Community Scholarship will award two winners $1,000 each to pursue higher education. High school seniors in Maryland who are involved in their communities, such as through athletics or volunteer work, may apply for this scholarship.
To apply, applicants must write an essay introducing themselves, their goals for their education, what they hope to be remembered for, and why.
- Selection Criteria: High school seniors in Maryland who are involved in the communities, essay required.
- Deadline: March 30, 2023
- Award Amount: $2,000 total, $1,000 each
What is a scholarship?
A scholarship is a form of gift aid or "free money" that can be used towards one's educational costs. Rather than loans, which need to be repaid and accumulate interest, scholarships don't ever need to be paid back and are a no-strings-attached form of financial aid.
There is a wide range of different scholarships available to high school seniors. Many companies provide annual scholarships, colleges often provide merit-based scholarships, and private sources such as Bold.org offer many unique scholarship opportunities.
Scholarships often require applicants to submit a short essay, but there are also no-essay scholarship options that require little-to-no effort to apply for. No matter what your exact needs are, there's bound to be a scholarship that is perfect for you.
Scholarships also serve a variety of students, as many opportunities are open to all or most students while others are exclusively available to a certain group, such as women, BIPOC students, LGBTQ+ students, or students pursuing a certain field of study. Finding scholarships in your niche will give you a better chance of winning since there will be fewer eligible applicants and less competition as a result.
Difference between grants and scholarships
"Grants" and "scholarships" are sometimes used interchangeably and are similar in the sense that they're both forms of financial assistance that don't need to be repaid. However, there are a few important distinctions between the two. Most importantly, scholarships are typically merit-based while grants are often need-based.
Though some scholarships are only available for low-income students, the winner will typically be decided based on not only financial need but also on the quality of their essay or other application materials. These additional factors are what make many scholarships merit-based since they'll be awarded on the basis of talent, minimum GPA, essay quality, or other measures rather than just by financial need.
Additionally, grants are most often provided by the federal government, in forms such as Pell Grants. Scholarships, on the other hand, come from other sources such as private scholarship websites, companies or organizations, or higher education institutions.
Finally, scholarships are typically only allowed to be used for direct higher education costs while many grants may be used in other ways. Scholarships can be used towards tuition, course fees, or book expenses while grants may be applied to these expenses, paid to the recipient directly, or even sent to one's lenders and applied to their student loans.
Since every scholarship and grant is different, there are some cases where it can be difficult to tell whether an opportunity is a scholarship or a grant. The most important thing is to make sure you always read the eligibility requirements and rules for usage so that you don't disqualify yourself from receiving or using an award. For most students, scholarships and grants can both be good options for financial assistance, so consider applying for both types of financial aid.
You can learn more about the difference between grants and scholarships here!
Can you get a scholarship for being a high school senior?
Senior year is one of the most common times for students to apply for scholarships. As a result, many donors create scholarships that are exclusively open to high school seniors. While all scholarships can be competitive, senior scholarships will give you a greater chance of winning since only students of your grade level can apply. In contrast, scholarships that are open to all students will receive many more applications due to the higher volume of eligible students.
High school seniors should take advantage of the many scholarships available to them to start earning the financial aid they'll need for college. Even though being a senior in high school doesn't guarantee that you'll win a scholarship, your education level will unlock many exclusive opportunities that most students aren't able to apply for, which boosts your chances of earning funding. To maximize the number of college scholarships you can win, start your scholarship search today!
How to find scholarships for high school seniors
As mentioned above, scholarships for high school seniors can come from a variety of sources. If you already know which college you'll be attending, you can browse through their website to see if they offer any merit scholarships that you'd be a good fit for.
Additionally, you can check local websites, newspapers, and bulletin boards to see if any nearby businesses, organizations, or groups are offering scholarships for high school seniors. Many smaller scholarships like these go unnoticed, contributing to $100 million in scholarship funding going unclaimed each year.
If you or your parents are employed, you can see if your companies offer any scholarships to student workers or to the children of employees. If you're having trouble finding this information, ask your human resources department for more information.
Finally, high school seniors and other high school students can find opportunities through private scholarship programs such as Bold.org - the largest independent scholarship provider in the US. Bold.org offers hundreds of exclusive opportunities that can't be found anywhere else. These scholarships are completely free to apply for and can benefit a wide range of different students.
To find exclusive scholarships for high school seniors on Bold.org, students can use the filters and categories to sort the list of scholarships. Students have the option to select their education level so that they only see relevant opportunities and students can use the other categories to find scholarships for their demographic, field of study, or extracurricular background.
There are also plenty of other scholarship platforms that students can also take advantage of as well as published lists of open scholarships that students can find by browsing the internet. With so many scholarships available, students should utilize all of their options in order to cover all of their financial needs.
High school seniors can find even more opportunities here!
Frequently asked questions about senior scholarships
How to apply for scholarships as a senior
Application requirements depend on the source of the scholarship you're interested in. In most cases, applicants will have to write an essay as part of the submission process. For bigger awards, these essays may require many words, while other essays for other scholarships only need to be a few hundred words. Additionally, you may be asked to submit a piece of creative work, such as a photo, drawing, video, or portfolio instead of an essay or in addition to an essay.
Other scholarships require no submission at all and are awarded based on need, luck, and/or the quality of one's profile. These no-essay scholarships will typically require applicants to have an account on a scholarship platform such as Bold.org so that donors or review committees can view their information.
To begin applying, you first need to decide which scholarship(s) you're interested in applying for. Then, carefully read all of the application components, eligibility requirements, deadlines, and terms and conditions to ensure that you're eligible and able to use the money.
If there is an essay or other submission involved in the application, make sure to meet each requirement. This includes carefully reading each requirement and guideline as well as sticking to the given topic, question, or prompt.
To apply for a scholarship on Bold.org, you first need to create a free account. Making an account allows you to enter your information only one time rather than having to fill out your information every time you apply for a scholarship. Your profile may also be used as your application for no-essay scholarships or as supplemental material for essay-based scholarships.
Once you've fully filled out your profile, including education experience, career goals, extracurricular information, research experience, etc., you can begin browsing through the hundreds of scholarships for high school seniors and other students to begin applying.
Once you've found a good scholarship, you can immediately apply by clicking "Apply Now" and adding your submission materials if necessary. Or, you can bookmark the scholarship so that you can continue browsing and apply later. If you choose to come back later, be sure to make a note of the scholarship deadline so you don't miss it!
When should seniors apply for scholarships?
Since there are many scholarships for high school seniors, students are strongly encouraged to apply for scholarships during their senior year. With deadlines all throughout the year, there are always open scholarships that high school seniors can take advantage of.
High school students who haven't yet reached senior year are also eligible to apply for many scholarships. Though underclassmen aren't eligible to apply for scholarships for high school seniors, there are plenty of other scholarships that are open to all high school students.
As soon as you're at least fourteen years old and in high school, you can start applying for scholarships on Bold.org. By applying all throughout high school, students can maximize their earnings and accumulate all of the financial aid they'll need for college. Starting your scholarship search early will only give you more time to find and apply for college scholarships.
However, it's also never too late to begin applying. Graduating high school seniors and current college students can continue taking advantage of scholarships. There are plenty of scholarships for college students, including undergraduate students and graduate students.
Whether you're attending a technical school, community college, private college, or any other accredited college, there are scholarships for you. Your background in extracurricular activities can even unlock additional scholarships for you, such as scholarships for student-athletes or students with public service or community service experience.
College students can also benefit from scholarships that are only open to students pursuing a certain field of study, such as computer science, medicine, political science, or the arts. No matter what you attend college for, you can find support through scholarships on Bold.org and from other sources.
What scholarships should seniors be applying to?
The best scholarships for you will depend on a variety of factors, such as your demographic or identity, your academic performance, your passions, and your background. All scholarships for high school seniors can be advantageous, but seniors will have the best chances of winning if they seek out scholarships that are only eligible to a select group of students.
No-essay scholarships, for example, are often open to all or most students. As a result, these scholarships receive many applications and are quite competitive. These scholarships can still be valuable and are good options for busy students who don't have time to write an essay, but applicants should also consider applying for scholarships with more eligibility requirements.
Students who display impressive academic performance should apply for scholarships with minimum GPA requirements. Similarly, students who are involved in sports should look into scholarships for student-athletes. One's identity can also unlock scholarships, as there are scholarships for different minority student groups, such as BIPOC students, international students, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, students with disabilities, etc.
Students with demonstrated financial need can even apply for need-based scholarships that are exclusively available to students who are low-income or who meet a certain threshold of financial need.
Additionally, high school seniors should look into local scholarships that are exclusively open to students in a certain state, city, or school district. The more eligibility criteria a scholarship has, the fewer eligible students there will be. If you're a qualified applicant, be sure to apply for these narrow scholarships!
Finally, students should also consider smaller scholarships that are less widely known than top scholarships. Though smaller scholarships may not seem as appealing as higher-value awards, they can add up and can be easier to win since they often receive fewer applicants.
Successful students usually apply for multiple scholarships since more applications submitted often means more scholarships won. Students who win also tend to put the most effort into each scholarship application they submit, often following scholarship application tips such as applying early, submitting a unique essay, and always proofreading any written materials.
How many scholarships can you get?
Luckily, with college becoming increasingly expensive, there is no limit on how many scholarships you can win. While some scholarships are worth tens of thousands of dollars, most scholarships are smaller so you may need multiple to fully cover your expenses depending on what other financial aid you're receiving.
Since you can win an unlimited number of scholarships for your college education, you're free to submit as many scholarship applications as you'd like! Since students can apply all the way from freshman year of high school through graduate school, there will be thousands of scholarships available to them throughout their education. There are even grants and scholarship awards available to recent graduates who are still paying off student loans.
Are scholarships considered taxable income?
In most cases, scholarship money will be sent directly to the financial aid office of the winner's college or university. As a result, scholarship money is then applied to qualified educational costs, such as tuition, book costs, and course fees. When scholarship funds are applied to these costs, the money is not considered taxable income.
If you received scholarship funding directly and applied it to other costs, such as housing, food, or other expenses, then the money may be taxable. Additionally, scholarship money may be taxed if the amount you receive is greater than your total educational costs.
However, since scholarship funds will be sent to your college and applied for you most of the time, you typically don't have to worry about the money being taxable. Depending on the source of your scholarship, always be sure to read the terms and conditions to learn how the scholarship will be applied and if there are any specific tax implications associated with the scholarship.