It's never too early to start saving up money for your college education. Even if you are only in your first or second year of high school, there are plenty of opportunities to start bringing in money that will pay for your tuition, books, fees, and living expenses a couple of years down the line.
You might be surprised to learn that there are hundreds of scholarships available to underclassmen.
If you're just starting your hunt, use this list of the 39 best scholarships for high school freshmen and sophomores to get started.
This list includes a variety of scholarships for freshmen and sophomores. I've broken them down into several different categories:
- Essay Scholarships
- Special Interest Scholarships
- Creative Scholarships
- Hobby- and Activity-Based Scholarships
- Location-based Scholarships
- Easy Scholarships
These scholarships are not limited to one college or university, so students who win these awards will be able to take them to a variety of schools.
How to Use This List
Rule 1: Play to Your Strengths
Start out by looking at the different categories below. Are you creative? Then consider applying to some of the scholarships that require artwork or a movie for their applications. If you're a strong writer, on the other hand, consider applying to scholarships that require essays.
Rule 2: Apply to Many Scholarships
The beauty of starting early is that you have a lot of time! Use it wisely to apply to as many scholarships as possible. We recommend applying to anywhere between five and 30 scholarships. Most of the scholarships you'll find on this list and beyond are competitive, meaning many students will be applying for them. You'll increase your chances of winning money for college if you don't put all of your eggs in one basket.
Rule 3: Pay Attention to Details
Make sure you read all of the rules carefully before you apply for a scholarship, and be certain that your essays and other application materials address what is being asked. It's a waste of time to apply to scholarships if you're going to end up disqualified simply because you failed to follow instructions.
Similarly, make sure you stay on top of important deadlines. You don't want to miss out on a great scholarship because you missed a due date!
Rule 4: Do Your Own Research
Keep in mind that this list is just a starting point. There are many, many more scholarships available to younger students, and there very well may be some that are more suited to your talents and interests. Don't be afraid to do some Google searches to see if there are any scholarships out there that correspond to one of your unique traits.
Remember, the more obscure a scholarship is, the better your chance of winning it will be.
Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Student Essay Contest
The Oklahoma City National Museum hosts an essay contest for students in grades 5-12. Topics revolve around ideas related to the Oklahoma bombings in 1995. Students in grades 9 and 10 can submit 500-word essays.
- 1st place: $200
- 2nd place: $150
- 3rd place: $100
Ayn Rand Essay Contest
High school freshmen and sophomores can write an essay on one of several topics related to the book Anthem by Ayn Rand. The deadline to apply is May 1, 2018.
- 1st place: $2,000 (one winner)
- 2nd place: $500 (five winners)
- 3rd place: $200 (10 winners)
- Finalists: $50 (45 winners)
- Semifinalists: $30 (175 winners)
NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund Essay Contest
To enter this contest, high school students must write a 1,000-word essay answering the question, “What does the second amendment meant to you?” The deadline to apply is December 31, 2017.
- 1st place: $1,000
- 2nd place: $600
- 3rd place: $200
- 4th place: $100
Fleet Reserve Association Essay Contest
Students in grades 7-12 can enter this essay contest by submitting an essay of no more than 350 words on “What Patriotism Means to Me.” The grand national winner will get $5,000. Additionally, first prize for each grade level is $2,500, second prize is $1,500, and third prize is $1,000. The deadline is December 1, 2017.
Unigo $10K Scholarship
Students 13 or older can apply for a chance to win one prize of $10,000. Your application must include a 140-character response to the question: "Surprise! You just got elected president. What’s your first tweet?" The deadline is December 31, 2017.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe Scholarship
High school students can submit a 250-word essay on a topic of their choosing for a chance to be entered into a competition to win a $1,000 prize. There are two contests per year. The fall contest deadline is December 31, 2017, and the spring deadline is July 31, 2018.
Young Patriots Essay Contest
All US high school students can apply to win. They must submit an essay of no more than 1,500 words on a topic related to current events and/or public policy. Last year's essay topic was, “Are international free trade agreements in the best interest of the United States? Why or why not?”
- 1st place: $5,000
- 2nd place: $2,500
- 3rd place: $1,500
Profile in Courage Essay Contest
US students in grades 9-12 can submit a 700-1,000-word essay based on a topic listed on this website. This past year gave unusually large prizes for the centennial celebration of JFK's birth, but normally there are seven prizes ranging from $500 to $5,000. The deadline for this year's contest is January 4, 2018.
We the Students Essay Contest
US Students who are enrolled in grades 8-12 can apply to win one of 15 awards ranging from $500 to $5,000. The first-place winner receives $5,000. Students must complete the online application and submit an essay of no more than 800 words on the topic cited on the website.
Optimist International Essay Contest
US students under 18 can submit an essay on the topic "Can Society Function Without Respect?" Club winners advance to the District contest to compete for a $2,500 scholarship. The deadline for submission is February 28, 2018.
Visionary Scholarship Program
Any currently enrolled high school US student can apply to receive a prize from $1,000 to $5,000. Applicants must submit a completed application, a copy of their most recent (unofficial) high school transcript, and a 500-word, double-spaced essay on "Why College is Important to Me." The deadline for this year's contest is May 1, 2018.
Special Interest Scholarships
Humanity Rising Service Challenge
Freshmen and sophomores who volunteer for a non-profit that meets Humanity Rising’s criteria can apply. Awards range from $500 to $2,000.
H&R Block Budget Challenge
US students in grades 9-12 can apply to win one of 10 $20,000 scholarships. Students must play an online game that simulates adult life in terms of financial literacy. Students can't register themselves, but teachers can register classes as well as individual students.
Create Real Impact Contest
Any student between 14 and 22 can submit either a piece of writing (100-600 words), a video, a work of art, or music they have composed on the topic of how to address reckless driving. Prizes of $500-$1,500 are available. There are also prizes for Spanish and American Sign Language entries. Voting on entries begins October 7, 2017.
TeenDrive365 Video Challenge
All US high school students at least 13 years of age can enter this contest by creating a unique 60- to 90-second video highlighting safer teen driving. The video must end with the TeenDrive365 Video Challenge Call to Action slide that can be downloaded. There are 15 prizes available ranging from $1,000 to $15,000.
Doodle 4 Google
Students from kindergarten to 12th grade can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must submit a Google Doodle related to this year's theme as well as a 50-word statement. They have the chance to receive a $30,000 scholarship in addition to other prizes.
Scholastic Art & Writing Award
Students in grades 7-12 with a keen interest in writing or art can apply for the chance to win a $500 Best-in-Grade Award. Students in 12th grade can also apply to win one of 16 $10,000 portfolio scholarships. Deadlines for submission vary by region.
AutoPets™ Out-of-the-Box Thinking Scholarship
All current high school students can apply to win one of three prizes: $500, $1,000, and $1,500. Applications must be submitted with a 400-word essay about an innovative pet product idea. The deadline is typically in mid-September.
Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship Contest
US students who are at least 14 years old can apply for this scholarship of $10,000. Applicants must design a greeting card using a photo, piece of artwork, or computer graphic for the front image. Submissions must be submitted as JPEGs (.jpg). The deadline is March 1, 2018.
Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest
US high school students interested in art can apply to win one of eight national awards ranging from $500 to $10,000. Applicants must submit an original piece of art with a patriotic theme. The first-place winner receives $10,000 and a plaque, as well as airfare to and two nights' lodging for the VFW Auxiliary National Convention. The winner's art will also be featured on the cover of the VFW Auxiliary magazine and the Auxiliary website. The deadline is March 31, 2018.
Hobby- and Activity-Based Scholarships
Alberta E. Crowe Star of Tomorrow Scholarship
All female 12th grade and college students on bowling teams can enter to win one prize of $6,000 by submitting a completed application along with two reference letters and an essay of no more than 500 words. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2017.
Chuck Hall Star of Tomorrow Scholarship
All male 12th grade and college students on bowling teams can enter to win one prize of $6,000 by submitting a completed application along with two reference letters and an essay of no more than 500 words. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2017.
WIA Student Pilot Scholarship
Any high school student who is an active member of Women in Aviation, International (WAI) can can apply for this $3,000 scholarship. Applicants must submit a completed WAI form, two recommendation letters, a 500-word essay, a resume, copies of all aviation licenses and medical records, and the last three pages of the applicant’s pilot logbook, if applicable. The deadline for submission is November 13, 2017.
Marine Band Concerto Competition for High School Musicians
US high school students who play a woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument can apply to win a $500 or $2,500 scholarship by submitting a completed application form, a recommendation letter, and an audio recording of their performing a piece of music chosen from a list of works. All submissions are due by November 15, 2017.
SBO Magazine Music Student Scholarship
Students in grades 4-12 can apply for this essay contest to win one of 10 $1,000 prizes. Essays must be 250 words or less and answer the contest's theme. Last year's theme was "A Note To My Parents, I Love My School Music Program Because ... "
Technology Addiction Awareness Scholarship
All US high school students can apply for a chance to win a $1,000 prize. Applications must be submitted along with a 140-character message that completes the following statement: “Instead of spending time with technology, I'd rather ... ” The top 10 applicants will be contacted and invited to write a 500- to 1,000-word essay on technology addiction. The winner will be selected from this 10. Applications for this year's contest are due January 30, 2018.
Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award
Any full-time student aged 8-18 can apply to win one of 20 $10,000 scholarships. Applicants must show outstanding classical music achievement; eligibility also depends on financial need. Students must submit at least two audio samples of their music along with tax forms, transcripts, and other supporting documents. There are three application cycles each year. This year's deadlines are October 2, 2017; January 8, 2018; and March 5, 2018.
Davidson Fellows Award
US students aged 18 or younger who have completed a "significant piece of work" in one of the categories listed here can apply for this scholarship. Applicants compete for large prizes of $10,000, $25,000, and $50,000. This year's deadline is February 14, 2018.
BMI Student Composer Awards Program
US and international students (in the Western Hemisphere) younger than 28 can apply to win a scholarship of up to $5,000. Each applicant must submit an audio recording of an original music composition along with legible manuscripts.
Eagle Scout of the Year Award
US students aged 15 or older who are registered and active members of a Boy Scout Troop, Varsity Scout Team, or Venturing Crew can be nominated to win a scholarship of up to $10,000. Applicants must be active in their religious institutions and have received the corresponding Boy Scout religious emblem and the Eagle Scout Award. They must also have shown practical citizenship in their churches, schools, Scouting groups, and communities. The nomination and application forms must be received by the applicant's corresponding department (state) headquarters by March 1.
National High School Oratorical Contest
US high school students under the age of 20 can apply to receive a maximum scholarship of $18,000. Students will first need to compete in their local oratorical contests and deliver a prepared speech on a particular topic. Winners will then advance to the national competition.
Meriwest Annual High School Essay Competition
Applicants must be in grades 9-12, have an average GPA of at least 2.0, and live in one of the following California counties: Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, or San Francisco. Students who live in Arizona's Pima County are also eligible. Students who live outside these counties can still enter the contest if they are members of the Meriwest Credit Union.
Take Stock in Children Scholarship
Any students in grades 6-9 who attend a public school in Hillsborough County, Florida, have a 2.5 GPA or higher, and qualify for free or reduced lunches may apply. Prizes range from $1,000 to $10,000. The application period opens in November.
Diverse Minds Writing Challenge
Applicants must be US students in grades 9-12 and attend school in the metro area of New York City (all five boroughs); Washington, DC; Atlantic City, New Jersey; or the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware and Maryland). Students can win up to $5,000. To enter, applicants must create a children’s book that addresses themes of tolerance and diversity, and promotes a greater understanding of different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs. The book can be either fiction or non-fiction and should target children between kindergarten and 5th grade. It must also include full-color illustrations.
Oklahoma's Promise — Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program
Oklahoma students currently enrolled in grades 8-10 and whose families make $55,000 or less annually can apply for the chance to receive full tuition for an Oklahoma public two-year college or four-year university, or partial tuition for an accredited Oklahoma private college. The application must include the first two pages of the applicant's most recent federal tax return. The deadline to apply is July 2, 2018.
$2,000 "No Essay" College Scholarship
Any student can apply by simply registering on the website. A winner is chosen each month to receive $2,000. The deadline to apply is the last day of each month.
$1,000 Cappex Easy College Money Scholarship
Any high school student who registers and completes a profile at cappex.com will be entered into a monthly drawing to receive $1,000. The deadline to apply is the end of each month.
Top Ten List Scholarship
Any US student 13 or older can apply for the chance to win a $1,500 scholarship. Applicants must respond to the following statement in no more than 250 words: “Create a Top Ten List of the top ten reasons you should get this scholarship.” The deadline is December 31, 2017.
Wells Fargo CollegeSTEPS Program Sweepstakes
Students aged 14 or older can apply for this scholarship by simply registering for the CollegeSTEPS program. Awards are $5,000 each. The deadline is June 30, 2018.
Too old for these scholarships? Check out these 21 scholarships that you can apply to in your senior year of high school.
Need more money than what these scholarships are offering? Check out our list of 15 amazing full-ride scholarships and 81 colleges that offer full-ride scholarships.
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