Your Futures In Your Hands Essay Scholarship


Annie's Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship

At Annie’s, we recognize that agriculture contributes to some of our most pressing sustainability challenges.

Annie’s Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship Program is open to full time undergraduate and graduate students studying at an accredited two or four year college or graduate school in the U.S. for the 2018/2019 school year. Students must be focusing studies on sustainable and regenerative agriculture. International students may apply if they are attending a U.S. school.


  • Undergraduate applicants must be enrolled at an accredited higher education institution in the U.S. as a full-time student for the Fall 2018 semester.
  • Graduate applicants must be enrolled at an accredited higher education institution in the U.S. and enrolled for at least 9 credits for the Fall 2018 semester.
  • If awarded a scholarship, student agrees that funds will be utilized for school needs only, such as room and board, books, and tuition. Funds cannot be used as personal income.
  • If awarded a scholarship, student agrees to share learnings and outcomes of supported project(s) with Annie’s and broader school community within one academic year of receiving funds. Annie’s will provide guidance on the format and delivery of these learnings at a future date.
  • If awarded a scholarship, student is invited to join the network of Annie’s Sustainable Agriculture Scholars and encouraged to participate in optional events and programs.

Award Amount: 20 awards of $10,000

Application Deadline: March 15, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Annie's Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship

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Doodle 4 Google Contest

Students in grades K-12 are invited to take part in the 2018 Doodle 4 Google contest, and create an uplifting doodle that tells the world “What inspires me.” From crayons to clay, graphic design, or even food, young artists can utilize any materials to bring their creation to life. Like all Google Doodles, each doodle must incorporate the letters G-o-o-g-l-e. One national winner will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 technology package for their school/non-profit organization, and a behind-the-scenes experience with the Doodle team to transform their Doodle into an interactive experience on

Application Deadline: March 2, 2018

Learn more and apply for Doodle 4 Google Contest

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Future Female Leaders Scholarship

StudySoup works to support students as they find success through education. And as part of that mission, we’re proud to stand behind female students who continue to break down gender barriers and move into crucial leadership positions. So we’re offering a $2,000 scholarship to one outstanding female student who’s exhibited extraordinary leadership skills and an ability to empower others.

Any individual at least sixteen (16) years old who meets one of the following criteria:

  • Currently attending high school (or equivalent) and will be attending an accredited university or college in the next academic year.
  • Currently attending an accredited university or college (undergraduate and graduate students are both eligible)

Application Deadline: March 30, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Future Female Leaders Scholarship

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Greater Oklahoma City Area Alumnae Panhellenic Foundation Scholarship

The Greater Oklahoma City Alumnae Panhellenic Foundation is awarding fourteen (14) $1,500.00 scholarships to high school senior women meeting the following criteria:

  1. Will graduate from a public or private high school in the greater Oklahoma City area.
  2. Will be attending a University in the state of Oklahoma with National Panhellenic Conference sorority affiliations in the fall of 2018. Eligible universities include: Cameron University, East Central University, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma State University, Rogers State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, University of Central Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma, and University of Tulsa.
  3. Has obtained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25 (unweighted), and a minimum score of 22 on the ACT.

Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, extra-curricular activities, citizenship and need.

Application Deadline: March 1, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Greater Oklahoma City Area Alumnae Panhellenic Foundation Scholarship

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Hike & Cycle Scholarship

Hikers often negatively impact the surrounding environment without even knowing it by transporting invasive species, disturbing wildlife, leaving waste, etc. We’re inspired by the Leave No Trace principles and want to encourage every backpacker to follow these rules.

The Hike & Cycle Scholarship is all about raising environmental awareness among youth by giving them a solid incentive in the form of a scholarship. What we are trying to achieve here is to make more people understand that the environment is in dire need of their attention and help.


  • You must be currently enrolled in high school, university, or college. Applications from all countries are accepted.
  • You must create an original list of nature-saving rules.
  • The winners will be required to send us proof of their educational status.

Award Amount: The first place winner will get $1,000 and the second place will get $500.

Application Deadline: March 11, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Hike & Cycle Scholarship

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National Independent Automobile Dealers Association Foundation Scholarship

The NIADA Foundation proudly sponsors four young men or women each year who have displayed outstanding abilities in education. These students will each receive a $3,500 scholarship sponsored by Manheim to the college or university of their choice. Four regional scholarships are awarded annually at the National NIADA Convention in June.

Eligibility Criteria:
You must

  1. Be classified as a high school senior during the current 2017-18 school year and legally residing in one of the 4 regions indicated above.
  2. Have maintained an outstanding academic achievement record as reflected by an official high school transcript; and
  3. Demonstrate an aptitude for college work as measured by SAT or ACT scores.

Application Requirements:

  1. Write an essay (minimum of 1,200 words) regarding the changes that online shopping have made to the car buying experience.
  2. Official high school transcript
  3. SAT or ACT Scores Report—may be included on the transcript.
  4. Letter(s) of recommendation (no more than 5) from high school counselor, principal, teacher, employer, etc.

Application Deadline: March 16, 2018

Learn more and apply for the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association Foundation Scholarship

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Oklahoma State Fair Scholarship

The Oklahoma State Fair, Inc., scholarship program provides collegiate scholarships to students who are graduates of an accredited high school or homeschool located in one of the 77 Oklahoma counties.

Ten (10) scholarship winners will be selected for a one-time $2,500 award based on overall scholastic performance, leadership, community involvement and verifiable participation in the competitive programs (e.g. horse, livestock, creative arts or other competitions) at the Oklahoma State Fair, if applicable. While State Fair participation is not mandatory, it will be weighted along with the other criteria during the selection process.

At the time the award is made, the student must be a current year (2018) graduate of an accredited high school or homeschool from one of the 77 Oklahoma counties.

Before receiving the scholarship funds, the student will have been accepted and enrolled in a qualified, accredited college, university, vocational or technical school as a full-time student. Full-time enrollment is defined as 12 semester-credit hours during the fall/spring semester.

Application Deadline: March 30, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Oklahoma State Fair Scholarship

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Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest

Students can win up to $2,000 for college by writing an essay discussing whether public school calendars should accommodate religious holidays in the 2018 Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest. To enter, students must write an 800-1,200 word essay responding to the following prompt:

  • In most public high schools, certain days are marked as religious holidays on the school calendar, and the schools are closed on those days.  As public schools become more diverse, some students’ religious holy day(s) are not days that the schools are closed, resulting in absences for those students.
  • In an essay, discuss whether public school calendars should accommodate religious holidays.
  • Consider how school administrators should determine if, or which, religious holy days are included in the school calendar, or if any school policies should be changed to better accommodate students’ religious exercise. Be sure your essay identifies how the First Amendment supports your position.

Award: The grand prize is a $2,000 scholarship and a trip for two to Washington, D.C. Prizes of $1,000 for the second place winner and $500 for the third place winner are also available.

Application Deadline: March 9, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Religious Liberty Essay Scholarship Contest

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Seniors Helping Seniors Scholarship

Bay Alarm Medical is proud to announce its 3rd annual scholarship program. This year we again seek to reward students who devote their time to improving the lives of our senior citizens. Our 2018 scholarship award is our biggest yet: three scholarships totaling $6,500. 1st place: $3,500, 2nd place: $2,000, 3rd place: $1,000.

To be eligible for one of our scholarship awards, you must be involved in a community service effort/volunteer opportunity where you work with the elderly OR participate in caregiving duties for an elderly relative living in your home.

Write a 500-1,000 word essay that answers the following three questions:

  • What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from the senior you work with?
  • How has working with seniors impacted your life/inspired you?
  • How would you encourage others to spend more time with their grandparents or seniors in the community?

Scholarships will be awarded based on an essay contest. You must provide a photo of yourself and one of the seniors mentioned in your essay.

Application Deadline: March 31, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Seniors Helping Seniors Scholarship

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Superpower Scholarship

Have you ever wondered where you'd go if you could fly around downtown? Or maybe you daydream of secretly taking over the world - to each his own. For all of those hero lovers and villain enthusiasts, this super scholarship can give you the power to win free college money.

Use your imagination and become the superhero, or perhaps supervillain, you've always wanted to be. Would you live a life in a comic book universe or use your powers here in the real world? We want to know how you would use your super powers for good, or bad, even if it was just for the day. While we can't give you the ability to walk through walls or read minds, our Superpower Scholarship can help increase your brainpower with $2,500 to use towards education.

Applicants must:

  • Be thirteen (13) years of age or older at the time of application
  • Be legal residents of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia
  • Be currently enrolled (or enroll no later than the fall of 2024) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education

Submit an online written response to the question:
Which superhero or villain would you want to change places with for a day and why?" (250 words or less)

Application Deadline: March 31, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Superpower Scholarship

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Additional March Scholarships

Looking for more? Here's a list of additional scholarships with March deadlines. Learn about eligibility requirements and how to apply through the links provided below.


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Back to School Nursing Scholarship Program

Are you ready to chase your dream of becoming a nurse, but aren’t sure how you’ll pay for your education? wants to help! That’s why they’re offering a $2500 nursing scholarship to one lucky winner. The scholarship is awarded four times per year, each time to one lucky individual.

Award Amount: $2,500

Application Deadline: April 30, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Back to School Nursing Scholarship Program.

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Broadcast Music Inc. Founders Award for Radio Broadcasting

BMI Founders Award is an annual scholarship competition open to radio broadcasting students nationwide. The award commemorates the group of radio industry leaders who founded Broadcast Music, Inc. in 1939 with an unprecedented and enduring mission: to provide a competitive source for music licensing and an open-door policy to songwriters, composers, and publishers of all genres of music. A $5,000 scholarship is awarded for the best original essay response submitted to the competition and recognizes a student with the potential to become an innovator in the rapidly changing field of broadcast radio.

Eligibility requirements

  • Currently enrolled full-time or part-time at an accredited U.S. college or university. Students who have been accepted for future enrollment are NOT eligible.
  • Broadcasting degree candidates with an academic focus in radio broadcasting. Applicable majors include, but are not limited to: Broadcast and Emerging Media, Broadcast Communications, Broadcast Journalism, Broadcasting, Broadcasting and Mass Communications, Electronic Media and Broadcasting, and Radio and Television Broadcast Technology.
  • Between the ages of 17 and 24, as of time of submission.
  • Potential first-time winners of the competition: former winners (other than Honorable Mention) of the BMI Founders Award for Radio Broadcasting are not eligible to enter the competition.

Award Amount: $5,000

Application Deadline: April 1, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Broadcast Music Inc. Founders Award for Radio Broadcasting Scholarship.

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Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma Scholarship

The Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma will award undergraduate college scholarships to Catholic students. Scholarships will become effective at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year and will be renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study, as long as academic and enrollment guidelines are maintained. This past year, the Catholic Foundation awarded over 80 scholarships.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Applicant must show scholastic ability and financial need.
  • Applicant must be a full-time, undergraduate student (Minimum of 12 enrolled hours per semester)
  • Applicant must be a registered, active member of a Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Award Amount: Various awards available

Application Deadline: April 3, 2018

Learn more and apply for a Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma Scholarship.

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MacDowell Club of Allied Arts Scholarship

Each year, the MacDowell Club of Allied Arts, Oklahoma City, OK, awards three scholarships of $500 each to deserving high school students who will be pursuing their chosen art on a college or university level. 

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Will major in a field of the Arts on a college or university level.
  • Has a need for help with private lessons, music, instrument, art supplies, etc.
  • Has participated in school and community services.
  • Has shown that they are a good citizen of their school and community.

Award Amount: 3 scholarships of $500 each

Application Deadline: April 21, 2018

Learn more and apply for the MacDowell Club of Allied Arts Scholarship.

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MoolahSpot $1,000 Scholarship

The $1,000 MoolahSPOT Scholarship is sponsored by and helps students of any age pay for higher education. The scholarship is a competition based on a short essay. Family income, grades and test scores are not used in selecting a winner. The award must be used for any education-related expenses such as tuition, fees, books and room and board.

Eligibility Requirements:

Any student at least 16 years or older who plans to attend, or is currently attending, college or graduate school. Students may be of any nationality and reside in any country. Students may study any major or plan to enter any career field at any accredited college or graduate school. Although applicants can be from any country, all applications must be completed in English.

Award Amount: $1,000

Application Deadline: April 30, 2018

Learn more and apply for the MoolahSpot $1,000 Scholarship.

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National Hazing Prevention Poster Design Contest is hosting a competition for college and university undergraduates and groups/clubs who design a poster meeting the contest criteria.

Posters must include:

  • The words “National Hazing Prevention Week”
  • The theme for the 2017 NHPW – “RISE UP, BAND TOGETHER & STOMP OUT HAZING”.
  • The HazingPrevention.Org NHPW logo. No other logos should be included on the poster. Any submissions including additional logos will not be accepted.

Posters may not include the following:

  • The poster may not contain any nudity or derogatory/defamatory images
  • The poster may not contain any offensive, accusatory nor derogatory/defamatory language, unless it emphasizes an impactful statement about hazing.
  • All design images must be original and may not infringe upon any copyrighted work
  • Images and language will be accepted at the discretion of HazingPrevention.Org

Award Amount: First prize $500. Two runners (if selected) up receive $100 each

Application Deadline: April 30, 2018

Learn more and apply for the National Hazing Prevention Poster Design Scholarship.

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Phi Delta Kappa Prospective Educator Scholarship

The PDK Educational Foundation awards more than 30 scholarships each year to prospective educators, with awards ranging from $500 to $2000. These scholarships are funded through the generosity of donors. PDK uses one application for all Prospective Educator Scholarships. PDK Prospective Educator Scholarships are available for high school seniors as well as current undergraduate students. PDK International is a family of education associations, which includes  PDK International, Educators Rising, and Pi Lambda Theta.

Award Amount: 30 scholarships ranging from $500-$2,000

Application Deadline: April 2, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Phi Delta Kappa Prospective Educator Scholarship.

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Sports Unlimited Scholarship

Sports Unlimited is dedicated to reaching further than the field, court, or diamond that you play on. They believe in fostering development and empowering themselves and others through higher education because it takes as much courage to succeed in the classroom as it does on the field. Once every year, they offer a $1,000 college scholarship to the athlete who inspires them most through his or her essay. You might even be featured in their blog!

Eligibility Requirements:

  • You must be a graduating high school senior or a freshman/sophomore in college.
  • You can't be related to anyone at Sports Unlimited.
  • They reserve the right to verify the date of high school graduation and/or college enrollment

Award Amount: $1,000

Application Deadline: April 25, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Sports Unlimited Scholarship.

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Taylor's Gift National Scholarship

Taylor’s Gift Foundation strives to honor students with a giving spirit that strive to make the world a better place. The Taylor’s Gift Scholarship is based on criteria that goes beyond academics and extracurricular activities, seeking students that are actively making a positive difference in the lives of others and embodying the “Outlive Yourself” spirit.

Award Amount: 3 awards of $1,000

Application Deadline: April 13, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Taylor's Gift National Scholarship.

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Thurgood Marshal College Fund Scholarship

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and Wells Fargo are proud to offer financial assistance to outstanding students attending one of the 47 public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) within the TMCF member-school network. The Wells Fargo Scholarship is open to students with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Award Amount: $5,000

Application Deadline: April 30, 2018

Learn more and apply for the Thurgood Marshal College Fund Scholarship.

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Additional April Scholarships

Looking for more? Here's a list of additional scholarships with April deadlines. Learn about eligibility requirements and how to apply through the links provided below.


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Actuarial Diversity Scholarship

The Actuarial Diversity Scholarship promotes diversity within the profession through a scholarship program for Black/African American, Hispanic, Native North American and Pacific Islander students.

Application requirements:

  1. Intent on pursuing a career in the actuarial profession
  2. Must have at least one birth parent who is a member of one of the following minority groups: Black/African American, Hispanic, Native North American, Pacific Islander
  3. Will be a full-time undergraduate student at a U.S. accredited educational institution
  4. Minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale), emphasis on math or actuarial courses
  5. Entering college freshmen must have a minimum ACT math score of 28 or SAT math score of 600

Actuarial exams will be an important factor in evaluating scholarship qualifications for applicants entering their junior year and beyond. Additionally, exams passed will also be a consideration for previous award recipients applying to renew the scholarship.

Award levels:

  • $1,000 – high school senior applying for freshman year;
  • $2,000 – college freshman applying for sophomore year
  • $3,000 – college sophomore applying for junior year; and
  • $4,000 – college junior applying for senior year

Application Deadline: May 1, 2017

Learn more and apply for the Actuarial Foundation Diversity Scholarship.

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Bowl4Life Scholarship

The Bowl4Life mission is to promote the sport of bowling through quality coaching for all levels, and to provide scholarship assistance to youth bowlers. Bowl4Life will offer a $1,000 scholarship to the winner along with a USBC Level 1 Certification.


  • Grades 9 through 12
  • Minimum of a 3.0 GPA
  • Member of the USBC Youth Program
  • A demonstrated and visible passion for Youth Bowling 5
  • Plans to enroll full-time with an accredited higher education institution in the fall immediately following graduation from high school

Application Deadline: May 1, 2017

Learn more and apply for the Bowl4Life Scholarship.

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Sara Scholarship

The Sara Scholarship was established in 2012 as part of the final will of Sara Sheehan, who passed away in 2011. The award is granted annually to female high school seniors who plan to pursue a college degree and who demonstrate academic achievement, excellence of character, financial need and active engagement with the sport of golf. Skill in playing golf is not a criterion. The Sara Scholarship awards $2,000 per year to be applied towards tuition, books, board and other expenses. A minimum of eleven $2,000 scholarships will be awarded in 2017.

Application Deadline: May 1, 2017

Learn more and apply for the Sara Scholarship.

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Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship Program

The Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship Program has provided more than 80 outstanding students with the financial assistance they need to pursue their health-related career. Open to higher education students entering their junior and senior year of undergraduate study, the scholarship program continues to grow in both the number of scholarships offered each year and amount of each scholarship. For 2017, there will be six scholarships awarded in the amount of $7,500 each.

Application Deadline: May 5, 2017

Learn more and apply for the Health Careers Scholarship Program.

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National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) Bill Moon Scholarship

The NATSO Foundation is offering five $5,000 scholarships to eligible students who are travel plaza/truck stop industry employees or legal dependents of an employee.  Applications for the Bill Moon Scholarship are judged by independent review. Selections are made based on a review that may include the following: applicant's academic merit, financial need, extracurricular activities, community activities and short essay. Selections are made without regard to the applicant's race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin or disability.

Application Deadline: May 15, 2017

Learn more and apply for the NATSO Bill Moon Scholarship.

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Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Spouses Education Scholarship

The CBC Spouses Education Scholarship does not have a specific major requirement, and is open to full-time students of all academic fields. Awards range from $400 - $8,200.

To be eligible for the CBC Spouses Education Scholarship applicants must:

  • Be a full-time undergraduate or graduate degree-seeking student at an accredited college or university OR a current high school senior preparing to become a full-time undergraduate degree-seeking student at an accredited college or university
  • Have a minimum 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale
  • Exhibit leadership ability and participate in community service activities
  • Selected applicants will be qualified African-American or black students

Application Deadline: May 19, 2017

Learn more and apply for the CBC Spouses Education Scholarship.

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Out to Protect

Out to Protect's mission is to create greater awareness of the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender professionals working in law enforcement and to support those pursuing a law enforcement career. Scholarships are typically awarded in June and December each year. The amount of each scholarship depends on funding availability, but ranges from $500 - $1,000 per award.

Application Deadline: May 26, 2017

Learn more and apply for the Out to Protect Scholarship Program.

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College is Power Scholarship

The College is Power Scholarship is open to students age 17 and older who are currently in college or plan to start college within the next 12 months. Use the scholarship to pay for tuition, books, room and board, computers or anything else related to your education.

Award Amount:

The first place award is a $1,000 scholarship which will be paid directly to the applicant or designated school.

Application Deadline: May 31, 2017

Learn more and apply for the College is Power Scholarship.

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Fifth Month Scholarship

It would take more than just one hand to count all the reasons why the number five is important - and we want to know what you think! What is it about the number five that's so significant to you? One great reason is that May is the fifth month - which just so happens to be a great time to apply for fun scholarships. Help us bring awareness to the fifth month and the number five. We’re awarding one $1,500 scholarship to a lucky student – and an endless supply of high fives!

Applicants must:

  • Be thirteen (13) years of age or older at the time of application
  • Be legal residents of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia
  • Be currently enrolled (or enroll no later than the fall of 2023) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education

Submit an online written response to the question:
"May is the fifth month of the year. Write a letter to the number five explaining why five is important. Be serious or be funny. Either way, here's a high five to you for being original." (250 words or less)

Application Deadline: May 31, 2017

Learn more and apply for the Fifth Month Scholarship.

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Rover College Scholarship connects pet parents with the nation’s largest network of loving and trustworthy pet sitters and dog walkers. Founded on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the unconditional love of a dog, Rover improves and simplifies life for pet parents and the dogs they love. The Rover College Scholarship is looking for essays that incorporate both personal examples of how dogs have affected your life, and cite historical or scientific research on the impact of domesticated dogs.

In 400-500 words, answer the following question:

How has the domestication of dogs improved society and benefited human happiness)

Application Deadline: May 31, 2017

Learn more and apply for the Rover College Scholarship.

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Additional May Scholarships

Looking for more? Here's a list of additional scholarships with May deadlines. Learn about eligibility requirements and how to apply through the links provided below.

The Savvy Student’s Guide to College Education—Chapter Five

Savvy Student’s Guide to
College Education

  1. Selecting the Right College for You
  2. Selecting a College Major
  3. The College Application Process
  4. Writing Effective College Application Essays
  5. Researching Scholarship Opportunities
  6. Financing a College Education
  7. Benefits and Pitfalls of Student Loans
  8. Career Prospects of Different Majors
  9. Career Trends: Where the Jobs Are
  10. Writing an Effective Résumé
  11. Giving a Successful Interview
  12. Your First Day on the Job

Subscribe & Stay Informed

The Big Picture

College scholarships continue to be one of the most important parts of the college application process, especially since a scholarship can make the difference in helping make any student’s college dreams come true. When looking for scholarships, it’s important to remember there are other kinds of funds that are also available to help pay for college—scholarships are money for college that’s given based on a particular talent the student has. Scholarships break into two categories—the kind offered by companies and organizations, and the kind offered by colleges. It’s harder to be selected for a nationally-known private scholarship than it is to receive one offered by a local group or by a college, but there are some ways to increase your chances—and part of that has to do with the student’s interest in writing more essays for scholarships, on top of the essays they’ve already written for college. Some scholarships require students to prepare an audition or portfolio rather than an essay, while athletic scholarships have their own special requirements that are constantly changing. No matter what kind of scholarship the student receives, it’s important to know the conditions the student is committing to when they agree to take the scholarship, and to understand how long the scholarship lasts.

There’s something pretty great about going to college, but there’s something even better about going to college on a scholarship. Whether it’s based on the hard work you’ve done in the classroom, the talent you’ve made the most of as an athlete or artist, or just because somebody believes in you and your plans for the future, the feeling you get when someone appreciates what you’re doing, and gives you a chance to do even more at college.

Since everyone likes to be recognized, and everyone likes something that’s free, it isn’t always easy to find scholarships for college, especially since more students are going to college than ever before. But if you know where to look and how to apply, you can make the most of a scholarship search by building it around your interests and needs—and by looking in places where other people don’t.

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What is a Scholarship?

There are all kinds of resources out there to help students pay for college. In this chapter, we’re going to focus on scholarships, or money for college that is given to a student based on a demonstrated talent. This talent can really be just about anything—strong work as a student, impressive performance as a dancer, being a good athlete, or even being a great yo-yo artist. Chances are, if you have a particular talent, there’s a scholarship out there for you.

It’s important to keep this definition in mind, since scholarships are different from grants. A grant is like a scholarship, since it’s money given to a student to attend college, and, like a scholarship, it doesn’t have to be paid back. But grants are usually given based on some kind of demonstrated financial need, while a scholarship is given based on a particular talent. It’s easy to confuse the two, especially since some local community groups offer students grants for college, but call them scholarships. This is also true when most students get money for college from the US Government. Students who attend US Military Academies, or veterans who have their education paid by the GI bill, are going to school on a scholarship. Students who receive a Pell Grant or other grant are receiving a grant. We’ll discuss grants more in the chapter on Financing a College Education.

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Kinds of Scholarships, and Where to Find Them

Private Scholarships

The easiest way to look for scholarships is to break them into two basic types. Private scholarships are the scholarships that get the most attention. These scholarships are usually paid for by a private company (like the Coca-Cola Scholarship and the KFC Colonel’s Scholars Program), and each company sets up the rules for who can apply, how to apply, and how recipients are selected. The amount of money available in private scholarships is easily billions of dollars, and that leads students to wonder—if there’s so much money out there in private scholarships, why is it so hard to find?

To be honest, private scholarships aren’t that hard to find, but they are pretty hard to get. Before the Internet was in wide use (ask your parents about this), finding private scholarships was pretty hard. Unless you happened to know someone who worked for the company offering the scholarship, or unless you camped out in your school counselor’s office, there was no way to let everyone know about all of the private scholarships out there.

That all changed with the Internet. Thanks to scholarship sites like Fastweb, Chegg, and Cappex, students can search for scholarships, organize them by subject, add their due dates to an online calendar, and register to get e-mail notices of new scholarships that are added to the website, all for free.

This change has really improved the connection between companies offering private scholarships and the students who need money for college—in fact, the connection is almost too good. With millions of students knowing about the private scholarships that are online, the number of students receiving scholarships is at an all-time high, but so are the number of students applying for the scholarships. This means the chances of any one student receiving the scholarship is usually smaller than ever before. Like those highly selective colleges that only admit a small percentage of students who apply, private scholarships run out of recipients before they run out of great applicants, since there’s only so much money to go around.

What can you do to increase the chances you’ll earn a private scholarship? Try these steps:

Register on more than one scholarship search site

Most students will only use one of the three websites I’ve mentioned to search for scholarships. Don’t limit yourself; register on all three, and look up other search engines for scholarships, too. There may be some overlap, but this is the best way to find the scholarships listed by only one search engine.

Set time aside to do your own searches

Most of these sites will give you a list of scholarships you can apply for, based on the answers you provide to a few questions. That’s helpful, but those hard-to-find scholarships can usually only be discovered by setting aside an hour a week just to search through the scholarship lists directly.

Think local

All of the national and international competition for online scholarships is leading more students to go back to the pre-Internet strategy of looking for scholarships in their own communities, where there are fewer students applying for college cash. Community groups like Kiwanis usually offer scholarships, as do local businesses, unions, and foundations that give college scholarships to honor the memory of former community members. Ask around, and look closely.

Be ready to develop a new hobby

You may not have a yo-yo—in fact, you may not even know what one is—but if it meant getting $500 for college, would you figure out where to buy one and practice for a few weeks? That might be all it takes to win a scholarship that isn’t well advertised for a hobby that’s kind of unusual. Remember, the scholarship doesn’t go to the most talented person; it goes to the most talented person who applies for the scholarship.

Another thing to consider when applying for any scholarship are the conditions of being selected. Some private scholarships require the recipients to update the scholarship’s sponsor on their college progress, while other company-based scholarships might require you to be included in their advertising, and some community scholarships may have you come back and make a presentation to their organization. Even a yo-yo scholarship may have some strings attached to it; make sure you read the scholarship conditions carefully.

Institutional Scholarships

The second kind of scholarship is institutional scholarships, or scholarships that are given based on the college you attend. When comparing the amounts of money available with each kind of scholarship, there is much more money available through institutional scholarships, with fewer students applying for them, since you can be eligible for the institutional scholarship from the college you attend. The qualifications for institutional scholarships are made by the college, and so are the application process, the selection of the recipients, and any other conditions you have to meet if you receive the scholarship.

One of the most popular types of institutional scholarships is the merit scholarship, a scholarship that is awarded based on the student’s academic performance in high school. One of the reasons these scholarships are popular is because it’s usually easy to determine if you’re eligible for them. Most merit scholarships are awarded to any student who earns a specific GPA in high school, or earns a minimum score on the SAT or ACT. These scholarships can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to covering the entire cost of tuition, books, room and board. Some merit scholarships even include a laptop computer and a research stipend, where the student is paid to go to college.

Finding these merit scholarships has also become easier, thanks to the Internet. The scholarship and financial aid page of any college’s website describes their merit aid scholarships in detail, and Cappex has a list of colleges by state that offers merit scholarships. It’s always good to double-check the college’s website, and make sure they’re still offering the merit scholarship described on Chegg. But Chegg is a good place to begin your merit search, since these lists most likely include colleges you’ve never heard of—and they may have money for you!

Another reason merit scholarships are so popular is because they are usually easy to apply for. In most cases, every student who applies to a college is automatically reviewed for a merit scholarship. The college looks at the student’s GPA, test scores, or other information on the college application, compares it to the requirements for the merit scholarship, and then lets the student know if they are eligible for the scholarship. In some cases, this will require the student to complete an extra essay, but it’s well worth it, since very few students will bother writing the extra essay—even if it means getting a scholarship.

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Scholarship Essays

There are some private and institutional scholarships that require students to complete an extra activity to be considered. In most cases, this extra activity involves writing an essay on a topic related to the scholarship. Many veterans’ groups will offer a scholarship to a student who writes the best essay on what America stands for, while a History scholarship offered by a college may require the student to write an essay on the historic event that means the most to them.

It may be hard to believe, but many students who are eligible for scholarships choose not to apply, simply because they don’t want to write another essay. Most scholarships essays have a January or February deadline, so students won’t apply for them until they’re done applying to colleges. Since so many students don’t like writing college application essays, the idea of writing even more essays for a scholarship is just too much to think about—so they don’t do it.

It’s easy to understand why students may get burned out on writing essays. On the other hand, it doesn’t do much good to get admitted to college if you don’t have the money to pay for college—and that’s what the scholarships are for. The best way to avoid essay burnout is to follow the writing tips in the chapter on Writing an Effective College Application Essay. That will keep you fresh to use these writing strategies when tackling scholarship essays:

Don’t be afraid to recycle your college essays

In the chapter on college essays, we said it was more than fine to use the same essay on different college applications, as long as the essay answered both questions effectively—and as long as you change the name of the college. The same is true with scholarship essays. If the scholarship committee wants to know about something that’s of value to you, using all or part of your college essay on an experience that had meaning could take care of this scholarship essay. With a few tweaks here and there, you could find new value in that old essay.

Understand what the scholarship essay is looking for

Scholarship prompts often ask the student to do more formal research and writing than college applications—in other words, they may ask for more “head” than “heart.” “Pick an historical figure and explain their importance in our world today” is a topic that’s commonly used, and a strong answer to this prompt is going to be based on good research of what that person stood for, the contributions they made while they were alive, and how those values are demonstrated today. If it’s appropriate, try to personalize the essay at the end by talking about what the historical figure means in your life, but if the prompt wants you to stick to the facts, focus only on those.

Research your scholarships by topic

If you have to write a new essay just for scholarships, make it worth your while. Doing an online search by scholarship topic could help you find a dozen scholarships where the topic is current trends, global warming, patriotism, or our world today. Applying for those scholarships allows you to make the most of your time, and most likely allows you to write the same basic essay that would have to be modified just a little to meet the requirements of one or two of the scholarships.

Consider your audience

The chapter on college essays talked about the importance of writing your essays with a conversational tone. That may not always work with scholarship essays, especially if the essay is expected to have a more academic structure. On the other hand, if this is a local scholarship, and the essay asks you to write about something of meaning to you, there’s a good chance you may know members of the community who are on the scholarship committee. If that’s the case, write the essay as if you were talking directly to that person. You still want to keep the tone somewhat formal, but if you write you keep that person’s interests and knowledge of your life in mind as you write the essay, you’ll have an essay that’s likely to get more attention.

Emphasize your future plans

Private scholarships—especially local private scholarships—are usually very interested in what you plan to do when you’re in college. This is the perfect time to build on the ideas you used in your “Why Us” college application questions. Use specifics to talk about what you plan to study, or why a particular college excites you, or the special program you plan on pursuing, if only you have the money to go to college. Private groups create scholarships so they can help students create futures. If you give them a strong, detailed picture on what your future looks like with their help, your essay is more likely to get noticed.

Proofread, proofread, proofread

It’s important to do your best work on any essay, but members of local and private scholarship committees are much more likely to disregard your application if it has a spelling mistake or a typo in it. A good trick to apply here is to read your essay, correct any errors, and then read the essay again—backwards. Since you’re seeing the words in a new order, you’re much more likely to spot mistakes this way.

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Scholarship Auditions

Students who are hoping to earn a talent-based scholarship are usually used to putting together the presentations they’ll be judged by, since many colleges require arts majors to prepare auditions and portfolios for admission to the college. Still, applying for a college can add another layer of stress to the student, since they know this review is for the money they need to go the college they’ve already been admitted to.

Since scholarship auditions and admission auditions are similar, the best way to prepare for both is to follow these simple guidelines:

Read the requirements carefully

Every audition has its own specific requirements for the kind of music to be performed, the length of the dramatic piece to perform, or the kind of dance moves they’d like to see. Unlike college essays, it’s harder to use the same set of pieces for two different auditions or portfolios. Read the directions carefully, and if there’s a requirement you don’t understand, call the college.

Ask about an advanced tryout

A growing number of colleges are offering artists of all kinds the opportunity to “practice” their audition with feedback from a member of the faculty. Whether in person or through video, these first tries allow students to get some idea on what they should work on before the big tryout— and that first attempt could make a good impression if the real tryout doesn’t go as well.

Schedule your auditions wisely

Many colleges will offer more than one set of audition dates, especially for musicians. This leads some students to schedule their audition later, giving them more time to prepare—but if the college makes scholarship decisions on a “first come, first serve” basis, the college could run out of money before the second group of students even has a chance to try out. Ask about this.

Be flexible

If you’re about to be the third straight singer at the audition to perform a piece by Adele, you may want to consider doing something else. That only works if you and your accompanist have worked up another song ahead of time. Plan ahead.

Read the conditions of the scholarship closely

You should do this with every scholarship, but it’s especially important to do this with a talent scholarship. There may be a certain number of required performances you have to complete that might not fit in with your other plans, or you may have to audition for the scholarship every year. That’s good news if you don’t get it the first time, but if you do, it’s something to keep in mind.

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Athletic Scholarships

The world of college sports is so competitive, it’s easy for a talented athlete to find themselves in the middle of several interested colleges, well before high school starts. Combine that intense interest with the fact that high school players get injured, and college coaches get fired, and it’s hard to determine just what a talented athlete should pay attention to first when thinking about their college scholarship opportunities.

It’s best to take this one step at a time. Nearly every college is a member of some kind of league or association that has rules about how, and when, scholarships can be offered. Athletes and their parents should read these recruitment rules carefully, since violating any one of them could make the student ineligible for athletics, and athletic scholarships, at any college. They should also read them every year, since the rules for recruitment, including the kinds of grades and classes high school students must complete, change every year. If you have any interest in college athletics, reading these requirements starting in seventh grade isn’t too soon. If you haven’t read them before a college coach contacts you, make sure you read them once they do. You’ll also want to work closely with your team coach, who can offer advice on how to work with college coaches.

Recruited athletes will receive invitations to special summer camps and programs, where they will be observed working with other talented athletes of the same age. This is one way athletes audition for a place on the college team, and the best way to prepare for those invitations is to give your best to your sport and to your teammates, no matter where you’re playing.

If these invitations lead to a scholarship offer, remember that you must first apply to the college and be admitted before you can accept a scholarship. Also keep in mind that any kind of verbal offer a coach or college makes is never official. The only way you know you’ve officially been offered a spot on the team, and perhaps a scholarship, is when they give you an offer in writing. Too many coaches make a verbal commitment, only to withdraw that commitment, once they find a player that better meets the needs of the team. If that happens, there’s nothing the student can do, unless the offer was in writing.

Finally, remember that nearly every athletic scholarship is good for one year only. That means a scholarship that looked like a sure four-year full ride can be over at any time, due to injury, a change in the coaching staff, or the inability of the student to meet the demands of the coach and the team. And if you aren’t recruited for a team, don’t worry. Just like many students earn academic scholarships by finding schools they hadn’t heard of, it isn’t unusual for non-recruited athletes to walk on, find a spot on the team, and end up with a scholarship the following year. It doesn’t happen often at big-name schools, but smaller programs and non-recruited athletes make a perfect fit more often than you think.

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More Resources

Fastweb private scholarship search site

Chegg private scholarship search site

Cappex private scholarship search site

Merit scholarships

Playing your best: College music auditions

Art scholarships and internships

Rules for athletic scholarships

Top 10 Tips for Writing Effective Scholarship Essays

How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay

Avoiding scholarship scams

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