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9 top scholarships for high school seniors

Find free money to help pay for college.

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Going to college is exciting, but paying for it is no easy task. Thankfully, no matter what degree you choose to work toward, there are a variety of scholarships for high school students to keep you from piling on debt.

How we pick these scholarships

When we selected scholarships for high school students, we considered factors like award amounts and the number of scholarships given each year. Then we looked at eligibility requirements and application deadlines. Some scholarships are renewable. Some are based on merit, while others are need-based. No one award is best for everyone or meets all criteria.

Gates Millennium Scholarship

  • Amount: Full cost of attendance
  • Deadline: September

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards its Millennium Scholarship to 300 top leading-students each year. The scholarship covers all costs of attendance that are not covered by financial aid or family contributions, and includes tuition and fees, books, room, board and transportation. You must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply, be in the top 10% of your graduating class and demonstrate leadership and personal success.

Horatio Alger Scholarship Programs

  • Amount: $25,000
  • Deadline: October

The Horatio Alger Scholarships assist high school students who have faced and overcome adversities and show financial need. No SAT or ACT is required for any of the Horatio Alger scholarships. If you start your studies at a two-year college and then transfer to a four-year college or university, you are still eligible to apply. Students awarded this scholarship get an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC to receive their grant.

Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology Scholarships

  • Amount: $25,000 to $100,000
  • Deadline: September

Discovery Education sponsors the Siemens Competition, which encourages individual students and team members in the US to explore scientific interests. There are both national and regional Siemens scholarships, with awards going to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. The national program awards scholarships worth $25,000 to $100,000, while the regional awards $6,000 to $10,000.

Coca-Cola Scholarship

  • Amount: $20,000
  • Deadline: October

The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship awards 150 students based on achievement each year. It looks for well-rounded and service-oriented high school seniors looking to make a difference in their school and community.

Gold Medal Portfolio Award

  • Amount: $10,000
  • Deadline: Varies

The Gold Medal Portfolio Award is open to graduating high school seniors who submit a portfolio of eight unique written or art pieces that show technical skill, personal voice and originality. It awards 16 Gold Medal recipients with $10,000, and 30 Silver Medal recipients with $1,000 scholarships.

5 Strong Scholarship

  • Amount: $50,000
  • Deadline: December

Twenty 5 Strong scholarships are awarded to minority students each year. The 5 Strong Foundation helps minority students graduate from high school and gain admission to historically Black colleges and universities. Students must live in the metro Atlanta, Georgia area.

Burger King Scholars Program

  • Amount: $1,000 to 50,000
  • Deadline: December

Founded in memory of Burger King’s founder, James McLamore, the Burger King Scholars program is intended to offset the cost of attending college. Awards are given to students based on their GPA, extracurricular activities, work experience and community service. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $50,000.

Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarships

  • Amount: $1,000+
  • Deadline: January

Ronald McDonald House scholarships are awarded through chapters of Ronald McDonald's House Charities (RMHC). There are a variety of scholarships available to high school seniors, each with different eligibility requirements. Some depend on a student's ethnicity, while others are based on financial need. The amount of the scholarship and deadlines depend on your local RHMC chapter.

Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program

  • Amount: Up to $30,000
  • Deadline: February

The Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship program not only addresses the financial needs of minority students, but also provides mentoring services, internship and employment opportunities. Students can receive as much as $30,000 over four years. To apply, answer a variety of essay questions, provide a digital photo and one letter of recommendation from an employer, teacher, counselor or mentor.

How else can I pay for school?

Chances are, a scholarship won’t cover your entire college tuition and expenses. Other ways to pay for college before you consider taking on debt include: 

  • Grants. Typically reserved for students with financial need, you don’t have to pay back a grant, as long as you meet all of the obligations. They are offered by private organizations, universities, states and the federal government, and you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA to apply.
  • Federal work study. Federal work study programs typically offer full- and part-time jobs at thousands of schools across the US. Employment through your college is a good way to fund college expenses. Some jobs may even fit with your degree program, giving you on-the-job experience. Fill out the FAFSA to apply.
  • Employer reimbursement programs. Depending on your major, your employer might offer a tuition reimbursement program. Typically, you’ll need to work a certain amount of hours and be enrolled either full- or part-time in college. Some programs require you to work for the company after graduation from college, while others don’t.

Bottom line

A scholarship is a good way to help cover the cost of your college tuition without piling on debt. Looking for more scholarships or ways to pay for college? Check out our A-to-Z list of scholarships or our guide to student loans.

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